Tag Archives: Digital libraries

Saving threatened archival collections

Banner Endangered Archives Project

The postscript to my recent post about the exhibition on Roman crime at Nijmegen helped me to find the subject of this post. In this postscript I mentioned the decision of the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam not yet to give back the items on view at its Crimea exhibition to the lending museums in Ukraine. This post introduces you to an initiative to save archival collections worldwide threatened either by material deterioration, poltical situations or simply by the ongoing progress of modernization in the country or region where they are located. The British Library has set up the Endangered Archives Project (EAP) on a truly massive scale with the aim of digitizing archival records and manuscripts in a few hundred (!) projects. On September 7, 2014 the completion of several projects was announced at the accompanying Endangered Archives blog. Within two months, between July and September, a million images has been added to the online results of EAP, enough reason for me to look a bit more closely to this audacious project and its composing elements.

On my blog the British Library received a few years ago criticism for its policies concerning the digitization of British newspapers. Last year I expressed some disappointment at the low number of digitized legal manuscripts at the British Library, but this time the library shows itself as a most generous cultural institution. The EAP portal is accessible in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

Safeguarding cultural heritage in situ and in virtual space

The EAP spans the world in a awe-inspiring way. Among the most interesting aspects is for example the fact that researchers and institutions themselves can apply for grants, often starting with a pilot project. The BL provides a framework to support projects. There is no grand scheme of the British Library dictating the goals and direction of general progress. Typically, EAP does not focus on national archives unless they are in dire need of support, and such projects will not cover all materials under the aegis of EAP. Items documenting the pre-industrial history of a country are the first to come under consideration for new projects. The grants support university projects as well as independent scholars. Of course EAP has contacts with the International Council on Archives and UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.

The EAP has created five regions for the projects supported by the EAP: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Let’s start with a look at the overviews of each region to spot projects which touch directly upon law, government and administrations. In the second part of this post other projects with law, the judiciary or other aspects of legal matters constitute a major aspect.

In the overview for Africa you can find for example EAP 607, a project for the preservation of Native Administration records between 1791 and 1964 held at the National Archives of Malawi. The Matsieng Royal Archives in Lesotho were the subject of EAP 279, where a wide variety of documents and records has been digitized. Colonial history looms large in a number of African projects, for instance in EAP 474, a pilot project for the preservation of pre-colonial and colonial document at Cape Coast, Ghana. In EAP 443 nineteenth-century documents for the Sierra Leone Pubic Archives have been digitally preserved, thus saving the history of a British Crown colony and the impact of slavery, to mention just a few aspects.

For the Americas, too, one can pint easily to projects aiming at preserving documents and records concerning the history of slavery and colonialism. EAP 184 started to support the preservation of records of the African diaspora in the archives of the Cuban province Matanzas. The material condition of these records decays rapidly. In Peru EAP 234 aimed at saving the colonial documentation within the holdings of the Sociedad de Beneficencia de Lima Metropolitana, with records reaching back to 1562. 100, 000 notarial records at Riohacha and the peninsula La Guajira in Colombia documenting an important entrepôt of Caribbean and Central American trade are at the centre of EAP 503. Hurricane Ike in 2004 was only the last threat to archives with govermental records in Grenada which resulted in 132 reordered and digitized volumes (EAP 295).

The number of EAP projects in Asia is much larger than for the Americas. I could not help feeling particularly interested in some projects concerning Indonesia because of its link with Dutch history. EAP 229 and EAP 329 are two related projects dealing with endangered manuscripts in the province of Aceh on the island Sumatra. The digitization of nearly 500 manuscripts helps preserving the cultural and intellectual history of this region. The Dutch fierce attacks on Aceh during the nineteenth century were already a threat to this history, as was the devastating tsunami in 2008. A substantial number of the digitized manuscripts in this project contain texts on Islamic law.

Tavamani document - EAP 314

Legal history is a central element in EAP 314, a project for the digitization of Tamil customary law in Southern India. The documents of village judicial assemblies between 1870 and 1940 are the subject of this project of the Institut Français de Pondichéry. You can follow this project at its own blog Caste, Land and Custom – Tamil Agrarian History (1650-1950), where you can find also an overview of other relevant EAP projects for India. The recent huge increase in digitized materials within EAP is to a large extent due to the 750,000 images of some 3,000 books printed before 1950 in eight public libraries in Eastern India near Calcutta which have been digitized within EAP 341. The number of EAP sponsored projects in India is really large. On my legal history portal Rechtshistorie I had already put a number of links to digital libraries in india, but EAP brings substantial additions to my overview.

Although I am woefully aware that I skip here a lot of interesting projects in Asia I would like to mention at least two European project. EAP 067 is a project to digitize extremely rare materials, mainly from the twentieth century, about the Roma’s in Bulgaria, including not only ethnographic and musical items, but also for example a manuscript of a history of the gypsies. Keeping these materials at all was often dangerous for the Roma during the communist period in Bulgaria. A second project deals with the results of archaeological excavations between 1929 and 1935 in the Kyiv region of Ukraine (EAP 220).

For those worrying about the length of this post it might be a relief to read that within EAP there has been only one project from the Oceania region. In EAP 005 the Australian National University created inventories of materials at the Tuvaluan National Archives. This group of islands in the Pacific is in acute danger of being flooded.

Preserving the history of law, customs and government

The project concerning the preservation of manuscripts written in the Vietnamese Nôm script between the year 1000 and the twentieth century in EAP 219 is an example of documents threatened by sheer memory loss. The Nôm script went out of use around 1920. For decades teaching this script had been forbidden. The Ecole Française d’Extreme Orient in Hanoi had collected materials before 1954, but no proper inventory had ever been made, and the present storage conditions are poor. The 1,200 surviving manuscripts offer information about laws, courts, imperial decrees and land ownership, Within EAP 272, a project for ephemera and manuscripts in Nepal, a number of manuscripts all dating around 1808 contain legal texts.

Drafting a list of EAP collections with materials concerning legislation, jurisprudence, courts and other legal institutions is not an easy thing to do. The EAP website allows simple and advanced searches at item level, but as for now you cannot search for a particular subject or theme at the collection level. This is certainly a blemish, but not an impossible situation. A search for laws shows you only a few projects, but for EAP 144 you get directly a number of digitized manuscript from this project for Minangkabau (Sumatra) manuscripts. Anyway you can retrieve a list of all 240 projects; the short descriptions can be expanded. You can also search for projects using an interactive world map. Browsing the various projects is no punishment, but an object lesson in appreciating the rich varieties of human culture.

Projects with legal aspects are no exception. Using the tag Governmental records at the EAP blog helped me in tracing some relevant projects. EAP 688 is a new project for digitizing deed books from the Caribbean island Saint Vincent during the slavery era (1763-1838). EAP 561 aims at creating inventories of and digital versions of records for landownership in Imperial Ethiopia. At Accra, Ghana, witchcraft trial records will be digitized (EAP 540). A project to make inventories of court and police records from the period 1820-1960 and digitize some of them has been successfully executed in Gambia (EAP 231). Ecclesiastical records from colonial Brazil are the subject of EAP projects such as EAP 627 leading to the digital archives at Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies created by the Vanderbilt University.

Several projects deal with manuscripts from Mali. Not only in Timbuctu a vast number of manuscripts is still present. Last year the threat of massive destruction of this unique legacy by terrorists became a very real menace; a post on this blog informed you about initiatives for their safeguarding and digitization. Following a pilot project (EAP 269) the projects EAP 488 and EAP 490 focus on manuscripts kept privately by families at Djenné, a treasure trove as important as Timbuctu. Some 4,000 manuscripts are now known against two thousand at the start of these projects. In yet another project at Djenné photographs are being digitized (EAP 449).

Luckily, there is more!

Often I apologize at the end for the length of my contributions, but this time I am happy to point to the links section of the EAP portal which will bring you to a nice number of projects for the digital conservation and presentation of rare and endangered manuscripts and records all over the world. You might be tempted to say that the efforts of the Endangered Archives Project can deal only with a limited number of projects, but luckily the British Library is not the only cultural institution and research institute to look beyond the borders of a country. Often these institutions have to face the threats of budget cuts, and a political climate in favor of focusing on projects which benefit solely the own nation, or they even have to  fall back to provide only fairly basic services.

The British Library and all involved in similar projects deserve the gratitude of scholars, of peoples and countries whose cultural heritage is or will be rescued thanks to them. Scholars should be encouraged to look beyond their own culture and national history in order to perceive its peculiarities much sharper and to understand its importance in greater depth. Let’s hope such arguments can convince those responsible for setting cultural agendas and developing research strategies with lasting results. Digitization will be one step in a much longer process, and no doubt digital retrieval presentation will change its outlook as has been the case already since the earliest uses of computers by historians and lawyers alike.

Tracing Brazil’s legal history

Four years ago the world championship for soccer in South Africa gave me a perfect occasion to look at some online resources for the legal history of South Africa and other African countries. Looking beyond the lines of soccer proved to be interesting indeed. Only after watching many games of this year’s championship in Brazil the idea of writing about Brazil’s legal history surfaced at long last. In this post I will present a number of online resources for Brazilian legal history, and I will comment on some existing online guides for the history of Brasil. The result is a research guide which at turns can seem too long and at other points too compact.

For everybody interested in contemporary Brasil there are several excellent online guides. I would place the Brazilian page of the Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC) at the University of Texas at Austin first. The LANIC offers a separate page on Brasil’s government, law and politics. The Library of Congress has a splendid webpage on Brazilian law and resources for research, and also a compact overview of legal resources concerning the República Federativa do Brasil. The World Legal Information Institute, too, has a very detailed overview of Brazilian legal resources. Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute offers on the page for Latin America a useful standardized links list to legal and judicial institutions, including those for Brasil. The very detailed page for Brasil at Globalex (New York University) has not been updated since 2008. The Latin American Collection of Yale University Library provides a very generous general online guide to Latin American Studies. I would recommend in particular the online guide Pesquisa no Brasil / Researching Brazil, a project of the University of Indiana, Bloomington.

Brasiliana online

Where to start for finding digital resources for Brazil’s legal history? For this post I could start with the websites I put together during the past years on the page with digital libraries of my own legal history portal Rechtshistorie. The challenge for me when creating this page was to offer not just a few websites easily found by using the world’s major search engines. Instead of just a links list I add to every link concise information about content and scope of a website. It can be a considerable effort to find relevant resources for a particular country. Some Latin American countries still do not figure at all on this page. The lacunae are made somewhat smaller by including also a number of websites and projects dealing with Latin America in general. It is useful to start with them here.

The best starting point for looking at Brazil’s legal history might be the impressive Portal Euroamericano de Historia y Antropología Jurídica, an initiative at the Universidad de Girona. This portal to legal history for the Iberian peninsula and Latin America has interfaces in Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and English. However, the digital library at this portal has only four titles concerning Brazil, and with just two links to university departments in Brasil the links selection is distinctly meagre. The University of Maryland has created the Early Americas Digital Archive, with both its own archive of digitized texts and a gateway to online texts by authors writing about North and South America from 1492 to 1820.

