Monthly Archives: October 2011

Savigny at 150 years

Friedrich Carl von Savigny, the founder of the German Historical School, died on October 25, 1861, today exactly 150 years ago. In his birth town Frankfurt am Main the International Max-Planck-Research School for Comparative Legal History organizes a two-day conference to commemorate Savigny. The conference with the title Savigny International? looks in particular at the influence of Savigny outside Germany. Savigny’s works have been translated into many languages. At the Goethe-Haus in Frankfurt Joachim Rückert will present a study with fifty contemporary portraits of Savigny and a new biography. If you want to find quickly some portraits of Savigny you could try using BPKGate, the image portal of a number of museums in Berlin, or look at at the online version of his biography in the Neue Deutsche Biographie. I point to some portrait databases at the end of my webpage concerning digital collections. In this post I will look in particular at the ways one can access Savigny’s legacy in libraries and archives using archive portals and other gateways.

An icon of German law and science

The highlights of Savigny’s life are well-known and need scarcely extensive description. He studied law in Göttingen and Marburg where his interest in legal history was awakened and fostered. From 1800 to 1804 Savigny taught at Marburg. He came in close contact with major figures of the German Romantic movement and even married Kunigunde Brentano, a sister of Clemens Brentano. In 1803 Savigny published a monograph on possession, Das Recht des Besitzes. Not only was this monograph a model of its kind, but it dealt with one of the most discussed and vital subjects of law in the age of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Savigny taught from 1810 onwards at the new university of Berlin. An academic debate with Anton Friedrich Just Thibaut about the role of law in German society and the need for a German code of civil law led Savigny to the publication of Vom Beruf unserer Zeit für Gesetzgebung und Rechtswissenschaft [On the call of our time for legislation and jurisprudence] (1814).

In 1815 Savigny founded with Karl Friedrich Eichhorn and Johann Ludwig Göschen the Zeitschrift für geschichtliche Rechtswissenschaft. Already before the start of his opus magnum on the history of Roman law in the Middle Ages, Geschichte des römischen Rechts im Mittelalter (first edition 6 vol., Heidelberg, 1815-1831) Savigny emerged as the foremost lawyer of his generation. In the field of contemporary law his System des heutigen römischen Rechts (8 vol., Berlin 1840-1849) is his most voluminous publication and certainly one of his most influential works. In the digital library of the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main, you can consult online several of Savigny’s works. The number of editions of Das Recht des Besitzes is just one of the signs indicating the place of Savigny.

Savigny’s influence and his legacy

Savigny was not just influential through his teachings. He was in close contact with many German and foreign scholars. In his own Zeitschrift he announced in 1817 Barthold Niebuhr’s discovery of the palimpsest manuscript at Verona with the text of Gaius’ Institutiones (Verona, Biblioteca Capitolare, XV (13)). Niebuhr thought Ulpian was the author of the text he had discovered, but Savigny judged otherwise. In the project Savignyana of the Frankfurt Max-Planck-Institut a series appears since 1993 with both editions of Savigny’s lectures and studies on his work. The discovery, study and editing of the Gaius manuscript is a major theme in Cristina Vano’s Der Gaius der Historischen Rechtsschule. Eine Geschichte der Wissenschaft vom römischen Recht (Frankfurt am Main 2008). The latest volumes in the Savignyana series are a collection of articles by Joachim Rückert, Savigny-Studien (2011) and the volume on portraits of Savigny, Savigny-Portraits, Joachim Rückert, Beate Rizky and Lena Foljanty (eds.) (2011).

Savigny’s material legacy is not to be found at just one German city, because Savigny does not belong to one city, and thus apart from the Staatsbibliothek Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz and the Universitätsbibliothek Marburg it is also in particular at the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Münster in the Nachlass Savigny that papers of and letters to and from Savigny are preserved. The Staatsbibliothek in Berlin got also a number of manuscripts once owned by Savigny which now have the signature Mss. Sav. The Kalliope database for searching papers and autographs in German holding yields a rich harvest for Savigny at several German institutions. Unfortunately today Kalliope could not be reached directly. In fact this makes it even more interesting to look at gateways to archives and libraries, because there is a gateway to Nachlässe, literary papers and letters at the European level which gives you access to the data of Kalliope. MALVINE, “Manuscripts and Letters via Integrated Networks in Europe”, allows you to search in Kalliope, the British Library, the national libraries of Portugal and Austria and three other institutions. Thus you will find a letter by Savigny in the manuscript British Library, Egerton 4207, fol. 140-141, a letter from 1861 to Franz Brentano kept at Graz, but first of all some 1900 entries at Kalliope. Happily a second link to Kalliope does function as it should.

The CERL Portal, too, offers access to Kalliope, but this is the only catalogue it shares with MALVINE. It brings you for example to a student’s transcript from 1830 of Savigny’s lecture “Institutionen des Römischen Rechts” now kept at Schwerin, to comments from 1822 on a book about legal history and an undated engraved portrait in the Wallers Manuscript Collection of Uppsala Universitet.

