Monthly Archives: February 2012

Antonio Agustín, a pioneer of the history of medieval canon law

During the sixteenth century European humanists developed their interest in the history of texts. Instead of just printing texts from old manuscripts they started comparing different versions of texts. Thus they stood at the cradle of philology and modern philological methods. The majority of these humanists devoted themselves to texts from Classical Antiquity, few of them set feet on the field of textual criticism for the Bible, and even less looked to legal texts other than the sources of Roman law. Antonio Agustín (1517-1586) was the first scholar to deal with the text of the Decretum Gratiani, the most important medieval collection of texts concerning canon law that held a central place in the study of canon law until 1917. In this post I will give an overview of his works, their accessibility online, and I will point to modern studies on his work and life.

A prince of scholars

Antonio Agustín

Antonio Agustín – portrait early seventeenth century

Antonio Agustín y Albanell was born in 1517 in the Spanish town Zaragoza. His father was the vice-chancellor of Aragon. Already in 1526 Agustín went for his studies to university, first at Alcalá de Henares, two years later at Salamanca. In 1535 he started to study law at the university of Bologna, where he met Andrea Alciato (1492-1550), one of the foremost humanistic lawyers. In 1537 he went to Padua to study Greek. In 1541 Agustín received at Bologna the degree of doctor utriusque iuris, for both Roman and canon law.

In the field of the history of Roman law Agustín made himself immediately known with his first published work. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century a small number of scholars examined the Codex Florentinus, the manuscript of Justinian’s Digest, since 1406 kept as a treasure in Florence. In 1543 Agustín published a study in which he argued that this manuscript is closer to the original text from the sixth century than the vulgate version of the Digest found in countless manuscripts since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and reprinted in many editions since the late fifteenth century. The Emendationum et opinionum libri quattuor were first published in Venice, and soon reprinted in Basel (1544) and Lyons. Using the Hathi Trust Digital Library it is possible to consult online two copies of the first edition held at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The edition Basel 1544 can be consulted online (Digitale Sammlungen, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich), and also the editions Lyons 1559, Lyons 1574 and Heidelberg 1594, all present at Munich.

Agustín’s career can be summarised fairly quickly, but this does not do justice to his scholarly activities. In 1544 Agustin became an auditor, judge, of the Rota Romana, one of the highest courts of the Catholic Church. Charles Lefebvre edited an unpublished text by Agustín on the practices of the Rota Romana in the volume Antonii Augustini Praxis Rotae. Jacobi Emerix Tractatus seu Notitiae S. Rotae Romanae : deux traités inédits sur la procédure de la S. Rote Romaine (Tournai, s.d. (1961)). The popes sent him on several diplomatic missions. In 1562 and 1563 he attended sessions of the Council of Trent. He became bishop of Alife in the Kingdom of Naples in 1556. In 1561 Agustín was called to the see of Lérida in Spain, and in 1576 he became archbishop of Tarragona, where he died in 1586.

In the sixteenth century leading scholars wrote many letters to keep in touch with each other. Cándido Flores Sellés edited an Epistolario de Antonio Agustín (Salamanca 1980). Letters by Agustín are included in the Correspondance de Lelio Torelli avec Antonio Agustín et Jean Matal (1542-1553), Jean-Louis Ferrary (ed.) (Como 1992). Juan E. Alcina Rovira and Joan Salvadó Recasens have recently studied Agustín’s library, La biblioteca de Antonio Agustín. Los impresos de un humanista de la Contrarreforma (Alcañiz 2007). Many of his books and a number of manuscripts with Greek texts stemming from Agustin’s library found their way to the library of the Escorial.

In this post I will not discuss Agustín as a scholar of Roman law, even though he kept working in this field, too. In 1567 he even published two text editions in one volume, the Constitutiones Graecarum Codicis Justiniani imperatoris collectio et interpretatio, with the Greek constitutions in the Codex Justinianus, and Novellarum Juliani antecessoris Epitome, cum notis et constitutionibus, graece (Lérida 1567), with the Epitome Juliani. Pietro Fiorelli and Anna Maria Bartoletti Colombo edited the volume Iuliani epitome latina Novellarum Justiniani, secondo l’edizione di Gustavo Haenel e col glossario d’Antonio Agustín (Florence 1996) which uses Agustín’s work. Agustín edited also texts by Marcus Terentius Varro, Sextus Pomponius Festus and Marcus Verrius Flaccus, and he wrote about Roman antiquities and inscriptions. On Roman law he published further in particular De nominibus propriis tou Pandektou Florentini (Tarragona 1579; online in the Hathi Trust Digital Library) and De legibus et senatus consultis (Rome 1583; online at the Hathi Trust, at Granada and at Munich). For brevity’s sake I have skipped later editions of these works. In the eighteenth century appeared the collection Antonii Augustini Archiepiscopi Tarraconensis Opera omnia (8 vol., Lucca 1765-1774; online, Hathi Trust) which contains also a number of his letters.

