Tag Archives: Epigraphy

Lawyers and remembrance: looking at medieval tombstones

At the start of a new academic year I would like to share here a subject which for many people recalls holidays with visits to old cities and monumental buildings. This post is clearly a late summer posting! Every now and then you might spot somewhere an object commemorating a lawyer. When you visit for example a medieval church you might find tombstones with clear indications of the profession of the deceased. In the last decades huge efforts have been made to make research for medieval tombstones more efficient and more contextual. This year’s launch of the Dutch database Medieval Memoria Online prompted me to look into this project for traces of lawyers, and to look at some comparable projects elsewhere in Europe. For this contribution I got also in particular inspiration from the marvellous ongoing series of posts on nineteenth-century American cemeteries and monuments by Alfred Brophy at The Faculty Lounge.

Captured in stone

Logo Mesieval Memoria Online

The database of the project Medieval Memoria Online, accessible in English and Dutch, has been developed at Utrecht University by a team of scholars led by art historian Truus van Bueren. The project documents not only tombs and floor slabs, but also memorial registers, memorial pieces and narrative sources with a function in commemorating people. The project focused on the Northern Netherlands in the fifteenth century, but there is also a provisional online inventory of wall-mounted memorials in the Southern Netherlands – roughly present-day Belgium – between 1380 and 1520, and a glossary of terms in Dutch, English and German. When I saw the project of Sophie Oosterwijk and Charlotte Dikken on the floor slabs of St. Michael’s at Oudewater I quickly added this information to my recent post about Oudewater.

In an article I wrote in 1994 on medieval lawyers and working habits I could refer to the study by Renzo Grandi, I monumenti dei dottori e la scultura a Bologna (1267-1348) (Bologna 1982) with many pictures of sepulchral monuments for lawyers in Bologna. Many of them are now at the Museo Civico Medievale. Some of these monuments show a law professor during his teaching. Several monuments can still be seen in situ. One of the earliest modern illustrated publications about them is by Alfonso Rubbiani, Le tombe di Accursio, di Odofredo e di Rolandino de’ Romanzi glossatori nel secolo XIII (Bologna 1887).

The tomb of Dirk van Wassenaer - Utrecht, Janskerk

The tomb of Dirk van Wassenaer – Utrecht, Janskerk, around 1465

Let’s turn back to the Netherlands and look at some examples of tombstones and other memorial objects commemorating lawyers and people trained as lawyers. My main example is the tomb of Dirk van Wassenaer (memorial object no. 2527) at the Janskerk (St. John’s) in Utrecht. The Memoria database carefully distinguishes between information about the wall memorial, the tomb, the inscriptions, the heraldic arms, personal information and information on locations. In this case the inscription at the wall provides part of the personal information. Dirk van Wassenaer died in 1465. He was the son of the burggraaf (viscount) of Leiden. He had been a parish priest at Leiden, a canon at Utrecht Cathedral (St. Martin’s), a provost at the collegiate church of St. Pancras in Leiden since 1416, archdeacon at the Janskerk, and a protonotarius papae, a papal protonotary.

Wall memorial of Dirk van Wassenaer

Wall memorial of Dirk van Wassenaer – Utrecht, Janskerk, around 1465

When I read the notice on the wall memorial I wrote at first that the heraldic description in the Memoria database of both the tomb and the wall memorial was not complete and partially incorrect, but the database has separate entries for the tomb and the wall memorial. The tomb monument has been described separately (MeMo no. 2960), where you will find clear descriptions of the four arms. The description of the galero, the black hat, is not correct. It is not a cardinal’s hat, which would show red cords and fifteen tassels at each side, but a more simple canon’s hat with just six tassels, not even the hat of an apostolic protonotary, with twelve tassels. The galero might symbolize the deanery held by Van Wassenaer, a suggestion given elsewhere in the description. The database provides an image of a drawing made in 1636 by Pieter Saenredam showing the tomb and the memorial in the St. Anthony’s chapel in the north aisle of the church, a chapel founded by Van Wassenaer. Today both objects are in the south part of the transept, a fact duly noted in the description of the tomb. For a database on this scale it is perhaps just wanting too much if literature on Van Wassenaer is not mentioned. Describing the objects systematically is already asking much. I could easily track an article by O.A. Spitzen, ‘Het grafschrift van proost Dirk van Wassenaer in de St. Janskerk te Utrecht’, Archief voor de geschiedenis van het Aartsbisdom Utrecht 17 (1889) 307-333 (online at the Trajecta portal for Dutch and Belgian ecclesiastical history).