The digitization of Savigny’s papers at Marburg in the Savigny-Datenbank has made accessible online a number of manuscripts with notes and drafts of articles, his university lectures, letters, personal documents and miscellaneous papers. The scope and range of Savigny’s correspondence is truly imposing. The Savignyana series is not the only series in which letters by Savigny are published. To mention only a few of the most recent editions, Bernd Reifenberg edited letters to Johann Ludwig Göschen kept at Marburg (Mein lieber theurer Freund… (Marburg 2000)), and letters by and to Savigny are part of volume 31 of the Weimarer Arnim Ausgabe with the works of Achim von Arnim (Werke und Briefwechsel, vol. 31, Briefe 1802-1804, Heinz Härtl and Roswitha Burwick (eds.) (Tübingen 2004)).

I hoped to find much more on Savigny at the BAM-Portal for combined searches in the holdings of German museums, libraries and archives, but it is disappointing to find only results from Kalliope, a small number of digitized works – mainly reproducing the list which you get using the Zentrales Verzeichnis Digitalisierter Drucke (ZVDD)- and a few portraits available through the BPKgate. Only for German archives the search at the BAM-Portal gave some twenty results which would not have been easily found separately. The ZVDD does not connect to the digital libraries of the Max-Planck-Institut in Frankfurt am Main, and this diminishes the value of searches in the ZVDD for subjects concerning legal history. It is also frustrating the ZVDD does succeeds bringing you to works by Savigny digitized at Munich for the Digitale Sammlungen, but that you cannot find these books using the Munich interface. Only using the OPACPlus of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek you can find them directly in Munich.

By now you are probably fully aware that the commemoration of Savigny serves here also as an opportunity to conduct research in a number of online portals and gateways, and to comment on their qualities and functions. The Archives Portal Europe is another example of a recently developed gateway to sources. It appears to me as very natural to try using it for purposes touching legal history. A first search for Savigny brings you nine results from France which concern places called Savigny, such as Savigny-le-Vieux and Saint-Jean de Savigny. Of the eighteen search results six are concerned with the Nachlass of Arnold Ruge (1802-1880) at the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz.

Friedrich Carl von Savigny

A lithographed portrait of Savigny, around 1850; Collectie Protestantse portretten, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The Europeana Portal is only slightly better in bringing to light texts by Savigny and images at institutions all over Europe, mainly from Germany, 36 printed texts and 21 images in all, mostly letters and some portraits. The European Library brings you mainly to books by and about Savigny which one can find also in ordinary library catalogues. Only on second thought I looked for institutions holding Savigny’s papers in the Nachlassdatenbank of the German Bundesarchiv, which mentions apart from the collections at Marburg and Berlin also the papers left from Savigny’s time as a statesman kept in the Geheimes Staatsarchiv at the Staatsbibliothek Berlin. Between 1842 and 1848 Savigny had a role akin to that of a special advisor on law to the Prussian government with the rank of a minister. Earlier he had already been a Staatsrat and involved in the Prussian administration. A fourth collection is concerned with Hof Trages, the Savigny family estate.

The only Dutch results at this archives portal – still in its beta-version - are notes for an essay on Savigny from 1968 by the late Roeland Duco Kollewijn (1892-1972), professor for international private law at Leiden, found among his papers now kept at the Dutch National Archives. The Dutch portal Archieven.nl is now also available in a German version called Findmittel. It brings only Hof Trages to my attention, an estate in the Hessian village Freigericht-Somborn – near Hanau – still owned by the Savigny family, where around 1800 the Brentano’s, the Von Arnims, the Grimm brothers and the Gunderodes often met. Savigny was first buried at Berlin, but his tomb is since 1875 in the crypt of the family chapel at Hof Trages. More on Hof Trages and Savigny’s agricultural and seigniorial activities can be found in a study by Sebastian Günther, Friedrich Carl von Savigny als Grundherr (Frankfurt am Main, etc., 2000). Let me not forget to notify you that at Thematis, the second Dutch archives portal which connects to thirty archives and a number of image databases, I did not find anything on Savigny.

Incidentally the placename Freigericht is in German also the word for the tribunal in a Freigrafschaft and for the late medieval vehmic courts (Femegerichte), secret courts which offered no possibility for appeal. It strikes me as remarkable that Savigny had so to speak a subject of German legal history very often for his eyes, but that he led his research in another direction, the influence and role of Roman law. Did he perhaps react against the romantic views on German medieval history of his contemporaries, in particular within the circle of Romantic poets with whom he was personally acquainted? Did he leave the study of medieval German law on purpose to his scholar Jacob Grimm? No doubt this question, too, has been dealt with in the very extensive literature on Savigny who had a pivotal position both in the organization of legal Germany and in the German Romantic movement.

