Halsbury’s Statutes

Halsbury’s Statutes: A Complete Statement of the Whole Law of England by the Right Honourable the Earl of Halsbury (first published by Butterworth & Co., 1907)

Introduced by The Sidney Nolan Trust

In 1907 Stanley Shaw Bond, Editor at Butterworths, began a project to produce a complete statement of the law of England and Wales that was authoritative, comprehensive and up-to-date. Bond tracked down the former Lord Chancellor, The Earl of Halsbury, on holiday in Nice to invite him to be the Editor-in-Chief of The Laws of England.  

Halsbury’s Statutes of England and Wales was the fourth major work created by Stanley Bond in 1929. The full title was The Complete Statutes of England Classified and Annotated in Continuation of Halsbury’s Laws of England and for ready reference entitled Halsbury’s Statutes of England. 

A set of Halsbury’s Statutes, the accepted authoritative texts for statute law (Acts of Parliament) of England and Wales, was donated to the Trust by a local court service whose staff now use online reference. The 27 volumes were destined to be pulped had the Trust not taken them.

Artists from across the UK participated in the our celebration of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. Each volume has been transformed into a work of art exploring themes related to topics covered in the particular volume as well as ideas around legislation and society.

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Part of the touring exhibition was on display at the inaugural Baskerville Wayzgoose on Saturday 1st April at Baskerville Hall. More than 600 visitors were at this event that celebrated the printed word and book arts.

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The publishing history of Halsbury’s Statutes

Halsbury’s Statutes covers statute law of England and Wales from the earliest times to the present day. The current edition has fully annotated text of the amended version of every Public General Act and Church of England Measure currently in force, and also of a number of private and local Acts.

Statutes are grouped alphabetically and cover the main areas of legal practice, including:

  • parliamentary debates
  • amendments and repeals
  • commencement
  • cross-references to other provisions of the Act and to relevant provisions in other enactments
  • cases
  • subordinate legislation
  • statutory definitions

Halsbury’s Statutes of England and Wales was the fourth major work created by Stanley Bond in 1929. The full title of this work was The Complete Statutes of England Classified and Annotated in Continuation of Halsbury’s Laws of England and for ready reference entitled Halsbury’s Statutes of England. The new work was to be used with Halsbury’s Laws and therefore bears the name of Halsbury.

Preparation of Halsbury’s Statutes depended largely on internal staff. Design was based on the earlier Butterworths’ Twentieth Century Statutes (Annotated), a work in five volumes covering the Acts of 1900 to 1909, which had been kept up to date by annual volumes. Like the other major works it was arranged by subject matter. Butterworths prepared their own texts of the statutes in force, comparing them afterwards with other official and unofficial compilations. Special attention was paid in the annotations to mechanical aids such as the authority for amendment, cross-references, definitions etc rather than to matters of interpretation.

All twenty volumes of the first edition of Halsbury’s Statutes appeared during the calendar years 1929 to 1931. The second edition, in 28 volumes, appeared between 1948 and 1951. It was the first major legal work to be undertaken after World War II. At the time strict paper rationing still applied and although Butterworths’ quota was substantial, it could not have stood this large extra consumption. Adequate paper was available on the continent but could not be imported free of quota. Bound books, however, did not come within the paper quota. A firm with necessary facilities was found in Vienna. The text was typeset in England. The corrected type was printed with a special tacky ink on architect’s tracing linen. The print was dusted with soot which adhered to the ink, and gave maximum opacity to the imprint of the type. With the loose soot carefully cleaned off, the sheets were flown to Vienna and used instead of a photographic negative, litho plates being prepared direct from the tracing linen pulls. Printing and binding followed in the usual way, and the bound books were imported to England.

The second edition broke new ground by its loose-leaf Service of current statutes. The cumulative supplement continued to appear annually until 1970, after which an advance noter-up in loose-leaf form began to be issued in addition. Until World War II annual bound volumes and annual cumulative supplements were considered an adequate form of service. The speed and complexity of post-war changes in the law demanded something more flexible.

The third edition, in forty-one volumes, was published between 1968 and 1972, and the present (fourth) edition, in fifty volumes, between 1985 and 1992.

Source: Butterworths: History of a Publishing House by H Kay Jones and W Gordon Graham.)

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