The historical constitutions of many Latin American countries can conveniently be found at Constituciones Hispanoamericanas, a part of the Spanish portal Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, with also a section devoted to legal history and jurisprudence. However, Belize, Brasil, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana are excluded at this portal for Latin American constitutions. If you prefer reading the English translations of these constitutions you can quickly find the major portals for online constitutions using the same page of my website, The Constitution Finder of the University of Richmond Law School has not only the Brazilian constitutions of 1824, 1891, 1934, 1946, 1967 and 1988, most of them in Portuguese, but also the current constitutions of the estados that form the Federal Republic of Brasil. At Verfassungen der Welt you can also find the 1822 constitution of the united kingdoms of Portugal and Brasil (1815-1822). The portal Legislación Histórica de España created by the Ministério de Cultura, Madrid offers a database with digitized Iberian and Latin-American legislation, but countries outside the Spanish empire are excluded. At Bicentenario de las Independencias Iberoamericanas, a website created by the portal for Spanish archives for the bicentennials of the independence of several Latin American countries, Brasil has been included. For nearly ninety institutions information is provided about their archives and the resources concerning the Brazilian independence (1822).

Let’s not be deterred by some projects which were only less useful for this specific subject, and continue this overview. The Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano is a project of the Biblioteca Nacional de España and several national libraries in Latin America, with mainly manuscripts, drawings and old maps; Brasil’s Biblioteca Nacional in Rio de Janeiro contributes some 19,000 items. This portal can be viewed in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The German gateway Cibera, Virtual Library Latin-America/Spain/Portugal, is very useful for any research on Latin American subjects; here, too, you can choose your language, German, English, Spanish or Portuguese. Its subdomain Iberolinks offers a guide to relevant websites, with some 260 websites for Brasil. The Latin American Pamphlet Digital Collection of the Widener Library, Harvard University, is one of the few digital collections presenting digitized pamphlets from this region.

With the portal Memórias de África e do Oriente we are finally sailing directly into the history of the former Portuguese colonial empire. Alas the project team could not get a specialist for Brazil, which clearly led to a rather thin Brazilian presence. Africa is the focus of this project at the Universidade de Aveiro. At this portal you will have to search for Brasil among the more general resources. A notable exception are the five volumes of the Monumenta Brasiliae, Serafim Leite (ed.) (5 vol., Rome 1956-1968), a source edition for the history of the Jesuits in sixteenth-century Brazil. Of course the Biblioteca Nacional Digital of the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal in Lisbon should not be forgotten, if only already for the digitized maps and images. Among the several Portuguese digital libraries the website Ius Lusitaniae of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa offers a relatively small but useful selection of historical legislation and other legal works which also touch the Portuguese overseas empire.

Digital collections in Brasil

Logo Biblioteca Nacional DigitalThe Brazilian Biblioteca Nacional has created a large Biblioteca Nacional Digital. Apart from digitized books you can also follow themes in a series of dossiers, in particular A França no Brasil / La France en Brésil. The cultural heritage portal Rede da Memória Virtual Brasileira is a general portal for digitized heritage, with initially only among the political items some subjects related to law and justice. As a Dutchman I was nicely surprised by the page on the Dutch period in Brasil centering on Pernambuco Holandes. You can find here a digitized copy of Caspar van Baerle ‘s (Barlaeus) illustrated book Rerum per octennium in Brasilia (…) gestarum (Amsterdam: Blaeu, 1647) about the Dutch presence in Brasil during the second quarter of the seventeenth century, one of the most important early historical accounts by a European author. Together with the Brazilian national library the Library of Congress has created the bilingual portal United States and Brazil: Expanding Frontiers, Comparing Cultures / Brasil e Estados Unidos: Expandindo Fronteiras, Comparando Culturas which brings you to digitized books, maps, prints, and much more. Here, too, the Dutch period comes into view. The Universidade de São Paulo has created Brasiliana USP, a general digital library with some juridical works, but you can also use Obras Raras e Especiais, the digital library for rare and old books of this university. You can find here for instance the issues for 120 years (1893-2013) of the legal review Revista da Faculdade de Direito de São Paulo.

Several Brazilian parliamentary and judicial institutions have created digital libraries, too. The Câmara dos Deputados has got a Biblioteca Digital with a section for obras raras, rare books. The Suprema Tribunal Federal, the Brazilian constitutional court, has not only its own digital library, but also the Julgamentos Históricos, a selection of verdicts pronounced by this tribunal starting in 1891, and also for the Supremo Tribunal da Justiça (1829-1891) and the Casa da Suplicação (1808-1829). The Supremo Tribunal da Justiça is the supreme Brazilian court for non-constitutional matters, with again its own Biblioteca Digital. Another digital library, the Biblioteca Digital do Superior Tribunal de Justiça, contains also information from its own museum. The Senado Federal, Brazil’s senate, has a digital library and a digital collection of its debates; unfortunately the digitized series of the Anais do Senado Federal has got lacunae.

Header Códiigo Brasiliense

Outside Brasil some libraries offer very substantial digital collections concerning the history of Brazilian law and government. The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University has digitized its copy of the rare Código Brasiliense, a three-volume collection of Brazilian laws printed between 1811 and 1822. In the Internet Archive this library has placed some 1,600 titles of their Portugal and Brasil collection. The ordering at the Internet Archive of the collections from the John Carter Brown Library is very practical. The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) in Chicago has created the collection Brasilian Government Documents, with provincial and presidential reports, presidential messages and the Almanak Laemmert, the yearly guide of the Brazilian government. The CRL has more materials for Brasil’s legal history. Within the LAMP project (formerly known as the Latin American Microform Project) materials concerning Brasil take a large place. The guide to LAMP collections mentions the Abdias Nascimento Collection. The archival collection of this artist, scholar and politician has been digitized at Ipeafro, the Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Afro-Brasileiro at Rio de Janeiro.

A grim note is struck by the project Brasil-Nunca Mais (Never Again) which documents in 538 microfilm reels court documents about the trials against civilians at the Superior Tribunal Militar, the Brazilian Military Supreme Court, between 1964 and 1979. During detention torture was used among other humiliating and inhuman forms of treatment which violated human rights. The project website gives access to a substantial number of digitized records about these trials and violations.

The Brazilian digital libraries mentioned until now are almost all present at my website. On the page for museums and legal history I included the Museo do Crime at the Academia de Policia in São Paulo. At the moment of creation of that page I could not find a functioning website for this museum. In fact there are both a Museo do Crime and a Museu de Policia Civil, with alas for both no website. However, the Museo do Crime is present at Facebook.

At this point it is wise to note that more than hundred Brazilian digital libraries and repositories are harvested by BASE, the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine with now well over 3000 contributing institutions. You will forgive me my smile when I visited a website with the proud title Guide to the legal history of Brasil, an offspring of Law of Brasil. The guide with just one page gives only an overview of the distinct periods of Brasil’s history since the Independence of 1822, without any reference to sources in print or online. The mobile app LookHistória gives you nearly more. The constitutional changes in Brasil, starting with the constitution of 1824, are very important. Brasil changed from an empire into a republic, followed by a military dictatorship after the 1964 coup, and again a republic.

Online guidance for pesquisadores no Brasil

Header Nuevo Mundo

From an earlier post here I remembered an online guide for doing Latin American research in Paris. The online journal Nuevo Mundo / Mundos Nuevos exists since 2001. On its website, accessible in four languages, much more is offered than just a regular online journal. The Guia del investigador americanista, the section with online guides started in 2006. Here I will focus on those guides directly relevant for Brasil. Of course it is wise to look also at guides to resources in major European and American cities, but including them here would take too much space. When you choose the guide for research in Amsterdam (2009) you should remember that you can find much at Leiden, too. After the first guide for Brasil in 2009, Fuentes para la historia colonial de Brasil en los archivos españoles by María Belén García López, a second guide edited by a team of authors, the Guia do pesquisador americanista no Brasil appeared in 2011,

NuevoMundo’s guide to resources for Brazilian history in Spanish archives is all that you can wish for such a guide. It offers lots of information about the fondos of a great number of archives, with an additional bibliography of guides and archival inventories. The links to the websites of these archives are not included, but you can find these and much more rapidly at the Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES). PARES offers also online access to digitized archival records held at a number of major Spanish archives.

Logo Centro de Memória Amazônia

The 2011 guide at NuevoMundo gives a full treatment of a wide variety of cultural institutions and their holdings, including information about their virtual presence. A quick scan of its contents leads you to a small number of digital libraries and archival collections. The Centro do Memória de Amazônia in Belém has digitized documents from some 130 inquisitorial procesos held between 1536 and 1821. The second digital library with historical resources has been created by the Biblioteca Octávio Ianni of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). The section Obras Raras of the Biblioteca Digital da UNICAMP contains 44 titles of travel accounts and historical works, among them Barlaeus’ book from 1647.

A third guide at NuevoMundo focuses on research facilities in Rio de Janeiro. In 2012 Sílvia Capanema P. de Almeida and Anaïs Fléchet published their online guide in French, Guide du chercheur américanista à Rio de Janeiro. A single example should show the merits of this guide: the Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa focuses on the Brazilian lawyer, politician and author Rui Barbosa (1849-1923); a number of his manuscripts is kept at the Academia Brasileira de Letras. The foundation’s website has a section with the Obras Completas of Rui Barbosa, but you can find here much more.

Logo Memórias Reveladas

NuevoMundo puts you even more in debt with their Americanist Links selection, with a generous variety of archives, libraries, research institutions, journals, blogs and other websites. Here I spotted the website Memórias Reveladas (Memories revealed) documenting political strife in Brasil between 1964 and 1985. Its database is hosted by the Arquivo Nacional. The Brazilian national archive has also created the base de dados Acervo Judiciário do Arquivo Nacional. The Dutch period in Brazilian history will eventually be covered by the Arquivo Nacional in an online Guia de fontes para a história da Holanda e dos holandeses no Brasil, which you can consult in five languages, including Dutch. Alas this project seems not yet to have left its infancy. Anyway, the website of the Arquivo Nacional brings you at least to many other relevant links. Among the links listed at Nuevo Mundo I would like to mention the virtual exhibition Os Índios na Historia do Brasil and the REDIAL (Red Europea de Información y Documentación sobre América Latina). At the website of The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record (University of Virginia Library) you can find numerous images of slavery in Brasil.

Looking for more resources

How wide can you cast your net to find anything relevant and useful? The results of further searches for digital resources concerning Brasil surely do not fit in this post. The journal NuevoMundo has a companion blog, Nuevo Mundo Radar, with regular alerts to new projects and websites. An example to make you curious: at the Vanderbilt University the portal site Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies covers four countries. It has a substantial section with documents and maps from Brasil, and of course links to more projects, for instance within the Endangered Archives Project of the British Library.

Nuevo Mundo Radar gives me a welcome metaphor to describe the way it is possible to detect new digital resources. By the way, legal historians should know another radarlike web harvester, the Criminocorpus Radar for French criminal history. Actually both websites contain posts written by scholars. Only in sections with continous updates some automated functions (“bots”) bring you the latest information. By combining forces and by breaking through linguistic barriers it becomes possible to have a more global view of matters on a local, regional and national scale. Brasil is not far away anymore. Its history is in many ways connected to and influenced by Europe. The largest country of Latin America has a history and importance that deserves more attention.

A postscript

I received some nice reactons to this post. Some of them brought me back to soccer. The German law portal Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Recht at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz send out a tweet – @vifarecht – with the witty description weltmeisterisch for my words! During the championship Germany and my country triumphed over the Brazilian eleven. The Dutch proverbial saying goes that soccer is a play of eleven against eleven, and in the end Germany wins. I should honour German scholars by pointing to the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt and their graduate school for Ibero-American legal history, with its own newsletter, list community, and to start a webpage available in five languages. In the graduate school the institute works together with scholars from Argentina and Brazil. This year’s summerschool of the International School of Ius Commune at Erice (September 30-October 4, 2014), organized by the Università di Catania, has as its theme Spanish and Italian jurists and their work in the New World.

