Tag Archives: Canon law

An early detective? Jan van Scorel and a supposed papal murder case

PopeAdrian VI - painting by Jan van Scorel, 1523 - Utrecht, Centraal Museum

Pope Adrian VI – painting by Jan van Scorel, 1523 – Utrecht, Centraal Museum

If you had told me in 2013 I would one day write about legal history and graphic novels I would have severely doubted the truth of such a statement, but suddenly this combination became a reality when I heard about an exposition at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, my home town. The focuses of the exhibition are a sixteenth-century Dutch painter, Jan van Scorel (1495-1562), and contemporary artist Paul Teng. Together with writer Jan Paul Schutten Teng has created a graphic novel on Van Scorel and his investigation of a mysterious death in Rome. Pope Adrian VI, the only Dutch pope, reigned the Catholic Church for only one year. His death on September 14, 1523, came rather suddenly. Jan Paul Schutten and Paul Teng created a story using historical facts to create a fictional account of a murder investigation started by Van Scorel who suspected that his compatriot might have been murdered. Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523 is the title of both the graphic novel and the exhibition. The 80 page book has also appeared in an English version.

The entrance to the exhibition at the Centraal Museum

In this post I would like to look at the creative process of two contemporary artists working with historical facts and their own imagination. Rumours that Adrian VI’s death was caused by poison have never been conclusively confirmed nor rejected as utter fantasy. The pope died after an illness of a month. An anecdote states that the Roman people thanked the physician who had taken care of the ailing pope. For the preparation of the graphic novel Teng and Schutten used historical sources. They looked carefully at the history of art in the early sixteenth century, helped by the collections of the Centraal Museum with several paintings by Van Scorel.

Setting the scene

Paul Teng took much care to make the historical surroundings of his novel as realistic and reliable as possible. He used early sixteenth-century paintings, drawings and engravings to ensure that locations in Rome and elsewhere are depicted faithfully. This means for instance that the basilica of St. Peter’s and the Vatican itself are shown as building sites. In the gallery with some photographs I took at the exhibition you can see other aspects of the creative process as well. From a story board with dialogues written by Schutten Teng took his lead to make sketches of the story. The exhibition shows the full sequence of the book in black and white. Some scenes are shown in their final coloured version. People are invited to draw themselves a page of a graphic novel on a chosen theme,

Accumulating functions and wealth

paushuize-utrecht

Pope Adrian VI (1459-1523) was born at Utrecht as Adriaen Floriszoon Boeyens. He studied theology at the university of Louvain, and he became a professor of theology at this university in 1489. In 1507 the Habsburg emperor Maximilian asked him to become one of the teachers of the future emperor Charles V. In 1516 he became the bishop of Tortosa in Spain. A year later he was created a cardinal. Charles V made him 1518 inquisitor-general of Castile and Aragón. Adrian became even the regent of Spain. During the minority of Charles V he had already been co-regent of Spain together with cardinal Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros.

Statue of Christ Saviour in the facade of Paushuize, Utrecht

Until 1522 Adrian got a large part of his income from prebends at several collegiate churches in the Low Countries and Spain. The very number of prebends pope Julius II allowed him to have in 1512 was restricted to four. Adrian finally became a canon of four churches in Utrecht: he was a canon at St. Peter’s and at Utrecht Cathedral (St. Martin’s) , treasurer of St. Mary’s and provost of St. Salvator’s (Oudmunster). However, the actual number of prebends he held was larger, and two prebends were shrewdly changed into annuities. His canonry at St. Peter’s in Utrecht enabled him to designate premises within the immunity of St. Peter’s as the site of a large house, a palace really, where he would have liked to live in Utrecht in good time. Adrian never saw the palace still called Paushuize, “The Pope’s House”. Interestingly, a statue in the facade shows Christ Saviour as a reminder he was the provost of the Salvator collegiate church. R.R. Post unravelled the history of these prebends in a fine article published in 1961 [‘Studiën over Adriaan VI. De beneficies van Adriaan VI’, Archief voor de Geschiedenis van de Katholieke Kerk in Nederland 3 (1961) 341-351; online at the Trajecta portal for the ecclesiastical history of the Low Countries, with digital versions of five scientific journals in this field].

There is a clear paradox between Adrian VI’s reputation as a pope who wanted the Church to live humbly, without unnecessary adornments and wealth, and his personal history in which he combined a large number of offices and accompanying revenues. In one of the scenes in which Teng depicts a meeting between pope Adrian and Jan van Scorel they discuss the plan to select art treasures from the Vatican’s holdings in order to sell them off to get money for the empty papal treasury.

The graphic novel opens with a scene showing a ritual which was long said to exist, the formal test done by the camerlengo to ascertain a pope’s death, by calling out thrice his baptismal name, “Adriane, dormisne” (Adrian, are you sleeping?), and giving a slight blow on his head with a special hammer. It is hard to find any real evidence for this custom, which if it really existed at all already ceased to happen in the seventeenth century. Today the camerlengo still has the task to certify the death of a pope. However, it is certainly followed by the immediate destruction of the papal ring, an element Teng and Schutten correctly added immediate after the scene with the probing camerlengo.

Here I will not spoil the joy of anyone wanting to enjoy and read the book by Teng and Schutten by giving away the plot or pronouncing verdicts on the historical veracity or plausibility of the facts they describe. They admit to have added some minor figures to ensure the story can run as it does. Giving Van Scorel a servant is just a time-honoured homage to the practice of detective novels with an investigator and his faithful assistant. The story told by Teng and Schutten can serve as an invitation to look anew at the stories historians like to tell. They can learn from the skillful way Teng shows a sequence of scenes, using for example close-ups to focus on details or general scenes to set the background of events. The funeral of pope Adrian VI in the basilica of St. Peter’s which for a large part still lacked a roof, is shown in true detail.

