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Venteicher Rare Book Room

Blackstone's Commentaries Editions

Selected Editions of Blackstone's Commentaries
in the Creighton Law Library Venteicher Rare Book Room Collection


Blackstone Portrait


William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England was the first legal treatise to comprehensively describe the common law as it existed in England in the mid-eighteenth century. The Commentaries originated as a series of lectures Blackstone delivered at Oxford University. The lectures were extremely popular leading Blackstone to publish the Commentaries in 1765. A 1767 review praised Blackstone’s achievement:  “Mr. Blackstone has entirely cleared the law of England from the rubbish in which it was buried and now shows it to the public in a clear, concise, and intelligible form.” The impact of Blackstone’s Commentaries was immediate and profound in England, but its influence was greater still in the new American colonies.









Blackstone 2d edition large

2nd Edition

Commentaries on the Laws of England / 2nd ed. Oxford,
Printed at Clarendon Press, 1766-1769.
In this quarto edition, vol. 3-4 are first edition. 
No second edition of vol. 3-4 was published.
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Blackstone 3d edition

3rd Edition
Commentaries on the Laws of England / 3rd ed.
Oxford, Printed at Clarendon Press, 1768-1769.
In this quarto edition, vol. 3-4 are first edition. 
No revision of vol. 3-4 was published until the fourth edition.
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1st American Edition

Commentaries on the Laws of England. In four books. By Sir William Blackstone, Knt. One of His Majesty’s judges of the Court of Common Pleas.  Re-printed from the British copy, page for page with the last edition. America:  Printed for the subscribers, by Robert Bell, at the late Union library, in Third-street, Philadelphia, 1771-1772.

This is the first American Edition; reprinted line for line from the fourth Oxford edition, 1770. It was printed with an advance subscription list of 1,587 sets. There are 839 names of individuals, libraries, and booksellers included in the alphabetical list of “Names of the Subscribers” on the twenty-two unnumbered pages preceding the title page of vol. 4.

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Blackstone 4th edition

4th Edition Oxford

Commentaries on the Laws of England / 4th ed. Oxford, Printed at the Clarendon Press,  1768. This quarto edition is called fourth on the title page of all volumes, although no Blackstone revision of vol. 3-4 had been published prior to 1770. This edition is the first to have Blackstone’s preface of the first edition, five paragraphs, abbreviated to three paragraphs. 

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7th Edition

Blackstone 7th edition

Commentaries on the laws of England / 7th ed. Oxford, Clarendon press, printed for William Strahan, Thomas Cadell, and Daniel Prince, 1775. This edition is the first edition which contains a Blackstone portrait known to have been printed for the edition in which it appears. Frontispiece of vol. 1 is a bust portrait of Blackstone, facing right, in an oval frame. It reads: “The Honourable Sir Wm. Blackstone Knight One of the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas. Painted by Gainsborough 1774. Engraved by J. Hall 1775.”

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