Viner, Charles (DNB00)

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VINER, CHARLES (1678–1756), jurist, son of Charles and Mary Viner of Salisbury, was baptised at the church of St. Thomas, Salisbury, on 3 Nov. 1678. He studied for a time at Oxford, where he matriculated from Hart Hall on 19 Feb. 1694–5. He afterwards resided at Aldershot, Hampshire, and had chambers in the Temple (King's Bench Walk), but was not called to the bar. He devoted half a century of toil to the compilation of ‘A General Abridgment of Law and Equity. Alphabetically digested under proper Titles, with Notes and References to the whole,’ Aldershot, 1742–53, 23 vols. fol. A genuine hobby, the ‘Abridgment’ was printed on paper manufactured under Viner's own direction and stamped with a peculiar watermark. Based on the work of his predecessor, Henry Rolle [q. v.], but built up from all other accessible materials, it is a vast and labyrinthine encyclopædia of legal lore ill arranged and worse digested. Valueless as an authority, it was but an indifferent help to research until the publication of an ‘Alphabetical Index’ by Robert Kelham [q. v.], London, 1758, fol. A second edition of the work, including the index, appeared at London in 1791–4, 24 vols. 8vo, and was followed by a supplement by several hands, entitled ‘An Abridgment of the Modern Determinations in the Courts of Law and Equity,’ London, 1799–1806, 6 vols. 8vo.

Viner died at Aldershot on 5 June 1756. By his will, dated 29 Dec. 1755, he left the remainder copies of the ‘Abridgment’ and his residuary real and personal estate (value about 12,000l.) to the university of Oxford upon trusts to which effect was given by the endowment of the Vinerian common-law chair, scholarships, and fellowships. The first professor was Sir William Blackstone [q. v.]

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Gent. Mag. 1750 p. 528, 1751 p. 527, 1756 p. 314; Georgian Era, ii. 534; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ii. 85, 179; Blackstone's Discourse on the Study of the Law, 1758, 8vo; Clarke's Bibliotheca Legum; Bridgman's Legal Bibliography; Marvin's Legal Bibliography; Lincoln's Inn Libr. Cat.; Bodleian Libr. Cat.]

J. M. R.