Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Law > 176. Thomas Littleton

176.  Thomas Littleton (1422-1481).  Tenures. London: Richard Tottell, 1557. Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Special Collections, Krulewitch Collection

This treatise on land tenure was the authoritative work on English landholding in all its complex forms: fee simple, fee tail, tenant at will, tenant by copy, tenant by the verge, in a vocabulary that preserves such legal terms as parcener, socage and frankalmoign. It was the book every law student read and every lawyer had to have from the time of its first edition in 1481 until the mid-nineteenth century. Many editions were printed in order to meet a great demand for the volume. Sir Thomas Littleton, Justice of the Common Pleas, wrote it as a book of instruction for his son, which may account for its refreshingly simple and direct style of writing, even if the terminology is technical. Littleton wrote in French, the language of the law, although English translations began to appear in the early sixteenth century. Copies of this book often contain annotations by lawyers who added references to decisions of cases. In addition, the book's compact form lent itself to portability.

Gift of General and Mrs. Melvin L. Krulewitch, 1970

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