Fleta is a treatise, written in Latin, with the sub-title seu Commentarius juris Anglicani, on the common law of England. The anonymous author of the book is sometimes referred to as "Fleta", although this is not in fact a person's name. The book acquired the title "Fleta" because its preface contains a remark that it could be called "Fleta" as it was written in "Fleta".
It appears, from internal evidence, to have been written in the reign of Edward I, about the year 1290.
This book is one of those listed by Blackstone as being authoritative statements of the law at the time at which they were written. Edward Coke cites Fleta as authority in his Institutes in a number of places.[quantify]
The article on this book in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition says that it "is for the most part a poor imitation of" De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae by Henry de Bracton. O. Hood Phillips described it as an "epitome of" that book. Conversely, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes it as "updating and abridging" that book.
One complete manuscript copy of this book survives from the fourteenth century. It is held by the British Library and its reference is BL, Cotton MS Julius B.viii. A few passages of this book also survive in another manuscript. This is also held by the British Library and its reference is BL, Cotton MS Nero D.vi.
Because few copies survive, it is thought that this book was "not widely read by medieval lawyers."
The author is supposed to have written it during his confinement in the Fleet prison, hence the name. It has been conjectured[by whom?] that he was one of those judges who were imprisoned for malpractices by Edward I.
The first printed edition of Fleta was published by John Selden in 1647. It included a dissertation written by Selden, the title of which is "Joannis Seldeni ad Fletam dissertatio." The second edition was published, with corrections, in 1685. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes both of these editions as "imperfect".
- Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 1889
- William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book I, page 72 1791 Ed.
- Search of the PDF copies on Google Book Search on 11 March 2009
- A First Book of English Law, Sweet and Maxwell, 4th Ed, 1960, p. 188, footnote 12
- David J. Schieppe, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, loc. cit.
- This date for the manuscript is given by the Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 1889
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, loc. cit.
- David J. Schieppe, loc. cit.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Fleta". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.