Adrian’s burial at St. Peter’s was followed by a translatio of his body in 1533 to the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome. By the way, this church started its life as a hospice for pilgrims founded in 1350 by Jan Peters, a rich baker from Dordrecht. The German project REQUIEM on the tombs and monuments of opes and cardinals in Rome between 1500 and 1800 has an extended entry on this monument. At his tomb in St. Peter’s the inscription said Adrian had considered his duty to reign as the most unhappy part of his life. The inscription on his large-scale monument within the Santa Maria dell’Anima reads in translation: “O how much does the time matter in which the virtue of even the best man happens”. These words seem to have inspired the title of the latest biography of pope Adrian VI by Michiel Verweij, Adrianus VI (1459-1523) : de tragische paus uit de Nederlanden (Utrecht 2011). At Deutsche Inschriften Online you will find the book by Eberhard J. Nikitsch on the inscriptions of this church, Die Inschriften der “Deutschen Nationalkirche” Santa Maria dell’Anima, I: Vom Mittelalter bis 1559 (Rome 2012). The essays in the exhibition catalogue De paus uit de Lage Landen Adrianus VI, 1459-1523 (Louvain 2009) help to put Adrian’s life into perspective.

Jan van Scorel came back to the Low Countries imbued with Renaissance ideas which he promptly used in his paintings. The great German art historian Max Friedländer once said Van Scorel had a role for Dutch painting in the sixteenth century similar to that of Peter Paul Rubens for Flemish painting in the next century. In particular his group portraits were an important innovation. In 1528 Van Scorel got a canonry at St. Mary’s in Utrecht, thus giving him a part of the financial background which had helped Adriaen Boeyens during his long ecclesiastical career. Last year I wrote a post about the project Medieval Memoria Online. Jan van Scorel is connected to several memorial objects. A part of the floor slab of his grave from the collegiate church of St. Mary’s  is now kept at the Museum Het Catharijneconvent in Utrecht (MeMo no. 3006). His group portraits of members of the Jerusalem confraternities in Haarlem and Utrecht are also described in the MeMo database (MeMo nos. 669, 671, 672, 716 and 746).

History, historians and images

Let’s close this post with a number of questions: can historians still create stories mainly using words? Is it not necessary nowadays to be at least very much aware of the imagery created by visual media? The creators of blogs are familiar with these questions and try to provide their own answers. Especially when a story does not unfold itself in the standard way movies and televisions series like to show them it is important to be aware of the (visual) expectations of your public. If people ask you for telling images, they are absolutely right to ask this from you! It will be your duty to come with reliable images or to tell what illusions, allusions and deviations images might contain. Professional pictorial research is most certainly one of the historian’s duties. You will need both your imagination and sound knowledge, helped by historical images, to create images in the mind of your readers which help both you and them to get to the core of historical events and persons. Misgivings about historical inaccuracies that occur in the choice or the use of images should not be the final aim of any criticism, but an outright challenge to produce yourself history which benefits substantially from the proper use of images and imagery.

- Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523 – exhibition Utrecht, Centraal Museum, October 19, 2013 – January 19, 2014
Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523, drawings by Paul Teng, scenario by Jan Paul Schutten, colours Dina Kathelyn Tourneur (Eindhoven: Lecturis, 2013; 80 p.; ISBN 978-94-6226020-7)

The first papal abdication since six centuries

Yesterday’s news about the abdication of pope Benedict XVI made headlines all over the world. Surprisingly among all comments is the publication on January 3, 2013 of a post with the title ‘Can a pope ever resign?’ on the blog of Cathy Caridi, a contemporary canon lawyer from the United States living in Rome, who wrote weeks ahead of the news already a very well-informed article. She deals not only with the contemporary canon law of the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983, but also with one of the medieval precedents, the abdication of pope Celestin V in 1294. For canonical aspects of the current abdication Caridi’s article is a must.

Today Anders Winroth (Yale University) alerted on Facebook to the digital version of an article by Martin Bertram, ‘Die Abdankung Papst Cölestins V. (1294) und die Kanonisten’, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Kanonistische Abteilung 56 (1970) 1-101. The online version of this article is only accessible at institutions subscribing to the services of DigiZeitschriften, a German portal for the digitization of scholarly journals. Bertram wrote his Ph.D. thesis at Berlin about pope Celestin V. In the same issue of this journal Horst Hermann wrote another article concerning question about papal abdication and canon law, ‘Fragen zum einem päpstlichen Amtsverzicht’ (pp. 102-141). Scholars in the field of medieval canon law have not dedicated many books or articles to the subject of papal abdication. Peter Herde contributed the paper ‘Election and abdication of the pope: Practice and doctrine in the thirteenth century’ to the Proceedings of the sixth international congress on medieval canon law, Berkeley, 28 July-2 August 1980, Kenneth Pennington and Stephan Kuttner (eds.) (Città del Vaticano 1985) pp. 411-435. In a volume with a collection of articles by Walter Ullmann, Law and jurisdiction in the Middle Ages (London 1988) is an article ‘Medieval views concerning papal abdication’, originally published in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record 71 (1949) 125-133. John R. Eastman wrote a book about the subject, Papal abdication in later medieval thought (Lewiston, NY, 1990). Abdications by monarchs, including the pope, are the subject of a German volume with learned essays, Thronverzicht. Die Abdankung in Monarchien vom Mittelalter bis in die Neuzeit, Susan Richter and Dirk Dirbach (eds.) (Cologne-Vienna 2010). In this volume stemming from a series of lectures at the university of Heidelberg Thomas Wetzstein writes about ‘Renuntiatio – resignatio. Zum Amtsverzicht in der Kirche des hohen und späten Mittelalters’ (pp. 30-61).

After pope Celestin V in 1294 only pope Gregory XII formally abdicated, on July 4, 1415. Caridi did not mention this case in the fine article on her blog Canon Law Made Easy. Gregory XII stepped down at the Council of Constance which aimed at ending the Great Schism, the period in the history of the Catholic Church from 1378 onwards, with two popes, one at Rome and the other at Avignon. Earlier in 1415 the Council of Constance had deposited the so-called antipope John XXIII. In view of the modern regulations for a papal abdication one thinks immediately about the voluntary character necessary according to the Code of Canon Law for a valid abdication.

