FINDING ENGLISH STATUTES & CASES
& selected "books of authority"
at the Rutgers-Newark Law Library

by Paul Axel-Lute
revised January 4, 2010

Scope: This guide has the limited purpose of helping you find an English case report or statute, or one of the frequently-cited "books of authority," given a citation or partial identifying information. It does not cover searching by subject or "noting up" (the English equivalent of Shepardizing or Key-Citing).

Statutes | Cases | Books of Authority

STATUTES

Finding by regnal year citation. You will frequently encounter citations in this form for English statutes:

27 Geo. 3 c.7

That means the 7th chapter enacted in the 27th year of the reign of King George III. Frequently there will be two numbers before the sovereign's name, for example,

1 & 2 Will. 4 c.37

meaning the 37th chapter enacted by the Parliamentary session that overlapped the 1st and 2nd years of the reign of William IV. A Parliament sometimes overlaps two sovereigns, resulting in a citation like this:

7 Will. 4 & 1 Vict. c.83

Since some of the early volumes of the statutes cover several sovereigns each, and only the first and last will be listed on the spine, it can be useful to have handy a table showing the order of the sovereigns. Here is such a table for the period from 1216 forward, omitting two sovereigns with very short reigns for whom there are no acts in the books:

  • Henry III (1216-1272)
  • Edward I (1272-1307)
  • Edward II (1307-1326)
  • Edward III (1326-1377)
  • Richard II (1377-1399)
  • Henry IV (1399-1413)
  • Henry V (1413-1422)
  • Henry VI (1422-1461)
  • Edward IV (1461-1483)
  • Richard III (1483-1485)
  • Henry VII (1485-1509)
  • Henry VIII (1509-1547)
  • Edward VI (1547-1553)
  • Mary (1553-1554)
  • Philip & Mary (1554-1558)
  • Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
  • James I (1603-1625)
  • Charles I (1625-1642)
  • Interregnum (1642-1660)
  • Charles II (1660-1685)
  • James II (1685-1688)
  • William & Mary (1689-1694)
  • William III (1695-1702)
  • Anne (1702-1714)
  • George I (1714-1727)
  • George II (1727-1760)
  • George III (1760-1820)
  • George IV (1820-1830)
  • William IV (1830-1837)
  • Victoria (1837-1901)
  • Edward VII (1901-1910)
  • George V (1910-1936)
  • Edward VIII (1936)
  • George VI (1936-1952)
  • Elizabeth II (1952-- )

( James and Charles are often cited by the abbreviations of their Latin names: "Jac." and "Car.")

Along the tops of the pages in some editions, most of the regnal years are spelled out in Latin, so it is helpful if you can understand those numbers, to verify that you are at the correct year:

  • primo = 1st
  • secundo = 2nd
  • tertio = 3rd
  • quarto = 4th
  • quinto = 5th
  • sexto = 6th
  • septimo = 7th
  • octavo = 8th
  • nono = 9th
  • decimo = 10th
  • undecimo = 1lth
  • duodecimo = 12th
  • vicesimo = 20th
  • tricesimo = 30th
  • quadragesimo = 40th

The sovereigns' names are also given at the tops of the pages in Latin, including "Caroli" for Charles, "Gulielmi" for William, "Jacobi" for James. So, for example, you might see: "Anno vicesimo tertio Caroli I," meaning "in the twenty third year of Charles I."

Ancient laws (before the 1200's): Benjamin Thorpe's compilation Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, at call number KD530 .G74, contains laws of the Anglo-Saxon kings from Ethelbert through Canute (858 to 1035), in the original Saxon language with a parallel English translation, as well as a Latin version in the back of the volume. Also in this compilation are the laws of Edward the Confessor in Latin only, the laws of William the Conqueror (some in French and Latin, some in Latin and Saxon, some in Latin only), and the "Leges Henrici Primi" ("Laws of Henry I" which are actually not statutes but rather a treatise by an unknown author) in Latin only. L.J. Downer's edition of the Leges Henrici Primi, with English translation, is found at call number KD 544.L4.

F.L. Attenborough's Laws of the Earliest English Kings, call no. KD 543.G74, includes a more modern English translation of the laws from Ethelbert through Athelstan (858 to 940). Modern English translations of the laws from Ethelbert through Edgar (560 to 975) are found under the title "The Anglo-Saxon Dooms" on the Fordham University website at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/560-975dooms.html.