Savigny’s library has not been held together after his death. A rather large number of books was sold in the twentieth century to libraries in Japan. In the Savigny-Bibliothek of Toin University in Yokohama some of the books once owned by Savigny have been digitized. Kyushu University Library holds a number of manuscripts with some of Savigny’s lectures and lectures by a number of his contemporaries. Heinz-Peter Weber published a book on Die Bibliothek des Friedrich Carl von Savigny in der Universitätsbibliothek Bonn (Bonn 1971). The collection at Bonn sold to this library by the Savigny family in 1959 is truly remarkable, even if some twenty percent of Savigny’s books is no longer in Germany.

Much more can be said about Savigny, one of the few German lawyers who gave his name to a foundation, the Savigny-Stiftung, responsible for the publication of by all accounts one of the most important legal history journals, the Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte. Savigny opposed vehemently the codification of German law and helped bringing the study of Roman law at new heights. Even now his views sometimes divide German legal historians. Whenever the sparks of such clashes of opinion lead to new questions and renewed research on the developments and impact of law and justice in history this can only be helpful and enriching.

Twelve volumes of Roman law in Dutch translation

Ad fontes, “to the sources”, is one of the characteristics of the historical sciences and philology in the Western world. Historians and other scholars prefer for many reasons no longer to rely on second-hand information, on editions which do not show clearly the intervention of its editors, and one should use preferably the original sources and not a translation. Sometimes this view gained power as a core of historical doctrine, almost literally a dogma. Dealing with sources from the closest possible distance became part and parcel of the historian’s trade.

Sometimes scholars devote themselves not only to the use of sources at first hand or in critical editions, but to the translation of sources. In particular texts in Latin and Greek from Classical Antiquity have been translated into Dutch during the last decades. In my view it is quite a feat to have so much translations in a language which is spoken by only 23 million people, mainly in my country and Belgium. Patrick De Rynck and Andries Welkenhuysen published a bibliography of Dutch translation of classical texts, De Oudheid in het Nederlands (…) (Baarn 1992), online at the Digital Library for Dutch Literature. They published a supplement in 1997. For some authors a team of scholars works on the Dutch translation of all major works, for example a number of works by Augustine of Hippo has been translated recently under the aegis of the Augustijns Instituut in Eindhoven.

The Corpus Iuris Civilis in Dutch

On November 15, 2011, the twelfth and last volume of the Dutch translation of the Corpus Iuris Civilis will be presented in Utrecht to Mr. Ivo Opstelten, the Dutch minister of Security and Justice. A translation of the Institutiones Iustiniani, the first volume of the series, was published in 1993. The twelfth volume of the series Corpus Iuris Civilis. Tekst en vertaling contains the Novellae 115-168. During the eighteen years it took the team of scholars led by Jop Spruit, Robert Feenstra and the late Karel Bongenaar (1935-1999) the membership of the team changed remarkably little. Instead of Feenstra ‘s name which figures on the covers of the Institutes and the Digest Jeroen Chorus and Luuk de Ligt strenghtened the editorial team for the Justinian Code and the Novels. However, the project had to change from publisher. Initially Sdu Uitgeverij in The Hague and the Walburg Pers in Zutphen published jointly the series. In 2005 the publishing house of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW) took the series over, and the last volumes are published jointly by the KNAW and Amsterdam University Press. Bibliographers and cataloguers can show their skills in describing the set and the volumes correctly according to the varying national standards.

Publishing twelve bilingual volumes with nearly 8,000 pages is quite a feat, but the qualities and stamina of the translators are just as remarkable. For the translation of the Digestae, the Codex Iustinianus and the Novellae two scholars took care of each of the fifty libri. Their results were discussed with one of the editors-in-chief, and then a second version was prepared. The final result was presented to the editorial steering committee. At some points other scholars helped the teams to clarify difficulties in the text which defy even the most courageous and skilled legal historian. The chief editors looked at it again when all libri of a projected volume were ready, with special care to the quality of the rendering in Dutch and the consistency of the translation, not just for the correct interpretation of juridical terms, and sent the ultimate version off to the publishers.

The auctor intellectualis and indefatigable leader of the project, Jop Spruit, has a record of keen interest in many aspects of the study of Roman law, and in particular translations have received his attention. He published a concise bibliography of Roman law, Bibliografie Romeins recht. Wegwijzer tot de bronnen, hulpmiddelen en literatuur [Bibliography of Roman law. Guide to the sources, research tools and literature] (Zutphen 1988). Translations are present in a chapter of Spruit’s guide. With Karel Bongenaar he presented four volumes of translations of pre-Iustinian law sources, Het erfdeel van de klassieke Romeinse juristen. Verzameling van prae-iustiniaanse juridische geschriften met vertaling in het Nederlands (4 vol., Zutphen 1982-1987), thus making accessible in Dutch a large number of the sources in collections such as the Fontes Iuris Romani anteiustiniani (3 vol., Florence 1940-1943; reprint 1964-1968) and adding fragments and texts found since the midst of the twentieth century. When starting the project for the Corpus Iuris Civilis Spruit and Bongenaar had already a lot of experience with translating the Latin of Roman lawyers.

