"as the lawyer doth his Coke upon Lyttleton"
Sir Thomas de Littleton (c1407-1481)
Public DomainSir Thomas de Littleton (c1407-1481) - Credit: Engraving by Thomas Trotter

Sir Thomas de Littleton (c. 1407-1481) was an English judge and legal writer.  His Treatise on Tenures was the first scholarly work on the English law of property, and specifically rights over land.  The rules governing the law of property had become uniform throughout the land, and a huge amount of case material had been acquired and preserved in the rolls of the various courts. Littleton distilled this great body of knowledge into an accessible form.  The first edition of The Tenures appeared in 1481 or 1482.  It was one of the earliest books printed in London, and the earliest treatise on English law.  Several subsequent editions followed. 

In 1628, Sir Edward Coke published a celebrated commentary on The Tenures.  Coke (1552-1634) was a highly respected English barrister, judge and politician. 

Sire Edward Coke (1552-1634)
Public DomainSire Edward Coke (1552-1634) - Credit: Thomas Athow

There have been about 25 editions of Coke upon Littleton and about 90 editions of The Tenures without Coke’s commentary. The Tenures formed an important part of legal education for almost 350 years, and is still cited in the courts of England and the United States as an authority on the feudal law of real estate.