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Knightley D’Anvers, A general abridgment of the common and most useful parts of the statute law, 1705

The rare book of the month for April 2016 is something of a bibliographical mystery. Although D’Anvers’s two volume A general abridgment of the common law (1705-1713) is a well-known work, until recently this ‘variant’ was not recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue, which lists all known English works published between 1483 and 1800. John D. Cowley does mention it in his A bibliography of abridgments, digests, dictionaries and indexes of English law (Selden Society, 1932), and thus it’s unclear why it remained unreported for so long.

Knightley D’Anvers originally joined Middle Temple in 1691 but later jointed Inner Temple and was admitted there on 16 May 1696. He was married to Alice D’Anvers (nee Clarke), who wrote three works of poetry in the 18th century and is described in the Dictionary of National Biography as “an astute commentator on political and university life in the reign of William and Mary”. Knightley D’Anvers was Deputy Recorder of Northampton.

D’Anvers’s Abridgment is in fact a translation of Henry Rolle’s Un abridgment des plusieurs cases et resolutions del common ley, 1668. The work is divided into two volumes, originally printed in 1705 and 1713; a second edition was printed in 1722-1725.* A supplement to volume two was printed in 1727, with a later supplement, leading the work up to ‘extinguishment’, being printed in 1737. Although the work was dedicated to Lord Chief Justice John Holt (1642-1710), he refused to sign the imprimatur (the official declaration to allow publication of a work). Lord Holt must have had a change of heart at some point, as he later complimented D’Anvers from the “Bench and left him an annuity of £20”, as recounted by Charles Viner in his Abridgment (xviii, preface).

The English Short Title Catalogue does have a secondary reference to our book of the month, which is an advertisement in the ‘Term Catalogue’ entitled Proposals for printing of A general abridgement of the common and most useful part of the statute law of England (ESTC T142512). The Term Catalogue was a series of book lists issued by London booksellers from 1668 to 1709, during the law terms. D’Anvers’s project suffered from lack of funding, subscribers and patronage, which could explain why it was only completed until ‘extinguishment’.

The lack of funding could also explain why our book of the month has a title page which varies from the work as we now know it. As shown in this image to the right, the title page does not give the author’s name and was printed by Richard and Edward Atkins. The work cost thirteen shillings (roughly £96 in today’s money) per book ‘in sheets’, which refers to the fact, as was common at the time, to sell the book without a binding- the purchaser paid separately to have the book bound. It also differs from the more well-known 1705-1713 edition in that it does not have a dedication to Lord Holt, the preface, ‘To the Reader’ is very slightly different, and it does not have a list of subscribers. In addition, this edition is printed in gatherings of four, whereas the 1705-1713 edition is in gatherings of two, and it was printed by John Walthoe, whose shop was located in Vine-Court in Middle Temple. Walthoe includes some self-promotion in the book- a list of ‘Books lately printed’ and ‘Law books printed’, respectively placed after the ‘Table of several titles’ and page 810, just before the ‘Table of cases’. A copy of volume one of the 1705-1713 edition can be viewed on Google Books.

Our copy of the 1705 edition was donated to the Inn on 26 January 1926 by The Honourable Stephen Ogle Henn Collins, who in turn inherited it from his father, Richard Henn Collins (Baron Collins). This is shown by the two separate signatures on the title page. In addition to being a Bencher, Treasurer of the Inn, KC and Judge of the High Court, S.O. Henn Collins was granted a patent in 1912 for the ‘Means for indicating the striking force of golf-clubs or similar instruments’ ( Master Collins donated at least eleven books to the Inn. 

- Renae Satterley (, Acting Keeper of the Library, April 2016

*Cowley states in his bibliography that the second edition should be dated to 1732, but ESTC and other sources reference it as 1722-1725.