William Stubbs, Select Charters, call no. JN 111.S7, includes some statute-like documents, in Latin from the reign of Henry II, including the "Constitutions of Clarendon" (1164), the "Assize of Clarendon" (1166), and some other "Assizes." English translations of the two Clarendon documents are found in Ernest Henderson's Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, call no. D 113.H49, and are also online at the Avalon Project ( at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/medieval/constcla.htm and /assizecl.htm )

Laws from 1235 forward: For the period 1235 through 1713, there is an authoritative edition called Statutes of the Realm, which is available in the HeinOnline service. The volume contents are as follows:

To find the Statutes of the Realm in the HeinOnline service, from the "Subscribed Libraries" list, click on "English Reports, Full Reprint." (Volumes 5 to 7 of Statutes of the Realm are also found in British History Online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/subject.aspx?subject=1&gid=83).

On the open shelves, at call number KD 124, we have a 14-volume set called Statutes at Large (the Runnington edition, also known as "Ruffhead's Edition"), covering the period 1235 to 1800. This set has an Appendix of "obsolete and curious acts" in volume 10, with acts from Henry III through Anne, so check there if an act is not found in the main sequence. There are some acts for which this set gives only the title, not the text. There are also variations in the chapter numbering between Statutes at Large and Statutes of the Realm; there are parallel tables of these variations in the Chronological Table of the Statutes (KD 135.H5).

Various editions of the Statutes at Large, are included in the Gale database Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), which is available to Rutgers University users at http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/indexes/search_guides/ecco.shtml. To retrieve in ECCO just the 14-volume edition covering 1265 to 1800, use the "Advanced Search" form; for the index type, select ESTC number and search for T134763. The contents of this edition are as follows:

vol.1 -- Magna Charta to 33 Hen. VI
vol.2 -- 1 Edw.IV to 43 Eliz.I
vol.3 -- 1 Jac.1 to 9 Wm. III
vol.4 -- 10 Wm.III to 12 Anne
vol.5 -- 1 Geo. I to 8 Geo. II
vol.6 -- 9 Geo. II to 25 Geo.II
vol.7 -- 26 Geo.II to 6 Geo.III
vol.8 -- 7 Geo.III to 18 Geo.III
vol.9 -- 19 Geo.III to 25 Geo.III
vol.10 -- Index of v.1-9 and Appendix
vol.11 -- 26 Geo.III to 29 Geo.III
vol.12 -- 30 Geo.III to 34 Geo.III
vol.13 -- 35 Geo.III to 38 Geo.III
vol.14 -- 39 Geo.III to 41 Geo.III

For the time period up to 1714, if you cannot find the act you need in the Statutes at Large, or if it is not clear that the correct act has been found there, request Statutes of the Realm.

(Note: For the period 1642 to 1660 see Acts & Ordinances of the Interregnum, call no. KD 130, available in British History Online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=606.)

There is a more complete edition of Statutes at Large, compiled by Danby Pickering, that we lack (except for one volume). Pickering's edition is among the microfiche offered by the Law Library Microform Consortium, and will hopefuly eventually become available on LLMC-Digital. Meanwhile, for acts of this period not found in the Statutes at Large that we have, or in the Statutes at Large in the ECCO database (see above), it is necessary to seek a copy from some library holding the Pickering set.

1805 to 1870: We have volumes of various titles classed together at KD 124 in order to provide a continuous chronological set. These include The Statutes of the United Kingdom (some with the spine title Statutes at Large) and The Law Reports: the Public General Statutes (spine title English Law Reports: Statutes). There are a few missing volumes (49 Geo.3, 53 Geo.3, 11 Geo.4 & 1 Will.4).

1871 to 1890: see the Law Journal Reports, call number KD 288.A22, where the statutes are bound together with Magistrates Court case law reports.

1891 to 1990: Continuing at KD 124 we have the Public General Acts (some of them with the spine title Law Reports: Statutes.)

