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Legal History

Chronological Overview of Reporting

  • Pre-Year Books era
  • Year Books era (1268-1535)
  • Nominate/Nominative Reports era (reports published by private individuals from roughly 1535 until 1865)
  • Various modern day reporters (see Tarlton's English Law Research Guide)

For help in judging the varying merits of individual titles, particularly during the Nominative Reports era, see John William Wallace's The Reporters: Arranged and Characterized with Incidental Remarks (1882):

Case Reports/Reporters

Pre-Year Books:

  • Contemporaneous work: Bracton's Note Book: A Collection of Cases Decided in the King's Courts During the Reign of Henry the Third: HeinOnline and KD 190 1217
    • Approximately 2,000 cases from the years 1217-1240
  • Later collections:
    • Earliest English Law Reports: KD530.S45 (see description by the Selden Society)
      • Tarlton has four volumes:
        • Vols. 111-112: Common Bench reports up to 1290
        • Vols. 122-123: various Eyre reports, both undated and those from 1286-1289, Exchequer of the Jews reports, pre-1290 Assize reports, pre-1290 reports from unidentified courts and additional pre-1290 Common Bench reports
    • Placita Anglo-Normannica: Law Cases from William I to Richard I: HeinOnline and KD270 1066 .B55
      • 1066 to 1195; in Latin, with English notes

Year Books: Search Tarlton's catalog for individual holdings or use Seipp's Abridgement (see below).

Nominate/Nominative Reports: For help finding individual titles, see Reference Aids listed on main page or consult with the Rare Books Librarian. Some of the most noted include:

  • Edmund Plowden: Les Commentaries, ou Reportes . . ./Plowden's Quaeries/The Commentaries, Or Reports . . . (1571-79) (multiple editions available, in multiple formats) 
    • One of the earliest nominative reports, hence the unique title of "commentaries"
  • James Dyer: Reports Of Cases in the Reigns Of Hen. VIII, Edw. VI, Q. Mary, and Q. Eliz. (1585) (multiple editions available, in multiple formats) 
    • First book regularly called "Reports," instead of Annals, Commentaries, or Cases
  • Edward Coke: Reports of Sir Edward Coke . . . (1600-15; 1656-9) (multiple editions available, in multiple formats)
    • Most influential of the nominative reports, was often referred to simply as The Reports
  • James Burrow: Reports Of Cases Argued And Adjudged In The Court Of King's Bench (1776-80) (multiple editions, in multiple formats)
    • Introduced the headnote
  • Charles Durnford and Edward Hyde East: Term Reports (1787-1800) (multiple editions, multiple formats)
    • First reports published in a timely manner at the end of a court's term

Additional Sources of Case Law

Retrospective Collections

  • Standard reprint: English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1866)
    • HeinOnline (includes a Citation Navigator and Case Locator for finding cases by case name, English Reports citation, nominative citation, or keyword; also includes "Chart of Reports" listing names and abbreviations of old reporters, etc.)
    • LLMC
    • CommonLII (1220-1873)
    • Westlaw: ENG-RPTS 1220-1865
    • Print: KD 270 1220 E5
    • NB: Yale Law Library's explanation of English Reports Tables as citation conversion tool

Selected Abridgements

Abridgements/Abridgments: Digests of cases (the precursor to West's Digest System with topic and keynumbers).


  • Seipp's Abridgement:  
    • Modern searchable database that indexes and paraphrases Year Books
    • Online project of Prof. David J. Seipp of Boston University

Check the catalog for additional abridgements; see also the Tarlton Rare Book Collection.

Online Exhibits