Agustín and medieval canon law

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) had addressed many aspects of church life, but not canon law. Ecclesiastical law came under review during the pontificate of pope Pius V. He decided in 1566 that an official edition of the various sources within the Corpus Iuris Canonici should be made. The correctores Romani, a team of scholars, was charged with this task. Originally the commission would have been led by Antonio Agustín, but he declined this position. He kept in touch with the scholarly team. In 1580 pope Gregory XIII could finally promulgate the new edition, published in three volumes (Rome 1582), consultable online at the library of the University of California at Los Angeles. Recently Mary Sommar has published a study about the project for this edition, The Correctores Romani: Gratian’s Decretum and the counter-reformation humanists (Berlin 2009).

The sheer width of Agustín’s activity comes into sight when you realize he did not forget his episcopal duties. As bishop of Lérida he personally supervised the making of the Sacerdotale (…) Ilerdense (Lérida 1567), nowadays a rare work. The Institut d’Estudis Ilerdenc in Lérida has digitized its copy. As an archbishop he helped starting a printing firm at Tarragona. Agustín was responsible for the Constitutionum prouincialium Tarraconensium libri quinque (Tarragona 1580; online, Hathi Trust) and Constitutionum synodalium Tarraconensium partes quinque (Tarragona 1581; online, Hathi Trust). In the third volume of the Italian Opera omnia you can find a reprint of these constitutions, and also the synodal constitutions for this archdiocese.

At Lérida appeared in 1576 the first edition of the Compilationes antiquae, with four of the five decretal collections before the Decretalium liber Gregorii IX – more commonly called the Liber Extra – was promulgated in 1234. Using the Hispana portal the Antiquae collectiones decretalium (Lérida 1576) can be found in digitized form at several Spanish libraries. They offer this work in the PDF format. At Munich you can consult a page by page version of this edition. Agustín’s edition has been reprinted in source editions by scholars ever since, but no new edition of the Compilationes antiquae has appeared until now, for Emil Friedberg presented in his Quinque compilationes antiquae (…) (Leipzig 1882; reprint Graz 1956) only the incipits of the papal decretals included in these collections. Stephan Kuttner discussed Agustín’s edition in ‘Antonio Agustín’s edition of the Compilationes antiquae’, Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law, New Series 7 (1977) 1-14.

For the history of medieval canon law Agustín’s De emendatione Gratiani dialogorum libri duo (Tarragona 1587) is no doubt his most important work. I could find an online version of the first edition, again at the Hathi Trust Digital Library, but not for the important reprint edited by Étienne Baluze (Antonii Augustini archiepiscopi Tarraconensis dialogorum libri duo de emendatione Gratiani (Paris 1672)). Agustín discusses matters such as the original title of Gratian’s work, the problem of misleading inscriptions of various canones, the sources used by Gratian and their supposed or real origin, in particular for canons stemming from church councils. He did notice at many turns erroneous attributions of canons. In particular canons from the collection ascribed to Isidorus Mercator got his attention, but even though Agustin expressed grave doubt about the quality of this collection he did not proceed here or elsewhere to a full examination of the complex of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals. In the so-called Magdeburg Centuries (Historia ecclesiastica (…) (13 volumes, Basle, 1559-1574)) protestant historians had unmasked this collection as a massive falsification. For catholic writers in the sixteenth century it was difficult to support this view. As few others Agustín was certainly equipped to deal with this problem.

The Epitome iuris pontificii veteris is the companion work to De emendatione Gratiani, and indeed without this compendium of canon law the latter would not have appeared at all. The first part of this Epitome was published at Tarragona in 1587; a digital version (PDF) has been created by the Universidad de Granada. In the first volume with the subtitle De personis Agustín deals with ecclesiastical functions, with laity and heretics, and at the end briefly with the position of Jews and pagans. The second and third volume were published posthumously for the first time as Iuris pontificii veteris epitome (…) at Rome between 1611 and 1614. The second volume deals with de rebus, matters, the third with de iudiciis, verdicts. At Ghent only the first and second volume of the 1611 edition have been digitized. In the second part Agustín starts with an overview of the history of conciliar collections before Gratian with the title De quibusdam veteribus canonum ecclesiasticorum collectoribus iudicium, et censura.