It seems I was not completely lucky in choosing my main example: instead of protonotary the notice on Van Wassenaer reads prenotary, an unfortunate mistake when you want to look for other protonotaries. By the way, we deal here with honorary protonotaries, not actual officials of the Roman curia. One of the strengths of the database is the clear separation of personal information and information about objects. The same person might be commemorated in several places or he might be mentioned in a necrological register, but he or she could also be the founder of a memorial for someone else. The second example of a protonotary helps to show this variety.

A floor slab for provost Cornelis van Mierop (died 1572) at St. Martin’s in Utrecht was destroyed during the last restoration thirty years ago (MeMO no. 2934). Van Mierop, too, was a protonotary, and the inscription on his tomb, luckily preserved in a manuscript with many drawings of tombs and windows, stated he had been also a counsellor to the king of Spain (regis Hispaniae a consiliis). His portrait can be seen in a stained glass window depicting Christ giving his first sermon at the Grote or St. Janskerk in Gouda (MeMO no. 870), and in yet another window at the Grote or St. Jacobskerk (St. James’) in The Hague (MeMO no. 3012), showing him as the dean of the fourteen canons of the chapter of the Hofkapel (Court Chapel). Both windows were created by Dirk Crabeth.

The third example of a protonotary is even richer. The floor slab of the grave of Antonis Fürstenberg was found as recently as 1980 in Nijmegen and can now be seen at the Museum Het Valkhof (MeMO no. 2272). Fürstenberg was born around 1480 in Westphalia. He studied law at Bologna and received his doctoral degree (decretorum doctor) in 1498, and he held also a bachelor’s degree in theology. He was a law professor at the university of Copenhagen and provost of the convent Borglum in Jutland (praepositus Burglaviensis). A fourth protonotary, Adriaan van Isendoorn (died 1566), was buried at Utrecht Cathedral (MeMO no. 79). On the floor slab the title for protonotary reads sedis apostolicae protonotarii (..), a protonotary of the Apostolic See.

A wider context

Of course you need to combine the information provided by the Memoria database with data found elsewhere. Last year I wrote a post about a number of online prosopographic databases for Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Alas I could not find our four protonotaries in the databases of Germania Sacra, nor at Prosopographica Burgundica. One of the online resources which helps you finding scholars in the German Holy Roman Empire between 1250 and 1550 is the Repertorium Academicum Germanicum.

The Dutch Memoria project is certainly not the only scientific enterprise to present medieval inscriptions online. The German project Deutsche Inschriften Online brings you to inscriptions from several towns, monasteries and dioceses during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. At Epigraphica Europea (Universität München) you will find links to many European projects for online access to medieval and later inscriptions. Among the more specific and well-defined projects is REQUIEM, a German database for the tombs of cardinals and popes in Rome from 1420 to 1798. In this database I found for example that cardinal Pietro Pamfili-Colonna (1725-1780) had been a functioning apostolic protonotary (protonotarius apostolicus de numero participantium) from 1750 to 1761 after his promotion in 1750 as a doctor utriusque iuris at the university of La Sapienza. In 2006 the Università degli Studi di Padova launched the website Le sepolture regie del regno italico (secoli VI-X concerning royal graves and monuments in Italy from the sixth to the tenth century, with a focus on the historical background and less information about the actual buildings and tombs.

In passing I noted a manuscript preserving the text of a floor slab at Utrecht Cathedral. It was created by Aernout van Buchel (Buchelius) (1565-1646) who lived in Utrecht, but made also some travels abroad. At Het Utrechts Archief, Utrecht University Library and at Tresoar, the Frisian archive in Leeuwarden, three illustrated manuscripts created by Van Buchel are kept which add much to the information in the Memoria database. Van Buchel saw many churches, and even though he did make mistakes his work is still valuable. These three manuscripts can be searched online. His Diarium, a travel diary kept at the Special Collections of Utrecht University Library (ms. 798), has been digitized, too. To return once more to apostolic protonotaries, Buchelius mentions Johan Ingenwinckel, a provost of St. John’s, Utrecht, who died in Rome in 1534. Van Buchel’s notes about the Dutch East India Company and his work for the Amsterdam chamber, held at the Nationaal Archief, have been transcribed, too. No doubt his fame rests upon his copy of a drawing around 1596 of The Swan theatre in London (Utrecht, UB, ms. 842, fol. 132 r). You can read the Dutch version (2000) of Judith Pollman’s biography of Buchelius, Een andere weg naar God. De reformatie van Arnoldus Buchelius (1565-1641), online in the Digital Library of Dutch Literature.