Other modern translations of the Corpus Iuris Civilis

Not only in Dutch modern translations of the constituent parts of the Corpus Iuris Civilis exist, but asking for a complete translation yields only a few results. The German project Corpus Iuris Civilis. Text und Übersetzung led by Okko Behrends, Rolf Knütel and others started in 1990 with a translation of the Institutiones Iustiniani of which a third edition appeared in 2007. Between 1995 and 2005 appeared three volumes of a translation of the Digestae. The libri 1-10, 11-20, and 21-27 are available. All volumes are bilingual with the Latin text and facing translation. In comparison with the Dutch enterprise progress might seem slow. It is only fair to notice that Okko Behrends has been involved also in the edition and French translation of other sources from Roman antiquity in the series Corpus agrimensorum Romanorum, but it is equally true that anyone involved in translating for both projects has done or is doing this in the midst of other activities.

In the second volume of the Dutch project (Digesten 1-10 (1993)) Jop Spruit and Robert Feenstra discuss briefly a number of translation of Justinian’s Digest (pp. xxxi-xxxiii). Some of the translations of the Digest mentioned are a part of translations of the whole Corpus Iuris Civilis, and these editions date mainly already from the nineteenth century. A French translation was produced by Henri Hulot and others, Corpus Iuris Cvilis. Corps de droit civil romain en latin et en français (…) (17 vol., Metz-Paris 1803-1811; reprint, 7 vol., Aalen 1979). The set can be consulted partially online at the Portail Numérique de l’Histoire du Droit, only the translation of the Digest, books 40 to 50, and the Novels have to be added. The German translation Das Corpus Iuris in’s Deutsche übersetzt vom einem Vereine Rechtsgelehrter was edited by Carl Eduard Otto, Bruno Schilling and Carl Friedrich Ferdinand Sintenis (7 vol., Leizpig 1830-1833; 2nd ed. Leipzig 1831-1839; reprint Aalen 1984-1985), available online at the Hathi Trust Digital Library. In Italian you can even find two nineteenth-century translations, first the Corpo del diritto civile (…), Francesco Foramiti (ed.) (4 vol., Venice 1836-1844), and later by Giovanni Vignali (ed.), Corpo del diritto corredato delle note (…) (10 vol., Naples 1856-1862).

In English Samuel P. Scott published Corpus Iuris Civilis. The Civil Law (…) (17 vol., Cincinnati 1932; reprints New York 1973 and Union, N.J., 2001). This translation is available online, even though the reliability for scholarly use of this translation has been subject to doubt. Scott also included translations of the Twelve Tables and other texts. For the Digest exists a more recent English translation published by Alan Watson, The Digest of Justinian (4 vol., Phildelphia 1985; reprint 2008). The translation has been reprinted in 1997 in two volumes, without the Latin text. Spruit duly notes the translation in Spanish of the Digest by a team with among other A. d’Ors and F. Fernandez-Tejero (El Digesto de Justiniano (3 vol., Pamplona 1968-1975). Marc van der Poel, a reknown scholar of Neolatin, notes on his online bibliography for the history of Latin a Russian translation of the Digest by Leonid L. Kofanov, Digesty Justiniana (11 parts in 8 vol., Moscow 2005-2008).

In the first volume of the new Dutch translation of the Codex Iustinianus - volume VII of the series appeared in 2005 – Spruit and Feenstra mention in the introduction other translations of the Codex (p. xli-xliv). Pascal Alexandre Tissot had already translated the Codex as Les douze livres du Code de l’empereur Justinien (4 vol., Metz 1807-1810; reprint Aalen 1979) – available online (Hathi Trust) – before his translation was also included in the series edited by Henri Hulot and others. The Codex, the Digest and the Novellae have been translated into Spanish by Ildefonso L. García del Corral, Cuerpo del derecho romano a doble texto (…) (6 vol., Barcelona 1889-1898; reprint Valladolid 1988). This translation is available online at the Biblioteca Juridica Virtual (UNAM, Mexico City) and most easily accessible through the Edictum website of Norberto Darío Rinaldi (Universidad de Buenos Aires).

Spruit and Feenstra note that translating Justinian’s Code is made more difficult by the way many constitutions have been taken over in shortened form from the Codex Theodosianus. They point explicitly to the translation by Clyde Pharr and others, The Theodosian code and novels, and the Sirmondian constitutions (Princeton 1952; reprint Union, N.J., 2007) as a fine tool for translating the Codex Iustinianus. In the Dutch project the Authenticae have also been translated and put together at the end of the Code.