In the volume Canones paenitentiales (…) (Venice 1584; online, Hathi Trust) Agustín edited six texts concerning penance, including a Poenitentiale Romanum. He gives an introduction to the history of penance, penitential canones and in particular the early medieval libri paenitentiales. One of the reasons he adduces in his preface for taking interest in these sources is the fact that the Decretum Gratiani has not the same authority as papal decretals and conciliar canons, and therefore it is necessary to look at the original sources. The first edition of this edition appeared again in Tarragona in 1582.

In an Epistola decretalis Innocentii III. Summi Pontificii (…) (Paris 1609; online, University Library, Ghent) the text of the famous decretal Per venerabilem (X. 4.7.13) of pope Innocent III from 1202 is given, a letter first included in the Compilatio Tertia (3 Comp. 4.12.2). The text of the decretal is taken from Agustín’s 1576 edition of the Compilationes quinque – at f. 209r-210r -, but the source of the following commentary is not clear. The core of the short introductory text is a defense of the prerogatives of the French king and the traditional independent ecclesiastical position of France.

Studying Antonio Agustín

Up to the twentieth century only a small group of scholars endeavoured on the paths first walked by Agustín. I mentioned already Étienne Baluze. Praise for Agustín came directly after his death in a work by Andreas Schott, a Flemish scholar, in his Laudatio funebris. V.Cl. Antonii Augustini (…) (Antwerp 1586). About this text José C. Miralles Maldonado recently wrote an article which can be consulted online, ‘Andreas Schott y su laudatio funebris en memoria del humanista aragonés Antonio Agustín’Myrtia 23 (2008) 315-342. Gregorio Mayáns y Siscár (1699-1781) published a Vida de D. Antonio Agustín arzobispo de Tarragona (Madrid 1734), online in Munich. This work helped in the long run resuscitating interest in this sixteenth-century scholar. It led to the publication of his Opera omnia at Lucca between 1765 and 1774, and to several editions of his letters from manuscripts scattered around Europe.

You can find online more interesting articles about Agustín and his correspondance, for example Jean-Louis Ferrary, ‘Les travaux d’Antonio Agustín à travers la lumière de lettres inédites à Lelio Torelli,’ Faventia (1992) 60-83, and Joan Carbonell Manils, ‘La relación epistolar inédita entro Antonio Agustín y el papa Gregorio XIII’Faventia 22 (2000) 121-138. To these online articles one should add in particular an article by Cándido Flores Selles, ‘Respuestas ineditas de Antonio Agustín a consultas de amigos’, Revista de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid 73 (1987-1988) 111-185. Francis M. de Zulueta devoted his 1939 David Murray Lecture to Don Antonio Agustín (Glsagow 1939), an eminently useful starting point if you would like to start with or stick to literature in English. M.H. Crawford edited a volume of essays on Agustín, Antonio Agustín between Renaissance and Counter-Reform (London 1993). Crawford wrote the article on Agustín for the Encyclopedia of the Renaissance, Paul F. Grendler (ed.) (6 vol. New York 1999), in volume I, pp. 26-27. For sources about Agustíns library, his life and correspondence Marc Mayer’s article, ‘Towards a History of the Library of Antonio Agustín’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 60 (1997) 262-272, is well worth reading.

Agustín deserves his position among the pioneers of the history of Roman and canon law in particular for his unflagging interest in both fields. His interests in legal history were accompanied by studies on Classical Antiquity in the widest sense, including for example inscriptions. He wrote also about medals and even about heraldry. His Dialogos de las armas, i linages de la nobleza de España was published by Mayáns y Siscár (Madrid 1734), of which a facsimile edition appeared recently (Valencia 2005). It is again in the Digitale Sammlungen at Munich that you can find an online version of the 1734 edition, and for example also at Santiago de Compostela. Using the search functionalities at the Hispana portal you can find in Spain more digital versions of his works, and also some library catalogues with manuscripts of his works. Mentioning this work should not diminish the fact that Agustín was a scholar with a mind to work in major legal disciplines and the auxiliary historical sciences. He did not devote himself exclusively to one field, something which scholars nowadays all too often simply have to do. I hope this post shows you something of Agustíns versatility and his lasting importance for those who are working in the field of medieval canon law.

A Dickens and legal history round-up

In the English-speaking world some authors have truly contributed to the world’s most acclaimed literature. When an Englishman wants to say something which rings in the mind long afterwards, he can choose at will in the works of Shakespeare, in the majestic English of the King James Bible, or turn to a nineteenth-century writer, and in particular to Charles Dickens (1812-1870). On Internet and in real life – the sequence is deliberate! – his bicentenary has been celebrated on February 7, 2012. For this celebration the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography granted temporarily free access to the biographic article on Dickens, which is normally only accessible for subscribers at this link.

