Front Page Titles (by Subject) B. The Compleat Copyholder - Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. II
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B. The Compleat Copyholder - Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. II 
The Selected Writings and Speeches of Sir Edward Coke, ed. Steve Sheppard (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). Vol. 2.
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B. The Compleat Copyholder
The Compleat Copyholder, first published in 1630, is a textbook posthumously built from Coke’s manuscript notes on the ancient estate, the copyhold. Copyholds were one of the most basic tenancies, usually held by villeins, small tenant farmers on manors, or great estates, who paid in rents in money or in kind to their landlords. Their interests were not conveyed by indenture, deed, or by the other grants that specified their protections in their lands. Rather they were written on a list, literally, copied into a court roll. The rights and duties of copyholders were limited but controlled primarily by the custom specific to each manor. Coke was among the first to attempt to state the rights and powers essential to all copyholds, and his cases, treatment of copyhold in the First Institute, and treatment in this volume allowed considerably greater protection for the working agricultural poor than had been given before.—Ed.
| Customes are defined to be a Law, or Right not written, which being established by long use, and the consent of our Ancestors, hath been, and is daily practised.
2. To prescribe generally, not tying his Prescription to place, or person, as where a Chiefe Justice prescribeth, that it hath been | used, that every Chiefe Justice may grant Offices; or where a Sergeant prescribeth, Quod talis habetur consuetudo,14 that Sergeants ought to be impleaded by originall Writ, and not by Bill.
3. To Prescribe in a place certaine.
4. To Prescribe in the place of another.
The first sort of these Prescriptions, a Copyholder cannot use, in regard of the imbecillity of his estate; for no man can Prescribe in that manner, but onely Tenants in Fee simple, at the Common Law.
The second sort of these may be used sometimes by Copyholders in the pleading of a generall Custome, but in alledging of a particular Custome, a Copyholder is driven to one of the last, and as occasion serveth, he useth sometimes the one, sometimes the other. If he be to claime Common, or other profit in the soyle of the Lord, then he cannot Prescribe in the name of the Lord, for the Lord cannot Prescribe to have Common or other profit in his owne soyle; but then the Copyholder must of necessitie Prescribe in a place certaine, and alleadge, that within such a Manor, there is such a Custome, that all the Tenants within that Manor, have used to have Common in such a place, parcell of | the Manor: but if he be to claime common, or other profit in the soyle of a stranger, then he ought to prescribe in the name of his Lord, saying, that the Lord of the Manor, and all his Ancestors, and all those whose estate he hath, were wont to have a Common in such a place for himselfe, and his Tenants at will, &c.
[14. ][Ed.: that there is such a custom (as follows).]