Fitzherbert, Sir Anthony

, a very learned lawyer in the reign of Henry VIII. was descended from an ancient family, and was the younger son of Ralph Fitzherbert, esq. He was born at Norbury, co. Derby ,*


The family from which our judge descended, was the subject of a dispute between Camden, in his “Britannia,” and Brooke, in his “Discovery of Errors,” the substance of which is given in the Biographia Britannica; but as Dr. Campbell, the author of that article, has rather injudiciously preferred the arguments of Brooke, it may be necessary to refer the reader to an elaborate letter on the -subject in the —Gent. Mag. vol. Lxvh. p. 645. In a work like ours, we should exceed all reasonable bounds, were we to enter into the minutia? of pedigree. See also sir E. Brydges’s edition of Collins’s Peerage.

but | it is not known in what year. After he had been properly educated in the country, he was sent to Oxford, and from thence to one of the inns of court; but we neither know of what college, nor of what inn he* was admitted. His great parts, judgment, and diligence, soon distinguished him in his profession; and in process of time he became so eminent, that on Nov. 18, 1511, he was called to be a serjeant at law. In 1516 he received the honour of knighthood, and the year after was appointed one of his majesty’s Serjeants at law. He began now to present the world with the product of his studies; and published from time to time several valuable works. In 1523, which was the fifteenth year of Henry the Eighth’s reign, he was made one of the justices of the court of common pleas, in which honourable station he spent the remaining part of his life; discharging the duties of his office with such ability and integrity, that he was universally respected as the oracle of the law. Two remarkable things are related of his conduct; one, that he openly opposed cardinal Wolsey in the height of his power, although chiefly on the score of alienating the church lands; the other, that on his death-bed, foreseeing the changes that were likely to happen in the church as well as state, he pressed his children in very strong terms to promise him solemnly neither to accept grants, nor to make purchases of abbey-lands. He died May 27, 1515—8, and was buried in his own parish church of Norbury. He left behind him a very numerous posterity; and as he became by the death of his elder brother John possessed of the family estate, he was in a condition to provide very plentifully for them. The Fitzherbert family, in the different branches of it, continues to flourish, chiefly in Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

This learned lawyer’s works are, 1. “The Grand Abridgment collected by that most reverend judge, Mr. Anthony Fitzherbert, lately conferred with his own manuscript corrected by himself, together with the references of the cases to the books, by which they may be easily found; an improvement never before made. Also in this edition the additions or supplements are placed at the end of their respective titles.” Thus runs the title of the edition of 1577; but the most esteemed edition appears to be that printed in folio by Pynson, in 1516, with additions to the first part under the title “Residuum.” Ames also | mentions an edition by Wynken de Worde, in 1516, and dates, Pynson’s edition 1514, but it is questionable whether this edition attributed to Wynken de Worde be not the production of a foreign printer. To the edition of 1577, is added a most useful and accurate table, by the care of William Rastall, serjeant at law, and also one of the jus tices of the common pleas, in the reign of queen Mary; which table, as well as the work, together with its author, is very highly commended by the lord chief justice Coke. It is indeed one of our most ancient and authentic legal records, as it contains a great number of original authorities quoted by different authors, which are not extant in the year-books, or elsewhere to be found in print. 2. “The Office and Authority of Justices of Peace, compiled and extracted out of the old books, as well of the Common Law, as of the Statutes, 1538,” and reprinted often, the last edition in 1617. 3. “The Office of Sheriffs, Bailiffs of Liberties, Escheators, Constables, Coroners,” &c. 1538. Though we give the titles in English, these three works are written in French only part of the second is in English. 4. “Of the. Diversity of Courts,1529, in French but translated afterwards by W. H. of Gray’s inn, and added by him to Andrew Home’s “Mirrour of Justices.” 5. “The New Natura Brevium,1534, in French; but afterwards translated, and always held in very high esteem. The last edition, published in 1794, 2 vols. 8vo, has the addition of a commentary, supposed to be written by chief justice Hale, and was collated with the former editions, and corrected, with some notes and references added, and the index considerably enlarged. 6. “Of the Surveying of Lands,1539. 7. “The Book of Husbandry, very profitable and necessary for all persons,1534, and several times after in the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. It is said, in an advertisement to the reader, that this book was written by one Anthony Fitzherbert, who had been forty years an husbandman; from whence many have concluded, that this could not be the judge. But in tqe preface to his book “Of Measuring Lands,” he mentions his book “Of Agriculture,” and in the advertisement prefixed to the same book, it is expressly said, that the author of that treatise of “Measuring,” was the author likewise of the book “Concerning the Office of a Justice of Peace.” Whence it appears, that both those books were written by | this author, who perhaps in the seasons which allowed him leisure to go into the country, might apply himself as vigorously to husbandry in the country, as to the law when in town; and commit his thoughts to paper. He appears to have been the first Englishman who studied the nature of soils, and the laws of vegetation, with philosophical attention. On these he formed a theory confirmed by experiments, and rendered the study pleasing as well as profitable, by realizing the principles of the ancients, to the honour and advantage of his country. These books being written at a time when philosophy and science were but just emerging from that gloom in which they had long been buried, were doubtless replete with many errors; but they contained the rudiments of true knowledge, and revived the study and love of agriculture. 1


Biog. Brit.-Shaw’s Staffordshire. Letters and papers on Agriculture, vol. II. 1763 8vo. Bibliographer, vol. I. p. 18. Bridgroan’i Legal Bibliography,