Front Page Titles (by Subject) (Preface) To the Reader. - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I
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(Preface) To the Reader. - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 1.
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(Preface) To the Reader.
It is truely said (good Reader) that Error (Ignorance beeing her inseperable twynne) doeth in her proceeding so infinitely multiply her selfe, produceth such monstrous & strange Chimaeraes, floateth in such and so many incerteinties, and sucketh downe such poyson from the contagious breath of ignorance, as all such into whom she infuseth any of her poysoned breath, shee dangerously infects or intoxicates; And that which is wonderfull before shee can come to any end, she bringeth all things (if she be not prevented) by confusion to a miserable and untimely end; Naturalia & vera artificialia sunt finita, nullus terminus falso, error immensus.2 On the other side, Trueth cannot bee supported or defended by any thing but by Trueth her selfe and is of that constitution and constancie, as she cannot at any time or in any part or poynt bee disagreeable to her selfe; she hateth all bombasting and sofistication, and bringeth with her certainty, unity, simplicity and peace at the last; Putida salsamenta amant origanum, veritas per et placet, honestae per se decent, falsa fucis, turpia phaleris indigent.3 Ignorance is so far from excusing or extenuating the error of him that had power to find out the Trueth (which necessarily he ought to know) and wanted only will to seek it, as shee will be a just cause of his great punishment. Quod scire debes et non vis, non pro ignorantia sed pro contemptu haberi debet.4 Error and falshood are of that condition, as without any resistance they will in time of them selves fade and fall away: But such is the state of Trueth, that though many doe impugn her, yet will shee herself ever prevail in the end, and flourish like the palm-tree; shee may peradventure by force for a time be trodden down, but never by any means whatsoever can shee be trodden out. There is no subject of this Realme, but being instructed by good and plain evidence of his auntient and undoubted patrimony and birthright, (though hee hath for some by ignorance, false persuasion, or vain feare, been deceived or dispossed) but will consult with learned and faithfull counsellors for the recovery of the same.
The auntient & excellent Lawes of England are the birth-right and the most auntient and best inheritance that the subjects of this realm have, for by them hee injoyeth not onely his inheritance and goods in peace & quietnes, but his lyfe and his most deare Countrey in safety. And for that I feare that many of my deare Countreymen, (and most of them of great capacitie, and excellent parts) for want of understanding of their own evidence, doe want the true knowledge of their auntient birth-right in some points of greatest importance. I have in the beginning of this my fift work, directed them to those that will not only faithfully counsell, & fully resolve them therein, (such as cannot be daunted with any feare, mooved by any affection, nor corrupted with any reward, but also establish and settle them in quiet possession. Upon just grounds to rectifie an Error in a mans owne mind is a work of a cleare understanding, & of a reformed will, and frequent with such as be good men, & have sober and setled wits. The end of such as write concerning any matter, which by some for want of instruction is called into controversie, should be, with al the candor & charity that can be, used, to perswade and resolve by demonstrative proofes the diligent Reader in the truth. But now adayes those that write of such matters, doe for the most part by their bitter and uncharitable invectives, transported with passion and furie, either beget new controversies, or do as much as in them lye to make the former immortall. Certaine it is; that some Books of that argument, that have had truth for their center, yet because they have wanted temperance, modesty, & urbanity for their circumference, have to the great prejudice of the truth hardened the Adversarie in their errors; and by their bitter invectives, whetted them not onely to defend themselves, and to offend in the like, but many times (beeing thereby urged to write) to defend the error it selfe to the hurt of many, which otherwise might have vanished away without any contradiction. He that against his conscience doth impugne a knowne trueth, doth it eyther in respect of himselfe, or of others; of himselfe, in that he hath within him a discontented heart; of others, whom for certaine worldly respects he seeketh to please: Discontented he is, either because hee hath not attayned to his ambitious and unjust desires, or for that in the Eye of the state, he for his vices or wickednes hoth justly deserved punishment & disgrace, & therefore doth oppose himselfe against the current of the present to please others, in respect that his credit or maintenance dependeth upon their favour or benevolence. I Know that at this day all Kingdomes and States are governed by Lawes, & that the particular & approved custome of every nation is the most usuall binding & assured Lawe; I deale only with the municipall lawes of England, which I professe, and where of I have been a Student above these 25. yeres: My only end and desire is, that such as are desirous to see & know (as who will not desire to see & know his own:) may be instructed: such as have been taught amisse (every man beleeving as he hath been taught) may see and satisfie himselfe with the truth, and such as know and hold the truth (by having so ready & easie a way to the fountaines themselves) may be comforted & confirmed.
Multaignoramus quae non laterent, si veterum lectio nobis esset familiaris.5
[2. ][Ed.: Natural and artificial truths made by art are finite; but there is no end to falseness, and error is immense.]
[3. ][Ed.: A foul sauce requires seasoning; truth is of itself pleasing, beauty is of itself comely. Falsehood requires cosmetics; ugliness needs adornment.]
[4. ][Ed.: That you refuse to learn what you ought to know should not be accounted ignorance but contempt.]
[5. ][Ed.: We are ignorant of many things which would not be hidden if we were familar with the reading of ancient authors.]