1991 to date: For statutes more recent than our print holdings, try one of the following online sources:

Finding by short title. Many acts have been given short titles retrospectively. That is, a later act has provided that the earlier act may be cited by a certain short title, though that short title does not appear in the earlier act itself. Almost invariably the short title includes a year, for example:

The Civil Rights of Convicts Act, 1828

Given a short title that includes a year, you can find the chapter number in one of two chronological lists in Halsbury's Statutes of England (call no. KD 135.H5), volume 41, starting at pages 504 and 729. (The two lists come from the Short Titles Act 1896, 59&60 Vict. c.14, and the Statute Law Revision Act 1948, 11&12 Geo. 6 c.62.)

Here are a few acts with short titles that do not include years:

CASES

Earliest sources: You might see a citation to "Pl.Ang.-Norm." -- this is Placita Anglo-Normannica, KD 270 / 1066.B5, a one-volume compilation of cases from 1066 to 1199, in Latin. Other early sources include: Bracton's Note-Book, KD578 .B7 (cases from 1217-1240, also in Latin); English Lawsuits from William I to Richard I, KD353 .S45 v. 106-107; and Earliest English Law Reports, KD 353.S45 v.111-112 (1268 to 1292). There are also a few very early cases included in the English Reports: Jenkins' Exchequer Cases, in volume 145 E.R., includes cases as early as the year 1220.

The Year Books (1272 to 1535): We have in Special Collections the "Maynard edition" (1679) of the Year Books. These reports are in Law French. Each volume covers a period of regnal years, and each year is separately paginated. Within each year there were four terms of court, called Hilary, Paschal, Trinity, and Michaelmas, and a citation to the Year Books generally includes an abbreviation of the term. Citations found in older sources can be quite short, for example:

P. 21 H. 7. 21. pl.8

meaning Paschal term of 21st year of Henry VII, at page 21, plea number 8. One portion of the Year Books, the "Liber Assisarum" (found as Part V of the Maynard edition) is cited differently:

23 Ass. pl. 2

meaning the 23rd year (of Edward III), in the Liber Assisarum, plea number 2.

Following are the contents of the Maynard edition:

Some of the Year Books have been published in modern editions, with English translation. We have these for the following years:

Also from this time period are the Select Cases in the Court of King's Bench, KD 200.5.S29, a Selden Society publication covering 1272 to 1422.

The Selden Society publications are available to the Rutgers-Newark Law School students and faculty in Hein Online.

An online database of information about the Year Book reports, compiled by David J. Seipp and known as "Seipp's Abridgment," is found on the Boston University School of Law website at http://www.bu.edu/law/seipp/. On the search page, http://www.bu.edu/phpbin/lawyearbooks/search.php, using the second line of the "custom search" portion, you can retrieve a record by regnal year, plea number and page ("folio"). For some cases, this database will supply an English paraphrase or a reference to a published translation.

The English Reports (up to 1865): The English Reports (Full Reprint), which we will refer to below simply as the English Reports, is located at call number KD 270.G74, and is also available in a free web version at http://www.commonlii.org/int/cases/EngR/, as well as on both HeinOnline and LLMC-Digital. It reprints numerous earlier reporters that are mostly cited by their compilers' names, and are therefore known as "nominative reports." The period covered overlaps the period of the Year Books. Most of the cases are from the time period 1378 through 1865, but there are a few cases as old as 1220 and some cases as late as 1873.

Often you will see a case cited by its name and the original nominative report citation:

Howe v. Lord Dartmouth, 7 Ves. 137

There are various ways to find such a case in the English Reports, using tools located with that set, as described below. However, if you are starting out at the reference desk, it is a good idea, before heading up to the second floor, to first check the reporter abbreviation in Donald Raistrick's Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations (2d ed.), Ref. KD400 .R35 1993. You might find that what you assumed was an English case is actually American, or from some other jurisdiction. Raistrick gives the range of volume numbers in the English Reports for each of the nominatives.

Finding a case by name. Given the name of the case, and assuming some other information indicating it is an English case before 1865, you can use the two-volume alphabetical Index of Cases shelved with the English Reports. Two things to note about the arrangement of this index: Anonymous parties are indicated by blank lines, located at the beginning of the "A" entries. Case names starting with either "Rex" or "Regina" are interfiled under the abbreviation "R."

