Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Legal Song. Legal history in lyrics

How come things together in a blog posting? In a postscript to my post on Scandinavian legal history I provided a link to the website of the library of the University of California at Los Angeles. Looking a bit further among UCLA webpages I found the website which is the focal point of this post. One of the digital collections at UCLA is more than just another fine collection. The Sheet Music Consortium is a portal for searching sheet music in seventeen American collections and one Australian collection (at the National Library of Australia). When you realize one of these is a collection at the Library of Congress where you can find massive holdings in the field of music, it becomes clear this portal constitutes a gold mine for anyone interested in popular music. Think only of combining historical sheet music with historical sound recordings in the National Jukebox of the Library of Congress, and you can see a very interesting road for both music aficionados and musicologists.

Law in songs

Law in songs is the subject of this post. The Californian sheet music portal is certainly a place to look for this subject. Law is not just a word in many song titles, several songs deal substantially with law. You have to do some clever filtering to get the best results. A lot of songs mention a mother in law, and here you can do without her! When you have tuned your search the efforts are surely rewarded. The Law Must Be Obeyed is a 1916 song composed by Irving Berlin with his own lyrics. “We’re the county sheriffs and the law must be obeyed” is the first line of the chorus in this song. I Like My Bootleg Man is a song from 1929 by W. Hurdle and F. Sacca, not digitized yet, but clearly connected with the American prohibition on alcoholic drinks between 1920 and 1933. It would be interesting to compare it with an anonymous 1930 song entitled Prohibition Is On The Wing, but this song, too, is not yet available online. Policemen are made fun of in Montague Ewing’s The Policeman’s Holiday (not dated). In this dance, indicated “1 or 2-step” on the cover, children sing the only text of this composition, “Steady, boys, here comes a bobby”.

Many subjects could show up here, but I will offer just one gem, at least from a legal historian’s perspective. Robert Estee composed in 1904 When Boni Sold Samuel Louisiana. A Louisiana Purchase Exposition Song. The 1803 purchase appears in this song as the point of comparison for American expansion symbolised by the Panama Canal. The lyrics of Irving Berlin’s Louisiana Purchase deal with another kind of purchase, the tag “won’t you let me sell you New Orleans” being repeated twice… Lawyers are the subject of a number of songs, for instance in I’ll Place It In The Hands of My Attorney by F. Gilbert with lyrics by Geoffrey Russel Jackson (1885). One of the oldest songs found using this portal is a ballad, A Fine New Sang of The Battle Fought On The Shields Railway, using the tune Cappy’s the dog. The digitized version of this song was printed in Newcastle in 1839 and tells a story of early railway travelling, a fight at the railway station and the following trial of the culprits with a surprising verdict.

More online collections with American sheet music exist, and you will not want to read a full list of them. The Library of Congress is in a class of its own, not just in the field of law, but also for music and music history, and I gladly refer you to it. I want to single out one American digital collection, the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Among the digitized cylinders I found a recording from 1917 called The trial of Josiah Brown. Listening to this vaudeville sketch can make you in a new way aware of the imagery, the clichés, the routine attitudes, the clashes between high and low society and much more which not just surround a court of justice, but are part and parcel of it, and thus open to all kind of reactions, including humour, ridicule and satire.

More ballads and songs

Earlier this year I already referred to some databases for historical songs, to be more exactly in a post on the history of piracy. The English Broadside Ballad Archive (University of California at Santa Barbara) is one of the digital gateways to old songs; here four collections can be searched simultaneously. A rather random search yielded already nearly hundred songs about lawyers, including a festive song on Edmond Saunders becoming the Lord Chief Justice of England (A New-years Guift to the TEMPLERS, / On the Eminent Lawyer / Sir Edmond Saunders (…)). Saunders had been a bencher of the Middle Temple and got this high office only months before his death in 1683. The Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads at Oxford does contain the 1839 railway ballad mentioned above (Johnson Ballads 3078). Revolution & Romanticism is the website of a private collection in Edmonton, Alberta, with historical ballads and chapbooks. Among the ballads concerning the law you will find for example A full and particular account of the execution of Mr. John Wait (…) (Bristol, around 1823).

