Finding and Updating Case Law: Indexes, Citators, Digests

For a refresher on case law, go to Law Reports in the Overview

This section outlines the main sources for finding information about cases. Like most legal resources, the resources in this section have subject indexes, tables of cases and legislation, and other tables. In most it is relatively straightforward to find cases by subject, although your skills in using subject indexes will improve with practice and develop as your knowledge of law deepens. This section concentrates on the method for 'updating' or 'noting up' case law in these resources, which you do to find out if and how judgments have subsequently been considered in the courts. In the next few pages you will find information about searching:

Researching old case law

The Bodleian Law Library has a very comprehensive collection of old case law material in print in its legal history section. There is also a guide to Legal History.

Case law reports before 1865


From 1272 to 1535, the Year Books reported the law in legal French. They are rarely cited in present-day courts. Modern reprints with English translations alongside the original were made during the 19th and 20th centuries, in the Rolls Series, and in volumes published by the Seldon Society and the Ames Foundation.

Between 1571 and 1865 more than 500 different publications containing law reports were printed under the name of the person who wrote the reports. They are now known as the nominate reports.

By the mid 18th century law reporting began to be standardised, court reporters were authorised, and there was demand for reports to be published quickly.

A century later, lawyers and government attempted to bring legal publishing under control by establishing the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR). The ICLR began to publish the Law Reports from 1865. These reports were intended to be authorative, inexpensive and rapidly available.


Reprint series of old case reports

The English Reports
(1220 -1865)

The most comprehensive collection, with 176 volumes and two index volumes. Available at Cw UK 120 E50 in the Bodleian Law Library, with a useful Wall Chart indicating which volumes of the English reports hold which Nominate Reports. Also available online via Oxlip+ in HeinOnline and Westlaw and for free in CommonLII.

The Revised Reports
(1785 -1865)


Some C 19th report titles only available at Cw UK 120 R70 in the Bodleian Law Library

All England Law Report Reprints
(1558 -1935)

Available at Cw UK 120 A10 in the Bodleian Law Library and online in Lexis Nexis Butterworths

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