Dutch legal history and the First World War

The centenary of the beginning of the First World War has sparkled already an impressive number of digital projects, some of them presenting the centennial events and activities, and even more of them bringing you to digitized materials from many corners. The variety and wealth of these initiatives prompted me in February to start Digital 1418, a blog for the sole purpose of easy guidance to digital projects concerning the First World War. One of my goals at this blog is to bring together the widest possible selection of themes, subjects and countries. Thus my country, too, figures on it with some projects and two portals, one of them a web directory of European war museums. During the First World War the Netherlands remained among the neutral nations, but the Great War certainly had impact on this country, too. Being a legal historian I will not forget to include resources touching on legal aspects of the First World War. So far I have not been very lucky in my research. The digitized records of the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal, a military tribunal dealing with conscription appeals, is one of the few exceptions. Court-martials are one of the obvious subjects yet not present at this new blog.

Logo Delpher

For the subject of the Netherlands, legal history and First World War a recently reinforced Dutch digitization project at the Royal Library, The Hague, can bring you interesting materials. The Delpher portal combines the earlier separate portals of the Royal Library for digitized books, magazines and newspapers. Books from the period 1700-1800 had been digitized in cooperation with the university libraries at Amsterdam , Groningen, Leiden and Utrecht. Since its launch in November 2013 I have been looking for an opportunity to discuss here Delpher. The news item of April 24, 2014 issued by the Royal Library about the latest additions with digitized books from the early twentieth century alerted me to the inclusion at Delpher of books published during the First World War, and more specifically about commented law editions. In cooperation with two foundations which deal with copyright issues the Royal Library has gained a license to deal with the digitization of books from the period 1872-1940 which sometimes still remain in copyright. In this post I will look at some of the laws put into force by the Dutch government to cope with the consequences of the Great War, and I will look also at some Dutch digital projects concerning the First World War .

Surrounded by war

As in other European countries the First World War led political parties to a temporal truce. Political differences were suspended in a kind of national union. In The Netherlands, too, the government led by Cort van der Linden could reckon on broad parliamentary support. The government encouraged the creation of the Nederlandsche Overzee Trust Maatschappij (NOT), a consortium of major firms led by ship-owners and bankers with the overt aim of importing goods for the Dutch internal market under strict warrant of neutrality. The United Kingdom had imposed a policy to prevent goods to be imported to Germany by neutral countries. The NOT succeeded in getting clearance for Dutch vessels and their cargoes. The history of the NOT between 1914 and 1918 is the subject of the recent Ph.D. thesis of Samuël Kruizinga, Economische politiek: de Nederlandsche Overzee Trustmaatschappij (1914-1919) en de Eerste Wereldoorlog [Economic policy: the Dutch Overseas Trust Company (1914-1919) and the First World War] (dissertation Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2011; online (PDF)).

Cover Wet op de oorlogsiwnstbelastting, 1916

I refer to economic aspects of the First World War because one of the recently digitized laws at Delpher is a law for a tax on war profits, the Wet op de oorlogswinstbelasting of 1916. This edition with a commentary by A.G. Stenfert Kroese appeared in the famous series of commented law editions published by the firm Tjeenk Willink in Zwolle. The hallmark of these editions is the ample information about the parliamentary discussion about legislative projects. The very success of the NOT led to discussions about war profits. With finally nearly 1,000 people in its service the NOT dwarfed the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs which employed a staff of just 45 civil servants. Under its aegis smuggling to Germany became paradoxically a blooming business. The law on war profits taxed profits not directly, but only the growth of income and capital which clearly stemmed from war profits. The Dutch government did not want to interfere too much with the economy. Proposals by parliament for a much more immediate taxation of war profits were rejected.

You can check online for the text of Dutch parliamentary debates at the portal Staten-Generaal Digitaal. This portal offers free access to materials from 1814 to 1995, both the debates themselves as also questions asked by members of the two chambers of the Dutch parliament, and the answers given by Dutch cabinet ministers. A major problem for tracking old Dutch legislation online which was published in the Staatsblad and the Staatscourant is the absence of a website with these resources. At Officiële bekendmakingen [Official announcements] you can find mainly information published in their entirety since 2009; treaties published in the Tractatenblad are included from 1951 onwards.

At Delpher a law concerning statistics published in 1916, the Wet op het statistiekrecht 1916, attracted my curiosity. The title page mentions the functions of the author commenting this law, V.S. Ohmstede, a civil servant at the customs and tax office in Amsterdam. The law was concerned with creating a tax on goods for the creation and financing of economical statistics. The Memorie van Toelichting, the official explication given to the Dutch parliament, referred to the examples of the French droit de statistique and the Statistische Gebühr levied in Bremen and in Switzerland.

Surely it is not sensible to list here all kind of laws issued between 1914 and 1919. Among the laws you will find for instance also a law concerning public archives (Archiefwet 1918) and a law on the emergency use of forests (Nood-Boschwet, 1917). Interesting also is the list of goods declared illegal for export [Lijst van ten uitvoer verboden goederen…, A.C. Luber (ed.) (2nd ed., Zwolle 1915). In the books section of Delpher you can use a simple free text search or enable the advanced search mode where you can limit your searches to a particular period or year, and also to a particular library.

The Delpher portal offers a great opportunity to look at the public impact of legislation. You might look in digitized Dutch newspapers for opinions about war profits, the role of the NOT and the approach of the Dutch government to all kind of emergencies linked with the war. In fact you can transfer your search seamlessly from one section of Delpher to another section. The newspapers section of Delpher is most useful because you cannot find yet any digitized Dutch newspapers on the First World War at Europeana Newspapers. The Dutch portal brings you to newspapers from the seventeenth to the twentieth century published in the Netherlands, including those from the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean, Suriname and the Dutch East Indies. Among the eighty journals digitized at Delpher is a barristers journal, the Advocatenblad (1918-1935). The presence of the Wetenschappelijke Bladen, a kind of digest from scientific journals, is certainly interesting, too.

The Delpher portal uses a notice Beta in its top right corner as a warning for those who want to express severe criticism about its present scope and working. However, constructive comments are sincerely welcomed and invited. On my list of wishes an English interface would get a high priority. The possibilities for full-text research and the nifty transfer of search requests from one section to another are definitely among the great qualities of the Delpher project. Delpher contains also transcripts of radio news bulletins from 1937 to 1989, something I have not often encountered as objects of a digitization project.

The Netherlands and the First World War

Legislation and public opinion are just a few aspects of Dutch history during the First World War. It is perhaps useful to mention here the websites and projects I assembled at Digital 1418, even though you arrive directly at the information about relevant websites by clicking on the link. The Stichting Studiecentrum Eerste Wereldoorlog (SSEW) was founded in 2011 to bring together Dutch research, scholars and initiatives concerning the First World War. The website of this study center has a links section with a large number of Dutch projects. Huis Doorn, a country house in the province Utrecht, became the last residence of the exiled German emperor Wilhelm II. The museum at Huis Doorn has been designated as the location for the Dutch national center for the history of the First World War. Its website offers in particular some 6,500 digitized images. I did already mention the portal War Museums in Europe and the Dutch parliamentary proceedings at Staten-Generaal Digitaal. The digital portal Memory of the Netherlands contains some 8,000 digitized items from the collections of the former Legermuseum [Army Museum] in Delft; 400 items are related to the First World War. Digitized materials from several Dutch cultural institutions can be found at the portal Europeana 1914-1918. Lately Huis Doorn was the venue of two crowdsourcing days during which Dutch people could bring materials to the attention of the team behind this marvellous portal.

Logo 100 years Netherlands and World War IMuch more can be found online. Among memorials of the First World War the Belgenmonument [Monument for the Belgians] near Amersfoort stands out, erected in commemoration of the countless Belgian refugees who came to the Netherlands in 1914. An exact number of refugees cannot be given yet, but estimations come close to one million people. Some 1,500 men of the British Royal Navy Division were interned at the Engelse Kamp in Groningen. This year the history of First World War refugees receives particular attention at a number of Dutch archives and museums, for example at the Stadsmuseum in Tilburg and at the city archive of Utrecht (In staat van oorlog). The foundation 100 jaar Nederland en de Eerste Wereldoorlog [100 years Netherlands and the First World War] has created a centenary portal which will guide you to further websites and to activities and events around the Dutch commemoration of the First World War. In due time I intend to include the most telling and important Dutch websites on my blog Digital 1418. The Dutch corner of this blog is well worth visiting.

Dutch and Belgian digitized academic theses

Logo Academic Joy

The thesis by Kruizinga on Dutch economic policy leads me to say more about digitized theses defended in Belgium and the Netherlands. For Digital 1418 it seemed most useful to include a web directory to digitized academic theses. At Academic Joy you will find a very rich survey of online repositories worldwide with both Ph.D. and M.A. theses. On the blog I offer a selection of the main European repositories, and in addition I mention more resources for the Netherlands and Belgium. NARCIS is the main Dutch theses repository, Bictel has the same function for Belgium, but only for theses written in French. For Flemish theses one can consult M.A. theses at Ethesis, and B.A. theses in the Vlaamse Scriptiebank; both websites have an interface in Dutch and English. For the Netherlands one should add Scripties van de Nederlandse Universiteiten for M.A. theses, and the Igitur Archive for Ph.D. and M.A. theses defended at Utrecht University. B.A. and M.A. theses written at Dutch Higher Education institutions can be retrieved from the HBO Kennisbank. The Dutch term for the First World War is Eerste Wereldoorlog, in Flemish the term Gro(o)te Oorlog is also used.

Mont-Saint-Michel, Chartres and medieval law

Bringing the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel and the cathedral of Chartres together in one title is not a bold innovation. The American historian Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918), a descendant from the family with president John Adams among the ancestors, published in 1904 Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, a study of medieval art and culture with a focus on two iconic buildings in France. Whatever the merits of this study, Adams coined for the anglophone world a powerful twin image of the Middle Ages. Historians of the European Middle Ages might grumble about the distortion of medieval civilization created by Adams’ imagination, but it cannot be easily undone. Historians prefer to look behind the facades and to go to the sources and structures behind them.

Mont-Saint-Michel - photo author, 2006

The story of Mont-Saint-Michel is indeed important, and Chartres, too, has more to offer than only the majestic building. Medieval manuscripts are among the resources becoming more and more available online, and this is true also for the Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres. Digitized manuscripts with legal texts are the subject of this post. I will look at projects for the digitization of medieval French manuscripts, in particular for those stemming from either the abbey on the island off the coast of Normandy, or from the cathedral with so many beautiful elements.

Reconstructing medieval manuscripts and libraries

For historians research concerning medieval manuscripts and libraries is not a new adventure. After the dissolution of the monasteries during the French Revolution manuscripts from abbeys, priories and cathedrals went in France to the nearest municipal library. Thus books from Mont-Saint-Michel came to Avranches, and books from Chartres Cathedral found a new place in the Bibliothèque municipale of Chartres. The manuscripts in French municipal libraries have been described in the nineteenth century in the volumes of the Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France.

The search for online information about medieval manuscripts in French libraries is supported by the portal Biblissima which guides you to projects around medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in France. The Catalogue collectif de France, with its section for manuscripts, should provide a starting point. You can tune this collective catalogue to search only for manuscripts. The project Bibliothèque Virtuelle des Manuscrits Médiévaux of the IRHT in Paris has no search function for content, but otherwise you can find here many digitized manuscripts. Relevant cartularies and editions of them can be found using the online Répertoire des cartulaires médiévaux et modernes.

