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MASTER OF THE ROLLS; AND ONE OF HIS MAJESTY'S
In requesting permission to inscribe this edition of Blackstone's Commentaries to Your Lordship, I was actuated by motives of high and unfeigned respect for qualities and attainments upon which I will not here enlarge. I believed too, that
attachment to ourcommon profession would make you look with a favourable eye on any well-meant attempt to render it service, and that you would not unwillingly connect your name with a work which, more than any other, has tended to liberalise the practice of the law, and to disseminate a knowledge of its principles generally through the English nation. I did not of course hope that faults in execution, of which I was myself conscious, would escape Your Lordship; but I knew that the most able are commonly the
most candid judges, and I was sure that in detecting my errors, the difficulty of avoiding them would not escape your consideration.
I have only now to request Your Lordship to receive the work with the same kindness, with which your permission to present it to you was accorded to me, and to subscribe myself, with great sincerity,
Your Lordship’s most obliged
and obedient Servant,
JOHN TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
TEMPLE, June 20th, 1825.
In undertaking to prepare a new Edition of the Commentaries, I proposed to myself three principal objects : 1st, to verify and correct the text, and the original references; 2d, to notice such alterations in the law as had been made by the legislature, and such errors as had been pointed out by judicial deci. sions, since the death of the Author; and lastly, within certain limits to supply, and to explain what appeared to me to have been left either wanting, or unnecessarily difficult in a book of elementary institutes.
The first of these I have not literally accomplished ; for I was unable to procure some of the authors referred to; and as to others, of which there have been several editions, I have contented myself with ascertaining that they warranted the position in the text, without being able, in every instance, to correct the reference to the page. But these were princi, pally cases in which the citation had been made rather for illustration or ornament than for legal authority: in those of the latter description, it will be found that I have corrected many errors which had crept into the copies; and, I trust, I have thereby facilitated the search of the student, who is anxious
to trace Blackstone to those on whom he founds his opinions; a labour which every student will find amply repaid by its utility.
The notes, which I have added to the text, are intended to accomplish my second and third objects; to what extent they have done this, must be left to the judgment of others. I do not flatter myself that many errors, and many omissions, will not be detected; and whoever considers the vast and
perpetually growing extent of our law statute and common, civil and criminal, the great difference between the courses pursued in our several courts of justice, and the exclusive nature of each lawyer's individual study and practice, will be satisfied, I think, that I am not unreasonable in claiming for myself, in common with every editor of Blackstone, a large share of allowance and indulgence.
I am aware, however, that I may be exposed to censure for a fault of a different kind it will be thought by many that my notes are too numerous ; and I confess that when I began the edition, superAuous annotation was one of the faults of former editors, which I most confidently hoped to be able to avoid. But it is difficult to judge fairly of this without actual experience ; the Commentaries are in the hands of the most different descriptions of readers ; they are referred to by the lawyer, studied by the pupil, consulted by the country gen. tleman ; and each will expect from the editor, the subsidiary information which he happens to need at the moment. This circumstance alone will necessarily create notes many in number, and various in kind; but to this must be added that of the im
mense alteration which the law has undergone since the death of the author; and something must in reason be allowed for the personal unwillingness which an editor cannot but feel to suffer even unimportant oversights to pass unnoticed, and thereby expose himself to the imputation of carelessness or ignorance.
I ought to state, that from motives of personal convenience, the volumes have been prepared for the press in irregular order, the third being printed the first, and the first the last ; this will explain many references from the first and the second to notes in the subsequent volumes, which perhaps should more correctly have been placed where the necessity for them first occurred.
In the progress of the work I have received, what is never wanting in my profession, much kind and valuable assistance; it has never been refused where I have sought it; it has often been offered, where I had not thought of asking for it. I must deny mye! self, however, the pleasure of specifying by name any of those who have so assisted me, because I am still too uncertain of the judgment which may be passed upon the work, to think it right to connect their reputation with it even in the slightest degree.
With all its faults I anxiously hope that it may not appear to have been executed in a careless or indifferent spirit; it is impossible, at least I have found it so, in a long work executed in the intervals of business always to keep the attention equally vigilant ; but I should be sorry to be thought to have betrayed a want of due feeling for my author. To me the Commentaries appear in the light of a national property, which all should be anxious to improve to the