If you look in the Memoria database for persons with a legal degree, be it a doctorate utriusque iuris, a doctor or licentiatus decretorum, you will find interesting results, even when their actual number is small. To wet your appetite a last example: in Arnhem you can find in the Grote or Eusebiuskerk the tomb of Joost Sasbout (1487-1546), first from 1515 to 1535 a councillor at the Court of Holland and afterwards chancellor of Guelders, and his wife Catharina van der Meer. The memorial sculpture (MeMO no. 570) might be a work of Colijn de Nole, the sculptor of the famous mantelpiece in the old town hall of Kampen. You can trace many Dutch officials quickly in the online Repertorium van ambtsdragers en ambtenaren 1428-1861. When you use this website together with the online biographic resources at the Dutch Biografisch Portaal you will surely find much valuable information. Rolf de Weijert, one of the members of the Memoria team, told me that unrecorded medieval tombstones are currently being described in the province of Zeeland. They will be added as soon as possible to the database.

For the Medieval Memoria project generic information, including description standards and a database model, is provided to help making similar projects effective and valuable, and to enhance the eventual creation of interfaces between such projects. The Memoria project did start as an art history project, but the efforts to integrate information from this discipline with textual resources transcend the boundaries of one discipline. Medieval Memoria brings you not only inscriptions or tombs and floor slabs, but also relevant texts, an example worth following. It is simply not realistic to expect a database to contain all data you would like to have at your disposal. You can help the Medieval Memoria project and similar enterprises by pointing the scholars behind them to the resources which can enrich them.

Instead of criticising the lack of information for some objects it is wiser to realize that already a relatively small collegiate church such as St. John’s at Utrecht has some thirty memorial objects, and also a necrology from the sixteenth-century. The Sint Janskathedraal at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) has more than 500 tombstones which you can study at a special website. Genealogists are probable more aware of cemeteries and tombstones than lawyers and legal historians, but it is most sensible not leave them out on purpose of our studies of subjects related to legal history. The Dutch Genealogical Society presents a nice array of websites concerning cemeteries in my country and abroad. Let this suffice here to indicate a general direction, for one blog post cannot offer the functionality of an omniscient navigation tool on the oceans of questions and scientific knowledge.

Democracy in ancient Athens

These weeks one of the books I am reading discusses the first democracy. Last year Antoon van Hooff, a scholar who taught at Nijmegen, published Athene. Het leven van de eerste democratie [Athens. The life of the first democracy] (Amsterdam 2011; third impression 2012). Although aimed at a Dutch public, Van Hooff shows not only British scholars know how to write about Classical Antiquity for the largest possible audience. Reading his study I realized it would be interesting to look at new sources and publications on ancient democracy. In this post I am happy to benefit from the riches offered at The Ancient World Online – abbreviated as AWOL – by Charles Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (New York University), a blog offering a wealth of information on new projects and publications in this vast field. Here I take the liberty of choosing rather at random postings in 2012 at this veritable treasure trove.

Pioneering democracy

Dēmos: Classical Greek Democracy is a project led by Christopher W. Blackwell which figured at AWOL in March 2012. Van Hooff mentions it in his book, too. This project aims at creating an online encyclopedia about the Athenian democracy. The project website is part of the Stoa Consortium. Among the features are translations of ancient Greeks texts, and notably a series of lectures given at the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University on “Athenian Law in its Democratic Context”. Michael de Brauw contributes a glossary of Athenian legal terms.

In July 2012 Jones published a notice about another project led by Blackwell for a new edition of the papyrus with the so-called Constitution of the Athenians of Aristotle (London, British Museum, Pap. 131). Images of this papyrus can be viewed at a website of the Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. The accompanying website brings you much more, including the classic commentary by J.E. Sandy and word lists.