Avranches and the Mont-Saint-Michel

In Avranches the 200 manuscripts from the Mont-Saint-Michel get since 2006 special attention at the Scriptorial, the museum built for these manuscripts. In cooperation with the Université de Caen the chronicles in Latin of the abbey from the eleventh and twelfth centuries are being edited and published online, as is the Roman du Mont-Saint-Michel of Guillaume de Saint Pair in Old French, a text from the twelfth century. The two manuscripts of this text are kept at the British Library, Additional 10289 and 26876.


The Bibliothèque municipale of Avranches has no separate website, and the few webpages on the municipal website do not give much information. It is therefore a surprise to find digitized manuscripts held at Avranches in the Bibliothèque Virtuelle des Manuscrits Médiévaux (BVMM). The website of this portal presenting digitized manuscripts from the holdings of French municipal libraries, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and – as a royal gesture – also one hundred manuscripts kept at Berlin has as its most remarkable feature the absence of a search for authors and titles of texts in manuscripts. One can search for cities, for institutions, for signatures, decoration and complete digitization. Searching texts here with a particular subject, let’s choose law for example, is very cumbersome. I have already taken the trouble of checking for the presence of legal texts for many towns, but this takes a lot of time; I hope to complete a provisional list. For Avranches I found at the BVMM the following legal manuscripts:

  • BM 136: Distinctiones morales ; Sermones; Summa de penitentia – Latin, 155 fol., 13th century
  • BM 145 – Capitularia Caroli Magni et Ludovici Pii – Latin, 112 fol., 12th century
  • BM 147 – Ivo of Chartres. Panormia – Latin, 122 fol., 12th century
  • BM 150 – Bernardus Parmensis, Apparatus in Decretales – Latin, 281 fol., 13th century. (1260-1280)
  • BM 152: Summa in Gratiani Decretum ; Bonifatius VIII, Liber sextus Decretalium ; etc. – Latin, 171 fol., 13th century
  • BM 206Cartulaire du chapitre cathédral d’Avranches, Livre vert – French, 138 fol., 13th-15th centuries

The BVMM gives access to 111 completely digitized manuscripts held at Avranches. The last manuscript in this list is originally from Avranches; its contents are the texts of charters which justify its inclusion here. Among illuminated manuscripts from the Mont-Saint-Michel with legal texts are BM 139 with Justinian’s Digesta from the third quarter of the thirteenth century, BM 140 with the Institutiones Iustiniani and the Accursian gloss (second half thirteenth century), and BM 146 with the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals (11th-12th centuries), but of these manuscripts the BVMM presents only a few images of decorated pages. BM 141, 148 and 156, too, contain legal texts for which the BVMM gives only images of a few pages. For BM 210, the Cartulaire de l’abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel (1154-1158), the BVMM makes at least a rich choice of images. The study by Monique Dosdat, L’enluminure romane au Mont-Saint-Michel (Rennes 2006) is a fine introduction to illuminated manuscripts from this great Benedictine abbey.

A further reason to welcome the digitization of manuscripts stemming from the Mont-Saint-Michel is the possibility to study online some of those manuscripts with Latin translations from the twelfth century of Greek philosophical texts. Thanks to the translations made here in the twelfth century many works of Aristotle became available in Latin. The book by Sylvain Gouguenheim, Aristote au Mont-Saint-Michel. Les racines grecques de l’Europe chrétienne (Paris 2008) created a stir because of its visions concerning the roots of European culture, but this should not draw attention away from the work done on the island of the Mont-Saint-Michel.

At the Université de Caen a project has started for a virtual library with manuscripts and books from the Mont-Saint-Michel. Not only 200 manuscripts have survived the ages, but also some 1,250 printed books. The realisation of this virtual library will highlight the fact that this abbey bristled with life already before the construction of the major abbatial buildings we admire so much. In the eighteenth century the abbey supported the project of the Benedictine congregation of St. Maur to give ecclesiastical history a secure foundation by using old manuscripts and archival records and applying the knowledge created in the historical auxiliary sciences such as palaeography, diplomatics and chronology. The Maurists are the forerunners of the great historical enterprises of the nineteenth century and all those following in their footsteps until this day.

Manuscripts at Chartres

Logo Manuscrits Chartres

Before the Second World War the municipal library of Chartres held nearly 1,900 manuscripts formerly kept at the cathedral and also stemming from other ecclesiastical institutions in and around Chartres. On May 26, 1944 a fire caused by a bomb destroyed the entire library. After years of painstaking work 567 manuscripts could be found as separate entries, 165 of them in various states from nearly unscathed to burned black blocks. In a new project, À la recherche des manuscrits de Chartres, progress has been made to restore the manuscripts, identify texts, and to make images of these manuscripts. This website can be visited in French and English, and a number of manuscripts is now accessible online. The project website has a full bibliography. including a list for all manuscripts (PDF).

One of the main reasons behind the efforts in restoring these manuscripts is their value for studying the history of the School of Chartres in the twelfth century and the authors associated with it. The debate started by the late Sir Richard William Southern about this school has led to many studies which have helped in clearing the fog around teaching and teachers at Chartres. In the first volume of Southern’s Scholastic humanism and the unification of Europe (Oxford-Cambridge, Mass.,1995) you can find the most advanced form of his views. You will turn to this book, too, for his views on the role of Roman law and law schools and the significance of Gratian, his Concordantia discordantium canonum, and the growth of medieval canon law.

In order to trace digitized legal manuscripts at Chartres I could use both the special database for Chartres and the BVMM. I found the following completely digitized manuscripts:

  • Chartres, BM 146: Gregorius IX, Decretales with glosses – Latin, 169 fol., 13th century
  • Chartres, BM 149: Gregorius IX, Decretales – Latin, 338 fol., 13th century (1240-1260)
  • Chartres, BM 150: Innocentius IV, Decretales; Gregorius IX, Constitutiones – both texts end 13th century, Italy; Bonifatius VIII, Liber Sextus – 14th century, France – Latin, 127 fol.
  • Chartres, BM 255: Goffredus de Trani, Summa decretalium – Latin, 102 fol., 14th century
  • Chartres, BM 376: Pseudo-Isidorian decretals – Latin, 365 fol., 11th century

The BVMM presents 84 completely digitized manuscripts from Chartres. If you take the BVMM at face value you would not suspect that sometimes the number of folios of these manuscripts has been mixed up with the number of images. BM 150 is not complete. Strangely BM 255 is not mentioned in the special database. One can add three cartularies to this list:

  • BM 1059: Cartulaire de la léproserie du Grand-Beaulieu-lès-Chartres, Livre noir; 13th century
  • BM 1060: Cartulaire de l’abbaye S. Père de Chartres, Aganon; 12th century
  • BM 1061: Cartulaire de l’abbaye S. Père de Chartres, Aganon – abridged copy, 12th century

BM 1137 is a fourteenth century book for the goods of the mensa episcopalis of the bishop of Chartres, and BM 1138 is a censier from the fourteenth century. You might want to probe me about Ivo of Chartres and his Panormia. At Avranches is a manuscript with the Panormia from the Mont-Saint-Michel, and there is no manuscript of it at Chartres. The website for Ivo of Chartres, his legal works and letters created by Bruce Brasington and Martin Brett confirms this situation. Anyway, it is wise to check also for microfilms of manuscripts at institutions such as the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main and the Stephan-Kuttner-institute of Medieval Canon Law, because it seems these have not always been used for the digitization within the BVMM. The searches at the BVMM and the website for Chartres can be supplemented by using the manuscript search of the Catalog collectif de France. The online Répertoire des cartulaires médiévaux et modernes will help you to locate editions and digital versions of the cartularies mentioned here. This database contains also modern descriptions of cartularies from France and informs you about relevant scholarly literature concerning them.

Research on manuscripts in France

Logo Biblissima

At the end of this post I would like to look briefly at the French manuscript portal Biblissima, a portal that you can view in French and English. The page with online resources of this portal is stunning in its riches. The websites and projects range from digitized old catalogues such as the Bibliotheca bibliothecarum of Bernard de Montfaucon (1739), the scholar who coined the word palaeography, and projects concerning libraries to the Bibliothèques Virtuelles Humanistes at Tours, presented here in a post last year, and several projects concerning particular manuscript genres, be they written in Occitan, Old French, Hebrew, Syriac or Greek, or containing sermons or biblical glosses. To give just one example, the JONAS database of the Institut de Recherche d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT) at Paris and Orléans leads you quickly to detailed information about the Roman du Mont-Saint-Michel of Guillaume de Saint Pair. The TELMA platform of the IRHT gives access to databases concerning for example surviving originals of charters before 1121 and for the period 1121-1220.

Bringing together in one post the surviving manuscripts from Chartres that did escape the turmoil of war and those at Avranches which seemed to have been luckier, offers at first sight a contrast, but both collections are witnesses to the intellectual and wider cultural history of Europe. Legal manuscripts might seem to have occupied only a small niche at both locations, but this impression can well be misleading. Mont-Saint-Michel became a royal abbey, proud of its privileges and much aware of its strategic location between Normandy and Bretagne. In the twelfth century Chartres was not the only French cathedral with teachers forming schools around them. They had to compete with other cathedral schools, not only with the various schools at Paris, and also with the first European universities. Books of law entered willy-nilly the libraries in and around Chartres. Their presence is a reminder to look for legal texts and their impact outside the many European university towns. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres are truly monuments of medieval architecture and culture.

In search of the true history of the Templars

Poster Templars conference, MGHAfter four years of blogging it is truly time to bring in one of these subjects of medieval history that inevitable turn up in conversation about the Middle Ages. The rise and fall of the military order of the Templars was already a spectacular theme before bestseller authors as Dan Brown came along to give them yet another dimension. The Dutch twist in this post is surely Dan Brown’s recent visit to my country! In Munich the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, since nearly two centuries most active in editing sources on Germany’s medieval history, will host from February 24 to 27, 2014 an international conference with the title The Templars, their sources and their competitors (1119-1314). An addition in German to this title, Die Templer (1119-1314). Bilanz und Perspektiven der Forschung, underlines the need for a balanced view and multiple perspectives in researching the history of the Templars. The program of the Munich conference is impressive. In this post I will not try to do things better than the scholars presenting their work in Munich, and restrict myself to pointing out for you some online resources concerning the Templars. By the way, the MGH published recently a book by William J. Courtenay and Karl Ubl, Gelehrte Gutachten und königliche Politik im Templerprozeß (Hannover 2010; MGH Studien und Texte, 55) on learned medieval opinions concerning the Templars written at the university of Paris for the French king.

