The Law Emprynted and Englysshed

The Printing Press as an Agent of Change in Law and Legal Culture 1475-1642

By David J. Harvey

This book considers the impact of the printing press within the context of the intellectual activity of the English legal profession in the 16th and 17th centuries. The legal profession had developed a sophisticated educational process and practice based upon an oral/aural system, along with the utilization of manuscript materials, largely self-created. The printing press provided an alternative to this culture as printed law books - law reports, abridgements, and treatises - became increasingly available and were used by lawyers and students. At the same time, movements were afoot to discard the arcane language of the law and make printed legal materials available in English. A tension arose as the advantages of print were recognized by the authorities - the Church and the State. Those very qualities also turned out to be disadvantages as the authorities struggled to regulate the vastly increased flow of information that the printing press enabled. The legal works printed in the 16th century were primarily law reports and abridgements with a new style of law report becoming evident with the printing of Plowden's Commentaries and, in the 17th century, the works of Sir Edward Coke. Print enabled legal writers to concentrate upon principle rather than pleading and procedure. The 17th century also saw a shift from printed reports to printed treatises and guide books for administrators and members of the "lower branch" of the legal profession. Legal information for the purposes of standardizing procedures and for educational purposes, as a supplement to a troubled traditional legal education system, began to dominate. [Subject: Legal History, Copyright Law, English Law]

Publication Date: 2/19/2015
Format: Cloth
ISBN: 9781849466684