For World Book Day we are featuring what is one on the oldest books in the Law Library’s Collection. A General Abridgment of Law and Equity, Alphabetically Digested Under Proper Titles; with Notes and References to the Whole by Charles Viner.
Charles Viner spent 50 years summarizing cases from previously published case law reporters. The case digests (in 23 volumes) are organized alphabetically by subject covering all aspects of the law as it was at the time of publication. Although its accuracy and utility have been questioned, (see e.g. J. G. Marvin’s summary of comments on the Abridgment in Legal Bibliography, Or a Thesaurus of American, English, Irish, and Scotch Law Books) nevertheless it is still a very useful starting point for legal historians.
The library has a complete set on reserve and although the binding is fragile, despite its age (the imprint date on the first volume is 1741), the paper is sturdy and the text is readable.
Viner’s legacy also lives on in the Vinerian Professorship of English Law at Oxford University which he endowed on his death in 1755. The first Vinerian Professor was Sir William Blackstone.
Electronic versions of this abridgment can be found on Google Books.