The large numbers of volumes which have now been published by the Selden Society have made a wealth of materials available for the use of lawyers and historians, but the very size of the series presents increasing difficulties in the way of easy reference. This is especially true for readers who come to legal history for the first time and have not 'grown up' with the books. Reference to indexes to separate volumes is very laborious and the student cannot be sure that he has not missed some source which, from the title, he might hardly expect to find in a particular volume. Specialist editors have tended to add monographs on subjects not directly related to their main editorial tasks, and their indexing policy has not always been consistent.
The aim of the present Guide, the major burden of whose production has been undertaken by Dr. Kiralfy, is to abstract what appear to the editors to be the most important materials referred to in the various Introductions to the volumes and to present these in the form of summaries, supplying a detailed alphabetical index to the summaries. The reader can thus refer to the points which interest him, find them in the summaries and then turn to the original volume for fuller details. To facilitate the use of individual volumes occasional page references are given in the summaries; copious page references could not be provided without destroying the continuity of the text and readers will find that there are fewer references in the more modern volumes, which contain well documented tables of contents to the introductions.
Choice and emphasis are necessarily personal matters. The editors can only hope that their use of the series and their growing familiarity with its contents may have given them a sense of proportion not otherwise obtainable. The reader will, it is hoped, add his own annotations to his copy, if his special interests require fuller references, and some extra leaves have been provided for this purpose.
The Guide is intended as a preliminary source and not a final one. It would defeat its entire purpose if used to discourage reference to the volumes themselves. This fact has dictated some features which might be objectionable in other circumstances, e.g. the order and arrangement of each editor has been strictly followed, whether or not we consider it ideal. Moreover no attempt has been made to re-edit the work of the editors of the volumes. The scholar will find any serious shortcomings discussed in the literature on the subject, much of it in later Introductions in this same series.