I checked the Index Translationum of UNESCO, which one can try to use as a shortcut to get a more or less reliable view of extant translations worldwide from the last two or three decades, but the Dutch translation is sadly missing among the search results. It is not the first time that the Index Translationum appeared to be rather defective, but nevertheless it can be helpful to widen the horizon of a search. The search results for individual parts did however contain the selection of texts from the Codex Justinianus translated by Gottfried Härtel and Frank-Michael Kaufmann (Leipzig 1991) on the basis of the nineteenth-century German translation. It is worth reading the introduction and the epilogue to this Nachübersetzung (re-translation) dated “Leipzig Dezember 1988″. Härtel translated with Liselot Huchthausen also the Institutions of Gaius and the Laws of the Twelve Tables in a volume with selected legal texts (Römisches Recht in einem Band (first edition Berlin-Weimar 1983; 4th ed., 1991)). Although I have admittedly not done a complete and exhaustive search it seems plausible to conclude for now there is no sign of any other current project for a complete translation of the Corpus Iuris Civilis apart from the projects led by Spruit and Behrends, both cum suis.

The English translation prepared over the years by Justice Fred H. Blume of both the Justinian Code and his Novels has been painstakingly edited and made ready for online publication by Timothy Kearley (University of Wyoming). On the website in Wyoming the appearance of a new English translation of the Code by a team led by Bruce Frier, and a translation of the Novels by David Miller and Peter Saaris is announced for 2011. It is said to be published by Cambridge University Press, but I could not yet find an announcement on its website. For both translations Blume’s work is consulted. If you bring together a translation of Institutes, for example the one by Birks and McLeod (1987), the translation of the Digest by Alan Watson and his collaborators, and these two translations using Blume’s project you will have access to the Corpus Iuris Civilis in a recent English translation.

Finis coronat opus

The names of the translators participating in the project for the Dutch translation read like an overview of almost every contemporary Dutch and Belgian scholar in the field of Roman law. Spruit and Feenstra got assistance not only from Romanists, but also from specialists in the field of Roman history and church history. They acknowledge the fruitful contacts with the German translators. It is perhaps envious to single out some scholars, but in my opinion the Novellae would very likely not have been translated into Dutch from the original Greek if Jan Lokin, Nicolaas van der Wal and Bernard Stolte had not cooperated, and certainly not as quickly and thorough.

In this month’s Rechtshistorische Courant, the monthly bulletin on legal history in Belgium and the Netherlands published by the legal historians at Ghent University, the Dutch team gets praise for its perseverance. The project is compared to a kind of Tour de France, with all kinds of routes. I will not try to outdo their eulogy, but I am sure the end crowns the work!

Gouda and the visual power of a town hall

This weekend I visited Gouda. When you are going from Utrecht to Rotterdam or The Hague you have to pass Gouda, but I have only seldom visited this town which belongs to the group of classic Dutch towns in the medieval county Holland. It was difficult to take pictures of the Sint Janskerk in Gouda and its magnificent sixteenth-century stained glass windows. It was a rainy day, the church is enclosed by other buildings, and photographing church windows is an art in itself, and thus I will not present here any picture of this church. After a fire in 1552 the Sint Janskerk was rebuilt very quickly. New stained glass windows were donated by cities like Haarlem and Amsterdam, by collegiate chapters such as the Oudmunster chapter in Utrecht and other institutions. William of Orange founded a window, as did even the Spanish king Philip II. The original drawings for most of the 72 windows have largely been preserved, and they will be put on display at MuseumGouda from November 22, 2011 onwards after restoration of the paper of these life size drawings.

The gothic town hall of Gouda

Apart from the Sint Janskerk, one of the largest churches in The Netherlands, the gothic town hall at the market place of Gouda is the town’s chief attraction. It takes pride of place on the websites devoted to the history of Gouda. The archives of Gouda are now kept by the archival consortium Groene Hart Archieven with centers in Gouda and Alphen aan den Rhijn. On its website the building story of the town hall is told in some detail. A fire in 1438 had damaged the old town hall. At last between 1448 and 1450 the work began for a new town hall designed by Steven van Afflighem. Gouda became prosperous because of its central position at the Gouwe river on which in medieval and early modern times freight from all Holland had to pass. The route using the Gouwe was the quickest way for merchants between Amsterdam and cities like Haarlem in the north, and Dordrecht and Rotterdam in the south. Add to this the proverbial Gouda cheese from the rich meadows surrounding this small town, calculate a loss of importance during the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, and thus a medieval town hall can survive.

The medieval facade and the renaissance steps of Gouda Town Hall

The new town hall has not survived completely in its late medieval form. The flight of steps in Renaissance style dates from 1603. You might think this post offers you until now only regional history, but at the long side of the town hall you can detect a pillory, a pedestal on which offenders could be mocked and denounced by the people. The town hall served also as a court building. At the back of the building is a scaffold from 1697. It was on this scaffold that in 1860 the death penalty was executed for the last time in The Netherlands.

The entrance of Gouda Town Hall

At the entrance of Gouda Town Hall is written Audite et alteram partem, “Hear also the other side”, a well-known juridical maxim, an indispensable element of fair justice and the concept of due process. I was surprised by the plural Audite instead of the singular Audi. No doubt the gold lettering is rather modern, and the letter forms suggest a date in the seventeenth century, but these words might have been written here earlier on, too.