Charles Dickens by Frith, 1859

Charles Dickens in his Study (1859) – painting by William Powell Frith; London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Is it possible for legal historians to avoid the impression made on Dickens by his fathers’ imprisonment in the Marshalsea Prison or to get a better understanding of English law without always referring only to Bleak House? Surely no lesser luminary than William Searle Holdsworth (1877-1944) paved the road to this novel with his Charles Dickens as a Legal Historian (1928; reprint Union, N.J., 1995). The American 1929 edition has been digitized at the University of Michigan. The subject had been treated earlier by Thomas Alexander Fyfe, Charles Dickens and the Law (London 1910; digitized at the Internet Archive). The Law and Lawyers of Pickwick: a lecture by Frank Lockwood, also available online, appeared already in 1894. Without forgetting these well-trodden paths it is surely possible to bring Dickens and law together in many of his publications, often on the background, but certainly time and again as forceful and inimitable as elsewhere in his oeuvre. With fifteen years Dickens worked as a solicitor’s clerk, and later as a court reporter. Later on his friend and first biographer John Forster could help, too, from his legal background. This post is an Internet round-up for Dickens and legal history, with also a small Dutch tribute.

A Dutch tribute

In 2000 Jan Antoni Ebbinge Wubben defended at Utrecht University his Ph.D. thesis on Literatuur en recht: Charles Dickens en gevangenschap wegens schulden [Literature and law: Charles Dickens and debt imprisonment]. Remco van Rhee’s review in the Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 71 (2003) 465-467, is rather critical of this Dutch writer in the field of law and literature. I had expected this thesis would be present in the Igitur digital repository of Utrecht University. Instead I can only find one article in Dutch by Ebbinge Wubben in The Dutch Dickensian Special. He points for instance to Dickens’ omission in The Pickwick Papers to mention the fees to be paid for the salary of the jailers of the Fleet Prison, an omission due to the fact that the Marshalsea Prison was exceptional having salaried jailers, and that he did not remember from his own experience the payment of fees. In his review Van Rhee wrote that the thesis by Ebbinge Wubben was one of the first Dutch contributions in the field of Law & Literature. I am indebted to Ton Lenssen for his comment with information about his own work in this field.

As a former president of the international Dickens Fellowship Jan Lokin, until 2009 professor of Roman law at Groningen University, is as no other Dutch legal historian able to portray the position of Dickens in the Victorian society and to assess the relation between his works, English law and society at large. Audiences of the Studium Generale, the general program of Utrecht University, had the luck to hear Lokin during Autumn 2011 in four lectures on Dickens, just ahead of the bicentenary. You can watch the four lectures online, download a collection of blog posts on his lectures and look at an overview of Dickens’ works with short remarks on literary influences on Dickens and his impact on modern authors. A Dutch firm will launch this month cd’s with recordings of these lectures. Among Dutch magazines the Groene Amsterdammer presented on January 4, 2012 a number of articles about Dickens. The presence of a list of Dickens ten best novels is in the best unorthodox tradition of this journal, but in the end everyone will have his of her favorites and dislikes according to personal taste and appreciation. The journal offers the possibility of a week-long online access to these articles, otherwise only subscribers can view them online.  All this is in Dutch. If you would like to watch four lectures in English online you might enjoy the four lectures given at Gresham College, London in 2006 on Dickens and the law.

Before I ventured to write about Dickens I had the impression a Dutch contribution would serve only to bring coals to Newcastle, but after a check in the Bibliography of British and Irish Legal History (Aberystwyth University) I have learned that you will not find there any article or book between 1977 and 2005 with Dickens in its title, and only two articles concerning the Marshalsea in Early Modern history. A check for the terms debt and imprisonment yields five articles which put debt imprisonment clearly into a wider perspective than just Dickens’ experience and his views of society and law. W.R. Owens and P.N. Furbank, ‘Defoe and imprisonment for debt: some attributions reviewed’, Review of English Studies 37 (1986) 495-502, neatly indicates another major figure in English literature, Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). The Aberystwyth bibliography helps to give you guidance for Defoe with two more articles, P.J. Rawlings, ‘Defoe and street robberies: an undiscovered text’, Notes and Queries 30 (1983) 23-26, and M. Quilter, ‘Daniel Defoe : bankrupt and bankruptcy reformer’, Journal of Legal History 25/1 (2004) 53-73. The National Archives present since 2008 on their website a talk by David Thomas on Dickens and the debtors’ prison.

