Don’t be fooled by the use of ‘translated from the obsolete norman french’. This is a book from the early modern era.

‘Norman french’ means ‘law french’. It fell out of and back into fashion around the English Civil war –the cavaliers liked it, the roundheads didn’t.

Sir Sampson Euere’s ‘Doctrina Placitandi’ was first published in 1677 in  London – it was written in law French because the cavaliers were back in charge.

The book being reviewed is written in English and is a spruced up and updated version published, probably, in 1791. The author wished to remain anonymous, presumably because he wanted to rely upon the authority lent by Sampson Eure’s name, and so is merely described as ‘a Gentleman of the Middle Temple’.

This book fascinates me. Edward Coke talks about drinking directly from the well and this book takes you pretty close to the source. In reading this tome you are back in touch with legal practice as it was just over a decade after the Great Fire of London.

This is not an easy read (to put it mildly): the topics are obscure; the print plain old fashioned so that one is apt to trip up on it, and the reprint is very difficult to read. Further, this book deals with a system that is long gone and therefore it is difficult to gain much of practical use from it.

Yet that said, you can pick it up and, after reading a couple of pages, be plunged into a world that is long gone. After that you will need to put it down again and have a long rest.

So perhaps it’s a book to talk about rather than actually reading. The justification for such a stance is to be found in Pierre Bayard’s wonderful ‘How to talk about books you haven’t read’ (2008) published by Granta. It is a work of French philosophy. It is also very short and beautifully written – what greater temptation can I offer?


Postscript: There is currently on sale a first edition of this work dated 1771. You would have to be a true Sampson Eure aficionado to fork out several hundred pounds for a book you get in paperback reprint and may well be available electronically.