Ostrakon with the name of Cimon

Ostrakon with the name of Cimon, 486 or 461 BC – Athens, Ancient Agora Museum

In the ostracism, the procedure to ban people whose power the Athenians wanted to curb, ostraca were used, potsherds with the names of politicians to be banned. These potsherds are among the most visually speaking objects concerning the Athenian democracy. Van Hooff does not fail to tell again the touching story of Aristeides – reported by Plutarch – who helped an opponent to write his name on a ostrakon. In January 2012 AWOL reported briefly on the new Berliner Papyrusdatenbank where you will also find ostraca from the collections of the Staatliche Museen Berlin. In June 2012 Jones wrote about a project of the universities of Halle, Jena and Leipzig for cataloguing and digitizing their papyri and ostraca. Ostraca are found elsewhere, too, not only in Athens. Roger S. Bagnall and Giovanni Raffall have published ostraca from Trimithis, an Egyptian village. At AWOL I found an announcement of the digital version of the edition by Hélène Cuvigny of ostraka found at Didymoi in Egypte.

Greek inscriptions can be found also online in the digital version of the Inscriptiones Graecae and other source editions, a project of the Packhard Humanities Institute. You can find the Inscriptiones Graecae also separately in a digital version provided by the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Ostraca are in particular present in the section Kerameikos III, Inschriften, Ostraka, Fluchtafeln, from the edition by Werner Peek (Berlin 1941; reprint 1974). The website of the Center for the Study of Ancient Documents at Oxford offers an extensive selection of online resources concerning classical epigraphy. At Duke University you will find an online list of editions of papyri, ostraca and tablets. In the section on ostraca and tablets you will find a great variety of texts. I did not immediately spot an edition of ostraka from Athens. Among the editions and studies are Mitteilungen aus dem Kerameikos. I. Ostraka, Alfred Brückner (ed.) (Athens 1915), Ostraka, Mabel L. Lang (ed.) (Princeton N.J., 1990; The Athenian Agora, 25), Stefan Brenne’s study Ostrakismos und Prominenz in Athen: attische Bürger des 5. Jahrhunderts. v. Chr. auf den Ostraka (Vienna 2001), and Ostrakismos-Testimonien, I: Die Zeugnisse antiker Autoren, der Inschriften und Ostraka über das athenische Scherbengericht aus vorhellenistischer Zeit, 487-322 v. Chr., Peter Siewert et alii (eds.) (Stuttgart 2002). Van Hooff remarks that ostracism was exercised in Athens only fifteen times between 487 and 417.

Imagining ancient Athens is made easier by a new virtual tour of the Acropolis, a website announced at AWOL on November 1, 2012. In his announcement Jones point also to the information about the geography of ancient Athens gathered at Pleaides, a website of his own institute and the Ancient World Mapping Center (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

Digital Antiquity

A lot of websites and blogs cover current research in the field of Classical Antiquity. The Digital Classicist is one of these blogs, which will lead you to several partner projects. For the congress calender of this blog I can find information for ancient history at websites such as Ius Civile and Compitum. In fact the versatile use of information technology in many forms should gain your admiration for the perseverance and great creativity of scholars studying ancient societies. Those scholars devoting also time to creating attention for such inventive projects on their blogs merit our gratitude for their efforts! In this short post I have only shown a few examples of much more which you can discover and enjoy for yourself and others. Even finding your road and choosing the means of transportation in Classical Antiquity is not forgotten. The ORBIS website of Stanford University will help you gaining insight into aspects of daily life which have relevance for legal history, too.

As for reading about the Athenian democracy, Van Hooff rightly reminds his readers that exactly this particular form of democracy has not always inspired modern Western democracies. One of the merits of revisiting familiar stamping grounds is to get more conscious of the different possible approaches to the Classics during the centuries. The twentieth century saw a number of shifts in attention and perspectives. Two decades ago appeared Christian Meier’s Athen. Ein Neubeginn der Weltgeschichte [Athens. A new start of the world's history] (Berlin 1993). Classical Antiquity still has the power to be a mirror for contemporary society, and this is surely not restricted to works by British or American scholars.