When searching for studies concerning papal abdication I saw also several studies about the abdication of kings. This theme might well return here in another post. In fact readers of this blog may well be surprised why I have not yet written anything about the announcement of the abdication of Queen Beatrix on January 29, 2013. This year she will formally abdicate on April 30. I guess the very time span between the announcement and the celebrations on April 30 against the rapid coming of a conclave in March pleads in favour of writing about it now. Normally I would have delved deeper into such matters, but right now I face other tasks. A quick scan of the Liber Extra, the collection of papal decretals published in 1234 on behalf of pope Gregory IX, did not bring me any result about papal renunciations, but a section of the Liber Extra, De renuntiatione (X 1.9) was devoted to bishops resigning from their office. For quick reference I used the text-only version of the IntraText Digital Library. Here I simply wanted to present some information about the background of a truly historical step. I am sure others will soon publish more detailed accounts about the abdications of 1294 and 1415. As for Facebook and medieval canon law, Anders Winroth has created a Facebook group on this subject.

A postscript

Mike Widener published on February 18 a post on the Rare Books Blog of the Yale Law Library with a nice late medieval woodcut of pope Celestine V, accompanied by further references. The Early Books blog of Yale’s Beinecke Lbrary posted on February 27 a post on a medieval images of pope Celestine V in a manuscript of the Vaticinia Pontificum, a medieval text with prophecies concerning the papacy..

Centers of legal history: Milan

Followers of the series Centers of legal history will have some expectations about a post featuring an Italian city. Which city will I choose? In earlier posts outside this series several Italian towns have figured. In the post on digitized Italian city statutes I pointed to websites all over Italy. My post on the Codex Florentinus contained references to institutions in Florence. The recent post with a discussion of two digitization projects in Bologna ended with a nutshell’s guide to research institutions and other relevant projects at Bologna. Creating a guide for Rome and legal history within the scope of just one blog post is something beyond my powers, and probably just too long and too uneven to be worth the effort. Milan offers itself as the town to figure here, and where possible and sensible I have added institutions and initiatives in Lombardy.

Legal history in Milan

The presence of several universities is one of the reasons to include Milan in this series. I will start with the Università degli Studi di Milano and its department for legal history. Among the current staff of the Sezione di storias medievale e moderno Claudia Storti is now probably the best known scholar, but among former scholars at Milan it is surely Antonio Padoa Schioppa. The library of this section and its digitization projects command respect. In particular the bibliographical database and the database of offprints are worth noting as something only seldom found elsewhere, as is the online database of microfilms of medieval legal manuscripts. The presence of filters for specific themes shows the sheer width of this collection. I Gridari del ducato di Milano del XVIII secolo is a project with digitized legislation from the eighteenth century for the former duchy of Milan. The second digital library contains a wide variety of more than 700 old legal works. The Università degli Studi di Milano has also contributed to the creation of the Censimento dei manoscritti medievali della Lombardia, the online census of medieval manuscripts in Lombardy.

The section for Roman law is less well-known than its counterpart. One of the most salient features is the project on the rights of “others” in Roman and Greek law in which five Italian universities participate. The department has a substantial library. Pride of place should go to the department’s journal Dike for the history of Greek and Hellenistic law. The issues of this journal between 198 and 2007 have been digitized.

The second university to present here is the Università Bocconi – in full Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi – and its Dipartimento di Studi Giuridiche Angelo Sraffa. Unfortunately the pages of the section for Roman law lack information. Of the small section for medieval and modern legal history I would like to mention Annamaria Monti. She contributed to the interesting online exhibition I libri antichi di Angelo Sraffa which focuses on Benvenuto Straccha, a sixteenth-century lawyer, and his treatise De mercatura, an early treatise devoted exclusively to commercial law. Other treatises on this subject, a bibliography and a catalogue of the early printed books donated by Angelo Sraffa (1865-1937) to the Università Bocconi, accompany this exhibition. A second online exhibition shows Italian editions of the Consolato del Mare from 1576 onwards. The Llibre del Consolat del Mar, a legal text from Catalonia, is one of the major sources of medieval maritime law. By the way, together with the Università degli Studi di Pavia the Università Bocconi has created an Italian Law School.

The third university is the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, a university which is active in five Italian towns: Milan, Brescia, Piacenza, Rome and Campobasso. Despite careful searching at the websites of the law faculties in Milan and Piacenza I was unable to find any activity in the field of legal history. A fourth smaller university, the Università Milano-Bicocca has more to present. At this university you will find a department for medieval and modern legal history and a department for canon law. Loredana Garlati is one of the editors of the Italian legal history portal Storia del diritto medievale e moderno. At this portal you can find in particular detailed information about the legal historians active in Italian universities. I guess I have not found every legal historian in Milan at the website of her or his university, but this portal can bring you safely to them.

Legal history at large in Milan and Lombardy

If you are tempted to conclude that the first half of my post is distinctly meagre despite the presence of four universities the second half should contain sufficient arguments to convince you about the wealth and variety of institutions and their projects in Milan and Lombardy. Let’s start with the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, where I found only two digitized journals dealing with law from the early twentieth century in the Emeroteca of its Biblioteca digitale. Alessandro Lattes, a legal historian, and his brother Elia donated the books which now form the Raccolta Ebraica at the Braidense. The Braidense has got an extended collection of microfilms with historical works concerning the Waldensians.

