Forbes Manuscript - a great body of the law of Scotland

A digital edition of William Forbes’ Great Body of the Law of Scotland.

A page of the Forbes manuscript
A page of the Forbes manuscript

William Forbes (1668?-1745) was the first holder of the Regius Chair in Civil Law at the University of Glasgow.  Appointed to the Chair in 1714, he continued to teach at Glasgow until 1739.  Forbes is generally considered to have been a relatively minor Scottish jurist of the period.  But in one respect Forbes made an exceptional scholarly contribution: throughout his tenure of the Chair he was at work on major treatise, The Great Body of the Law of Scotland.  Alas, it appears the Great Body was never finished, for it was never published.  But the great manuscript folio volumes, containing a life's work, have lain, ever since, in the Glasgow University Library known only to a few dedicated legal historians.  And although some superb research by Professor John Cairns, in particular, gives us now some idea of Forbes' life and times, there has not yet been an opportunity to appraise properly Forbes' scholarly contributions. One estimate suggests that the Great Body extends to a million words.  On any analysis, the work deserves to be better known. 

Project website:

Main contact: Ross Anderson

Developer: Brian Aitken

Start year: 2010

End year: 2011

Subject area: Information Studies

Keywords: Digital EditionDigitisation

Record last updated 2020-01-14