Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam's Minor Compendium may be the earliest known handbook of Islamic law. Remarkably compact and comprehensive, it challenges depictions of the pre-classical period as a time of unsystematic legal scholarship, consisting of only "organic" texts and student notebooks. In this article, I argue for an early date for this text, based on analysis of the manuscript witnesses. I then compare the Minor Compendium with several contemporary texts to highlight its unique characteristics; in the process I discover, and seek to explain, several discrepancies in the descriptions of this text that are found in the biographical dictionaries. In my reading, the Minor Compendium is part of a nascent Mālikī tradition and demonstrates a close affinity to Mālik's Muwatta'. Yet it is also a highly creative and independent work, and its method of making legal arguments is quite different than that found in the Muwatta' and other early legal texts.