The Biblioteca Ambrosiana was founded in 1609 by cardinal Federico Borromeo (1564-1631). Its name stems from Ambrose, the famous fourth-century bishop of Milan. After the Bodleian Library (1602) in Oxford and the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome (1604) the Ambrosiana is one of the oldest public libraries in Europe. The library has a truly marvellous collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. Some of the more famous manuscripts have been digitized, with probably the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo da Vinci as the most often sought item. For legal historians and church historians one of the most interesting digital sources are the Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis (1582), the first episcopal acts under the aegis of cardinal Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584) in which he tried to follow the decrees of the Council of Trent as closely as possible, with numerous important changes for church life. These acts became quickly the model for the Catholic Church of the Counter-Reformation.

We saw already digitized materials on the legal history of the Duchy of Milan. The Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche has created an online bibliography on the gridi and editi between 1560 and 1796, and of course digitized sources, which you can use after registration. The Archivio lombardo della legislazione storica is an online repertory for legislation in the field of public law in Lombardy from 1749 to 1859. This site is maintained by the Ministero per i Beni Culturali of the Regione Lombarda, which has created a portal on the cultural history of Lombardy. The Codice diplomatico della Lombardia medievale (secoli VIII-XII) is one of the largest projects for the digital edition of medieval charters, and remarkable for including such early charters.

One of the quickest and most update ways to find information about online projects concerning the history of Milan, Lombardy and the whole of Italy is the blog Bibliostoria maintained at the Biblioteca delle Scienze della Storia of the Università degli Studi di Milano.This library has also created a special Bibliostoria Web Resources database and a separate catalogue for women’s history. From the blog and the database I can choose almost at random several announcements about relevant projects. Recently the twenty volumes of the Corpus Nummorum Italicorum have been digitized. The very word Corpus reminds me not to forget the digital version only recently launched of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum at Berlin, where you will find Roman inscriptions from Italy partially ordered by region.

The Archivio di Stato di Milano has created an online version of their exhibition commemorating 150 years of Italian unity in 2011, Itali siam tutti, un popol solo. The Atlante dei Catasti Storici e delle Carte Topgraphiche di Lombardia is a special website of the Archivio di Stato at Milan with historical tax registers and maps, where you will also find materials from the Veneto. You can combine your research here with information from Territori, a similar website covering all Italy. The state archive of Milan is present, too, at the portal site for culture in Lombardy, LombardiBeniCulturali. On this portal La memoria degli Sforza presents a digital version of the first sixteen registri of Francesco I Sforza (1450-1466) with a useful bibliography.

At the Castello Sforzesco in Milan you will find the Archivio Storico Civico and the Biblioteca Trivulziana. The link here brings you to many more links of cultural institutions in Milan, and I would single out the portal Storia di Milano. At the website for the Civiche Raccolte Storiche you can also find the Museo del RisorgimentoDigatimi is a digital library on Milan with literary works, including chronicles of Milan’s history. The portal LombardiBeniCulturali gives you short but good general overviews of the history of Lombardy, and provides you with information about institutions which preserve and present Lombardy’s history and cultural heritage. Bibliostoria mentions the bibliographical database of the library of the Senato della Repubblica in Rome where you can search for old works concerning Italian local and regional bibliography in the Fondo Antico di Storia Locale. At a server of the University of Naples you will find a database on the canons of the principal collegiate churches in Lombardy during the Sforza era; this project belongs to the Reti Medievali initiative.

The websites dedicated to the history of Milan and Lombardy should in no way diminish the role of general portals, websites and online projects for Italy. If you execute a search for Milan at InternetCulturale you will have to filter the many thousands results you get.

With this post I hope to have ended this year’s summer pause in a rewarding way. I look forward to resume writing about many subjects which all touch in one way or another the rich territories of legal history.

Earlier posts in the series Centers of legal history

Starting with the post on Paris I offer for each town also a general guide to research institutions in the fields of history and legal history. The post concerning medieval canon law and the recent congress in Toronto belongs in a way also to this ongoing series.

Selling the Mendham Collection, a poor move

This week alerts appeared about the proposed sale of parts of the Mendham Collection, since thirty years on deposit at Canterbury Cathedral. The owner, the Law Society of England and Wales, describes the collection at its own website as “a unique collection of Catholic and anti-Catholic literature including manuscripts and printed books ranging from the 15th to the 19th centuries”. Despite protests of Canterbury Cathedral the Law Society has started removing books from Canterbury on July 18, 2012 in preparation for an auction at Sotheby’s, apparently to raise funds. Canterbury Cathedral and the University of Kent have jointly decided to involve the general public in their protest against the possible dispersal of a collection with more than 5,000 items including medieval manuscripts and early printed books. An online petition to support both institutions has been launched. To indicate the importance of this collection, let it suffice that CERL, the Consortium of European Research Libraries, has included the names of former owners of books in this collection into its provenance database.

One of the painful things in this situation is the failure of the Law Society of England and Wales to acknowledge that there is now an issue. The notice I quoted here from its website is almost the only piece of information this society provides online. The Law Society indicates they have published a catalogue of the collection in 1994 which can be obtained for £ 40,-. The Law Society has substantial historic holdings in its own library on a wide variety of subjects ranging from the fourteenth century to the present. The action of the Law Society breaks unilaterally the agreement with Canterbury Cathedral to act as a custodian of the Mendham Collection until December 31, 2013.

Gaps in the Mendham Collection

Gaps in the Mendham Collection – photo by Alixe Bovey, University of Kent

Joseph Mendham (1769-1856) was an English theologian who became active as a controversialist and historian. He was the son of a merchant, but his background did not hold him back of buying objects with a value for both cultural and church history. An article from 2008 by David J. Shaw describes the collection and the way Mendham brought it together in more detail. For legal historians Shaw points to editions of the acta and additional sources on the Council of Trent held from 1545 to 1564, and for examples twenty different editions of the Regulae of the Cancellaria Apostolica. The collection contains books from Doctors Commons, a court abolished in 1860, and the Court of Arches. Shaw gives also details on the continental provenance of many books. Mendham’s collection of 37 manuscripts mainly concerning the Council of Trent is at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The deposit of the Mendham Collection at Canterbury, the place where Christianity in the United Kingdom started, is at an extremely apt spot. A sale of separate items, even of minor items, but surely only the rarer and more valuable items would bring the expected profits, does harm the collection and its integrity, not only now but for future researchers.