A virtual round-up

The Law and Humanities Blog is perhaps one of the more obvious points to look for information concerning the Dickens bicentenary. Christine Corcos has indeed written a short celebratory post in which she refers to a number of fairly recent articles in American law journals, and to the list of titles provided by Daniel Solove in his bibliography on law and literature. By the way, in this bibliography you will meet a selected number of other writers. On February 8, 2012, Corcos pointed to a tribute by Michael Ruse for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Corcos gave her post the title of a famous Dickensian indictment of law: The Law is a Ass – a Idiot. Ruse succeeds in showing it is not just Bleak House where Dickens brings a vivid picture of law, figures at courts and legal doings. Earlier the Law and Humanities Blog had already five other posts referring to Dickens. One of them mentions the study by Gary Watt, Equity Stirring: The Story of Justice Beyond Law (Oxford-Portland, Or., 2009). Among much else Watt proposed a new theory about the naming of Jarndyce and Jarndyce in the Chancery case in Bleak House.

With nearly thousand pages Bleak House is certainly one of Dickens’ most substantial novels, but to me his greatness and his very position as a classic writer is that you can read and reread his work, and change your opinions about them without losing your admiration. In Kant & Co: literatuur als spiegel van het recht [Kant & Co.: literature as a mirror of law (Amsterdam 2011) Hans Nieuwenhuis, one of the Dutch lawyers to write often about the relation between law, literature and philosophy, stressed the fact that literary works about law in its many forms gain their importance by the interplay between the author’s imagination and creative powers, his perceptions of law and his philosophical position. In the case of Dickens – lacking in Nieuwenhuis’ latest volume of essays – the philosopher looming in the background is probably Jeremy Bentham and his utilitarianism.

Dickens did not only write novels. In his American Notes (1842) he describes his impressions of the United States where he visited a number of prisons. Scholars have judged his description as biased. Perhaps the degree of bias is exactly what makes them so interesting. The idea to compare Dickens’ views and remarks with the views expressed by Alexis de Tocqueville is not new, but it helps indeed to put both men into perspective. Did the two ever meet each other? Hugh Brogan opened in Alexis de Tocqueville. A Life (New Haven-London, 2004) a chapter with a scene from The Pickwick Papers where a Count Smorltork is introduced “gathering materials for his great work on England”.

Dickens versus Lawyers

Money had great importance for Dickens, and in this field the memory of his father’s debt certainly haunted him. You can read in the London Gazette of December 24, 1824, the official announcement of John Dickens’ insolvency. In the New York Times Joseph Tartakovsky wrote on February 7, 2012 a brief essay with the nice title ‘Dickens v. Lawyers’. Dickens was keen in defending the rights to his work and pursued several times infringements in court. The New York Times offers in the Times Topics section a well-stocked overview of its own articles and pieces concerning Dickens since the mid-nineteenth century, combined with a selection of links to major institutions for Dickens’ heritage. The author of the essay notes that Dickens introduces legal subjects in eleven of his fifteen novels, another reason not to focus only on the novel with the portrait, nay indictment of the Court of Chancery. Bleak House appeared in serialised installments between 1852 and 1853. In 1842 the Court of Chancery Act was passed by Parliament which cut an end to some of the red tape and overlong procedures.

Wolf Reuter, a German attorney specialising in labor law, blogged, too, on February 7 about Dickens. He neatly pointed to the fact that in Dickens’ time labor law was still in its infancy. He quotes in the title of his post Dickens’ verdict “The law is a bastard” from Great Expectations. Reuter refers to the special photo album on the website of the Daily Telegraph showing Dickens’s London around 1870, a world mostly vanished and hard to imagine nowadays but for the many movies and television series inspired by Dickens, which have made us familiar with the surroundings of old London and with the looks of Londoners. The Daily Telegraph has covered the bicentenary with a nice sprinkle of articles.

I had promised to guide you here to online resources on Dickens. One of the major gateways for British history is Connected Histories a number of databases with one search action, among them the proceedings of the Old Bailey. It soon becomes clear that you have to filter the search results most diligently because Charles Dickens and his father John Dickens did have their namesakes. However, one user has been so kind to create a kind of portfolio with five Dickensian search results. You can find more, in particular in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers and in a number of pamphlets. The results with images from the British Museum is a valuable reminder that you cannot imagine Dickens without vivid illustrations such as the ones by “Phiz”. One can search these images also directly in the collection database of the British Museum. Strangely an advanced search at Connected Histories for Dickens as a surname and Charles as Christian name yields no results at all…

Nineteenth-century London

London Lives is one of the databases included at Connected Histories, but this project focuses on the period 1690-1800. A real search for online information about scientific literature on Dickens can start safely at the Institute of Historical Research, London. Its website indicates many directions for your research. The Centre for Metropolitan History, London, points for example to the project Locating London’s Past, where you can trace locations on a map from 1746. The links collection of this centre leads you to many other local and regional institutions with holdings on London’s history. The London Metropolitan Archives offer in particular online access to records concerning family and parish history. Perhaps The Guildhall Library has not so much to offer online, but it is good to remember its rich collection in English law reports. By the way, the web presence and visibility of these two institutions within the very large City of London website is only just sufficient. King’s College London gives an online presentation of its Dickens collection, with among other items the Mirror of Parliament, a journal of parliamentary records for which Dickens wrote reports. Using British History Online you will easily find a few hundred search results for Charles Dickens in the digitized source editions available at this website. The National Register of Archives lists 43 archival collections with materials from or pertaining to Dickens. In particular letters can surface anywhere or form the subject of a celebratory text. The Old Library of Trinity Hall, Cambridge holds a letter by Dickens about the study plans of his son Henry who did go to Cambridge to study law, a letter well worth a blog post.