The gate at the MuseumGouda

On my way to the Sint Janskerk I passed inevitably the former Catharina Gasthuis, an old hospital, now the premises of MuseumGouda, the municipal museum, with a beautifully restored Dutch Renaissance gateway, dated 1609. Somehow I was in particular intrigued by the relief above the entrance. Inside the museum you can find a historical collection, instruments of torture from the town hall, paintings from Gouda and temporary exhibitions. A part of the collection is shown in the former chapel of the hospital. Above one of the doors I saw a statue representing Justice as a woman with a sword and a balance. Interestingly her eyes are not blindfolded.

A relief with Lazarus

However, the relief at the gateway called plainly stronger for my attention. The story depicted and the use of polychromy are to be blamed! The main scene shows the table of the rich man from the story about Lazarus in the gospel of Luke (16,19-31). The scene illustrates verse 21 (King James Bible):

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sore.

In the scene Lazarus looks up to the rich man, but at the same time Lazarus seems already to see the vision of himself in Abraham’s bosom depicted in the niche above the scene in the dining room. The story of Lazarus and the anonymous rich man is a story of justice and mercy, two elements which cannot be taken from any form of effective law and justice without taking away the very heart of what laws, judicial institutions and the actual working of the rule of law are meant to be. The contemporary clothing of the people in this relief followed the tradition of Dutch art to present biblical stories in present day surroundings. Alas it is very easy to imagine a scene of tremendous richness and appalling poverty side by side in our times, too.

Dirck Coornhert, philosopher and social reformer

Social conditions can form the starting point for a moral appeal. In sixteenth-century Haarlem lived Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert (1522-1590), an independent thinker and prolific writer. For some years Coornhert served as a secretary to the States of Holland. He suffered from persecution, and had even to leave the Netherlands for some ten years. When he returned he went to Delft, only to face again opposition. In 1588 he came to Gouda, where he was buried in the Sint Janskerk. In 1587 Coornhert wrote a proposal for disciplining ruffians, Boeventucht; a modern edition (1985) of this text has been digitized in the Digital Library for Dutch Literature. Coornhert had a view of criminals working during their stay in prison. During the seventeenth century his ideas were adopted by a number of Dutch cities. A large number of old editions of Coornhert’s writings has been digitized by Amsterdam University Library, in particular the opera omnia edition “Werken van D.V. Coornhert” published by Jaspar Tournay in Gouda between 1610 and 1612. The edition of sources for his life edited in 1925 by Bruno Becker has been digitized at the Institute for Dutch History.

For legal historians not only Coornhert’s proposal for a new prison regime is of interest. The Coornhert Liga, a Dutch society for the reform of criminal law, is named after Coornhert. He quarreled with Justus Lipsius about the repression of heretics. Vrijheid van conscientie, freedom of conscience, was the motto devised by Coornhert for the city of Gouda. This motto is also prominent in the glass window in the Sint Janskerk offered to Gouda by the States of Holland. Some of the windows show images that are relevant for legal iconography, too, and therefore they have been included together with other images from Gouda in the database of the former Dutch Center for Legal Iconography and Documentation (NCRD). Earlier this year the Royal Library confirmed the release into the public domain of this subscribers-only database, but until this day this has not yet been realized. In the first post of this month I have said enough about restricted access. I will just add that the former NCRD was an institution financed by all Dutch universities.

Gouda and Dutch legal history

Gouda is proud of its history. It has even developed its own historic canon in the wake of the current Dutch vogue for historic canons. In the Goudse Canon you can read about the town hall, the Sint Janskerk and Coornhert, three of the forty subjects, and also about Erasmus. Gouda has a claim on Erasmus because his mother came from Gouda. Erasmus went to school nearby Gouda. In Latin this Gouda claim has been concisely put: Goudæ conceptus, Roterodami natus, begotten in Gouda, born in Rotterdam. The canon of Gouda’s history does include the Waag, the weigh-house from 1670 at the Markt, the place where the cheese commerce in Gouda cheese took place before industrial production took over from the commerce on and near the market place. Gouda cheese comes from the area surrounding town, not from Gouda. The name Gouda cheese is not protected, and thus production of it is possible anywhere.

The Gouda Canon website shows apart from the well researched topics an excellent choice of illustrations and connects you to the AquaBrowser catalogue for associative searches in the city library’s GoudaNet. The website of the GroeneHart Archieven includes an image database which will help you to get more pictures about Gouda and the surrounding region. It is definitely a city with a history bringing enough assets for legal historians, even when it is of course rather grim to see at one side instruments of torture and the historical pillory and scaffold, and at the other side room for a pioneer of legal reform. It can do no harm to realize that the dark and sunlit sides of history are part of one history with many tales, a history in which justice and law have not always succeeded to reach their original aims.

A reproduction of Redon's "Fallen angel" outside MuseumGouda

Is it merely a coincidence to find a reproduction of the Fallen angel by Odilon Redon (1840-1916) next to the entrance of MuseumGouda with the Lazarus relief?