Balance and perspectives

For some reason we tend to think of the Templars as a French organization, and thus my eyes, too, looked first in the direction of France. In the ARCHIM database of the Archives nationales with digitized sources a whole section has been devoted to the trial of the Templars. In the fonds “Trésor des chartes” the numbers J 413 to J 417 stem from this trial. The great French historian Jules Michelet edited some of these sources in his Procès des templiers (2 vol., Paris 1841-1851; reprint 2 vol., Paris 1987; online for example in the Internet Archive, the Hathi Trust Digital Library (direct link), and in the Digitale Sammlungen at Munich). The ARCHIM database presents in this section the following documents:

  • J 413, no. 18: the procès-verbal of the interrogation held at Paris from October 19 to November 24, 1307 – 44 parchments forming a roll with a length of 22 meter; among the Templars interrogated was Jacques de Molay (around 1245-1314), the grand-maître of the order – this document was published in the second volume of Michelets study
  • J 413, no. 20: a procès-verbal of the interrogation of thirteen templars from the bailliage of Caen (Normandy) by four Dominican friars from Caen and two royal commissioners; October 28 and 29, 1307 – 1 charter
  • J 413, no. 22: an authorized copy (vidimus) of the official royal order for the arrest of Templars in September 1307 in the bailliage of Rouen (Normandy), the official accusations, and the order of Guillaume de Paris, the grand-inquisitor of France for the inquisitors at Toulouse and Carcassonne to proceed against the Templars – September 14 and 22, 1307; the accusations are not dated; official copy October 21, 1307 – edited by Georges Lizerand, Le dossier de l’affaire des templiers (Paris 1923, reprint Paris 2007), document no. II, p. 16-29.
  • J 413, no. 23: the procès-verbal of the interrogation of five Templars from Saint-Étienne de Renneville (now département Eure) and two Templars from Sainte-Vaubourg (now département Seine-Maritime); October 18, 1307 – 1 charter
  • J 413, no. 29: an inventory of goods and men belong to the bailliage of Rouen of the Templars; October 13, 1307 – 6 charters – the goods and houses were located in the modern départment Calvados

The Archives Nationales held in 2011 an exhibition on the Templars affair. In the accompanying leaflet L’affaire des Templiers: du procès au mythe they showed an interesting selection of manuscripts, with also a concise bibliography on the trial of the Templars, its impact and afterlife. When I first mentioned here – in 2011 and in particular in 2012 – these documents digitized at ARCHIM I overlooked an important element of the notices, the fact that you can click on the mots clés , the keywords, to get more results. Clicking on the keyword Temple brings you forty results. To my surprise apart from the five documents already encountered here just one of them has anything to do with the Templars. It seems that the labeling here is not as perfect as you would like it to be. At first the only additional document seemed to be AE/II/213, an act of the clergy in the diocese Bourges dated April 19, 1308 sending deputies to the assembly of the French États Généraux convoked by the French king Philippe IV le Bel. However, among the mots clés added to this document are Ordre du Templetemplier and procès des Templiers. This helped me tracing three further digitized documents in the AE/II series kept at the Musée de l’histoire de France in Paris, one of the institutions under the aegis of the Archives nationales:

  • AE/II/146: a confirmation of a gift to the Templars by Guillaume, chatelain of Saint-Omer, of two churches in Flanders, in Slype and Leffinge; Jerusalem, 1137 – 1 charter – edited by André d’Albon, Cartulaire général de l’ordre du Temple , 1119?-1150 (Paris 1922; reprint Madrid 2010) no. 141, p. 99 – online at Gallica)
  • AE/II/311: interrogation of Templars in the sénéchaussée of Carcassonne; November 13, 1307 – notices on paper, 13 pages
  • AE/II/1634: the papal bull of pope Clemens V attributing to the Knights Hospitaller of St. John all goods of the Templars; May 2, 1312 -1 charter

Another series at the Archives nationales contains three digitized registers with information about the Templars:

  • JJ/35: Convocations, mandements and commissions issued by king Philippe le Bel, 1302-1305, mainly concerning the wars in Flanders; on fol. 114r-115v two acts about the redemption of goods belonging to the Cistercians and the Templars, 1304
  • JJ/36: a copy of register JJ/35 with additional material; the two acts from 1304 are here at fol. 91r-91v
  • JJ/43: Register of royal acts concerning Flanders, the Templars (fol. 45r-52v), the papacy (fol. 37r-44v) and money; 1305-1314

Of course more can be found in the various archival collections of the Archives nationales. You can search online in many inventories in the Salle des inventaires and in a second section with other inventories. Royal charters from the reign of Philip IV the Fair mentioning the Temple can be searched online in the Actes royaux database of the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes in Paris with summaries (regestes)57 charters of the 4,900 charters in this database mention the Temple. They show very clearly the pivotal financial role of the Templars for the king. No. 2864 is the act about the Temple in JJ/35 (no. 203). The edition in the Corpus philippicum of the 6,000 royal charters issued between 1285 and 1314 has not yet been completed.

Is there a quicker way to find these digitized resources at the Archives nationales? Only as a second thought I used the search engine at the French cultural heritage portal Culture to look for the Templars. It surprised me indeed that I could quickly filter from the many thousand results those from for the reign of king Philipp the Fair, and arrive immediately at nine items digitized by the Archives nationales. In this post I mention twelve digitized items, and thus it seems the three items from the AE/II series at the Musée de l’histoire de France are not yet harvested by the search engine at Culture. In the ARCHIM database is a separate sections for the Grands documents de l’histoire de France where the three AE series appear online.

French regional archives

Outside the buildings of the Archives nationales at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Paris and Fontainebleau other French archives also have records touching upon the Templars. Viewing the sheer number of regional archives – only few French towns have a municipal archive – you might consider it an impossible task to find these records. At the international portal e-Corpus based at Arles, however, you can benefit immensely from the research done to build a Bibliothèque virtuelle des Templiers – MILITES TEMPLI. In this virtual library you find extensive information on the Templar records kept in the fonds of the Grand-Prieure de Saint Gilles of the Hospitaller Knights of St. John at the Archives départementales des Bouches-des-Rhône at Marseille. With the goods of the Templars their archival records, too, came to this military order. The second part of the virtual Templars’ library are the notices assembled by Bruno Marty from the catalogues of French regional archives about their archival records for the Templars. You can view the relevant digitized pages. Marty gives a very useful overview written in 2005 of archival records in the Provence and also elsewhere, and an extensive bibliography concerning the Templars (PDF, 44 p.). The digital collection at e-Corpus for the Templars contains four digitized historical documents, among them in particular the “Authenticum Domus Militiae Templi sancti Aegidii”, a register with documents from 1139 to 1259 from Saint-Gilles-du-Gard of which the original at Arles, Archives municipales, GG 90, has been digitized. More information about e-Corpus can be found on a blog at Hypotheses. At the time of finishing this post I could not reach the e-Corpus portal to check again and give you more details. Many sources for the Grand-Prieure of Saint-Gilles are kept at Marseilles in the Archives départementales des Bouches-du-Rhône. You can search the inventories of the various fonds online.

The Patrimoine numérique portal to digitized French cultural collections can bring you to at least four collections concerning the Templars. We have met here already the AE/II series at the Musée de l’histoire de France. Due to a broken link I could not reach at first the eighteenth-century Atlas du Petit et du Grand Saint-Jean (ADH, 55 H 3) kept at the Archives départementales d’Hérault in Pierresvives, a register with maps of possessions of the commanderie of Montpellier. At Puy-en-Velay the Archives départementales de la Haute-Loire keep a register from the seventeenth century of the Commanderie de Chantoin. The sources said to be digitized, including charters of the Templars at Larzac, are unfortunately untraceable at the website of the Archives départementales d’Aveyron in Rodez.

A multitude of books and resources

Sofar I have already a few times indicated online versions of books and editions. It is quite a feat to trace those scholarly books still worth using between all kind of other publications. Some of them can be found conveniently in L’histoire des moines, chanoines et religieux au Moyen Âge edited by André Vauchez and Cécile Gaby (Turnhout 2003), a volume of the French series L’atélier du médiéviste. Laurent Dailliez published a Bibliographie du Temple (Paris 1972) in which he followed earlier attempts by Périme Dessubre (1928) and Heinrich Neu (1965). Alain Demurger’s Vie et mort de l’ordre du Temple (third ed., Paris 1994) has a bibliographic supplement. The French guide to the history of religious orders mentions editions of the rule and statutes of the Templars and relevant studies about them. Surely the most publicized new edition concerning this military order was that of the Chinon document in 2008 [Barbara Frale et alii (eds.), Processus contra Templarios (Città del Vaticano, 2008)] and some accompanying documents kept at the Archivio Segreto del Vaticano [A.A. Arm. D 208-210, 211, 217(A), and Reg. Aven. 48]. These documents show that the investigation held between August 17 and 20, 1308 at the castle of Chinon led to the absolution by the pope of Jacques de Molay and the pope’s clear intent to rehabilitate the Templars. In 2011 Nathan Dorn told the story of the Chinon document in a fine blog post at In Custodia Legis.

A quick way to discern the scholarly quality of publications about the Templars is their presence in the online literature catalogue for medieval history of the Regesta Imperii at Mainz. Needless to say that you will eventually have to use other bibliographical resources, too, but this catalogue is most helpful. If you have found for example a digitized book in the Hathi Trust Digital Library you can easily check for it in this catalogue. The Online Medieval Sources Bibliography can help you to find more recent printed and online versions of editions and translations; for the Templars you need to choose the subject “Military orders”.

One of the serious digitized modern books about the Templars is the study by Alan J. Forey, Templars in the Corona de Aragón (Oxford 1973), online at LIBRO, the Library of Iberian Resources Online hosted by the University of Central Arkansas. Forey’s book has a very valuable section on manuscript resources in Spain. Last year I published a post about Aragon with a long paragraph about the Archivo de la Corona d’Aragón (ACA) in Barcelona. The ACA is home to many archival collections (fondos documentales) which are listed rather summarily but useful in a 25-page leaflet.

Forey mentions at p. 457 registro ACA, Real Cancilleria, 291 of the 343 (!) registers from the reign of king Jaime II concerning the trial of the Templars [Jaime II. Varia 5. Processus contra magistrum militesque Milicie Templi]. This register with more than 700 pages can now be searched online at the Spanish PARES archive portal. On the PARES search screen you select the ACA from a drop down list and you can start navigating through a tree structure – admittedly a bit cumbersome – to the fondos and items within them. At PARES the actual register 291 starts at fol. 22r. You can enlarge the pages of this document very much, but the quality of the images remains less than you would want it to be. Of course much more can be found in the ACA. In the Actes royaux database I found a notice (no. 3372) about a letter of king Philip the Fair to Jaime II of Aragón, written on October 26, 1307, about the interrogation of Jacques de Molay the day before. The letter is kept at the ACA, Templarios 39, and the notice has a reference to a copy of this interrogation held at the ACA [Real Cancilleria, Pergaminos 2481]. At the ACA, too, you will find records of the Templars within the fondo of the Hospitaller Knights of St. John, the Gran Priorado de Catalunya. Forey has written also about the fall of the Templars in Aragon [The fall of the Templars in the Crown of Aragon (Aldershot, etc., 2001)].

Myths and history

Were the Templars heretics? What were the motives of the French king to act against them? Doing research on the Templars bristles with a lot of questions for which I prefer to put aside the novels of famous authors. I promised to make this post not too long. Websites do not bring everything. I have kept on purpose a safe distance from specialized websites on the history of the Templars, because it is often very difficult to ascertain the quality of the information presented on them. A second reason is simply the lack of space in a single post! There is nothing against using printed studies, editions and translations. English readers can turn with confidence to the classic account by Malcolm Barber, The trial of the Templars (Cambridge, etc., 1978; often reprinted), and to the selection of translated documents edited by Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, The Templars. Selected sources (Manchester, etc., 2002). The collection of scholarly articles edited by Jochen Burgtorf, Paul Crawford and Helen J. Nicholson, The debate on the trial of the Templars (1307-1314) (Aldershot, 2010) will give you a recent impression of the various subjects facing scholars. Dutch readers might start with Jan Hosten’s book De tempeliers : de tempelorde tijdens de kruistochten en in de Lage Landen (Amsterdam 2006) or Krijgers voor God : de orde van de tempeliers in de Lage Landen (1120-1312) by Michel Nuyttens (Leuven 2007). In this post I aimed simply at drawing your attention to some online resources which bring you to the original documents. I hope to have made you curious about the true history of the Templars which involves more than only the spectacular events between 1307 and 1314.

