Cowell, John. The Interpreter: Or Booke Containing the Signification of Words: Wherein is Set Foorth the True Meaning of All, or the Most Part of Such Words and Termes, as are Mentioned in the Lawe Writers, or Statutes of This Victorious and Renowned Kingdome, Requiring Any Exposition or Interpretation. A Worke not Onely Profitable, but Necessary for Such as Desire Throughly to be Instructed in the Knowledge of Our Lawes, Statutes, and Other Antiquities. Cambridge: Printed by John Legate, 1607. Unpaginated. Reprinted 2002 by The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. Hardcover. New. * Reprint of the rare first edition. The Interpreter was considered to be the best law dictionary until Jacob's, and was, and still is, used by scholars of early English legal texts. Indeed, Walker describes Cowell [1554-1611] as "reputed the most learned civilian of his time." But its publication sparked enormous controversy. At a time when Parliament and crown were vying for power, the Commons disapproved of Cowell's monarchical orientation, which was evident in such definitions as "King," "Parliament," "Prerogative," "Recoveries" and "Subsidies." When a joint committee of Lords and Councillors reviewed the work, the ensuing controversy nearly halted the affairs of government. James I intervened in fear that his own fiscal interests would not be approved by the Parliament, and ordered a proclamation that imprisoned Cowell, suppressed the book and ordered all copies burned by a public hangman on March 10, 1610. Moreover, The Interpreter contained a quotation that criticized Littleton's scholarship, which alienated and enraged Sir Edward Coke. It comes as no surprise that he was instrumental in the book's suppression and in Cowell's persecution. Walker, The Oxford Companion to Law 311. Marvin, Legal Bibliography (1847) 233-4. Catalogue of the Library of the Law School of Harvard University (1909) I:477. Marke, Vignettes of Legal History 309-312. Cowley, A Bibliography of Abridgments, Digest, Dictionariesand Indexes to the Year 1800 106. Sweet and Maxwell, A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations I: 7 (18).
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