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Scotland: legal resources: Legal history

Subjects: Law

Scottish legal history

For a modern edition of Regiam Majestatem see Stair Society volume 11.

Case law & law reporting

The oldest surviving records/collections of Scottish court decisions are referred to as Practicks. As with English yearbooks or books of terms they do not match the modern reader's expectation of law reports. Collections subsequently printed include

From the seventeenth century many more entrepreneurs printed collections of  case reports such as the Durie collection of Court of Sessions decisions 1621-1641. Some of these collections were published under the title Dictionary of Decisions.

Faculty Collection/Faculty Decisions (Old Series) (1752-1808)
Faculty Collection/Faculty Decisions (New Series) (1808-1825)
Faculty Collection/Faculty Decisions (Octavo Series) (1825-1841)

The Session Cases (SC) series have reported cases since 1821. Between 1821 and 1906 they were published as 5 series, the names of the respective editors being reflected in the citations.
First Series 1821-1838 Shaw - cited as S
Second Series 1838-1862 Dunlop - cited as D
Third Series 1862-1873 MacPherson - cited as M
Fourth Series 1873-1898 Rettie - cited as R
Fifth Series 1898-1906 Fraser - cited as F

Note: For a more detailed account, see chapters 3 and 4 of the work below

In the absence of legislation or judicial precedent, the writings of some early writers have gained in authority and have been used to settle legal points. The dates are those of the first editions. SOLO searches may reveal later editions and, in the case of Craig, a modern edition with translation.

  • Craig Jus Feudale (1603)
  • Mackenzie The Laws and Customs of Scotland in Matters Criminal (1678)
  • Dalrymple, Viscount Stair  Institutions of the Laws of Scotland (1681 - revised in 1693)
  • McDouall, Lord Bankton An Institute of the Laws of Scotland  (1751)
  • Erskine  An Institute of the Law of Scotland (1773)
  • Hume Commentaries on the Law of Scotland : Respecting the Description and Punishment of Crimes (1797)
  • Bell  Commentaries on the Law of Scotland (1804)
  • Bell  Principles on the Law of Scotland (1829)
  • Alison   Principles of the Criminal Law of Scotland (1832)
  • Alison   Practice of the Criminal Law of Scotland (1833)

Finding early manuscripts

Related guides from the Law Bod