A postscript

The question at the end of this post is indeed not rhetorical. MuseumGouda had in June 2011 the painting The Schoolboys by Marlene Dumas auctioned at Christie’s without prior consultation with other Dutch museums which might have been interested to have this painting in their holdings. MuseumGouda got some € 950,000 from the auction, but ran into severe criticism from the Dutch Museum Society which had advised that MuseumGouda doing thus would act inappropriately and against clear guidelines of this society. The Dutch Museum Society even considered to cast MuseumGouda from the society. By the way, the Fallen angel is a painting in the holdings of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

For your eyes only? Legal history and some new digital libraries

This year I have published a number of posts about digital libraries. In my latest contribution on Dutch digital libraries I expressed my wish to write here more often about archival records and museums. It goes against the grain to write again about some digital libraries. However, by sheer coincidence three digital libraries have been launched in a short time span which all deal with materials in Dutch libraries. The Dutch Royal Library in The Hague has partnered with ProQuest in their project Early European Books: Printed Sources to 1700, and this library is also present in Brill’s Early Modern Pamphlets Online. Pamphlets held at Groningen University Library, are present, too, in this project, as are the German pamphlets microfilmed earlier on in the series Flugschriften des 16. Jahrhunderts. Last month the University Library at Groningen launched a new subdomain for their digital collections. Each of these three digital collections contain materials relevant to legal historians. Bringing them together in one post seemed a sensible thing to do.

There is a significant difference and an equally important similarity between each of the projects of the Dutch Royal Library and the digitized collections at Groningen. The University of Groningen presents one set of collections in open access, but this library has just as the Royal Library decided also to start a partnership with a firm which allows only restricted access to the collections they have digitized. Only at subscribing libraries or as holder of a library card of the Dutch Royal Library you can view this digitized pamphlets collection. When I checked this collection today using my Royal Library card I could not find at first the digital pamphlet collection in the overview of online databases at the homepage of the Royal Library. In fact it was thanks to the marvellous page on book history that I noticed the project for the digitization of these pamphlets. The books of the Royal Library digitized for Early European Books can be viewed freely within the Netherlands, but not elsewhere.

Some questions about access

Why keeping a number of digital collections within control of the holding library, and putting other collections on a kind of island which remains at the horizon, within sight but out of reach, a treasure room to be unlocked only for those who pay or have access to it at subscribing libraries? I realize quite well the Dutch Royal Library holds a rather large pamphlet collection (34,000), Groningen has some 2,800 pamphlets. I am equally aware that I am not the first to point out this difference which can look almost incomprehensible at a distance. The sheer number of items to digitized has not deterred Groningen University from creating an extensive digital repository with for legal historians interesting things like dissertations defended at the Law Faculty of Groningen and on another server a growing number of historical maps. Issues starting from 1999 of the legal history journal Groninger Opmerkingen en Mededelingen are freely accessible online, too. On the new website for digital collections at Groningen you can find 127 fragments of papyri. You can read – in Dutch – about some of them also on De wereld aan boeken (The world in books), the book blog of the Department of Special collections of Groningen University Library. By the way, Bifolium is the digital version of the news bulletin on manuscripts and rare books edited at Groningen. Updates are rather infrequent since the death of Jos M.M. Hermans, but the contributions of the new editorial team are certainly worth checking.

No doubt questions of budget, of digitizing more quickly by partnering with a publisher, and growing experience with digital collections and their maintenance play a significant role in the choices made by the two libraries in question to choose different ways for some of their collections. Still one can ask why not putting the famous Knuttel pamphlet collection of the Dutch Royal Library at Europeana, to mention just one of the projects in which this library plays a large and even eminent role? A quick search at Europeana yields at least 28 pamphlets held at The Hague, and they can be searched also using the Memory of the Netherlands portal. Pamphlets of national libraries form a part, too, of the digital collections accessible at the European Library, yet another possibility for virtual presentation of the Dutch pamphlets. for libraries it is perhaps also a question of playing several cards: in the past a number of digitization projects has had only a limited success or has simply failed. It was probably a successful example that helped guiding the decisions taken at The Hague and Groningen. Between 2002 and 2009 19th Century British Pamphlets Online realized the cataloguing and digitizing of some 23,000 items from seven British institutions. The project website provides you with a pamphlets catalogue, but the pamphlets themselves are only fully accessible through JSTOR.

Pamphlets and legal history

Pamphlets is the bibliographical term for short unbound treatises on any subject which is currently under discussion or cries out for comment or protest. I paraphrase here one of the most used modern definitions. The UNESCO definition of a pamphlet contains the additional criterion of a maximum length of 48 pages: “A pamphlet is a non-periodical printed publication of at least 5 but not more than 48 pages, exclusive of the cover pages, published in a particular country and made available to the public”. On my blog broadsides, one-page pamphlets, featured in the summer post on legal history in lyrics.

