Sir Soulden Lawrence (1751-1814)

Sir Soulden Lawrence graduated BA in 1771, before becoming a Fellow in 1774. He later became a pre-eminent lawyer and was knighted in 1794. In the same year he became a judge in the Court of Common Pleas, and then transferred to the King's Bench, where he served for fourteen years, before returning to the Common Pleas in 1808. During this time he was part of the special commission that tried John Horne Tooke for treason. He was also an art connoisseur, and had a notable collection of paintings.

Lawrence's bequest

Lawrence bequeathed all his law books to St John's together with £100 to repair them or to buy more, and the collection comprises around 1,000 volumes. In the main these are legal texts from the 18th and early 19th centuries, but there are numerous older items, such as an interleaved copy of Abridgment des libres annales (1490), a collection of English law reports in Law French attributed to Nicholas Statham, and a volume of acts from the reign of Henry VIII covering 1539 to 1547. His collection also includes a few items from the library of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford.

Provenance markings

The books given by Lawrence bear a Latin book label, his bookplate, or occasionally both. His book label translates:

Souldern Lawrence, knight, Judge in the Court of the King's Bench, once a Fellow of the College, bequeathed by his will, in the year 1814, all his law books and one hundred pounds for their repair and for the purchase of other books on the same subject. To which gift this book belongs.