Whole of the Proceedings at the Assizes at Shrewsbury

William SHIPLEY

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Item#: 126006 price:$1,400.00

Whole of the Proceedings  at the Assizes at Shrewsbury
Whole of the Proceedings  at the Assizes at Shrewsbury

"ONE OF THE MOST NOTEWORTHY LIBEL TRIALS": FIRST EDITION OF THE WHOLE OF THE PROCEEDINGS AT THE ASSIZES AT SHREWSBURY, 1784, EXCEEDINGLY RARE BOUND WITH FIRST EDITION OF AUTHENTIC COPY OF THE JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY RIGHT HON. EARL MANSFIELD, 1785

(CONSTITUTION). The Whole of the Proceedings at the Assizes at Shrewsbury, on Friday August the Sixth, 1784, in the Cause of the King on the Prosecution of William Jones, Attorney at Law, Against the Rev. William Davies Shipley, Dean of St. Asaph. For a Libel. BOUND WITH: An Authentic Copy of the Judgement Delivered by the Right Hon. Earl Mansfield, November 16, 1784, in the Case of the King Against William Davies Shipley Dean of St. Asaph. London: Printed by H. Goldney; Printed for John Stockdale, 1784; 1785. Octavo, modern half calf and marbled boards; pp. (ii), (1), 2-112; (1-3), 4, (5), 6-26 (6). $1400.

First edition of this important work documenting the 18th-century English seditious libel trial of Shipley, sparking focus on freedom of speech and the right to a jury trial, issues at the core of the American Constitution with freedom of speech at the heart of the 1735 American trial of John Peter Zenger and America's highly divisive 1798 Alien and Seditious Acts, this preferred rare London edition bound with the first and only 18th-century edition of "Authentic Copy of the Judgement delivered by Right Hon. Earl Mansfield" in the trial, key to both English and American legal history.

"Seditious libel trials of the 18th century constitute an important chapter in the history of freedom of the press and the growth of democratic government" (Green, Jury, Seditious Libel, and the Criminal Law). In the 1780s England's Rev. William Davies Shipley, Dean of St. Asaph, had distributed a pamphlet entitled, Principles of Government, in a Dialogue Between a Scholar and a Peasant, published anonymously but actually written by William Jones, Shipley's brother-in-law. It advocated for a number of controversial democratic reforms in parliamentary representation., leading to Shipley's indictment for seditious libel. Famed barrister Thomas Erskine represented him in August 1784 at a trial that "was to become one of the most noteworthy libel trials in British history... Erskine's eloquent arguments for the expanded rights of the jury in libel cases" were rejected (McCoy S342; emphasis added). The jury found that Shipley published the material, but that it was not libelous. Unsatisfied with the outcome, the judge, the Hon. Francis Buller, exercised his authority and overruled the jury to find the material libelous and Shipley was found guilty. However his trial proved a crucial first step in reforming England's government to provide greater, democracy-enhancing freedoms such as freedom of speech. Rare preferred London edition: without half title. Issued same year as the Dublin edition and a London edition "printed and distributed gratis by the Society for Constitutional Information" (ESTC T52458), no priority established. This copy is bound with the first and only 18th-century edition of An Authentic Copy of the Judgement Delivered by the Right Hon. Earl Mansfield, November 16, 1784, In the Case of the King Against William Davis Shipley, Dean of Asaph. With three leaves of advertisements at rear. Whole of the Proceedings (N25763); Authentic Copy (ESTC T103556).

Title page dog-eared, last leaf of ads lightly soiled, near-fine.

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