Another resource deserves highlighting here, the Newgate Calendar, one of the bestselling books in England between 1750 and 1850. The title Newgate Calendar is an umbrella term for a number of books appearing from 1702 onwards. The website mentions a fair selection of them and introduces them briefly. In these books you will find the tales about criminals imprisoned at the Newgate Prison, stories the British public loved and loves to hear and read until now. The stories told in them depict criminals, their trials and fate most vividly. In my opinion the success of Dickens’ portrayals of villains and victims has been considerably prepared by them, and also by the stories presented in British newspapers and broadside ballads, two subjects about which I have written here earlier.

Law in Victorian literature

Dickens is not the only author from the Victorian Age to write into his novels accounts of the workings of the law. Anthony Trollope does look at Anglican ecclesiastical law in the novels of his Chronicles of Barsetshire. Reading William Thackeray and Thomas Hardy is every bit as interesting, and with them you are reading some of the greatest novelists. Yet Dickens has made a deeper impression than any of them. Many critics have reproached Dickens with attacking social evil and situations just after they had been changed fundamentally. Critics have also often said Dickens was not accurate in his descriptions of legal matters. Even if this is true, they miss the point that Dickens did not want to write legal or social reform proposals, but in a way he did help to promote public interest and support for them. In his marvellous book on the Victorian age The Victorians (London 2002) A.N. Wilson gets rid of a lot of small talk about Dickens. Wilson is sure that deliberately or not Dickens showed the fabric of human society in its overwhelming impact during the Industrial Revolution, often through the eyes of children or powerless persons who cannot see things clear. He shows the abruptly modern dislocation of people in new urban environments, and the inscrutable and ruthless way some of the few mighty and rich dealt with the poor part of Benjamin Disraeli’s two nations.

Dickens can be sentimental, but more often he is most gripping. For me Dickens’ novels show every now and then a rule of law developed into a rule unto itself and a bane for those trapped by it. Not the cold dissection and description of situations as a sociologist would do, but a fictionalized representation of society and almost symbolic portrayal of the lives of ordinary and marginal people is Dickens’ goal. If lawyers still should read Dickens, others should do this as well, because it is life touched by the machinery of law that you can find in his writings. Dickens makes abundantly clear that the rule of law and its institutions can become a terrible thing when closed off from the real world.

More blog posts celebrating Dickens have appeared this week, and I have not traced nor mentioned all of them here. Let me end this post about the web celebrations of the Dickens bicentenary with a positive note: the interest in Dickens and his novels might be a sign that people still will make time for immersing them into the world of Victorian England. Thanks to the remarks of a helpful staff member of a bookshop in Utrecht I could say here more about Dutch legal historians and their views of Dickens. We will need the guidance of well-trained booksellers, librarians and industrious scholars to keep in touch with the lives and the legal life enshrined by Dickens.

More online exhibitions and resources

Unravelling the secrets of the Codex Florentinus

The Digest, the massive anthology of classic Roman law created for emperor Justinian (482-565), is the core text studied by scholars of Roman law. The textual tradition of the Digest is not straightforward. One of the most intriguing questions is the sudden return of the unabridged text of the Digest in the eleventh century. A key role for establishing the text of the Digest is traditionally given to the Codex Florentinus, a manuscript present in Florence since 1406, now kept at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. On the library’s webpage with an overview of its manuscript collections this manuscript figures in a class of its own. The Pandette, the Italian rendering of the Greek name Pandektai for the Justinian Digest, is special indeed. Recently the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (BML) has added a PDF of a very extensive article by Davide Baldi about the history of the Codex Florentinus, ‘Il Codex Florentinus del Digesto e il Fondo Pandette della Biblioteca Laurenziana (con un’appendice dei documenti inediti)’, Segno e Testo 8 (2010) 99-186.

Baldi’s article deserves close reading, if only for the extensive references to scholarly publications, the edition of sources about the presence, consultation and treatment in Florence of the manuscript from the fifteenth century until 1800, and the additional set with color photographs of the Codex Florentinus. The strength of his article is the wealth of information and its availability online. In this post I will summarize and comment on Baldi’s article which in my view deserves translation into other languages.