In the Dutch Song Database of the Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam, you can search 140,000 songs ranging from the Middle Ages to modern times. The murder of count Floris V in 1296 was the subject of a famous historielied (history song), Wie wil horen een nieu liet / Hoort toe, ick salt u singen, “Who wants to hear a new song, listen, I wll sing it for you”)i, first printed in 1591. A whole section of the Nederlandse Liederenbank is devoted to moordliederen, songs about murders. When you search for example for songs about an advocaat, an attorney, you will find enough to meet them in very different situations. This database offers full access to a number of songs, gives the text of some songs, provides even recordings for others, but often only points to the printed edition or editions where a song text appears.

A quick search for German songs leads to the Deutsches Liedarchiv of the Universität Freiburg. This institution has created an online database, the Historisches Liederlexikon in which you can find a number of song texts and often detailed information about different versions, their reception and adaptation in later songs. Immer langsam voran [Always slowly forwards] was originally a song ridiculing the German fight against Napoleon in the years 1813 and 1814. It remained popular, was adapted during the Vormärz period around 1848, and again in the early twentieth century. The website of the Volksliederarchiv, presumably a private website, lacks supplementary information and is less well searchable, but is strong in presenting songs on various themes. The section Balladen und Moritaten brings you to a nice selection of songs.

Texts of songs and short poems from the German classical period around 1800 are found at the website Freiburger Anthologie-Lyrik und Lied, here again with extensive commentaries and various text versions. The famous song about the Lorelei sorceress, Zu Bacharach am Rheine, tells us about a bishop who summoned her to appear in his tribunal and her answers to him. The documentation of this song is a model of its kind. The mixture of a medieval setting, a romantic story, the seeming simplicity and Clemens Brentano’s poetic skills make this song special indeed, but I had rather not see it as a faithful picture of an ecclesiastical judge. Brentano’s ease in creating this scene is impressive, and it carries conviction, even when one would not immediately imagine a conversation between a sorceress and a bishop in an ecclesiastical court.

It is possible to enlarge this posting by bringing more websites to your attention. I would indeed have liked to include some French websites, but I did not readily succeed in finding a database which at least would equal the qualities of those projects presented here. In order to make up a bit for the gaps in this posting I will provide here some links collections which will help you to find more songs online, both in score and in sound recordings:

Because of this week’s torrential rains in my country it is no wonder why California makes today such an alluring impression when summer should bring nice weather! However, rainy days could give you time to look at the websites mentioned in this post. For California I would choose the Online Archive of California for its sheer variety and the Calisphere portal for its efforts to present many aspects of Californian culture and history.

The Legal Song

At the end I own you an explanation about the title of this post, The Legal Song. Somehow I hit upon this title, thinking it is the actual title of a song. “The legal song and dance” is an expression for elaborate legal negotiations. The internet brings you to legal movies, too, and yes, a few of them have a legal song. One of my search hits was really funny. Jim Henson, the creator of The Muppets, made a spin-off called Fraggle Rock in which a judge and all present sing a song at a trial. The title of his legal song? Sing That Law Again! I hope you enjoy this posting as much as the YouTube movie with this legal song. Hopefully this summer gives you some rest from legal dealing and wheeling, and brings you some time for legal history and some of its aspects that link legal culture to culture at large. I promise to reflect here longer on the theme of law and humanities in another post.

A postscript

On the day of the publication of this post, only hours before I published it, Klaus Graf pointed on his Archivalia blog to two digitized medieval manuscripts at UPenn Libraries with a song about the deposition of the archbishop of Cologne who got married in 1583. Penn in Hand: Selected Manuscripts offers a very useful selection of digitized medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, with fair attention to legal matters.