Yesterday the BBC reported on the plans of the Law Society to auction books from the Mendham Collection; a video can be seen at YouTube. Until now only a few websites, including the Medievalists news blog, have covered the story about the threat of the sale. Erik Kwakkel, palaeographer at Leiden University, calls upon people to sign the petition. Supporting solicitors is the noble goal of the Law Society of England and Wales, but I can see no justification for a rash sale of valuable materials held since 1869 and the dismemberment of a collection as wideranging as the Mendham Collection. Surely other ways exist to get money, even if the Law Society says it has not taken this decsion light-heartedly. Some of the items removed now may not be retrieved from Sotheby’s for a possible sale to either Canterbury Cathedral or the library of Kent University. Hopefully the petition will help reverting the plan of the Law Society of England and Wales, and help keeping the Mendham Collection intact and accessible.

A holiday round-up

After a rather long time, almost four weeks without any new posting, I am back at my desk to continue writing for this blog. I have been on a holiday with a rich variety of landscapes, weather types and people. It is still summer. A first quick check for new things learned me that even the ever busy Legal History Blog had slowed down its usual pace of new postings. One of the strong features is the weekly Round-Up in which you can find all kind of things which touch upon legal history but somehow had nearly escaped the alertness of the editorial team led by Mary L. Dudziak and Dan Ernst. My post today proposes to salute their weekly efforts in a more leisurely way fitting this summertime, which, however, has by now taken some very serious turns. Events worldwide will no doubt soon influence this blog. I would like to reassure you I will not turn away from these developments, but it will do no good to react here immediately. Anyway, my list with plans for new postings has a nice length and a variety of subjects from many corners.

Looking closely at pictures

In this post I want to present just a few websites and blogs which came to my attention lately. You will notice quickly that they are not solely, in fact often only rather loosely connected with legal history. I cannot help pointing again to Klaus Graf and his Archivalia blog – does he ever take a holiday?! Anyway a week ago he posted a message on the section on photo tampering in history at Four and Six. At this website you will find an impressive collection of both historical photographs and modern advertisements with images which have been tampered with. I suppose contemporary lawyers will be more interested in the latter. On this website some photographs have been explicitly tagged with the label “Law”, but it is worth looking around for more. On close inspection photographs can tell a sometimes very different story than one suspects at first. We all are aware of the telling power of images. They can conjure up a story more quickly and more dramatically than many well-phrased paragraphs. It is easy to forget about the possibility of tampering with photos when craving for images to convey your message.

Comics and the law

As a faithful reader of the Rare Book Room blog of the Lilian Goldman Law School Library at Yale University I was initially surprised by the efforts to collect child books touching upon law and even comics. In 2010 a series of blog postings accompanying the exhibition Superheroes in Court was even devoted to the alleged Yale Law School degree of Batman shown in a particular story! The point of collecting books on seemingly fringe subjects is to do it in a most sensible way, and here Yale surely succeeds.

I was reminded of the collections at the Yale Law School Rare Book Room because the Freshly Pressed section of my provider’s blog featured a post from Bear Lawyer LLC. Thomas E. Körp is the creator of this blog about a bear who makes a living from law. This blog goes with a nice sprinkling of real American law websites and links to other comics blog and websites.

Lately Et Seq., the blog of the Harvard Law School Library, published the image of a drawing in an old legal book. The image in question is a drawing in a copy of a 1615 edition of the Corpus Iuris Canonici, the multivolume collection of canon law sources printed from the early sixteenth century up to the nineteenth century. The “Weekly Special” of Et Seq. is often devoted to rare law books with an intriguing history or story. In the story entitled A Canon and its Cannon its author Lesley Schoenfield very much wonders about the drawing showing a castle with a firing cannon. I myself have my view of the riddle behind it, but in order not to spoil your own investigation of it I will not give away my solution here…

Searching images

From Harvard back to Yale. Apart from the superb digital collections of the Harvard Law School Library Harvard University has a most impressive and very diverse range of digitized collections, fortified by the digital collections at Harvard College Library. It seems very difficult to outdo these efforts but Yale, too, can proudly present its digital collections. Not only the university library at Yale but also several other Yale libraries offer access to digital visual resource collections. Recently the website Yale Digital Commons has been launched where one can search in the image resources of five Yale institutions. Legal historians cannot neglect the Yale Slavery and Abolition Portal when researching this subject, and when you need documents in English translation you will often turn to Yale Law School’s Avalon Project: Documents for Law, History and Diplomacy. The Lewis Walpole Library has started the Yale Indian Papers Project with digitized materials from several Yale institutions. It is hard to say which university is winning this battle of giants in the field of digital collections.

In the field of legal iconography Yale Law School can point to the Documents sections of its website which has been created for the image collection Representing Justice. Harvard Law School Library has digitized over 4,000 images of lawyers in the digital collection Legal Portraits Online.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about online exhibitions concerning legal history. On my website I have a created a new page about virtual exhibitions in which I have put things from this post in a more orderly fashion. By the way, of course not only Harvard and Yale, and not only the other Ivy League universities are most actively involved in the field of digital collections. In my latest post almost four weeks ago the University of California, Santa Barbara came into the spotlights with an impressive number of interesting digital collections, pace Berkeley and Stanford. It can depend on a lot of factors which universities happen to make the largest presence in your perception.

The debt crisis in the United States and Europe, the riots in London and other English cities, the aftermath of the terrifying violence against innocent people in Norway, the spreading fierceness of the political climate in my own country, the fear in many European countries for drastic cuts in the budgets for education, research, culture and social welfare, the ongoing fight for democracy in many countries surrounding the Mediterranean and the violent suppression of legitimate protests in Libya and Syria, the troubles in the Middle East, the droughts and famine in East Africa, the anarchy in countries like Somalia, and much more are these days the background of any serious legal and historical research. This might well determine to some extent its shape and direction, too.