A postscript on manuscripts

By focusing on archival records in this post you would almost forget that manuscripts, too, are a very important source for our knowledge of the Templars. I will offer here a nutshell guide to French (digitized) manuscripts. The manuscripts catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Catalogue collectif de France, with its section for manuscripts, should provide a starting point. In two posts from 2011 on doing research for legal history in Paris and a post on French customary law – with a focus on Normandy – you can find more on manuscripts in some French libraries. You can tune the CCFr to show digitized manuscripts; among them is Paris, BnF, ms. français 1977Le règle dou Temple, written between 1301 and 1325. The portal Biblissima gives you further guidance to projects around medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in France. The Ménestrel portal for medieval studies, too, has a nice overview of French manuscript digitization projects. The project Bibliothèque Virtuelle des Manuscrits Médiévaux of the IRHT has no search function for content, but otherwise you can find here many digitized manuscripts. Relevant cartularies and editions of them can be found using the online Répertoire des cartulaires médiévaux et modernes with for instance much on the Templars’ cartulary of Saint-Gilles; charters and cartularies were in 2010 the subject of another post here.

More on e-Corpus

A few days after the publication of this post the French portal e-Corpus was again fully visible. Apart from the virtual library about the Templars there are among the 27 virtual collections at e-Corpus digitized books about old Provencal law (Aix-en-Provence), books on (Arabic) codicology from the Centre de Conservation du Livre in Arles, the main institution behind the portal, and digitized books on Islamic law (Marseille). The portal can be viewed in seven languages, including Arabic. Apart from the collections accessible at e-Corpus the organization supports some twenty other websites, with much attention to digitization projects for manuscripts.

On revisiting e-Corpus and the virtual Templars’ library I also found a link to the very sophisticated online version at the Université d’Avignon of Guillaume Mollat’s critical edition of Étienne Baluze, Vitae paparum avenionensium [1693] (4 vol., Paris 1914-1928). It is most interesting to read Baluze’s view of the trial of the Templars. As few others in his time Baluze (1630-1718) was equipped to look deep into the legal matters of medieval history.

The galaxy of French legal humanism

Is it old-fashioned to focus on the lives of individual lawyers or is it old school thinking to focus on them as a group? A nice synthesis worthy of Hegel would try to bring the study of a particular profession and biographical studies together within a new framework. Anyone studying the great and small legal humanists of the sixteenth century has to face the fact that the subjects of their research walked both the legal roads of this period and the paths of humanist scholarship. They focused on many aspects of history with a predilection for Classical Antiquity, its languages and sources. French lawyers were very visible in this field. In this post I would like to look at some online resources in France and elsewhere which help fostering the study of their works, lives, activities and surroundings.

Many places, many names

Some scholarly projects have helped enormously to become aware of the sheer number of people involved with legal humanism. At the very heart of humanism were manifold contacts, often by letter, which crossed the borders of countries and languages. Letters in impeccable Latin following the models of Antiquity served not only as means of communication, but also as shining fruits of the mind. Perhaps the ultimate accolade was writing to and receiving an answer from Erasmus. He and his correspondents were fully aware that their letters were bound to be copied and made public. In a sense remarkably close to the sharing of information on the web in our time the republic of letters of the sixteenth century was a very open society, too. P.S. Allen’s edition of Erasmus’ letters [Opus epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami (12 vol., Oxford 1906-1958; reprint Oxford 1992)] was and is the single most influential project to stimulate research on Erasmus and his contemporaries. Since a couple of years Allen’s edition and the old Opera omnia editions of Erasmus’ works are being digitized at Erasmus Online. The volumes of the modern Opera omnia have been already digitized, and can be downloaded as PDF’s at OAPEN. Translations in English and Dutch are among the modern projects to make them even more accessible. At the website of the Warburg Institute you can find a fine overview of the major projects for the edition of letters by humanist scholars, including online inventories and editions, and a useful bibliography. The volumes of the biographical dictionary Contemporaries of Erasmus. A bibliographical register of the Renaissance and Reformation, Thomas Deutscher and Peter Bietenholz (eds.) (3 vol. Toronto 1985) help to survey this intricate web of contacts by letters and other writings.

Looking at French humanist lawyers

Logo Les Bibliothèques Virtuelles Humanistes

However interesting in itself, letters form here the stepping stone to law. Letters and humanists are the very heart of the project in the center of this contribution, Les Bibliothèques Virtuelles Humanistes (BVH), the Virtual Humanistic Libraries, a project hosted by the Université de Tours. The multiple form bibliothèques draws attention to the presence of materials from several libraries in the Loire region, mainly those at Blois, Bourges, Châteauroux, Tours and Orléans. At the heart is the project Epistemon which started in 1998 for editing and searching humanist texts, in particular letters. The BVH now is home also to texts by humanist scholars, both in digital version and only as text, notarial acts from Tours and manuscripts. An accompanying blog keeps you informed about the latest developments. The section on iconography helps you find images with Iconclass, including some portraits of authors.

In the project MONLOE of the BVH copies of the early editions of Michel de Montaigne’s Essais, Montaigne’s own annotated copy of this work and other books, letters and manuscripts with his notes are being digitized. In May 2013 Ingrid de Smedt (University of Warwick) detected in the Herzog-August-Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel a manuscript (Cod. Guelf. 7. 1. Aug. 4to; digitized at Wolfenbüttel) with notes made in 1561 of lectures by François Baudouin (1520-1573) on Roman law and on the title page an owner inscription by Montaigne (1533-1592) (“Michael Montanus”). This manuscript was in fact the first to be tracked down as undoubtedly stemming from the personal library of Montaigne. Montaigne was between 1556 and 1570 a councillor in the Parlement de Bordeaux, one of the mighty provincial courts in Ancien Régime France. The BVH cooperates with the ARTFL project at the University of Chicago, where you will find also a searchable database of the first editions of Montaigne’s Essais, including the famous annotated copy of the edition Bordeaux 1588. Many texts in the BVH can be interrogated with Chicago’s Philologic tool. The University of Chicago maintains a website for Montaigne studies, with apart from digitized early editions a number of current bibliographies.

The blog of the BVH is hosted by the French platform Hypotheses. In fact an announcement at another blog on Hypotheses, Francofil, made me look again at the BVH. A second reason to delve into French digital libraries was the change of address of the digital library of the university of Strasbourg, now named Numistral, and the launch of Numelyo at Lyon. A quick search at Numelyo in its section Provenance des livres anciens brought me to a copy of Sueton’s Lives of the Caesars (Venice: Zani, 1500) (Rés. Inc. 1114) with an inscription that might also be by Montaigne.

Law is not absent at the website of the BVH. I found with the advanced search form for digitized copies with the domaine “droit” 54 books. Among them you will find for example Louis Charendas le Caron, Pandectes ou digeste de droit françois (…) (Lyon; Veyrat, 1597), editions of coutumes, customary law, commentaries on Roman and French law by authors such as Jean de Coras, Jean Imbert, Jean Papon and Pierre Rebuffi. One of the most often printed works is present, too, the Annotationes in Pandectas of Guillaume Budé (1467-1540), in an edition Paris 1542. Nobody should use these editions of Budé’s magnum opus without reading first the articles by Douglas Osler, ‘Budeaus and Roman law’, Ius Commune 13 (1985) 195-212, and ‘Turning the title page’, Rechtshistorisches Journal 6 (1987) 173-182. Budé changed consecutives editions of this work substantially. It would be rash to rely on just one (digitized) edition which you happen to find. Guillaume Budé’s name is used as an acronym, BUDE, for the online searchable database documenting the transmission of classical and medieval authors in manuscripts from the fifteenth to the mid-seventeenth century at the Institute de recherche et d’histoire des textes in Paris.

Another famous French humanist, Jean Bodin (1529-1596), is the subject of The Bodin Project, a very useful portal at the University of Hull. Bodin studied Roman law at Toulouse and worked ten years as an attorney at the Parlement de Paris. On this portal you will find links to digitized versions of contemporary editions of Bodin’s major works, bibliographies and links to other relevant projects. Particular mention should be made of the source indexes for some of Bodin’s works. Digitized versions of three sixteenth-century editions of Bodin’s works, too, are present at the BVH.

One of the reasons I wanted to look more closely at the BVH project was in fact a misreading. I thought I had seen an announcement on this website about the digitization of a treatise on money valuation by Jacques Cujas (Cuiacius) (1520-1590). Cujas studied law in Toulouse, taught there and more famously at Bourges. It turned out to be a text by Jacques Colas, Suputation nouvellement faicte de la valeur de monnais et des abuz dicelles, a manuscript from 1557 (Orléans, Bibliothèque municipale, Fonds ancien, ms. 629). Cujas is actually absent on the shelves of the BVH. Now Bodin was one of the authors in the sixteenth century writing about monetary issues. He is credited with an early exposition of the quantative theory of money in his 1568 treatise Réponse au paradoxe de M. de Malestroict touchant l’enchérissement de toutes choses, et le moyen d’y remédier. The website at Hull points to a digital version of the Bibliographie critique des éditions anciennes de Jean Bodin by Roland Crahay, Marie-Thérèse Isaac and Marie-Thérèse Lenger (Brussels 1992), where you can quickly find detailed information about the editions and existing copies of this text and other works by Bodin. In the case of the Réponse your attention will be drawn also to translations in Latin and German. The Latin version first appeared in a collection of monetary tracts and consilia with the title De monetis et re numaria edited by Reinier Budelius (Coloniae Aggripinae: Gymnicus, 1591; digitized at the University of Ghent). Among the other texts in this volume are two consilia on cases which centered around monetary devaluation by Nicolaus Everardi (around 1462-1532), a Dutch lawyer who became famous for his Topica sive de locis legalibus liber, a work on juridical argumentation. Everardi’s texts can be found at pages 689 to 701 of Budelius’ edition. Chris ten Raa published a study on Consilium nr. 105 van Nicolaas Everaerts (Rotterdam 1978). No version of Bodin’s monetary treatise is present at the BVH or at The Bodin Project.

On using the Universal Short Title Catalogue

Screenprint of the search screen of the USTC

Musing over the issue of digital versions I realized that a search for the works of French sixteen-century lawyers would make an excellent test case for the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC), a project hosted at the University of St. Andrews with French books printed until 1600 as its original core. In October 2013 a new version of the USTC website was launched. The project is an ambitious companion to other short-title catalogues such as the ISTC for incunables, the ESTC for English books (1473-1800), the STCN for the Netherlands (1501-1800) and STCV, its Flemish counterpart. The bibliographical information for the works of Bodin makes a fine example. For this project copies of French books have been inspected and described at many libraries. Supplementary information from other bibliographical works is summarily indicated. For the monetary treatise its existence in print thanks to and literally as a companion to a tract by Jean Cherruyt, seigneur de Malestroit, is duly noted.

Mistakes do occur in the USTC. I do not think that a rare 1509 treatise Repertoyre et table tres exquis et familiers selon l’ordre des lettres de l’abc was written by our Jean Bodin. The first edition of the Topica by Nicolaus Everardi (1516) is ascribed to one of his sons, the poet Nicolaus Grudius, himself a brother of the more famous Neolatin poet Janus Secundus. In my Ph.D. thesis defended in 1994 I could already indicate rather more copies, and it is easy to add references to digitized copies of the first edition in 1516 and later editions in the Digitale Sammlungen of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich; in a post on this blog I give further information. Better than deploring these faults – or any omission – is simply realizing the history of the USTC’s primary focus on France still has consequences. However, it is certainly strange to find exactly one work by Cujacius. For the rest one can place questions marks about the tagging of Bodin’s treatise in the USTC. In most cases an edition of this treatise has the classification “Economics”, in one case “Jurisprudence”. It goes without saying that the USTC does indicate digitized copies in a fair number of cases, but it is not an all-embracing repertory of digitized books published in the sixteenth century.

