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Year Book Law Reports in United Kingdom


“The Year Books are the law reports of medieval England. The earliest examples date from about 1268, and the last in the printed series are for the year 1535. The Year Books are our principal source materials for the development of legal doctrines, concepts, and methods from 1290 to 1535, a period during which the common law developed into recognizable form…

All of the Year Books were originally reported in manuscript form, and all of them circulated among the legal profession for decades and often centuries in manuscript before they were printed.

For more than a century, many of the best scholars of English legal history have tended to emphasize the value of manuscript sources, to the neglect of old printed books.” (1)

“There is yet another great Desideratum in regard to the Year Books, viz. a full and well-digested General Index to the whole. At present, such Indexes as there -it has been said in a text of 1800 addressed to the Select Committee upon Public Records- are in the printed Books are so dispersed in the different volumes, are of such unequal merit, and, in general, so scanty and imperfect, that they are of very little use; and the Lawyer generally finds it best to neglect them, and to resort to the different Abridgments of the Law, in order to discover what cases and passages in the Year Books may be applicable to the point he has occasion to examine.“

Manuscript and Print Book

“The Year-Books first appeared in manuscript on parchment and were stored in rolls (rotuli).

Year-Books were a series of notes on debates and points of pleading in Norman England. As such, they are crucial primary sources for medieval common law. The origin of the Year-Books is unknown. Some historians believe that the earliest volumes were notes taken by law students in court copied for the use of pleaders in later cases; others argue that they were records of cases made by lawyers for personal use. Although it is not known when the first manuscript volumes were compiled, it is clear that cases can be found to date from the 1270’s and the series continues to 1535. Printed editions of the Year-Books were first issued by William de Machlinia between 1481 and 1482.” (2)

Citing Year-Books

“The Year-Books contain cases in chronological order from 1268-1535. The court sessions were divided into four terms: Hilary (early January—early April); Easter (Pasche) (mid-April—May); Trinity (June—July); and Michaelmas (October—December). …References to cases even long after the advent of printing might appear as T.19.H.8.rot 330 (Trinity term, nineteenth year of the reign of Henry VIII (1527), roll 330)” (3)



  1. David J. Seipp
  2. Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas
  3. Id.

Further Reading

  • W. T. S. Daniel The History and Origin of “The Law Reports,” London: Wildy & Sons Ltd., Frankfurt: Jauer Auvermann, 1884.
  • F. W. Maitland ed. Year Books of Edward II. 1 & 2 Edward II (A.D. 1307-1309), London: Selden Society, 1903.
  • G. J. Turner ed. Year Books of Edward II. 4 Edward II (A.D. 1310-1311), London: Selden Society, 1914.
  • William Craddock Bolland The Year Books, Cambridge [Eng.]: Cambridge University Press, 1921.
  • William Craddock Bolland A Manual of Year Book Studies, Cambridge [Eng.]: Cambridge University Press, 1925.
  • W. S. Holdsworth Sources and Literature of English Law, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925.
  • Percy H. Winfield The Chief Sources of English Legal History, Cambridge [MA]: Harvard University Press, 1925.
  • Sir Carleton Kemp Allen Law in the Making, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927.
  • Jacques Lambert Les Year Books de Langue Francaise, Paris: Sirey, 1928. John D. Cowley A Bibliography of Abridgements, Digests, Dictionaries and Indexes of English Law to the Year 1800, London: Selden Society, 1932.
  • C. H. S. Fifoot English Law and Its Background, London: G. Bell and Sons Ltd., 1932.
  • Henri Lévy-Ullmann The English Legal Tradition, Its Sources and History, trans. from the French by M. Mitchell, and rev. and ed. by Frederic M. Goadby, foreward by W. S. Holdsworth, London: MacMillan and Co., 1935.
  • Sir. William Holdsworth Some Makers of English Law, Cambridge [Eng.]: The University Press, 1938.
  • C. G. Moran The Heralds of the Law, London: Stevens & Sons Limited, 1948.
  • T. F. T. Plucknett Early English Legal Literature, Cambridge, [Eng.]: Cambridge University Press, 1958.
  • L. W. Abbott Law Reporting in England 1485-1585, London: The Athlone Press at the University of London, 1973.
  • J. H. Baker English Legal Manuscripts, Zug [Switzerland]: Inter Documentation Company AG, 1975.
  • J. H. Baker Manual of Law French, Avebury: Avebury Publishing Co., 1979; 2d ed. London: Scholar Press, 1990.
  • J. H. Baker Why the History of English Law Has Not Been Finished, Cambridge [Eng.]: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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  • Article Name: Year Book Reports
  • Author: International
  • Description: Year Book Law Reports Introduction The Year Books are the law reports of medieval England. The earliest examples date from [...]

This entry was last updated: May 23, 2018

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