Centers of legal history: Paris

Perhaps writing about historical research in Paris is bringing coals to Newcastle. Is there any real need for yet another attempt to bring information together? If you want to study France and French legal history you will be able to read French. If you are convinced French scholars have said all you would like to know, just skip this post, I will not feel offended… The Portail Numérique de l’Histoire du Droit and Paolo Alvazzi del Frate’s blog Storia giuridica francese-Histoire juridique française are two of the safest points of depart for any research into French legal history, but you will soon admit they do not focus in particular on institutions in Paris.

A month ago I could point in a post on French customary law to a useful guide to legal history online created by the Bibliothèque Cujas, and it is certainly wise to use it. For the legal history of medieval France you can start visiting Ménestrel, in particular for the great sections on auxiliary historical sciences, such as diplomatics, palaeography and sigillography which are each models of its kind, as is the section on cartularies. However, the section Histoire du droit contains only a few links, albeit with full commentaries, and a few book reviews. An earlier version of Ménestrel had a section on medieval canon law, but now there is only a paragraph on the ecumenical councils in the section on religious history. The section on France offers a useful overview of institutions, libraries, archives and museums relevant to French medieval history. In this post I will give slightly more attention to medieval history than to other periods. I hope this will not be an obstacle to seeing the core of this post, Paris as a center for doing legal history.

Centers for legal history

Where to start in Paris? In view of the high degree of centralization in France the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) has a claim to take the first place. Its Institut d’Histoire du Droit (IHD) is associated with the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris-II and the Centre Historique des Archives Nationales. This spring the IHD offers a seminar led by Isabelle Brancourt on the history of the French parlements, the regional high courts, and royal justice during the Ancien Régime in an European perspective. Isabelle Brancourt blogs regularly about her research on the Parlement de Paris. At its website the IHD offers access to a large number of databases, starting with the DRoits ANTiques bibliography on ancient law. Most databases are concerned with the French judiciary. The oldest records, registers from the archives of the Parlement de Paris, can be tracked down with the help of the Olim database, an index to the registers of verdicts of the royal court between 1254 and 1319. Similar indices are provided for the fourteenth and fifteenth century, for the parlement during its period at Poitiers (1418-1439) and Tours (1589-1592), and for the parlement criminel between 1311 and 1328. The edition by Auguste-Arthur Beugnot, Les Olim, ou registres des arrêts rendus par le Cour du Roi (…) (4 vol., Paris 1839-1848) can be consulted online at Gallica. At the Hathi Trust Digital Library you can find the volume edited by Edgard Boutaric, Arrêts et enquêtes antérieurs aux Olim, 1180-1254 (Paris 1863). The IHD has microfilms of relevant manuscripts and further materials concerning French royal jurisprudence, including a refined thesaurus for defining the character and subjects of cases, and a bibliography of publications concerning the Parlement de Paris.

A second centre at the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris-II is the Centre Sainte Barbe. This center is host to the Institut de Droit Romain and its famous series of Friday lectures during every winter and spring by scholars from all Europe. Its building house also a library, the Bibliothèque Sainte Barbe. More lectures, seminars and workshops in Paris are announced by the Société d’Histoire du Droit, also seated at the Place du Panthéon. Apart from the Bibliothèque nationale de France Paris can boast a number of important libraries. Legal historians will find much at the Bibliothèque Cujas of the Université Sorbonne Paris-I. This library maintains Jurisguide, a special site with online guides to many fields of law and jurisprudence, including legal history. Some books in its rich holdings have been digitized in its own digital library, with not only French publications but also editions for medieval canon law. The online exhibition on the bicentenary of the Code civil (1804-2004) amounts to a short introduction to French legal history. Among the Parisian centers devoted to the study of modern legal history is also the CERAL, the Centre de Recherche sur l’Action Locale of the Université Paris-XIII. Slavery and its history get attention at a CNRS institute, the Centre International de Recherches Esclavages. Criminocorpus, the platform for the study of the history of justice, crimes and punishments, is another major project in which CNRS, the Centre d’Histoire des Sciences Po, the Ministère de la Justice and the Archives nationales de l’outre-mer cooperate.

Medieval canon law

Medieval canon law is one of the areas of interest at the Centre Droit et Sociétés Religieuses of the Université Paris-XI, Faculté Jean Monnet. This center, too, has its own library. François Jankowiak is responsible for GREGORIUS, an international bibliography for the history of medieval canon law. Even at home you can benefit from their list of works on medieval canon law and medieval religious institutions digitized by Google Books or presented at Gallica. Both for the history of canon law and for modern ecclesiastical law the Institut Catholique de Paris has a special library, the Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Droit Canonique. Here it is appropriate to mention the Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris and the ongoing work for Gallia pontificia, the edition of medieval papal documents in France.

The old libraries and manuscripts

Let’s not forget the old libraries in Paris: the Bibliothèque Mazarine has rich holdings for the Ancien Régime. Among the digitized treasures is one of the mazarinades, the various texts from the turbulent period of the Fronde in which the policies of cardinal Mazarin were often criticized. The illuminated medieval manuscripts of this library and those of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève can be consulted at the Liber Floridus website. The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève has for the Fonds Général its own digital collection in the Internet Archive. For the Réserve there is a digitization plan for the incunables, and La Nordique, the Scandinavian department, deserves at the very least a mentioning for its 160,000 books. Speaking of manuscripts, the Bibliothèque nationale de France has its own special website for searching manuscripts, which also covers the former Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Your research for manuscripts in Paris can be reinforced by the search functions of the Catalogue collectif de France. Calames, the collective manuscript catalogue of French institutions for higher education, searches for manuscripts in eighteen (!) other Parisian libraries.

