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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XIII. Legal Literature

§ 11. Early Printed Law Books

The advent of the printing-press effected a great, though silent, revolution in law, as it did in every department of learning. It widely disseminated legal knowledge; it greatly facilitated the standardising of justice throughout the country; it provided politicians with an armoury of those juristic weapons with which they fought the battle of English liberty in the seventeenth century. The first hundred years, however, of the era of the printing-press did not witness the production and publication of any new work in English legal literature to be compared in merit or importance with either Fortescue or Littleton. Lawyers seemed to be content if they received from the press a steady supply of old authorities—registers of writs, books of entries, year books, abridgments, statutes and court keepers’ guides.

This literary sterility may have been due to the fact that English common law was out of favour in high places. The Tudors leaned towards courts like the Star chamber, in which not common law but something very different was administered. English common law, indeed, was during the first half of the sixteenth century, in almost as grave danger of losing its supremacy as was the English parliament. It was saved, however, by the inns of court, and by the weapons which the printing-press put into the hands of these organised champions of precedent.