More broadside ballads

Sheer curiosity made me search for more digital collections with broadside ballads. The following selection presents sites with either bibliographies, useful links or even sound recordings of broadside ballads:

The Cardiff links selection is very rich. For no good reason I had overlooked the section for straatliederen, literally “street songs”, the Dutch version of broadside ballads, in the vast Dutch Song Database of the Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam. These songs can be searched using the interface at The Memory of the Netherlands. You can even listen to some of these songs. I have to mention again Klaus Graf and his blog, a treasure trove in the field of digitization, because he provides the link to the open access journal Oral Tradition where you can find much more on the study of ballads and the field of oral history.

It is not realistic to provide here an exhaustive list of digital collections concerning ballads. A substantial collection with newly digitized ballads is presented by Trinity College Dublin in its digital collections. This library thoughtfully adds that these ballads can also be reached online through the  Europeana portal.

Carved in stone: runes and Nordic law

When I started creating the blog roll for my blog, an important element of most blogs, I very soon found a blog using the same design as I do and touching subjects as medieval law which are also in my sphere of interest. Jonathan Jarrett is a very active blogger on the history of tenth-century Europe. When you look at his blog roll you will see he does not only point to many other blogs but also to a host of very useful websites in the field of medieval studies. One of the sites mentioned by Jarrett helped me to find the subject for this post on runes and Nordic law. You will soon see the Dutch twist to this theme!

Late Antique and Early Medieval Inscriptions is a portal created by Mark Handley to printed information and websites concerning inscriptions from Late Antiquity onwards into the Early Middle Ages up to 900 AD. Outsiders might not be completely aware that inscriptions are not the most commonly used source for medieval historians. It takes special training to decipher the texts after having learned the various scripts, and what is more, you will have to acquaint yourself with other technical matters as well before you can safely try to give an interpretation of such inscriptions.

For two reasons I feel prompted to write here about runes. The first impulse comes from Chris Wickham’s book The Inheritance of Rome. A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (2009). One of the images in his book shows the famous Jelling runestone set up by the Danish king Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth). In my hometown Utrecht we happen to have a full-scale copy of this stone, as do by now ten other cities. In January I stumbled for a posting by surprise on a digitized seventeenth century treatise on runes by the Danish historian Ole Worm, [Runir] seu Danica literatura antiquissima (..) (Hafniae [Copenhagen] 1651). It took me some time before I could bring both leads together in a post.

The Jelling runestone

The Utrecht copy of the Jelling runestone

The Utrecht copy of the Jelling runestone came to my city in 1936 as a gift from Danish friends of The Netherlands to celebrate 300 years Utrecht University. The stone stands between the Academiegebouw, the central building of Utrecht University, and the medieval cathedral. On the Jelling stone one side has been inscribed in runes. Two other sides of the stone show images and the sequel of the inscription.

A plaquette explaining the Jelling runestone

It is very thoughtful that at least a plaque in bronze was provided in 1936 with the stone to explain something of its significance, but more is needed to gain insight into the history and meaning of this rather large object. The Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen has devoted a special website to Jelling and the Jelling runestone. Wickham writes that king Harald ruled from 958 until 987. Around 965 he was baptized. Harald ruled Denmark from Jelling where he put this stone to commemorate his father Gorm.

On Mark Handley’s splendid portal to early medieval inscriptions you can use nearly 500 links to all kind of websites for this subject. For this post I looked to websites telling me more about runes and about the Jelling runestone. Among the databases I quickly found the Scandinavian Runic-text Database (Samnordisk runtextdatabas) at Uppsala Universitet where you can download a database with runic inscriptions, Rundata 2.5. Its interface is only in Swedish in which language I am not very fluent, and therefore this tool takes sometime before you can use it. The Jelling runestone has the signum DR 42. Luckily the website is linked to a forum on runes, the Uppsala Runforum with a generous link collection, and thus I arrived at the website Danske Runeindskrifter of the Nordisk Forskninginstitut, the University of Copenhagen and the Nationalmuseet in Kopenhagen. Although the search interface of the database on this website is only in Danish, somehow searching here was easy. Three inscriptions are to be found at Jelling. Scholars have designated the large stone as Jelling-sten 2, with the number DK SJy 11. In English the text of the inscription is translated as:

King Haraldr ordered these kumbls made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Þyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.

indicates a king. Kumbl, kuml in modern Danish, is the word for a monument. The stone was rediscovered only in 1586. Ole Worm saw a notice in the church at Jelling stating this year.

