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The Correspondence of Sir William Blackstone, 1744-1780

The Letters of Sir William Blackstone, 1744-1780

This annotated edition of Blackstone's surviving correspondence, comprising 180 letters housed in over thirty different archives, libraries and private collections on both sides of the Atlantic, together with some already in print, was published as Volume 14 in the  Supplementary Series of the Selden Society in March 2006 (ISBN 085243 190 0).

The Selden Society, founded in 1887 'To Encourage the Study and Advance the Knowledge of the History of English Law', has some 1800 individual and institutional members in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere; for further details and to order publications go to

Because we lack any significant surviving body of Blackstone's personal or professional papers, compilation of his letters in a form which facilitates comparison and cross-reference is an indispensable prerequisite to the project's main biographical component.


Additions and Amendments (July 2006 onwards)

The following page provides updates and corrections to The Letters of Sir William Blackstone 1744-1780 , ed. W. R. Prest (Selden Society, Supplementary Series 14, 2006)

i. Additions

The following letters have come to light since October 2005, when revised proofs were finalised by the editor. Each new letter is given a unique identifying number based on the sequence in the published volume.

142a. To [William Bowyer and John Nichols], 17 April 1777
[Offered for sale by The Gallery of History, History Direct, Las Vegas, Nevada;, accessioned 26 Jan. 2006.]

Sir William Blackstone returns to Messrs Bowyer and Nichols the Proofs Sheets of his letter to Mr. Barrington & with them the MS. Copy. Had he known the Society intended to have printed it immediately, he would have corrected it for the Press before it was sent to the Compositor, but believes the few Emendations he has made will not occasion any considerable Trouble. Sir Wm would have returned it sooner, but did not receive it till Saturday Afternoon’.

143a. To ___________ Allnatt, 11 December 1777
[New York Public Library, Montague Collection of Historical Autographs]

Mr Justice Blackstone’s Compliments to Mr Allnatt. He has received the Abstract of Tho. Fowler’s Title, & is satsifioed with the Answers to his Queries. Mr Allnatt may prepare the Conveyances whenenever he pleases, as the Judge will be in Wallingford about the 19th instant, & will be ready to pay the Purchase Money as soon after, as may suite Mr Fowler’s Convenience.

W. B.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields| 11 Dec. 1777.


An item described as ‘original mid-18th c. Sir William Blackstone letter’ was listed for sale at the ‘Easy Chairs Fine Estate Auction’ on Wednesday 5 October 2005 at the Holiday Inn, Dedham, Massachusetts:, accessioned 21 Jan. 2006.
No further details have been obtained.

ii. Amendments

Letter 77 (to unknown recipient), 7 September 1762: this document was recently offered for sale by Stuart Lutz:, accessioned 19 March 2006

iii. Additions and Corrections

p. xxxiv: the Chronology lists Blackstone’s call to the bar under the year 1747, recte 1746

p. 194: Appendix (d) gives the date of publication of the second edition of Gilbert Stuart, A View of Society in Europe as 1972, recte 1792.

p. 208: omitted index reference: Wesley, John, 1-2

p. 24, re 'Dr L'; add footnote reference to W. R. Ward, Georgian Oxford (Oxford, 1958), p. 187, and note N, p. 282.

p. 38, n. 14 replace existing text with the following:
The reference is to Tory fears, soon realised, that the House of Commons would endorse the two Whig candidates returned in the disputed Oxfordshire election, rather than the Tories who outpolled them. The next sentence refers to the following quotation from Joseph Addison's Cato (1713): ' 'Tis not in mortals to command success,| But we'll do more, Sempronius; we'll deserve it'.

p. 128, n. 36 for Mary, read Elizabeth

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