Lex parliamentaria : ou Traité de la loi et coutume des parlements

Collection Spotlight

Lex parliamentaria : ou Traité de la loi et coutume des parlements

Lex parliamentaria : ou Traité de la loi et coutume des parlements is a translation of a British parliamentary text. This translation was commissioned by parliamentarians in Lower Canada in 1803.

The original English edition, Lex parliamentaria: or, A Treatise of the Law and Custom of the Parliaments of England, was first printed in 1690, in London. This reference manual for British members of Parliament explained parliamentary law, rules and procedures. Historians have attributed the work to either George Petyt or George Philips.

In 1792, Lower Canada established its first form of a bicameral parliament (a parliamentary system consisting of two legislative chambers) based on the British system. Early Canadian members of Parliament, anglophones and francophones alike, therefore wanted to learn as much as they could about British parliamentary law. They considered this treatise an important reference. In fact, the Journal of the House of Assembly, Lower-Canada, on March 31, 1801, records the Assembly’s purchase of a collection of reference books that included two copies of the Lex parliamentaria. No translation was available at the time, however, so this reference could not be used by unilingual French-speaking parliamentarians.

On April 9, 1803, Joseph-François Perrault, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Huntington, moved a motion for the translation and printing of 200 copies of Lex parliamentaria “for the use of the Members of this House.” His colleague Joseph-Bernard Planté moved for an amendment to the motion to stipulate that the work would not “amount to more than two hundred pounds current money of this Province.” The motion was adopted 13 to 2, and Perrault was charged with the task.

Perrault’s translation was completed in the fall of 1803. According to the Journal of the House of Assembly, Lower-Canada, Quebec printer Pierre-Édouard Desbarats produced 10 copies fully bound in calf leather, 50 half-bound in cardboard and sheep leather, and 140 bound in a blue paper cover.

After Desbarats delivered these copies in January 1804, the French edition of Lex parliamentaria was distributed to the parliamentarians and deposited with the library of the Legislative Assembly.


  • The Library of Parliament collection contains two copies. Each measures 20.5 cm high and contains 421 pages.
  • One copy is bound in tree calf leather. The process for creating this type of leather, popular in the 19th century, produces a marble effect resembling a tree trunk and branches. The spine is decorated with gold tooling and gold stamping of a pair of birds. The inside cover contains a handwritten inscription in ink, “Pierre Weilbrenner, Écuyer [Esquire]”, who was the Member of the Legislative Assembly Parliament for Kent from 1804 to 1808.
old brown leather-bound book on white surface, with circle showing a close-up of gold decoration
Copy of Lex parliamentaria : ou Traité de la loi et coutume des parlements bound in tree calf leather, with a close-up of the decorative gold stamping
old open book, title page visible
Title page
inscription in ink on the inside cover of an old book
Inscription on the inside cover