“A LANDMARK EVENT IN SCOTTISH LEGAL HISTORY”: SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF BARON DAVID HUME’S COMMENTARIES ON THE LAW OF SCOTLAND RESPECTING… CRIMES, 1797, TOGETHER WITH THE FIRST EDITION OF HIS COMMENTARIES ON THE LAW OF SCOTLAND RESPECTING TRIAL FOR CRIMES, 1800
HUME, David. Commentaries on the Law of Scotland Respecting the Description and Punishment of Crimes. Two Volumes. WITH: Commentaries on the Laws of Scotland Respecting Trial For Crimes. Two volumes. WITH: Supplemental Notes to Mr. Hume's Commentaries on the Law of Scotland Respecting Crimes. Edinburgh: Printed for Bell and Bradfute [and for E. Balfour for first two works], 1797, 1800, 1814. Five volumes altogether. Large quarto, contemporary full brown calf, raised bands, red and black morocco spine labels. $6500.
First edition of Baron Hume’s groundbreaking authoritative Commentaries on the Description and Punishment of Crimes, the “standard work on Scottish criminal law” (DNB), together with first edition of his two-volume Commentaries on Trial for Crimes, and exceedingly scarce first edition of his Supplemental Notes. Rarely found together, a seminal five-volume work by the nephew of philosopher David Hume, laying “the foundations of our modern criminal law," uniformly bound in contemporary calf.
"A landmark event in Scottish legal history occurred in 1797 when Baron David Hume… published his Commentaries on the Law of Scotland Respecting the Description and Punishment of Crimes" (Hewitt, Symbolic Interactions, 1). A revered Professor of Scots Law at University of Edinburgh, with achievements that include his appointment as Baron of the Scots Exchequer in 1822, Baron Hume was "influenced by the views of his uncle, David Hume, the philosopher, with whom he had a close friendship. The elder had supervised his education" (Criminal Law, 47n). Baron Hume "laid the foundations of our modern criminal law" (British Justice, Hamlyn Lectures). This rare complete five-volume set of Commentaries, including the rarely found Supplemental Notes, provides "the classic statement of Scottish criminal law" (Kilday, Women and Violent Crime, 32). With this groundbreaking "standard work on Scottish criminal law" (DNB), Baron Hume "carried the torch into all the recesses of actual practice. He not only made himself familiar with all the scattered matter that had been published, though much of it lay hid in places not commonly explored; but he was the very first who went systematically to the records" (Edinburgh Review 83:197). To Sir Walter Scott, Baron Hume was "an architect … to the law of Scotland' (Scott on Himself, 42). Hume's lectures at the University of Edinburgh provided the basis of these works.
To his contemporaries the Commentaries
and Hume's authoritative research into "the rise and progress of this law… will ever be held to communicate the most philosophical views of the criminal law in a popular and perspicuous manner" (Edinburgh Law Journal
, I:485). Hume importantly highlights, as well, "the differences between Scottish and English laws, shaping the former into a symbol of cultural and national identity… for England's 'bloody code' of hundreds of offenses punishable by death did not extend to Scotland. The differences were celebrated in Hume's Commentaries
" (Hewitt, 52, 44). "The first study of judicial decisions" in Scottish criminal law, Commentaries
has been officially "afforded 'authoritative' status" (Gibb & Duff,
Criminal Justice Systems
Hume particularly focused on common law. Like "Blackstone and Bentham in England, Kames and Hume in Scotland were intensely engaged by the question of whether and how the common-law system of maintaining continuity through precedent, and of accommodating change through reinterpretation, could meet the demands of 18th- and early 19th-century Britain… As Farmer explains, 'The belief that the law matured in the late 18th century, taking the form of liberal and flexible principles [was] set out clearly for the first time by Hume. Hume affirms the sense that the past had been leading more progressively to a more enlightened present… A lasting result of Hume's book and its outlook…. strongly implies the autonomy of criminal law from the rest of culture" (Bardsley, Belief and Beyond, 235-239). "Indeed Hume still has high status in Scottish legal history. According to Walker…. 'his examination, based on primary sources [is] invaluable" (Bardsley, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, V14 (2002):238-9, 20-21n). Commentaries (1797) with title page imprints, "Edinburgh: Printed for Bell & Bradfute, Booksellers to the Faculty of Advocates; And for E. Balfour." "Another issue of this work appeared in 1797 with the imprint: Edinburgh: printed for Bell & Bradfute; and E. Balfour" (ESTC T98602): no priority established. Harvard Law Catalogue I:967. Marvin, 405. Edinburgh Review 139:267. ESTC T98600; T98602; T98601. See NYU Catalogue, 251.
Interior fresh and clean, only light edge-wear, minor rubbing to spine labels of boards. A near-fine set, rarely found complete and uniformly bound in contemporary calf.