A drawing on the Jelling runestone

The interpretation of the Jelling runestone is complicated by the two images carved on it. Wickham flatly states: “Harald was Christian, but the imagery of the stone is not”. Ole Worm made a famous drawing of the images in his Danicorum monumentorum libri sex (1643). The pages 326 to 338 of his book deal with the Jelling runestone. Incidentally five books by Worm have been digitized at the university of Strasbourg. The inscription below the drawing has been duly noted.

The main figure on the Jelling runestone

This image elicited even more confusion and discussion. For a long time it was assumed Christ was pictured, but only in the nineteenth century scholars concluded the figures represents king Harald. Here, too, one can discern another inscription.

Runes and Nordic law

The modern study of runes has suffered from the abuse of this script and the racist ideology of the German Third Reich. The rune for the letter S was used in the emblem of one of its most deadly organizations. Its use is forbidden in present-day Germany. I remember attending a seminar in Munich where it was made very clear that it is virtually impossible to detect anything German in early medieval Europe. On top of the historical abuse of runes the imagery of the Vikings and the popular imagination still fired by their reputation for ransacking and plundering has deeply marked the way Scandinavian history is looked upon. The Vikings were both raiders and traders. The grim stories collected in the Edda and in particular in the Icelandic sagas picture this northern region as a dangerous area of medieval Europe. It is necessary to be aware of this background, but at the same time one needs to step backwards and to look at Scandinavia’s medieval history in all its aspects, including laws and legal culture.

In fact inscriptions in runic script do not very often contain legal texts. Legal manuscripts from medieval Scandinavia, too, use seldom runes. Perhaps more manuscripts with laws in runic scripts might have existed once, but only one example has survived. In Danish medieval law it is restricted to the Skånske Lov (Scanian Law), transmitted in runic script only in the Codex Runicus, a manuscript written around 1300 (Copenhagen, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, ms. AM 28 8vo) and once owned by Ole Worm. Other medieval manuscripts with the Scanian Law use the normal alphabet. The website Handrit enables you to find quickly and sometimes very extensive information on medieval Scandinavian manuscripts at Reykjavik and Copenhagen. Some manuscripts have been digitized for this website.

Inscriptions with runes are sometimes witnesses of powerful kings, but they did not legislate using runes. You can check this for inscriptions from Bergen in the Rune Type database of the Nasjonalbiblioteket in Oslo. At the website for Danish runes links are provided to relevant websites on runes. Pride of place should go to the Runenprojekt Kiel which leads you to runes in the Futhark script and the places where these have been found in Europe. For The Netherlands only three inscriptions in Futhark are mentioned. The Kulturhistorisk Museum of the Universitetet i Oslo has a runic archive. In Sweden the Swedish National Heritage Board presents a substantial section on runes on its website, including a digital version (PDF) of part 3 of the Gotlands runinskrifter.

Digitized sources for medieval Nordic law

I had better concentrate here on medieval Nordic laws and lead you to some digitized medieval manuscripts containing these texts, and to other digital collections. In March 2011 a manuscript from the Swedish Royal Library returned after 300 years to Copenhagen. The manuscript Codex Holmiensis 37 with the Jyske Lov, the provincial law for Jutland, is now at the Danish Royal Library and can be consulted online; a full description and bibliography are additional assets. At Lund University Library another manuscript with the Jyske Lov has been digitized for the Laurentius Digital Manuscript Library (Mh 18; 14th century), and also a manuscript with the Skånske Lov and also the Skånske Kirkelov (Mh 41; 15th century). A German translation was published in 1593 and has been digitized at Heidelberg (Dat Rechte Judske Lowbock (…) (Schleswig 1593)). Another version in German appeared in print in 1717 (Das Jütisch Low-Buch (…) (Flensburg 1717)). Schleswig-Holstein belonged for many centuries to Denmark. At Lund more legal manuscripts from Scandinavia have been digitized, among them the Sjaellaensfare logh, the laws of Sjaelland (Mh 23; 15-16th century). A critical edition of the Skånske Lov, the Jyske Lov and other medieval Danish laws can be found in Danmarks gamle landskabslove med kirkelovene [Denmarks old provincial laws and ecclesiastical laws], Johannes Brodnum-Nielsen and Poul Johannes Jorgensen (eds.) (8 vol., Copenhagen 1933-1961). Copenhagen, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, AM 4 4to, is another digitized manuscript with the text of the Jyske Lov, this time dating from around 1300.

