Treasures of the Riesenfeld Center, An online exhibit from the Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection - Home Page
title page of Henry de Bracton, d.1268
On the Laws and Constitutions of England was written in the early 13th century and attributed to Henry Bracton, one of the king's justices, although it was probably written by more than one person. Using cases from the plea roles, Bracton compiled the first systematic treatise on the English common law. Although Bracton had no concept of stare decisis, his reliance on carefully selected cases had significant impact on the development of case law. Bracton's influence extends even to the present, cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113, 134-136 (1973).

Bracton's work was first printed in 1569. It was printed again in 1640 as Sir Edward Coke sought to assert the supremacy of the law over the King. In a confrontation with King James I, Coke allegedly quoted Bracton's memorable words, "The King is subject not to men, but to God and the law."


Henry de Bracton, d. 1268
De Legibus & Consuetudinibus Angliae
London: Richard Tottell, 1569