A witness from the sixth century

The history of the Codex Florentinus holds a lot of riddles. Where did it come from? When was it written? How did it reach Italy? Why does the common version of the Digest found in seemingly countless medieval manuscripts written from the late eleventh century onwards differ so much from the text in this manuscript? Scholars of Roman law, antiquarians, palaeographers and codicologists have wrestled with these questions and studied this manuscript for centuries.

Logo BMLThe online catalogue of the BML has a filter to search for bibliographical information about manuscripts, including the Pandette, the search term which gives already an impression of earlier research. Today you can see for yourself who did actually consult the Pandette since 1992 using the BML’s Dedalo, the online monitor of manuscript movements. Anyway the BML provides you with a links collection for manuscript and papyri research.

In his article Baldi offers first of all a very detailed codicological and palaeographical description of the Codex Florentinus. This information points in the end more conclusively than ever before to Constantinople and the sixth century as the time and place of its completion, but Baldi admits this cannot be established with absolute certainty and remains a debated question. A date in the sixth century is probably as close as we can get to the official publication of the Digest by Justinian in 533. Apart from the medieval manuscripts with the text of the Digest the Greek Basilica, a reworking of the Digest for the East Roman Empire, and a small number of papyri are textual witnesses of the Digest. Baldi points to the Leuven Database of Ancient Books (LDAB) where these papyri and the Florentine manuscript are listed, the latter as LDAB 7619. For the Basilica Baldi mentions the edition by G.E. and C.G.E. Heimbach and others (Basilicorum Libri LX (Leipzig 1833-1846)), which surely was used by scholars before the modern edition by the team at Groningen led by Herman Scheltema (17 vol., Groningen-‘s-Gravenhage 1953-1988). The Codex Florentinus has been the subject of two facsimile editions, Iustiniani Augusti Digestorum seu Pandectarum codex Florentinus olim Pisanus phototypice expressus (Rome 1902-1910) and Justiniani Augusti Pandectarum codex Florentinus (2 vol., Florence 1988).

The Codex Florentinus is not without textual lacunae. Baldi notes carefully all missing manuscript pages. These lacunae are very important for tracking the relation with the Florentine manuscript in later manuscripts, but they give also an indication of its closeness to the original manuscripts made in 533. The scripts used – without space between words – and the lay-out, the writing hands and decoration, scribal notes and remarks of users, and in particular the bindings and much else are carefully examined with due reference to relevant publications which are sometimes difficult to trace.

A chequered history

One of the stories accompanying the Florentine manuscript is the legendary tale of its conquest from Amalfi by the Pisans around 1135. Baldi admits that Amalfi was closely connected to the Byzantine empire, but he cannot find any substantial evidence for this story. In the mid-twelfth century the Bolognese lawyers Bulgarus and Rogerius saw the manuscript in Pisa. In the years around 1360 Leonzio Pilato studied the graeca, the Greek words used in the Latin text, and made a list of them on two new quires which were added to the two volumes of the codice Pisano, one of the other names for this manuscript. This addition is astonishing in view of the high regard for this manuscript. Leonzio’s Greek and his handwriting were not good: the list is hard to read and mistakes are around everywhere. The Codex Florentinus contains an epigram in Greek celebrating emperor Justinian. Leonzio’s transcription of this text, too, is faulty.

The coming of the Pandette from Pisa to Florence happened for sure in 1406, a fact noted in a number of chronicles. In the Palazzo dei Priori a Sancta Sanctorum, a kind of tabernacle, was created to contain the precious manuscript. In 1439 the official acts of the Council of Ferrara-Florence were deposited in it, too. In 1445 the manuscript got new bindings. For details of the period since 1406 Baldi is often able to use and adduce sources present at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana or kept at the Archivio di Stato in Florence on a scale not done before in studies concerning the littera Florentina, yet another nickname of the manuscript.

In 1490 Angelo Poliziano made a full collation – a detailed material inspection – of the manuscript. His notes left the Palazzo dei Priori in 1517, got lost, but finally came to the Laurenziana in 1760 (Laur. Plut. 91 inf. 15-17). In 1525 the Signoria ordered a transcription of the Codex Florentinus in which somehow the libri D. 21 to D. 27 are lacking. These three volumes are now at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (Banco Rari 24, 25 and 26). Baldi follows the Pandette to its new location in the mid-sixteenth century in the Cappella di San Bernardo of the Palazzo dei Priori. In 1553, the year of the publication of Lelio Torelli’s edition of the Digest for which he had amply consulted the famous manuscript, it moved to the Stanza della Guardaroba. In 1690 the manuscript miraculously was not damaged by a great fire in the Palazzo. I have skipped the name of numerous famous humanists and scholars that came to look at the manuscript. From Boccacio and Marsilio Ficino to Jean Mabillon and Laurens Theodor Gronovius, all of them saw in Florence the venerable manuscript. A landmark is the study made by Hendrik Brenkman (1681-1736) who published the Historia Pandectarum (Trajecti ad Rhenum 1722; facsimile Frankfurt am Main 2005), still consulted nowadays. Bernard Stolte’s book Henrik Brenkman, Jurist and Classicist (Groningen 1981) will inform you about this scholar who intended to publish a new critical edition of the Digest. Only Theodor Mommsen and Paul Krueger succeeded in fulfilling this wish (Digesta Iustiniani Augusti (2 vol., Berlin 1868-1870 – the editio maior)).

