DescriptionJohn Skene. [Scotland-Laws] Regiam Majestatem. The auld lawes and constitutions of Scotland, faithfullie collected furth of the Register, and other auld authentick bukes, fra the dayes of King Malcolme the second, untill the time of King James the first, of gude memorie: and trewlie corrected in sundrie faults, and errours, committed be ignorant writers. And translated out of Latine in Scottish language, to the vse and knawledge of all the subjects within this realme. with ane large table of the contents therof, be Sr. John Skene of Curriehill, clerk of our Soveraigne Lordis Register, Counsell, and Rollis. Quhereunto are adjoined twa treatises, the ane, anent the order of proces observed before the Lords of Counsell, and Session: the other of crimes, and judges in criminall causes. The contents of this volume, followe in the twelfth page. Edinburgh: Thomas Finlason, 1609. Krown & Spellman retail: $1250. First English Edition. Folio. 272 x 177mm. A6, A6, B-2D6, A-2G6. 2H4. , 158, , 181,  leaves. Ornamental headpiece decorations incorporating the royal arms, large ornamental historiated initials, printer's ornaments. Late 18th-century blindstamped diced leather, russia gilt, rebacked and worn, some loss on leather, sheets slightly darkened throughout, occasional foxing and pencil annotation, lacking final blank leaf. Hole in O2 text affected, B1 (of section, Statutes of King William, Made at Perth) torn with hole text affected, closed tear on Z, few edge tears, and few tape repairs. From the Krown & Spellman Collection.
The Regiam Majestatem is the earliest surviving work giving a comprehensive digest of the Law of Scotland. The name of the document is derived from its first two words. It consists of four books, treating (1) civil actions and jurisdictions, (2) judgments and executions, (3) contracts, and (4) crimes.
Dating from the early fourteen century, it is largely based on the 1188 Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Angliae (English: Treatise on the laws and customs of the Kingdom of England) of Ranulf de Glanvill, and incorporates features of thirteenth century canon law, the Summa in Titulos Decretalium of Goffredus of Trano, and the Scottish Celtic Laws of the Brets and Scots.
The documentary basis of Scots law had been largely destroyed by the confiscations of Edward I of England in the thirteenth century and by two devastating English invasions led by Edward I and Edward III in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. When the Regiam Majestatem was discovered in the early fifteenth century after Scotland's legal provenance had been destroyed, it was immediately embraced as an authoritative source of law, surviving as such into the modern era.
Sir John Skene had compiled and edited versions of the document at his own expense, and this was published by the Parliament of Scotland in 1609. Skene's version is not entirely consistent with the original document, but it held up as the standard version. Later legal references to the document are references to the 1609 publication.
Skene, Sir John, of Curriehill (c.1540-1617), jurist. "Skene's membership of a commission appointed in 1592 to review and print acts of parliament and other laws resulted in the publication in 1597 of The Lawes and Actes of Parliament, containing post-1424 statutes. His De verborum significatione (1597), the first published dictionary of Scots law, drew extensively on earlier and non-statutory sources... De verborum's full title, 'The exposition of the termes and difficill wordes conteined in the four buikes of Regiam majestatem,' indicates that Skene was already engrossed in the task that was to occupy him for the next ten years. However, the citations in De verborum indicate that the text of Regiam he was using differed from the one eventually published. A revised text of 1601-2 bears extensive annotations, some showing his awareness of the relationship between Regiam and Glanvill, which also excited interest among English lawyers in the context of proposals for a legal union of England and Scotland after 1603. In later revisions Skene brought in a fuller range of references to Glanvill. By 1607 he was able to lay a finished text before the privy council, which recommended to the king that, as Skene's estate was not equal to his wit, genius, and literature, the work should be printed at public expense, a tax being levied on judges and members of the estates to defray the cost. The volume finally appeared in 1609 in two versions: 'the one in Latyne for the benefyte of strangearis, the uther in Scottishe language for the use of subjectis of the countrey' (Reg. PCS, 1st ser., 8.358). Both included legal texts or statutes attributed to monarchs from Malcolm II to Robert III. .. rastic editing produced texts that were logical by his own standards, while his notes showed awareness of parallels in English and civil law. He deserves credit, at least, for providing lawyers with a printed text that answered contemporary needs. Moreover the English version of Regiam contained two treatises that were genuinely innovative. The first, 'Ane short form of proces presentlie used and observed before the Lords of Counsell and session,' was the first published guide to Scottish court procedure, drawing upon Roman law, as well as native sources. Habakkuk Bisset's Rolment of Courtis is a revised and expanded version, using Skene's own emendations of the original. The second, 'Of crimes and judges, in criminall causes, conforme to the lawes of the realme,' is a brief, well-planned exposition of different types of crime and the various judges entitled to try them." [ODNB]ESTC s117424. STC 22626. Aldis 417.
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