Since the Index of Cases has on occasion gone astray from its proper place on the shelf, it is useful to know an alternative method if you have only the name of the case. This is to use The Digest, at KD 296.E5. (We cancelled our subscription to that set after 1991, but it is still useful for finding cases up to that point. Note that some volumes of the set still have its former title, English & Empire Digest.) Looking up a case by name in this set is a three-step process: First, find the case in the four-volume "Consolidated Table of Cases." The entry there will refer you to a volume number and topic of the main part of the set. In that volume, look in the table of cases in the front. This will give you a case number in bold print. Finally, find the case summary with that number in the main part of the volume, and it will include the full citation to the English Reports.

Finding a case by nominative citation. If you did not have the case name, but only the volume, abbreviation, and page of the nominative citation--for example just "7 Ves. 137"--you can still find the case. Either from the wall chart mounted on the south wall near the KD shelves or from Raistrick, determine which volume or range of volumes in the English Reports contains the reprint of the nominative. (The wall chart will give you the exact volume, Raistrick will give you the range. The range is sufficient because each E.R. volume has a spine label showing what volumes of the nominative are included.) Then, in the appropriate E.R. volume, the page headers and star-pagination will guide you to the case. (Obviously, you can also use this approach if you have the case name and the nominative cite.)

Other sources prior to 1865: In case a volume is missing from our set of English Reports or a case in that set is mutilated, or if you have a pre-1865 citation that does not seem to be in E.R., here are some possible alternative sources for a case from that time period:

You should be aware that a single case was often reported in different versions by two or more of the nominative reporters. At the beginning of a case in the English Reports, you may see a citation preceded by "S.C.," meaning the same case in a different report.

Some manuscript sources of the time period have recently been published in scholarly editions by the Selden Society. Some examples, all at KD 353.S45, are The Reports of Sir John Spelman (v.93) from the reign of Henry VIII; Reports from the Lost Notebooks of Sir James Dyer ( v. 109-110) , from 1541 to1581; and Reports of John Caryll, (v.155-116), from 1486 to 1522. Citations to these are likely to include the information that they are Selden Society publications.

The Law Reports (1865 to date): Since 1865, there has been a semi-official series of law reports in England, published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting. They have the general title of The Law Reports, and various sub-series which have changed over the years. There are three distinct time periods, distinguished by different citation forms (note: the citation examples given below are those that you are likely to encounter in English sources, not Bluebook forms):

1865 to 1875: Each sub-series for this time period has continuous volume numbering, so that the year is not an essential part of the citation. This time period is distinguished by including "LR" in the citation before the volume number. For example,

Marshall v Ulleswater Steam Navigation Co (1871) LR 7 QB 166

refers to a report in the Queen's Bench Cases.

1875 to 1890: Volume numbers start over with "1" in 1875 and are again continuous through 1890 in each sub-series. These are cited without the "LR." For example:

Anderson v Oppenheimer (1880) 5 QBD 602, CA

cites a case in the Queen's Bench Division subseries. That subseries, like others in The Law Reports, includes decisions from more than one level of court. The "CA" at the end of the citation means it was a decision of the Court of Appeal. However, the court is not always included in the citation.

1891 to date: Starting in 1891, the year functions as a volume number, and is therefore put in square brackets instead of parentheses. For example:

Verrall v Great Yarmouth Borough Council [1981] QB 202

If there is more than one volume in a year, the volumes are numbered 1, 2, etc. For example:

Miles v Bull [1969] 1 QB 258

Note that the name of one court changes according to whether there is a Queen or a King on the throne, and the name of the reports changes along with it. So the following two citations are from the same subseries of reports:

Baron v Portslade Urban District Council [1900] 2 QB 588
In re Riggs [1901] 2 KB 16

Our shelving order for The Law Reports is shown below. Note that our holdings end with the year 1991. For cases through 2004, we have the All England Law Reports, at call number KD288 .A64. All of the cases from 1865 to date can also be found on Lexis: in the UK library, the file ICLR contains The Law Reports, and there is a more inclusive file ALLCAS. To retrieve a known case on Lexis , you are better off using a search of the form

name(miles and bull)

rather than trying to figure out the right citation form to use in the "get a document" function. Note that cases from most courts from 1996 forward are also available through the website of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute, http://www.bailii.org.

