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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The law of criminal libel emerged in the Star Chamber in the early years of the seventeenth century. Particularly important to its later development and historiography was Sir Edward Coke’s report of Pickering’s Case, described by him as the case De libellis famosis. The article reassesses the early history of the law of libel, placing it in the context of earlier statutes dealing with sedition. Close analysis of Coke’s report, and the relationship between his original manuscript and the printed version, reveals that the report should be analysed as a literary text in itself, with changes being introduced by Coke in order to produce a particular model of the law.

Keywords: libel, Coke, Star Chamber, law reporting, De libellis famosis

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