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Details about  Law. 1780s manuscript, 502 pages by Buller on Hale, Law Relating Pleas Of Crown

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Law. 1780s manuscript, 502 pages by Buller on Hale, Law Relating Pleas Of Crown
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25 Jun, 2014 21:41:46 AEST
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Exeter, NSW, Australia


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Item specifics


Legal History


Manuscript, Unbound


Law & Government

Publication Year:

1759- 1788

Hale, Sir Matthew (1609-1676) and Buller, Sir Francis (1746-1800)

A Methodical Summary Of The Law Relating To The Pleas Of The Crown, Written originally By Sir Matthew Hale, Knt. Some Time Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench. To which are now added many new References to the best Authorities, and an improved Table to the Whole. The Seventh Edition, continued to the present Time. By a Gentleman of the Inner Temple. London: Printed by his Majesty’s Law-Printers; For B Tovey, in Bell Yard, near Lincoln’s Inn, 1773.

Octavo with wide margins. Full contemporary brown polished calf, well worn, with a blindstamped pattern around the edges of the boards. Both boards detached, the spine split vertically in 2 places producing three clean and tight sections. There is one detached blank free endpaper before the title, pagination would suggest no half title called for. The contents are pleasingly clean and fresh with only very occasional ink annotation. 

Complete one volume edition.


Three further heavily interleavedand annotated bound volumes of parts of the above edition, in similar condition, but one with the title page of the 1759 edition, Part 11. There are approximately 505 interleaved pages of manuscript additions spread over these three volumes, all in very legible 18th century script. These volumes have page numbers added in manuscript, combining both printed and manuscript leaves. The 1759 edition’s signatures correlate with the signatures in the 1773 edition. Not all of the original text is present in these three volumes, and occasionally it is presented out of its original order so that it suits the editor’s revised version.

Although all 4 volumes are disbound with detached boards and broken spines, the printed text and manuscript pages themselves are in crisp, clean condition.

It would appear that this is a very heavily edited and re-write of Hale. Although the manuscript additions are not attributed to a particular writer, internal evidence would suggest that this task has been undertaken by Sir Francis Buller and that these volumes could be a final draft before being sent to the printer. The manuscript additions are variously dated from about 1780-1788. Whether this represents an unpublished revision of Hale remains to be established.

The manuscript additions: evidence of Buller’s authorship:

In the 1759 volume, in manuscript, page 605, under the heading “Reprieve”:

“A judge after the circuit may order a gibbet to be removed: & on 2nd May 1781, I, with the previous approbation of all the judges ordered the sheriff of Warwickshire to remove a gibbet & the bodies of Hammond and Pitmore convicted before me of murder at Warwick to be removed from one part of Washwood Common to another, the gibbet having been erected very near to some houses.”

This case was heard beforeJustice Buller and the Nottingham Archives contain the original petition from local landholders to Buller asking for the Gibbet’s removal to a less offensive position. (Nottinghamshire Archives DD/E208/15)

Page 631, the same volume, under the heading “Evidence Accomplices”, in manuscript:

“Atwood and Robins were tried before me for a highway robbery at Bridgewater Somerset 1787.” The case, before Buller, rested on the evidence of an accomplice who testified against Atwood and Robins and the fairness of the conviction is considered. There is an Australian connection here as both Atwood and Robins were transported on the second fleet. Although the Christian names for both do not match the convict list, the surnames, date and place correlate.

Page 635, the same volume, inmanuscript, under the heading “Riot Act”:

“Joseph Haynes was tried on the14th July 1780 under the special commission at St. Margaret’s Hillbefore Ld. Loughborough, Gould, Eyre & Buller” and later:  “But we all held that it was not necessarythat there should be 12 assembled in order to bring the case.”

Further evidence of Bullers authorship is provided by a letter of his in the British Library. Western Manuscripts, Vol. DCXXXIII includes: f. 137 Sir Francis Buller, Baronet Justiceof the Common Pleas 1794: Letter to C. Yorke: 1786. Ref: Add MS 35981. Close examination of this letter, of which we have a copy, and many of the manuscript notes in Hale, reveals that both are written in the same hand. Many of the more formal pages of manuscript additions appear to be in another hand, possibly Buller’s secretary or scribe.

Sir Francis Buller, Baronet.

Buller was born in Devon in March 1746, the son of James Buller, MP for Cornwall and his wife Lady Jane, daughter of the first Earl of Bathurst. He was educated at the King’s School, Ottery St Mary and Christ’s Hospital, London. He married an heiress, Susannah Yarde, at 17 and the same year entered the Inner Temple as a pupil of special pleader William Henry Ashurst. He took out his own certificate in 1765, was called to the bar in 1772 and became a King’s Counsell in 1777. The following year, still only 32, he was made a subordinate judge of the King’s Bench.

Buller was the second judge in Lord Mansfield’s court, and when he was away he acted as Lord Chief Justice. However, William Pitt did not appoint Buller to this role when Mansfield died, preferring Kenyon. He did, however, make Buller a baronet in 1790. In 1794 he resigned from the King’s Bench and took his place in the Common Pleas. He suffered ill health in the late 1790s and died in London in June 1800.

As an author he is best known for his “Introduction To The Law relative to Trials at Nisi Prius”. First published in 1772, it had been republished five times by 1793.

This item illustrates one of the leading members of the 18th century’s legal establishment’s mind at work. It reveals Buller’s own attitude and approach to the law, and the development of the law as he saw it under the changing social conditions of the later years of the century and includes sections on transportation.

A unique item, which will reward further research.

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