Thomas Blount published his “Fragmenta Antiquitatis: Antient Tenures of Land and Jocular Customs of some Mannors” in 1679.
The book was intended to amuse as much as to instruct, the ways of a bygone age being regarded as droll. To meet a continuing demand, further editions were published in 1784 and 1815, new material being added on each occasion.
In 1874 a fourth edition appeared, under the editorship of W. Carew Hazlitt. Hazlitt (like Blount a barrister) corrected many errors, and put the entries into alphabetical order. In 1909 he produced a supplement, now very rare since only fifty copies were printed.
The inaccuracy of the text has been justly criticised. The noted scholar J. H. Round, writing at the end of the 19th century, was particularly scathing about it. However, Dr Round was scathing about a good many things; and the deficiencies of Jocular Tenures, as it sometimes known, are perhaps hardly surprising given its origin and history. The book nonetheless remains a unique and fascinating source of material about land tenure and related subjects.
Our fifth edition, published in 1999, merges the 1874 edition and the 1909 supplement. We have not attempted any further corrections, but the text has been reset and given a comprehensive new index.
It is perhaps worth noting that although photographic reproductions of the fourth edition can nowadays be found, these usually do not include the 1909 supplement and do not have a full index.