For later Danish laws I can at least offer the links to text versions of the Dansk Lov issued on behalf of king Christian V in 1583 – edited by Vilhelm Adolf Secher – and the Kongeloven af 1685 (Lex Regia). It is good also to point to the project for the digital editions of the works by the great Norwegian scholar Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754) who in many of his works mentions the old Nordic laws and his views on law and justice.

It is not sensible nor possible to provide here a complete overview of digitized legal manuscripts from medieval Scandinavia. The digitized legal manuscripts at Lund contain texts in Old Norse, Swedish and Danish, and this points to the fact that the history of Denmark, Norway and Sweden is closely related. In this post I also mention texts from Iceland, and these, too, cannot be neglected. On Sagnanet, the portal to digitized books and manuscripts with the medieval literature of Iceland, you can find also some texts on jurisprudence (Lögfræði) and legal literature (Lögbaekur). The Swedish Kungliga Biblioteket has not digitized any legal manuscript, but on the website at least two legal manuscripts are briefly introduced, the Kalmar or Åbo manuscript of the Magnus Eriksson Landlag (Magnus Eriksson’s Law of the Realm) (B172) and the Äldre västgotenlag (Elder Westrogothic law) (B 59). The Ediffah project helps searching for manuscripts and archives in both the Swedish Royal Library and five Swedish university libraries.

Apart from digitized manuscripts in particular charters from Scandinavia can be searched online using the Diplomatarium Danicum, the Diplomatarium Norvegicum and the Regesta Norvegica. The Danish charter project is connected to a project presenting Danish medieval texts, among them the Jyske Lov (Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek (KB), NKS 295 8vo), the Skånske Kirkelov (KB, NKS 66 8vo) and the Flensborg Stadsret (Flensburg, Stadtarchiv, Perg. 12 x 17). The Norwegian charter project is a part of the Dokumentasjonprosjektet which leads you to archaeological material, an online dictionary and more texts. One of the digitized manuscripts with a Norwegian law text contains the Magnus Lagabøtes landslov in the Hardenbergs Codex (Copenhagen, KB, GKS 1154 2°). Bergen University Library, ms 1836, is a fragment from a later version of this law, Magnus Lagabøters Nyere Landslov. At Bergen you can also search in the database of the Diplomsamling, a collection with some 1250 charters, 300 of them dating before 1600.

You can search specifically for manuscripts in the REX catalogue of the Danish Royal Library, and you can look in REX also in the holdings of other Danish libraries. One of the digitized manuscripts at Copenhagen worth pointing at is the Södermannalagen of king Magnus Eriksson (KB, NKS 2237 4°), since March 2011 deposited at the Royal Library in Stockholm. Among the Codices Latini Haunienses are some law texts in Latin. Swedish charters can be searched in the Svenska Diplomatarium database of the Riksarkivet in Stockholm.

Digital libraries in Norway do provide online access to source editions on medieval Norse law. The rather restricted search interface of NBDigital, the digital library of the Nasjonalbiblioteket in Olso, may take some time to adjust to, but you can find many digitized books on legal history and relevant source editions. Using the Ask website of Bibsys you can benefit from an advanced search form. In the Bokhylla of the Norwegian Digital Archive you can use for example the volumes of Norges gamle love indtil 1387 [Old laws of Norway until 1387] (5 vol., Christiania 1846-1895), Danske kirkelov (…), Holger Rørdam (ed.) (3 vol., Copenhagen 1883-1889), books on medieval and early modern seals (sigiller), and sources for ecclesiastical history. The Digitalarkivet itself brings you to a rich variety of sources: census records, ecclesiastical administration (kirkebøker), pledge registers and a general searchable database for all these sources. One of the largest Norwegian research projects is concerned with tingbøker, court proceedings, including cases concerning witchcraft. There is a database for searching witchcraft trials. A number of editions of seventeenth-century proceedings is accessible online.