The USTC can show you other things or lead to interesting questions. If you search for works on economics you will find a surprisingly large number of works written either in Dutch or coming from the Low Countries. In my view the USTC can help you framing and refining questions about the use of language, the large number of works published in a specific period or on a particular subject, or the favorite format of books. In an ideal world you could perhaps add a second preset field to distinguish among subjects for the classification “Academic dissertations”. The indication of languages for this class is unfortunate when for example a dissertation defended in Italy and written in Latin is nevertheless classified as Italian. It seems wise to use the resources of the USTC as an additional tool, and not as your only source of information, something which is anyway for any resource only seldom advisable, and as always you will have to check the information it provides.

Approaching French humanist lawyers online

The BVH and the USTC are just one of the gateways you might like to use to find digitized books of French humanist lawyers. On the page for digital libraries of Rechtshistorie, my legal history website, you will find links to some twenty French digital libraries. Some of them offer quick access to sources on general themes such as legislation, jurisprudence, verdicts (arrêts), customary law, consultations and legal dictionaries. In particular the – also recently restyled – portal Fontes Historiae Iuris (Université Lille-2) is very helpful for quick orientation, even when the digital editions have sometimes been poorly scanned at Gallica. Let’s smile about the statement that you will not need to look any further! For some regions special websites bring you to the coutumes, the customary law, with often both the texts of these resources and learned commentaries on them. At Bibliopedia you can find a very detailed list of French digital libraries, but alas without the majority of websites dedicated to the history of French law. In 2011 I wrote two posts on French legal history with a somewhat closer focus, the first on the law of Normandy, the second on a number of research institutions in Paris which are relevant for legal historians.

A service akin to Fontes Historiae Iuris for French legal history, but on a wider scale, is provided by the Post-Reformation Digital Library (Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary), a portal to digitized works by protestant authors. It contains for a substantial part links to books digitized elsewhere, and it has a nifty function for searching simultaneously with one action in a number of digital libraries. Other portals will help you as well to track down digitized versions of Early Modern books, for example Early Modern Thought Online of the FernUniversität Hagen, and the Philological Museum maintained by Dana Sutton (University of Birmingham). Another gateway for online resources concerning Early Modern History has been created by Sharon Howard (University of Sheffield). Her portal Early Modern Resources is truly impressive in its wide range and coverage of aspects of European history between 1500 and 1800.

Critics who scold some of these enterprises for their incompleteness, omissions and faults can seem to be hunting themselves for a utopian illusion, the One and Only Source of All Knowledge. French humanist lawyers did not live as recluses, isolated from the turbulent times around them. They did not stick with texts as they happened to look in print, but delved into the background. Ad fontes was one of their favorite mottos. In Reformation Europe they simply could not hide completely from all influences and developments in religion, politics and society. Scholars from other countries, too, came to France to join their efforts. As lawyers they rubbed shoulders with their colleagues in the field of law and justice. Their research into Roman law and other subjects of Classical Antiquity did not happen in an ivory tower. In this century we face the opportunities offered both by portals to and by online resources themselves to acquaint us deeper than ever before with a world of five centuries ago with all its differences from and resemblances with our times.

The mirror of manuscripts: on searching facsimile editions

Readers of my blog have undoubtedly noted my predilection for original sources. Whenever possible I intend to supply the exact title and location of sources or to give indications about critical editions. Instead of pointing to reliable translations I prefer giving information about a text in its original version. Thus my post in 2011 about modern translations of the Corpus Iuris Civilis was in a way exceptional. Digital libraries can give you online access to both original sources and text editions. However, there is another form in which you may encounter a particular text. For a substantial number of remarkable manuscripts, books and archival records facsimile editions have been published. When you visit a department of manuscripts and old books at a national or university library you have often a marvellous collection of printed facsimile editions at hand. Many years ago I spent an afternoon with a facsimile edition in black and white (!) of the Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht, University Library, ms. 32). 1 By the way, this library prepares a new online version of this famous manuscript which will be launched this autumn.

Students, scholars and teachers all have reasons to use facsimile editions, be it for research or for educational purposes. What resources can one use to find facsimile editions quickly? What is the quality of some online inventories? What help do they offer when you look for a text or resource in connection with legal history? In this post I try to provide some answers to these questions. Due to the very scope of a blog post the result can only be a guide in a nutshell, but nevertheless it might help anyone looking for a very particular and valuable resource. The title of this post reflects not only the history of book titles such as the Speculum iudiciale by Guillelmus Duranti (around 1230-1296), but also for example the Digital Mirror of the National Library of Wales, the entrance to its digital collections.

In a postscript I briefly look at other search strategies and online resources. The combination of printed guides and bibliographies, online catalogues and meta-catalogues with the special databases discussed here gives the best chances to find both facsimiles and reliable information about them.

Hunting for precious manuscripts

The exceptional value of a manuscript or book is determined by several factors. The age of the manuscript or book. the state of its preservation, its unique role as a text carrier, especially when it is a rare or even the only textual witness, and often also the illumination or illustrations play a role in selecting as the object of a facsimile edition. Some manuscripts are considered very special indeed. Simple mortals are not allowed to see them, and even scholars must have very good reasons to convince a holding institution of the urgent need to consult the original. The Codex Florentinus of the Digest held at Florence is a good example of this class of manuscripts. Sometimes legal historians have in front of them a list of earlier visitors who consulted a manuscript, and it takes considerable courage to add your name after Theodor Mommsen and other giants.

Logo UB Graz

Last year I wrote about legal history in the Austrian city Graz. One of the websites maintained at the university library of Graz is an online bibliography of manuscripts in facsimile editions. In 1976 Hans Zotter published the first edition of the Bibliographie faksimilierter Handschriften (Graz 1976) with 637 titles, and in 1995 Hans and Heidi Zotter came with a second edition for titles published until 1992, this time on disc. To the search interface of the current website are added a list of relevant literature, an overview of series by major publishers and a list of abbreviations. You can search this online database either using the location of holding institutions and with any search term (Volltextsuche). As an example I use a famous German legal text, the Sachsenspiegel, “The Mirror of Saxony” by Eike von Repgow. At four German libraries so-called codices picturati are held, wonderfully illustrated manuscripts which long have been revered as the primary example of sources for legal iconography. The database in Graz provides you systematically with basic information about a manuscript and bibliographical information about the facsimile edition. For the Codex Florentinus a search for “Firenze” yields not only the two facsimile editions (1900 and 1988), which happen to come into view at the top, but also all other facsimile editions of manuscripts kept in Florence. With Ungenannter Ort, “location not indicated”, you get those editions of manuscripts where the location of the – often private – library is not indicated. The free text search brings you also to the register of editors.

It would be a miracle if the database at Graz was flawless, but it took me some time to find an example of a missing edition. The University of Arizona in Tucson has a created an online exhibit of Mixtec, Mayan and Aztec codices, with an extended list of relevant facsimile editions. With a few exceptions I found every edition mentioned in this exhibit in the Austrian database. These manuscripts give me a chance to mention the beautiful online exhibit at the Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas at Austin on Aztec and Maya Law: An Online Exhibit and Bibliography, based on an exhibition created by Mike Widener and his colleagues at this library in 1992. The web version has been revised and updated in 2010.

A more general approach?

At this point it is only sensible to ask for a royal road to facsimile editions. Can you tune one of the major online meta-catalogues to search specifically for these kind of editions? I tried the advanced search interface of WorldCat, but even though the dropdown list of materials to be specified is most impressive facsimile editions are conspicuously absent. At the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (KVK) one can use the search term “facsimile” in the free search field and add additional search terms in any field, which however works only for a restricted number of catalogues connected to the KVK. As a matter of fact you will find bibliographies which mention facsimile editions or even contain a specific facsimile, but apart from Zotter’s book and disc I did not yet find a modern bibliography of facsimile editions of manuscripts. For some subjects specialized bibliographies of facsimiles exist, for example botany and cartography.

It did cross my mind to search at Archivalia, the blog maintained by Klaus Graf which functions as a treasure trove for all matters concerning libraries and archives, but apart from one of the sites discussed here below I mainly found links to specific projects and websites. Let two examples mentioned at Archivalia suffice: sometimes I wonder why libraries use the term facsimile for digital versions, as for example for this nifty preset search action for digitized manuscripts at Leiden University Library, The second example is rather special, a list at Manuscripta Mediaevalia of digitized versions (!) of facsimile editions on microfiche of medieval manuscripts with mainly German texts in the series Codices Illuminati Medii Aevi (CIMA).

One site to find them all…

Logo Facsimile Finder

For testing the two remaining websites to be discussed here I will use as search examples apart from the Sachsenspiegel and the CIMA series also the Codice Florentino manuscript of Bernardino de Sahagún (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, ms. Palat. 218-220), a veritable encyclopedia of the Aztec civilization.2 In fact the first site for finding facsimiles which prompted me into writing this post is called Facsimile Finder. Its subtitle “The complete database of illuminated manuscripts” at once invites you to check its quality. At the same time a restriction to illuminated manuscripts is clearly stated at the outset.

The Facsimile Finder, a website run by two Italian scholars who also are the owners of the publishing house Codices illustres, easily presents the four illuminated manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel, and shows them with an image of the manuscript and the facsimile edition. The site gives for each manuscript the main elements of a codicological description, and also information about the background of the text and illuminations. On the page for the Oldenburger manuscript (Oldenburg, Landesbibliothek, Hs. CIM I 410) it reads rather curiously that the manuscript is held at the Niedersächsische Staatsbibliothek in Hannover. When I looked for the exact title at Facsimile Finder of the facsimile edition by the Austrian publisher Adeva the title turned out be left out at both websites. Adeva states as the holding institution the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung in Hannover. However, this institution certainly bought the manuscript in 1991, but placed it immediately as an extended loan at the Landesbibliothek in Oldenburg. A classic bibliographical search for the exact title yielded as a result that Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand edited the commentary to the edition “im Auftrag der Niedersächsischen Sparkassenstiftung Hannover”, by order of the Lower Saxon Savings Bank Foundation.3 Obviously it is possible not only to miss the clear indication of the location of a manuscript, but also to mix up a foundation and a library. Do you need any comments about the presentation both at this search site and by the very publisher of the facsimile? For the three other codices picturati of the Sachsenspiegel the indication of the holding library and the manuscript’s signature is correct, but here, too, as for all entries at Facsimile Finder, no title is given among further details such as the publisher, the editor, year of publication and current price of a facsimile edition. To put the record straight, on its own website Adeva equally leaves out the exact titles of their editions.

