Thomas Wight

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Thomas Wight (died ca. 1608 [1] ) was a bookseller, publisher and draper in London. Wight published many important books, including many of the earliest law books in English.

Draper cloth merchant

Draper was originally a term for a retailer or wholesaler of cloth that was mainly for clothing. A draper may additionally operate as a cloth merchant or a haberdasher.



Together with his father, the draper John Wight, he published seven editions of William Bourne's book A Regiment for the Sea, [2] [3] the first purely English navigational text.

William Bourne was an English mathematician, innkeeper and former Royal Navy gunner who presented the first design for a navigable submarine and wrote important navigational manuals. He is often called William Bourne of Gravesend.

By time Wight published Bourne's book, he was primarily a publisher, and became part of a monopoly for printing law books in 1599. He published many of the first printed English law books, including Fulbeck (1600), discussing study methods for law students, techniques for arguing a case, and suggestions for further reading. Pulton (1600), also published by Wight the same year, was the first book to attempt to summarise English criminal law. Fulbecke (1602) was one of the first books on international law. Saint German (1604) was first published in Latin in 1523, and attempts to describe English law through a dialogue between a churchman and a student of English common law. It ponders the nature of law, its religious and moral standards, and jurisdiction of Parliament. Manwood (1598) summarises the laws of the forest, known as Carta de Foresta; this was of key interest to English gentlemen, and went through numerous reprintings. Kitchin (1598) described manorial law, land law, and agrarian law.

The court leet was a historical court baron of England and Wales and Ireland that exercised the "view of frankpledge" and its attendant police jurisdiction, which was normally restricted to the hundred courts.

Wight published copies of the "Yearbooks", notes by law students which were the earliest English legal reports dating back to the eleventh century. [4]

Year Books

The Year Books are the modern English name that is now typically given to the earliest law reports of England. Substantial numbers of manuscripts circulated during the later medieval period containing reports of pleas heard before the Common Bench. In the sixteenth century versions of this material appeared in print form. These publications constituted the earliest legal precedents of the common law. They are extant in a continuous series from 1268 to 1535, covering the reigns of King Edward I to Henry VIII. The language of the original manuscripts and editions was either Latin or Law French. Maitland and others have considered that the medieval manuscripts were compiled by law students, rather than being officially sanctioned accounts of court proceedings.

Wight was also a prominent figure in the early discussions of copyright law. [5]

Edmund Weaver, another famous London book publisher and bookseller, started as Wight's apprentice, and took over the business when Wight died.

Edmund Weaver was a draper and a bookseller in London in the 17th century.

Other books published by Wight


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  1. A Quantitative Analysis of the London Book Trade 1614–1618, David L. Gants, Studies in Bibliography – Volume 55, 2002, pp. 185–213 gives a date of 1605 for Wight's death.
  2. The Beginnings of Maritime Publishing in England, 1528–1640, Thomas R. Adams, The Library: Transactions of the Biblioraphic Society, s6-14: 207–220, 1992.
  3. A Regiment for the sea., William Bourne, Imprinted at London: By T. Est, for Thomas Wight, 1592 (log for ships speed, cross-staff, astrolabe.)
  4. Holdsworth, A History of English Law V: 357–377; Marvin, Legal Bibliography (1847) 756. Sweet & Maxwell, A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations I: 311 (3), 312 (14). Pollard and Redgrave, Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland 9679, 1479. Catalogue of the Library of the Harvard Law School (1909) II: 976.
  5. Press Control and Copyright in the 16th and 17th Centuries, W. S. Holdsworth, The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 29, No. 8 (Jun. 1920), pp. 841–858
  6. Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634)
  7. John Manwood (?-1610)
  8. William Fulbecke (1560–1603?)
  9. Geoffrey Chaucer d. 1400.
  10. Leonard Mascall Died 1589
  11. Saint German, Christopher, 1460?–1540
  12. Sir John Fortescue 1394?–1476?
  13. Conrad Heresbach (1496–1576)