51: Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England
Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. Desirable Twelfth Edition. 1793 - 1795 BLACKSTONE, Sir William [1723-1780]. Commentaries on the Laws of England, in four books. London: A. Strahan and W. Woodfall, for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1793 - 1795. Twelfth Edition. Four volumes, 8vo. (210mm x130mm); xiv, , 485 pp + , 520, [xix], ,  pp,  + , 455, xxxv,  pp + , 443, vii,  pp. Pagination irregular. Thirteen engraved portraits and two tables, including one folding genealogical. Contemporary full tree calf, gilt with contrasting red leather spine labels. Rubbed, vertical cracks along spines and slight wear on head and foot of each; bindings worn; some foxing to a few leaves, interior otherwise crisp and clean. Twelfth edition, with the last corrections of the author, and with notes and additions by Edward Christian. This particular edition is one of the most desirable of all the early editions, as it contains thirteen full-page engravings of eminent English jurists, including Blackstone himself. More importantly, it has, for the first time, notes by Edward Christian, which are separated by a rule from the body of the text. The significance of this edition is that it provided the foundation for the French translation and for most of the nineteenth century editions, i.e. the form in which Blackstone is best known to later generations. Sir William Blackstone was one of the most eminent jurists in the history of English law. His Commentaries constitute a landmark in the development of the Common Law. Its influence is difficult to exaggerate. First published between 1765 and 1769, the Commentaries saw twenty-three successive English and Irish editions, and were translations into French, German, Italian and Russian. The book long dominated legal education in North America, where almost 100 editions and abridgements had been produced by 1900. He did for English law what Justinian did for Roman and Civil law. Edward Christian (1758-1823) was a barrister-at-law and professor of laws at Downing College, Cambridge. According to Holdsworth, History of English Law XIII:480, Edward Christian had a good knowledge of old law and legal history, and there is no doubt that his edition of Blackstone is good and that some of his notes are learned and useful. Wordsworth said of him that he was a very, very clever man. Edward Christian also prepared a defence case for his brother Fletcher Christian against the mutiny of the Bounty accusations by William Bligh. See Eller, The William Blackstone Collection in the Yale Law Library 21. Sweet and Maxwell, A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations 1:28(8). Marke, A Catalogue of the Law Collection at New York University (1953) 34. Printing and the Mind of Man 212.