It is only fair to applaud the colourful presentation at Facsimile Finder, and in particular the search facilities which help you to focus on a particular period, language, style, type, theme or country. The theme option couples “Law” with “History” and “Chronicles”. When you realize this website contains just a meagre five hundred items, the practical restrictions for users becomes rather clear. The multiple section “Chronicles/History/Laws” brings you to 76 manuscripts. Whatever the rationale might be behind this selection, a number of them does concern legal history and is certainly very interesting, as the following examples show:

- privileges of emperor Charles V (Sevilla, Archivo Municipal, I-5-99)
– the 972 charter for the marriage of the Byzantine princess Theophanu (Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, 6 Urk. 11)
– the Goldene Bulle (1400) of king Wenceslas IV of Bohemia (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek [ÖNB], Cod. 2292)
– the Schwazer Bergbuch (Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. 10852), a text on mining and mining law written between 1556 and 1561
– the Ostarrichi charter (996) (Munich, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Kaiserselekt 859)
– a tenth-century manuscript of the Leges Salicae (Modena, Archivio Capitulare, ms. O.I.2)
– the Tordesillas Treaties (1494) from the copies at Lisboa, Arquivo Nacional da Torro do Tombo and Sevilla, Archivo General de Indias
– the Leyes de Burgos (1512) from the Archivo General de Simancas, Registro General del Sello XII-1512.

I was genuinely surprised by the facsimiles of the charter with the oath of the Spanish king Philipp II on his investiture for Sicily in 1555 (Città del Vaticano, Archivio Segreto Vaticano, A.A., Arm. I-XVIII, 522), the credential given by George Washington to William Short as ambassador in Spain (1794) (Madrid, Archivo Naciónal de España, 1794, junio 5 Filadelfia Estado Leg. 3890-14) – with unaccountably attached an image of the 1555 oath by king Philipp II – and the Furs (Valencia, Arxiu Municipal), royal legislation from 1461. The Arxiu Municipal of Valencia is also mentioned for its manuscript from 1407 of the Libro del Consolato del Mar. A quick search for this legal text learns me that apart from the facsimile published in 1977 facsimiles appeared in 1947, 1979, 2004 and 2006, none of them mentioned here. To conclude for the sake of completeness, the CIMA series is not mentioned at all, nor the manuscript of Bernardino de Sahagún.

Now you might quarrel with me that I cannot hide my irony about the website just discussed, but it is ironical that the second website I want to discuss is also called Facsimile Finder. At a German website called Faksimile Finder the subtitle is “Facsimile Finder – Bibliotheca Alexandriae”. This website in English lets you choose search fields from a dropdown list, the preferred language, and you can narrow your search by indicating the period between particular years. The database contains more than 2600 entries. Browsing lists of locations and subject groups is another possibility; “Jura”, German for “laws” , is one of the subject groups. You can choose several ways, too, to sort the results. This website brings you to online versions of manuscripts, not to facsimile editions in printed form. At the bottom of the search interface you can follow the links to a number of websites concerning medieval manuscripts, early printed books and sources for Classical Antiquity, Japanese and Chinese Buddhist studies.

Let’s quickly go through the results of my queries: for the Sachsenspiegel only the online versions at Heidelberg and Wolfenbüttel appear, the Codice Florentino on Aztec history is not included nor manuscripts from the CIMA series. For those curious about the exact signatures of the illuminated Sachsenspiegel manuscripts I have put them in a footnote together with links to the digitized versions.4 The subject group “Jura” contains just one item, the Wolfenbüttler manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel. The omission of the other Sachsenspiegel manuscript is strange. To all appearances it seems the creator of this database certainly put a lot of work in creating a subject index, but the actual results are for this particular subject distinctly meagre.

A mirror of illusions

Should we end lamenting the sad state of affairs of these three databases concerning facsimilised or digitized manuscripts? What did we see in the mirror? The database at Graz is wonderful, its bibliographical accuracy is high, but an update is most welcome. The Italian Facsimile Finder looks splendid, but its range is restricted to illuminated manuscripts and the actual number of editions, too, could be larger. The omission of titles and some factual mistakes do not work in favour of this website. When I asked information about this website Giovanni Scorcioni kindly informed me he is working on a new enhanced version with more facsimiles. A sneak preview is indeed promising. The problem with the exact titles is mainly caused by relying on the data and images given by publishers, and the information about the Oldenburger Sachsenspiegel will be corrected. The German Faksimile Finder covers a wide range of subjects, contains a substantial number of manuscripts and books, but focuses effectively on online versions of manuscripts and rare books. Its subtitle points to the ideal of the classic library at Alexandria which aimed at being a bibliotheca bibliothecarum. Its modern successor,, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina hosts a mirror site of the Internet Archive. Other major universal digital initiatives have mirror sites, too, especially the Universal Digital Library of the Carnegie-Mellon-University Pittsburgh, with in this case even three mirror sites, two in China and one in India.

When we look in the mirror after this long virtual excursion we should realize that we can profit at least from received wisdom by using the information about facsimile editions of manuscripts in reliable guides. The database at Graz should be wider known. It is duly noted for example on the fine page of the German Virtual Library-History guiding you to codicology, but alas this page is no longer updated, and though Zotter is mentioned no working link is given for the database at Graz. The great online RBMS bibliographical guide for rare materials mentions only Zotter’s catalogue of incunabula at Graz. The MGH does mention it on a webpage for manuscripts, but with the old web address, as does the online version of Leonard Boyle’s bibliography of palaeography.5

Yet another possible gateway to medieval manuscripts in facsimile came into view for this contribution. I did notice references to Charles D. Wright (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and his online bibliography Medieval Manuscripts in Facsimile and Microform, for example in the very useful guide to medieval manuscript catalogues, microforms and microfilms of UPenn Libraries, but alas the link does not function. The guide to medieval manuscripts at UIUC gives a different URL for Wright’s bibliography, but this, too, is currently not working. Only after a long search I found a reference at Umiltà to a third version from 2008 and last published in 2010 which does not exist any more, too, but luckily was archived at the Internet Archive. It turns out to be a list with examples of facsimiles of illustrated medieval manuscripts organized by subject in alphabetical order, with for “law books” just two entries. This list simply does not fit in a comparison of databases. The page for facsimiles at Umiltà is just a list of some publishing houses and their websites with a few images attached.

Logo Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries, Unicversity of Notre Dame, Ind.

At least one library has its own special database for finding microfilms and facsimiles of medieval manuscripts. The Medieval Institute Library at the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame, Ind., shows in its database information about some 9,000 microfilms and 600 facsimile editions in its holdings. Apart from a nice array of search filters you will find also information about online versions of particular manuscripts. I could not help sighing for sheer relief when seeing and testing this great resource, and even more when you can easily track at least fourteen legal texts. In my view it is a model to follow for a project which would cover editions for other periods and subjects. In my opinion it is not by chance that you can find at the Hesburgh Libraries also an excellent online exhibition on the medieval inquisition, and an online catalogue of some 200 facsimiles of medieval seals. Combining the database of the Hesburgh Libraries with for example its smaller counterpart at Fordham University is one of the search options that scholars can follow. It is easy nowadays to find the major online projects concerning medieval manuscripts for particular regions, languages and subjects, and anyway this post has at this point already grown too long to include any of them. If you insist you might have a look at my own page on medieval manuscripts.

If we had been looking for facsimiles of medieval charters, things would be very different. At the French portal for medieval studies Ménestrel you could go for example to the very detailed list of editions created at the École Nationale des Chartes in Paris. It scarcely needs a reminder that for digitized medieval manuscripts, too, we do not have – and most probably will not have for some time – a portal that really covers the growing number of manuscripts accessible online. Using websites as the Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts at UCLA, other sites as listed for example at Ménestrel, the great links page for legal manuscripts made by Gero Dolezalek, to which I can only add the digital manuscript index DMS at Stanford, still in its infancy but promising, the portal Manuscripts Online: Written Culture 1000 to 1500, and Europeana Regia, a project which I discussed here in 2011 and 2012. The website at UCLA was created by two courageous scholars, but in 2013 they decided to stop the project which did present three thousand manuscripts. For Old English manuscripts John Herrington created already in 1998 a website with a downloadable Excelsheet which perfectly serves as a guide to facsimiles. I am sure some of the more specialized databases for medieval manuscripts do contain information about the presence of facsimile editions. Adding when possible information about such editions to the Manuscripta Juridica database at Frankfurt am Main, the online version of the 1972 repertory of manuscripts with Roman law texts created by Gero Dolezalek and Hans van de Wouw, is certainly desirable.

Creating and maintaining a database for finding facsimile editions that would fulfill the most exacting scholarly demands would be quite a feat. The major demand here is the creation of a full bibliographical record for a facsimile, which has to contain both data on the edition in itself and on the object published in facsimile. Meanwhile hopefully the combination of resources I discussed here can help you to find what you need, or at least inform what you can expect from these resources. In my view it is only by cooperation, team work and a clear long-term view that such large and ambitious projects can succeed. As for how and when this will happen, these biblical words seem most apt, “for now we see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13,12).


1. Ernest T. DeWald (ed.), The illustrations of the Utrecht Psalter (Princeton, NJ-London-Leipzig, 1932).
2. The facsimile edition is [Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España] : manuscrito 218 – 20 de la Colección Palatina de la Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana ; codice florentino para mayor conocimiento de la historia del pueblo de Mexico (3 vol., Florence-México 1979).
3. Der Oldenburger Sachsenspiegel: vollständige Faksimile-Ausgabe im Originalformat des Codex picturatus Oldenburgensis CIM I 410 der Landesbibliothek Oldenburg / Textband [und Kommentarband] herausgegeben von Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand im Auftrag der Niedersächsischen Sparkassenstiftung Hannover (2 vol., Graz 1995-1996). The format of the edition Graz-Darmstadt 2006) is slightly reduced and it does not constitute a normal facsimile.
4. Dresden, Sächsische Landes- und Universitätbibliothek, ms. 32, digital version; Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. Germ. 164, digital version; Oldenburg, Landesbibliothek, CIM I 410, digital version; Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 3.1 fol., digital version.
5. Leonard Boyle, Medieval Latin Palaeography: a bibliographical introduction (third edition, Toronto 1995). The updated Italian version: Paleografia latina medievale (Rome 1999).

A postscript

My discussion focused on a number of specialized databases. In passing I referred to using the bibliographical information in library catalogues and meta-catalogues. I was kindly alerted to look again at the possibilities of WorldCat to retrieve facsimile editions. On closer inspection I do admit that I dismissed WorldCat too quickly, but you do face the fact of depending very much on the quality of the bibliographical records harvested by WorldCat, or at any other meta-catalogue. In particular a search at WorldCat for medieval law texts in facsimile with among the results a facsimile edition of the Westphalian Peace (1648) fueled my mistrust.

Years ago I created my own list of major libraries and their online catalogues. It is perfectly sensible to use them, too, for finding facsimile editions. Combining the information in printed bibliographies, some specialized databases and a number of (meta-)catalogues at major libraries is the way to find facsimile editions. Some printed bibliographies are accessible online. I want to single out the vast work edited for the Library of Congress by Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, The Hispanic world, 1492-1898 : a guide to photoreproduced manuscripts from Spain in the collections of the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico / El mundo hispánico, 1492-1898 : guía de copias fotográficas de manuscritos españoles existentes en los Estados Unidos de América, Guam y Puerto Rico (Washington, D.C., 1994), which serves not only as a directory to American collections, but informs you also about a multitude of works which have appeared in facsimile editions. The guide can be consulted online at Purdue University. I tracked this guide using the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Only a very small number of books presenting facsimiles of legal works can be consulted in full view through the services of this major enterprise.

Mentioning the Library of Congress should ring a bell for the LC Subject Headings. Using them for your searches in relevant catalogues does indeed help to narrow your results. However, the problem remains of bibliographical records with either lacking subject information or at the other end almost too much details, in particular chains of LC Subject Headings which can be in my opinion far too specific. As for finding books related to law, some universities and institutions have the luxury of both general and specific law library catalogues, for example Yale University with both the general Orbis catalogue and the Morris catalogue for Yale Law School.