Institutes: Commentary Upon Littleton "The Gladsome Light Of Jurisprudence"

"The Gladsome Light Of Jurisprudence"

Context: Perhaps remembering his own perplexity as a young legal student preparing to become a lawyer, over the jargon of the profession, Edward Coke took time, after he rose to be the first man to be called Lord Chief Justice of England, to take a second look at one of the principle textbooks. Thomas Littleton (1422–1481) was a jurist whose experiences as Justice of the Assize and Judge of Common Pleas gave him experience from which to compile the earliest treatise on the English Law ever printed (1481), the volume Tenures, which provided in legal French a complete coverage of English land laws and which became fundamental in legal education in England. Coke reissued the classic volume with Littleton's French version in one column, a second column with an English rendering of the points of law, and a third column of his own comments, explanations, and clarifications. In his Introduction Lord Coke encouraged the young student by remarking that if he did not understand the point of the original author or the commentator on his first reading, he should try the difficult passage again at a later date. After 749 sections, with commentaries, Coke ended with an Epilogue of encouragement and stimulus. Like any teacher, he comments that he might have provided an index or tables to help students more quickly find some particular section, but he thought they would remember the material better if they compiled their own. Either he had a second thought or someone else took pity on students, because the second edition, in 1633, includes a complete index. Here are Coke's closing words:

I had once intended, for the ease of our Student, to have made a table to these Institutes; but when I considered that Tables and Abridgements are most profitable to them that make them, I have left that worke to every Studious Reader. And for a Farewell to our jurisprudent, I wish unto him the gladsome light of Jurisprudence, the loveliness of temperance, the stability of fortitude and the soliditie of Justice.