SHELVING ORDER & USUAL ABBREVIATIONS OF THE LAW REPORTS

KD 275     English & Irish Appeals (1877-1875) (7 v)
(The "HL" in the citation stands for House of Lords.)
LR v# HL
KD 275.2     Scoth & Divorce Appeals (1866-1875) (2 v) LR v# Sc & Div
KD 275.3     Privy Council Appeals (1866-1875) (6 v) LR v# PC
KD 275.4     Crown Cases Reserved (1865-1875) (2 v) LR v# CCR
KD 275.4     Appeal Cases (1876-1890) (15 v) App Cas
KD 275.4     Appeal Cases (1891--1991) AC
KD 276     Chancery Appeals (1865-1875) (10 v) LR v# Ch App
KD 276.2     Equity Cases (1865-1875) (20 v) LR v# Eq
KD 276.3     Chancery Division (1875-1890) (45 v) ChD
KD 276.3     Chancery Division (1891-1985) Ch
KD 276.3     Chancery Division & Family Division (1986-1991) Ch
KD 277.3     Common Pleas Cases (1865-1875) (10 v) LR v# CP
KD 277.4     Common Pleas Division (1875-1880) (5 v) CPD
KD 277.5     Exchequer Cases (1865-1875) (10 v) LR v# Ex
KD 277.5     Exchequer Division (1875-1880) (5 v) ExD
KD 277.7     Queen's Bench Cases (1865-1875) (10 v) LR v# QB
KD 277.7     Queen's Bench Division (1875-1890) (25 v) QBD
KD 277.7     Queen's Bench (1891-1901) QB
KD 277.7     King's Bench (1901-1952) KB
KD 277.7     Queen's Bench (1952-1991) QB
KD 279     Admiralty & Ecclesiastical Cases (1866-1875) (4 v) LR v# A & E
KD 279.2     Probate & Divorce Cases (1865-1875) (3 v) LR v# P & D
KD 279.3     Probate Division (1875-1890) (15 v) PD
KD 279.3     Probate Division (1891-1971) P
KD 279.3     Family Division (1972-1985) Fam

BOOKS OF AUTHORITY

Several early treatises are regarded as authoritative statements of the law as of the times they were written. Among them are:

Glanville ("Glanv.") Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie qui Glanvilla vocatur ("The treatise on the laws and customs of the realm of England, commonly called Glanvill"), written about 1189. We have editions with English translation at call number KD 600.G5.

Bracton ("Brac." or "Bract.") De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae ("On the laws and customs of England"), written between 1250 and 1258. We have the Samuel E. Thorne edition with English translation at call number KD 600.B7 / 1968. This is also available online at Harvard Law School Library's web site: http://hlsl.law.harvard.edu/bracton/index.htm

Littleton's Tenures ("Litt.Ten.") Thomas Littleton, Tenures, first published in 1481. Written in law French. We have English translations at call number KD833 .L57. (See also next item.)

Coke's Institutes ("Co. Inst." or "Inst.") Sir Edward Coke, Institutes of the Laws of England, first published 1628-1644. In four parts; Part I, call number KD 833.C6, is a commentary on Littleton's Tenures (including the text of that work), often called "Coke upon Littleton" and cited "Co. Lit.". Part II is at call number KD 660.C6, and Parts III & IV are at KD 7869.C64. ECCO includes a 1703 edition of Part I and 1797 editions of Parts II, III, & IV. The original editions are available to Rutgers users in the database EEBO: Early English Books Online, see http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/indexes/search_guides/eebo.shtml.

Hale's Pleas of the Crown ("Hale P.C.") Sir Matthew Hale, Historia Placitorum Coronae, first published 1736. Call number KD 7869.H35 Note: there was also an earlier summary work by Hale with the actual title Pleas of the Crown, but the citation "Hale P.C." usually refers to the Historia Placitorum Coronae. Both works are available in ECCO.

Hawkins Pleas of the Crown ("Hawk.P.C.") William Hawkins, A Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown, first published 1716. We have this work only in Special Collections, but the 3rd,4th, 6th and 7th editions are available in ECCO.

Blackstone's Commentaries ("Bl.Com.") Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, first edition 1765-1769. Facsimile of the first edition is at call number KD 660.B52. This edition is also available online in the Avalon Project at Yale, at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/blackstone/blacksto.htm. The first through 7th and 9th through 13th editions are in ECCO. Various American editions are at call number KF 385 .B55.

.