After my remarks about free and restricted access it is time to have a closer look at the projects under discussion. Early European Books comes with a multilingual user interface in English, Dutch, Danish and Italian. The bibliographical information on books is reinforced by using information on printers and printing history from the CERL Thesaurus and OCLC references which are used for WorldCat. You can view books either as web pages or download them in the PDF format. Interestingly you will find among the few digitized books concerning law and justice from the Royal Library almost exclusively pamphlets, and not just Dutch pamphlets. There is a French arrêt from the Parlement of Paris (Paris 1598; Pflt. 1012), a Dutch version (Middelburg 1584; Pflt. 715) of The execution of Iustice in England for maintenancee of publique and Christian peace by William Cecil Lord Burghley, two sentences by the scabini of Leiden (Leiden 1598; Pflt. 1035 and 1037), a confession of an attempt to assassinate Maurice of Orange (Utrecht 1594; Pflt. 918), a pamphlet demonstrating the rights of the States of Holland (Rotterdam 1587; Pflt. 791).

In Early Modern Pamphlets Online you will find already nearly 400 Dutch pamphlets when you search with the subject ‘Law’. Research for Dutch legal history for the period of the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire can benefit greatly from this source collection. One of the few quibbles are the lack of an advanced search interface and the black and white instead of color. Both collections contain all kind of pamphlets, many of them with contemporary illustrations, which makes them more than just textual sources.

The 127 Papyri Groninganae are really the only sources of primary interest for legal history at the new website for digital collections at the library of the University of Groningen, but everyone studying Dutch political developments or the advancement of science in the eighteenth century should look at the digitized letters of philosopher François Hemsterhuis (1721-1790). The papyri at Groningen cover a wide range of subjects, including legal matters. You can browse collections, choose the form of presentation of the items, build your own advanced search by adding search fields at will, and view almost everything in full color, as is the case for Early European Books, too.

More pamphlets for legal history

When writing this post I found I had overlooked some free accessible digital pamphlet collections for the page on Dutch legal history of my blog. To prevent complaints about not being able to see any Dutch pamphlets because of the restricted access policy I will say something more about these Dutch collections. From the pages of my website I have created a list of digitized pamphlets collections worldwide, not without adding some recent findings, thus saving you some time to bring them together.

Within the digital collections of Utrecht University Library a whole section is devoted to pamphlets. Until now nearly 800 pamphlets have been digitized. Under the modest title Utrechtse pamfletten you will find also publications from outside Utrecht and the Low Countries. The collection is accompanied by a short essay in Dutch on the definition of a pamphlet with ample reference to George Orwell’s views which led to the commonly excepted modern definition.

At Nijmegen the Center for Catholic Documentation has digitized a collection of 99 pamphlets from 1853 with protests against the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands. After the definitive coming of the Reformation from 1580 onwards the Northern Netherlands had been an apostolic vicariate. As the Dutch government confirmed the erection of new dioceses in 1853 a national movement of distressed protestants grew quickly, but this protest by many members of the Dutch elite was in vain.

At the portal for the Memory of the Netherlands you can search for some 1,000 digitized pamphlets from the Second World War and a few hundred pamphlets written by Multatuli, the pseudonym of the Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker (1820-1887), famous for Max Havelaar, his graphic novel from 1860 about the Dutch exploitation of the Indonesian archipelago and his inflammatory writings about many other subjects, including the Dutch political and legal system. Multatuli lost the case about the copyright on his novel, recently studied by Ika Sorgdrager, Dik van der Meulen and Jan Bank, ‘Ik heb u den Havelaar niet verkocht’. Multatuli contra Van Lennep ["I did not sell you the Havelaar". Multatuli against Van Lennep] (Amsterdam 2010).

And to conclude this post a list of digitized pamphlet collections – in alphabetical order by country – with particular interest for legal historians, all of them freely accessible:

The last digital collection reminds me of repeating my promise to write about major phenomena and events which cannot be left out of legal histories. My posts on piracy were meant as the first contribution to a new series. If you agree with me that the list of digitized pamphlets should be enlarged you might try searching for pamphlets at Intute, a thing to do as long as that website is still running. The History Guide of the Göttingen State and University Library can lead you to many pamphlet collections, as do Clio Online and for example this page of the Virtual Library Labour History at the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam.

A postcript

At Archivalia Klaus Graf points to the fact that the German bibliographical projects VD16VD17 and VD18 do contain large numbers of pamphlets. This source genre is increasingly being digitized, too. The QuickSearch of the catalogue of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna can be tuned to restrict your search to particular source types; for historical pamphlets you can select Einblattdrucke.

A second postscript

Roeland Harms, a scholar at Utrecht University, has written Pamfletten en publieke opinie. Massamedia in de zeventiende eeuw [Pamphlets and public opinion. Mass media in the seventeenth century] (Amsterdam 2011). You can download here his 2010 Ph.D. thesis (in Dutch with an English summary) from which his new book stems.

A third postscript

For the Society for Old Dutch Law I have written a concise guide to Dutch pamphlets and legal history at Rechtsgeschiedenis.org.

An overview of digitized pamphlet collections

At my website I have created in May 2013 an overview of digital pamphlet collectiions. In this overview collections are presented  in alphabetical order by country, with short descriptions of the contents and focus.