‘A PROFITABLE BOOKE’ FOR GENERATIONS OF LAW STUDENTS

A profitable booke of Master Iohn Perkins, Fellow of the Inner Temple. Treating of the lawes of England.

London, Thomas Wight, 1601.

12mo, ff. [xiv], 168; vignette to title, engraved initials, in black letter and roman; a very few small marks, light damp staining to fore-edge margins at end, half of final blank flyleaf torn away, otherwise a very good, crisp and clean copy with wide margins; seventeenth-century limp vellum, title and date inked to spine in later hand; partly detached from text block, a little cockled and marked; ownership inscriptions of John Howland dated 1607 to final flyleaf, small circular Selbourne Library ink stamp to foot of title verso and f. 51r; a very attractive copy.

£350

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A profitable booke of Master Iohn Perkins, Fellow of the Inner Temple. Treating of the lawes of England.

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An attractive copy of the 1601 edition of Perkins’ Profitable book. Perkins, who died around 1545, had a troubled career – allegedly having his heels ‘turned upward’ in Westminster Hall for being a dishonest attorney and later being imprisoned and banished from Oxford for accusing two local abbots of treason and vice – but he became a ‘household name for generations of law students by reason of his little book on land law, called Perkins’ Profitable Book, which first appeared (in law French) in 1528 under the Latin title Perutilis tractatus magistri Johannis Parkins interioris Templi socii’ (ODNB). The first English translation appeared in 1555 and ran through seventeen editions and reprintings before 1660, with an edition appearing as late as 1827. ‘The English versions are divided into eleven chapters (dealing with grants, deeds, feoffments, exchanges, dower, curtesy, wills, devises, surrenders, reservations, and conditions) and 845 numbered sections. The Profitable Book was intended as a kind of supplement to Littleton’s Tenures ... [It] has a thoughtful jurisprudential preface, is clearly written, and was considered authoritative’ (ibid.).

Provenance: from the library of Dr Hugh Selbourne (1906-73), whose diaries as a doctor in the 1960s were published as A Doctor’s Life (1989, 2009) by his son David, the political philosopher and historian of ideas.

ESTC S114285; STC (2nd ed.) 19641.

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