This treatise on land tenure was the authoritative work on English
landholding in all its complex forms: fee simple, fee tail, tenant at will,
tenant by copy, tenant by the verge, in a vocabulary that preserves such legal
terms as parcener, socage and frankalmoign. It was the book every law
student read and every lawyer had to have from the time of its first edition in
1481 until the mid-nineteenth century. Many editions were printed in order to
meet a great demand for the volume. Sir Thomas Littleton, Justice of the Common
Pleas, wrote it as a book of instruction for his son, which may account for its
refreshingly simple and direct style of writing, even if the terminology is
technical. Littleton wrote in French, the language of the law, although English
translations began to appear in the early sixteenth century. Copies of this book
often contain annotations by lawyers who added references to decisions of cases.
In addition, the book's compact form lent itself to portability.