For Danish medieval legal history it is useful to be aware of the DigDag project, a historical-geographical atlas for Denmark until 1600, and of the Adkomstregistrering 1513-1550 which provides information on persons, place-names and documents. The Statens Arkiver, the Danish National Archives, offer a number of services at their website; the Danish version lists more than the German and English version! Swedish archival records are being digitized in ArkivDigital, a project completely accessible only for subscribers. The Swedish National Archive has a central database for searching archival collections in Swedish archives. A number of record series in the Swedish Riksarkivet can be searched online, and also a substantial number of databases, for example court proceedings from the dombok for Värmland in the seventeenth century. The Finnish National Archive, too, has started a digital archive. This institution takes also responsibility for the digital Diplomatarium Fennicum for medieval charters from Finland.

The Swedish National Library has digitized a number of Swedish books printed before 1700 (Svenskt tryck före 1700). Among them are an edition of city bylaws, Sverikes rikes stadz lagh (…) (Stockholm 1628) and privileges for merchant towns, Biärkoa Rätten (…) (Stockholm 1687). At Lunds Universitet you can find digitized texts of many laws in the Fornsvenska textbanken, a linguistic corpus for Old Swedish for which critical text editions have been used, in particular the Samling af Sveriges Gamle Lagar edited by Carl Johan Schlyter and others between 1827 and 1877.

Looking for more

Of course I am woefully aware that I have missed a lot of information due to my inadequate knowledge of Scandinavian languages and relative unfamiliarity with Nordic research institutions and their websites. At my pags on digital libraries l have not yet put anything on Denmark… No doubt you can find more using general websites on Scandinavian culture. A nice example is Kulturnät Sverige. Let’s not overload this post and give you just one example from the numerous projects listed at this portal, the digital Svenska ostindiska kompaniet archiv at Göteborg University Library. A number of Danish digital resources for legal history have been brought together by the Kongelige Bibliotek. I found this only after I had finally spotted the Kulturperler search interface on the KB’s manysided website…

You can also find useful information in the ViFaNord, the Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Nordeuropa und Ostseeraum, a cooperative project of the universities in Kiel, Greifswald and Göttingen. At the very least ViFaNord will bring you to some websites for specific projects. With some luck I found a Danish website on rape, Voldtaegt, with a page on the history of Scandinavian law pointing to several online sources. For modern Scandinavian law it might be useful to go to Juridisk Nettviser. Hopefully this post satisfies to some extent the curiosity of those interested in the history of law in Scandinavia. It gives you a taste of this subject, at the best a menu card, but not a diner or the complete Scandinavian kitchen.

A practical postscript

Having at your disposal a nice selection of links to digitized sources is one thing, reading texts in medieval Scandinavian languages is something else. I did not mention the Medieval Nordic Text Archive (Menota). For this project a number of links to relevant dictionaries have been put together for your convenience. Menota itselfs brings you to digital editions of mainly literary texts, among them the Heimskringla, and brings you also a fine links selection. A concise guide to Scandinavian studies is provided for example by the UCLA Universitiy Library. For information about current research on legal history in Scandinavia I somehow missed the article by Heikki Pihlajamäki, ‘Legal history in the Nordic countries. A short story of Nordic legal history’, Clio@Themis 1 (2009).

A second postscript

In 2013 Ditlev Tamm and Helle Vogt made a short movie on Translating Medieval Danish Law. In this introduction to their project for the English translation of medieval legal texts from Denmark they show several manuscripts kept at the Royal Library in Copenhagen. A second movie with Tamma and Vogt in Danish from Det Juridiske Fakultet at the University of Copenhagen focuses somewhat longer on Danmarks Gamle Lov.