Selden Society
F.W. Maitland

The Selden Society is the only learned society and publisher devoted entirely to English legal history.  This includes the history of the law, the development of legal ideas, the legal profession, the courts and legal institutions, individual judges and lawyers, legal literature and records, the languages of the law, legal portraiture and costume;  in short, researching the history of everything which is characteristic of our unique English common law and legal system.   And because for most of the nation’s history, the only continuous records have been legal records, there is in them a wealth of incidental information on every aspect of contemporary life and conditions to be found in no other source.

The Society was founded in 1887 by Frederic William Maitland, with the support of the judges, the Inns of Court, the universities and the legal profession, in England, the United States and other countries.  Queen Victoria was its first Patron and it continues to enjoy royal patronage.

Selden Society Membership

Membership now stands at nearly 1,700.   It includes most of the major law and history libraries in the English-speaking world, as well as many leading national and university libraries in other countries.   However most members are individuals:  lawyers and historians, including many whose interest is amateur and who support the Society because of their sense of the importance of its work.   We welcome new members.   No formal qualification is needed;  only an appreciation of the Society’s achievement and a desire to be associated with its continuing work.


The Selden Society is a charity. It is governed by a President and Council who are elected for three years. The current President is Sir John Baker. A number of places on the Council are reserved for persons outside the UK and these are filled by distinguished judges, lawyers and historians from the common law world and beyond. In addition, the Inns of Court, Law Society and British Academy each nominate representatives on the Council. The scholarly work of the Society is supervised by its Literary Director, Dr Neil Jones. His predecessors in this post have been the pre-eminent legal historians of the day: Maitland himself, Sir Paul Vinogradoff, Sir William Holdsworth, T.F.T. Plucknett, S.F.C. Milsom and Sir John Baker.


The Society’s membership and day-to-day affairs are administered by the Secretary at the School of Law, Queen Mary, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS. In the main Commonwealth countries and the United States, membership matters are administered by our local Secretaries and Treasurers.


Some 150 volumes have appeared with the Selden Society’s imprint in its Annual, Supplementary and other series.  These continue at the rate of one or more each year.  Most of the annual volumes consist of original source materials, never before in print:  early law reports, courts’ records, judges’ notebooks, legal treatises, precedent and practice books, and compilations of documents brought together by the Society’s editors for the first time.  Each volume has the full original text coupled with a modern translation, made as accessible as possible for the modern reader.  Although the Society does not publish monographs as such, it does provide in each volume a substantial introductory essay, surveying and discussing the materials presented, putting them in their legal and historical context as well as offering more wide-ranging information, for example of a biographical or linguistic nature.  These introductions themselves constitute much of the modern research that the subject has received. View the list of annual volumes.

There is also a Supplementary Series, including bibliographies of manuscripts, lists identifying judges and leading lawyers down the centuries, and shorter works not appropriate for the main (annual) volumes. View The Supplementary Series.

The whole of both series are in print.   Vols 1 – 99 and Supplementary Series Vols 1-14 are obtainable from Hein Inc.  More recent volumes in both series are obtainable from the Society.

Lecture Series

This began in 1952 and now runs to 32 titles with several more in the press. Lecture booklets are issued free to all members at the date of publication. They are listed in the lecture series.

In 1988 the Society published a Centenary Guide volume to its first hundred years’ publications, summarising their contents.  It also contains a history of the Society and lists all its officers since 1887.  The Guide may be found listed here along with other volumes published by the Society.

Volumes online

The whole of the publications, apart from the very recent, are hosted on the website HeinOnline by Hein Inc. Individual members of the Society wanting access should apply to the Secretary for the password. This also gives access to Hein's extensive Legal Classics library.


An annual general meeting is held each July in London. This is a business meeting at which members consider the annual report and accounts and elect Council members. The AGM is normally followed by a lecture, which is later published in the Society’s lecture series and sent to all members. Following the meeting a reception is offered to members and their guests. Local meetings are regularly held in some countries overseas, notably in the United States and Australia.


Our work depends largely upon the income from members’ subscriptions.   The rates are:







United Kingdom:






United States:






other countries:



These rates include all dispatch costs.   They entitle a member to annual volumes, annual reports, published lectures, a copy of the Society’s handbook Publications, List of Members and Rules, and other occasional distributions;  concessional rates on the Supplementary Series, on volumes published by the Ames Foundation, and on new books by other publishers from whom we obtain special offers for members.   A new member may backdate to any recent year so as to obtain all volumes from then to the current year.

Research Assistance

A further benefit of membership is our service in answering inquiries, obtaining information to assist individuals’ research, dealing with librarians’ and collectors’ queries, and in finding secondhand copies of our back volumes and of scarce legal history works generally.


You may use our application form.  We will then send you further information or put you in touch with our appropriate overseas secretary.   We look forward to welcoming you to membership.

TO:  Secretary,  Selden Society, School of Law, Queen Mary, Mile End Road, London E1  4NS, England.

Phone:  (+44) (0) 20 7882 3968

Fax:      (+44) (0) 20 7882 7042


Current Publications

Supplementary Series

Lectures & Pamphlets

Back Volumes

Centenary Guide

David Yale Prize

Research Enquiries

Ames Foundation

Annual General Meeting

Officers and Council

Hein Inc.

Application Form

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This page last updated 07/28/16 .
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