Archival records

The French national archives are busy building a third center at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. The importance of these archival collections is beyond question. The ARCHIM database of the Archives nationales contains a wealth of digitized archival records. A few examples will have to suffice, such as the records of the 1307 interrogation concerning the Templars (J 413, no. 18) and registers of the French royal chancellary during the thirteenth and fourteenth century, a small set of key documents concerning the French Revolution and constitutions from 1791 to 1958. You will soon see that many of the sources mentioned for example in the online database guide to the history of slavery and its abolition are to be found at the Archives nationales. The municipal archives of Paris are certainly as interesting. It is not possible to make a short list of the many judicial archives of this city, including the records of several prisons. Among their digitized sources are the pre-1860 cadastral plans of Paris and annexated comunes.

Other research institutions

Approaching the great institutes for historical research means again posing the question of priority: with which institute should you begin? Fortunately legal history, and more specifically institutional history and the auxiliary historical sciences have been at the heart of the École nationale de Chartes (ENC) since its start in 1821. The ENC has been the model for institutes of its kind in Europe. The ENC, too, has an important library, with its own small digital library. Almost embarrassing is the series of websites with digitized sources: the ELEC presents such things as eight digitized cartularies from the Île-de-France, accounts of the consuls of Montferrand, a bibliography of studies on French diplomatics, a formulary book for notaries from the fifteenth century, the Edict of Nantes and earlier pacification edicts, and charters of the royal abbey of Saint-Denis. The digitized version of Ducange’s Glossarium infimae et medii latinitatis rightfully has its own website. Through the TELMA website you can gain access to actes royaux, the Cartulaire de Nesle, to CartulR, an online repertory of medieval cartularies, to editions of charters dating before 1121 in French collections, enquêtes of the last Capetian kings, and to ordinances concerning the Hôtel du Roi. In 1839 the ENC founded one of France’s oldest historical journals, the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes. Old issues of this journal can be consulted online at Persée.

The École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) is home to a large number of équipes of which at least some do touch upon legal history. I would single out GAHOM, the Groupe d’anthropologie historique de l’Occident Médiéval, founded in 1978 by Jacques Le Goff and led by Jean-Claude Schmitt since 1992. Human behavior in historical context is the research subject of this équipe, which has for instance studied medieval exempla for the perspectives these texts offer on exemplary behavior, and more implicitly about do’s and don’ts.

From GAHOM stems GAS, the Groupe d’anthropologie scolastique. A seminar on ecclesiology and politics has just been held, another seminar on concepts of hierarchy runs until April. Two members of this équipe, Charles de Miramon and Maaike van der Lugt edited an essay volume, L’hérédité entre Moyen Âge et Époque moderne. Perspectives historiques (Florence 2008), with contributions on hereditary law and heredity in its widest sense. Building on the pioneer research of Palémon Glorieux this research group has developed a database for searching theological quodlibeta from Paris in the period 1230-1350. After subscribing to Quodlibase you can find not only theological debates, but also some questions about legal problems. Norms and values and their development in time are the central themes of the well known Centre d’études des normes juridiques “Yan Thomas”. This centre regularly invites legal historians. Among the projects for databases and research tools at the Centre des Recherches Historiques of the EHESS one finds a project on the “Ars Mercatoria”, books on commerce and commercial law between 1700 and 1820, and a project on legal books in print from the fifteenth to the eigtheenth century.

Formally part of the École Normale Supérieure, but also a research group of the EHESS is the Atelier Simiand. One of its research themes are law and economic history. In the field of history the ENS cooperates with the ENC, and let’s not forget the libraries of the ENS: the Bibliothèque Jourdan-Sciences humaines et sociales and the Bibliothèque Ulm-Lettres et Sciences Humaines are worth noting. As an historian I have to mention the ENS’s Institut d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine. Among the online services is the bibliography of French history to 1958 and a bibliography of scientific works printed in Rome between 1527 and 1720. One of the projects is concerned with an edition of letters from the Archivo Datini in Prato. Seeing among the online exhibitions of the ENS an exhibition from 2006 on the Dreyfus affair, “Savoir et engagement”, reminds me of another very well documented online exhibition concerning Dreyfus – “1906 Dreyfus réhabilité” – created by Culture.fr which can be consulted in English, too.

Some breathing space…

The cornucopia of Paris has more in stock! Let’s notice halfway that I am very much aware that you can find more information in printed guides to resources for historical research in Paris. A quick check tells me most of them restricted themselves to clearly defined areas and periods, for example David Spear’s article ‘Research facilities in Normandy and Paris: a guide for students of medieval Norman history’, Comitatus 12 (1981) 40-53. If you use the World Guide to Libraries you will find perhaps too much, and on a site like Libdex not enough, at least not for Paris. Steering a middle course on the oceans of knowledge calls to mind a lot of famous quotes, including last words, and I had better wait until the end of this post before unveiling my choice.

…and continuing

With the Liber Floridus and TELMA websites we encountered in fact already the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT). The services for medievalists of this institute in Paris and Orleans are manifold. Manuscript studies are not really feasible without the IRHT. The scholars of the IRHT and their online databases support this field of research. For legal historians the Base Budé for the transmission of ancient and medieval texts, the Pinakes database of texts and manuscripts in Greek, and the JONAS database for texts in medieval French and Occitan deserve highlighting. The JONAS database gives for example information about manuscripts and studies on Philippe de Beaumanoir and his Coutumes de Beuavaisis.

For the French Revolution Paris has a special institute, the Institut d’Histoire de la Révolution Française. Anyone working on this epoch will benefit from the resources of this institute. On the website I would like you to enjoy in particular their excellent list of digital image collections. Approaching modern times it warms me to read that the library of the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris was created also with a view to the needs of the GAHOM research group. Even when law and its history is not often the focus of the MSH its research themes do bear upon them, and they offer welcome orientation. The Parisian branches – there is also a MSH Paris Nord – are part of a nation wide network of MSH’s. I was rather surprised by the library of the Cité des Sciences, one of the major late twenthieth century cultural institutions created by presidential order. Among the plethora of collections and activities is Scientifica, an interesting digital library of the Bibliothèque des Sciences et de l’Industrie, with nineteenth century books on themes such as social hygiene, mental health and phrenology, themes which were very much in the minds of lawyers in this period, too.