Baldi shows his capacities as a detective masterfully in the paragraph on the attempts since 1761 to transfer the Codex Florentinus to the Biblioteca Laurenziana. Only in 1786 did the manuscript actually arrive. He ends his many-sided tale with short notices on the modern embellishments of the bindings and the creation of facsimiles of this manuscript that has been on public display for the last time in 1983. The appendices to Baldi’s article with the transcription of numerous archival records are given on more than thirty pages. The ten color plates show a number of manuscript pages and details of the texts, the fifteenth-century binding and the artistic additions to the covers from the nineteenth and twentieth century.

Less is more

Here I have knowingly condensed a very dense article, and I could have told you more about the contents of the Digest. Baldi succeeds in his really long article in giving both a very detailed description of the manuscript itself and a detailed story in nuce of the documented presence of this utterly remarkable manuscript. The sudden surfacing of the Digest in the eleventh century remains one of the most enigmatic and most influential events in Western legal history.

Of the remarkable archival records edited by Baldi I will give here just one example. At pp. 160-161 Baldi gives as document XIX a fragment of the seventeenth-century study by Giuseppe Averani (1662-1738) from a manuscript kept at the BML. Baldi cites Averani, a most versatile scholar who teached law in Pisa, on more occasions. Here Averani discusses one of the most curious and intriguing habits of medieval lawyers citing the Digest, the use of the abbreviation ff. Even the great German scholar Hermann Kantorowicz was at a loss for a clear explanation in his Über die Entstehung der Digestenvulgata. Ergänzungen zu Mommsen (1910), originally an article in the Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte 43 (1909) and 44 (1910). I have my own opinion about a solution for this riddle, but Averani came already with a very simple and elegant explanation for the origin of this habit. In his view medieval lawyers originally used the Greek letter Π (pi) when referring to the Digest or Pandectae. Because medieval people did not understand Greek – this, however, is a rude generalization – the two vertical lines and the horizontal line on top of them got transformed into two f’s. It remains to be shown by palaeographers and calligraphers whether this scribal transformation is indeed so easy to realize, but for me Averani’s explanation rings true. By sheer coincidence I read today a notice about the Palaeographia website and the beta version of the Graphoskop, a new tool to assist the analysis of historical handwriting. It will take some time before such tools can be used with confidence.

The Istoria delle Pandette fiorentine of Averani (Florence, BML, Ashburnham 1332) merits further study, perhaps even an edition, even if it clearly starts as a reworking of Brenkman’s book. Davide Baldi kindly informed me he has transcribed Averani’s text. He is planning to publish it. Brenkman had helped Averani to get his Interpretationes Iuris published in Holland (first edition Leiden 1716). Averani does figure in the second edition of Juristen: ein biographisches Lexikon. Von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert, Michael Stolleis (ed.) (Munich 2001).

A host of scholars has studied the Codex Florentinus. Baldi’s article shows graphically how many skills they need to study this manuscript in depth. In fact the modern study of it shows in a nutshell how disciplines in the humanities not only can work together, but more strongly that only by combining forces and accumulated knowledge, methods and tools such study will remain fruitful. Dealing with a number of both modern and classical languages is here a condition sine qua non. I have added a link to Baldi’s article on my webpage concerning medieval law, where you will find Baldi in the company of scholars as Wolfgang Kaiser, Tammo Wallinga and others who have studied and will continue studying the Florentine Pandette anew for our times. In view of threatening – and actually happening – drastic cuts in funding of both legal history departments and the humanities in general one might doubt whether future generations will be able to acquire or assemble all qualities needed to follow in their footsteps. Nani super humeros gigantum, dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, is a proverbial expression from the twelfth century that well may revive.

A postscript

Hans Erich Troje published last year a study about the sixteenth-century editions of Justinian’s Digest, “Crisis Digestorum”. Studien zur historia pandectarum (Frankfurt am Main 2011; Studien zur europäischen Rechtsgeschichte, 264).