Au revoir!

Let’s not overdo things and stop the tour of libraries, research institutes and digital collections in Paris. I will not put everything in just one post. No epigraphy or Byzantine law, nothing on Akkadian and Egyptian law, only a few things touching politics and administration, and no museums, I have to face it. Memories of Joyce Pennings’ Wegwijzer middeleeuwse studiën te Rome (Rijswijk 1987), a guide to medieval studies in Rome, came back when writing this nutshell guide on Paris. It is a long way to repeat her achievement. Where to find more? I hope the impromptu set of links collections with which I will end here will function as a kind of preview of more things in Paris to discover and discuss:

I owe you a few of the quotes that have inspired me during the composition of this post: the first is Attempto, “I try”, the motto of the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, and the second a quote from Hugh of Saint-Victor’s Didascalicon, not by chance to be found at the website of GAHOM: Disce omnia, videbis postea nihil superfluum esse. Coartata scientia iucunda non est, “Learn everything, and you will see later that nothing is superfluous. Restricted knowledge is not agreeable”. Not everything is available in Paris: the Bibliographie d’histoire du droit en langue française is maintained by the Centre Lorrain d’Histoire du Droit. In the middle of the great wealth and variety of libraries which adorn Paris it is good to see the ENS library at the rue d’Ulm partners with the university library at Port-au-Prince in Bibliothèques sans Frontières (Libraries without Frontiers) to rebuild Haitian libraries.

A postscript

A fairly recent and most interesting guide for historical research in Paris can be consulted online: Aude Argouse and Mona Huerta, ‘Guide du chercheur américaniste: l’Amérique latine dans les bibliothèques et centres d’archives de Paris et d’Île-de-France’, Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos 2009. This journal offers every year a number of similar guides in its section Guía del investigador americanista, for example for Madrid, Amsterdam, the Archivo General de Indias, Berlin, London, Oxford and Philadelphia.

A second postscript

In 2012 I devoted an entire post to one of the libraries mentioned here, the Bibliothèque Mazarine. In this post I focused particular on the mazarinades, seventeenth-century pamphlets concerning the policies of cardinal Mazarin.

Introducing legal history

Where to start when you want to know more about legal history? Is it the wisest thing to start with ancient law, or to go directly to Roman law? Should you start with looking at one aspect of a period in legal history or a legal system during a particular period, or is it better to cast your nets wider? After you have formed your own answers to these and similar questions another kind of question follows immediately: where to find introductions? On my old web pages and on www.rechtshistorie.nl I try to present introductions to some legal systems and to some periods. Of course more can be said and is present at other websites, and in learned books and articles.

When I decided to make my web pages on legal history I aimed in particular to present medieval canon law. The two books I want to mention in this post both deal with medieval canon law. In the first book, a volume of essays, The Creation of the Ius Commune. From Casus tu Regula, edited by John W. Cairns and Paul J. du Plessis (Edinburgh 2010) medieval canon law gets special attention in the first article. When Cairns and Du Plessis announced the book on the Edinburgh Legal History Blog in July 2010 they modestly only indicated the article’s title and authors, ‘The Sources of Medieval Learned Law’, by Harry Dondorp and Eltjo Schrage (pp. 7-56). What Dondorp and Schrage actually offer here is a condensed and updated version of their book Utrumque ius. Eine Einführung in das Studium der Quellen des mittelalterlichen gelehrten Rechts (Berlin 1992) of which the first version was published in Dutch in 1987. At last you can read in English this introduction to medieval learned law, to both medieval Roman law and medieval canon law. Dondorp and Schrage focus on legal doctrine, but they do treat also medieval procedure and feudal law. One of its prominent features is the sketch of a research strategy. This is a clear and succinct guide, and you would have to search very hard to find a comparable guide on this scale and of this quality. Their contribution to the Edinburgh volume is reinforced by essays among others on the methods of the medieval civilians (James Gordley), medieval marriage law (Laurent Waelkens), feudal law (Magnus Ryan) and medieval procedure (Richard Helmholz). Articles by Kees Bezemer and Jan Hallebeek show here to a large extent the results of applying the research strategy advocated by Dondorp and Schrage.

Legal doctrine is at the heart of the Edinburgh volume. A rather different approach is offered in the volume Christianity and Law. An Introduction, John Witte, Jr. and Frank S. Alexander (eds.) (Cambridge, etc., 2008). Richard Helmholz contributed also to this volume for which he wrote a chapter on Western canon law. Mathias Schmoeckel tackles here procedure, proof and evidence. Medieval canon law is shown here in its context. Jewish religious law and early Christian law are treated to put canon law into perspective. The wide impact of canon law is for example shown in chapters on natural law and natural rights (Brian Tierney), the Christian sources of general contract law (Harold Berman), family law (Don Browning), Christianity and human rights (Michael Perry), Christian love and criminal punishment (Jeffrie Murphy), poverty, charity and social welfare (Brian Pullan), and property and Christian theology (Frank Alexander). Modern church law is the subject of Norman Doe’s contribution. The sixteen essays in this volume certainly offer an introduction to several aspects of law in the history of Christianity, but some contributions are simply too short. They give you a taste of things to explore, and not a plunge into detailed discussions of large or small questions. The great merit of Witte and Alexander is showing this variety of aspects involved in the study of law and its relations to Christian society.

This brief comparison of two volumes nicely shows that doing legal history is in fact researching legal histories in plural. You cannot safely neglect legal doctrine, and you have to face great perils when you leave out institutional history and the history of society at large. It is also true you ask for too much when you want an introductory volume to include all these things. Let’s hope both volumes briefly introduced here will guide and encourage people to set their own steps on the vast and sometimes very different territories of legal history.