Carved in stone: runes and Nordic law

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

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

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

The Jelling runestone

The Utrecht copy of the Jelling runestone

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

A plaquette explaining the Jelling runestone

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

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

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

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

A drawing on the Jelling runestone

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

The main figure on the Jelling runestone

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

Runes and Nordic law

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

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

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

Digitized sources for medieval Nordic law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for more

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

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

A practical postscript

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

A second postscript

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

The voice of Hammurabi

Among the oldest existing laws are several codes of law from the Ancient Near East. Surely the most famous of them is the Code of Hammurabi. Since the stele with the text of this Babylonian law was found in 1901 at the spot of the ancient town of Susa several editions of it have been produced, mainly because of later found additional witnesses. Josef Kohler, the famous versatile scholar, first at the University of Würzburg and later in Berlin, started one of the earliest editions of the Code, written in the Akkadian language in cuneiform script, and the young Paul Koschaker worked on the edition of the sixth volume (Hammurabi’s Gesetz (6 vol., Leipzig 1904-1923)) with translated charters and a juridical commentary. This edition – except the second volume – is available online at JScholarship of the Johns Hopkins University. The stele is kept at the Louvre in Paris, and their website offers much about this famous object. Every book on the general history of mankind mentions Hammurabi’s laws.

On the web you can find English translations, for example by W.L. King at a website of the University of Evansville, and in Yale University Law School’s Avalon Project. The Online Library of Liberty has digitized the edition and translation edited by Robert Francis Harper (Chicago 1904). Jean-Pierre Morenon has digitized some French translations. A German translation from 1926 has also been digitized. The most recent edition is by Martha Roth, Law collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor (2n ed., Atlanta, Ga., 1997); a transliteration is provided in Riekele Borger’s Babylonisch-assyrische Lesestücke (3rd ed., 2 vol., Rome 2006). One can use also the edition and translation provided by M.E.J. Richardson, Hammurabi’s Laws. Text, Translation and Glossary (2nd ed., London-New York 2004).

All this can be termed received knowledge, easily retrieved and quickly to find nowadays. Agnes Jonker, a Dutch archivist who contributes often to the Dutch online archival forum maintained by Eric Hennekam, posted on September 30, 2010 a notice on a message of the same date from the University of Cambridge entitled “Gone but not forgotten: Babylonian bounces back” about Dr. Martin Worthington of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and his project of sound recordings of ancient Babylonian and Assyrian poetry and literature. He and fellow Assyriologists have made some thirty recordings which are presented at the website of the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. Two recordings are concerned with the Code of Hammurabi. Albert Naccache reads the prologue and a number of paragraphs, and Aage Westenholz reads the epilogue and some other fragments.

Hearing a text being read can radically alter your perception of a text. Lately I was asked to give my opinion about the inclusion of biblical texts in booklets for liturgical use. I am inclined not to include them, except when these texts are really difficult to follow, for example because of unclear references to persons in a story or because of an unfamiliar word order in a less often used translation. Reading aloud from the Bible or from a law code is not just presenting information by mouth like in a lecture, but part of a ritual. It is ritual reading, and reading aloud enforces the text and what it represents. Yesterday I saw on the website of the Swiss journal Ancilla Iuris an article from October 2010 by Fabian Steinhauer, ‘To Order Observation – Beobachterin weiter Ordnung’, written in memory of Cornelia Vismann. She would have been the person to expand on this notion. Reading aloud the law gives it a viva vox. Hammurabi’s stele gives a very powerful image of a mighty ancient king, and this is reinforced, even doubled, by listening to the readings from his law. I agree completely with Martin Worthington in giving the pages with the recordings an additional URL, www.speechisfire.com.

Am I right in guessing this news from Cambridge somehow escaped legal historians? Even if I have simply been unaware of it last year I do like to write about it today. Hat tip to Agnes Jonker! When I first read about it on the Dutch archival forum I initially thought about a Fools’ Day joke, but this is definitely serious. Anyway, the website of the SOAS in London provides a lot of supplementary information, including the link to the website Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire of the Higher Education Academy and the British Museum, where you can learn more about the Akkadian language and cuneiform script, with Hammurabi’s code among the exercises.

Hammurabi’s code in three dimensions

The audio sources for Hammurabi are not the only new form of presentation of this legal text. At Digital Hammurabi, the website of a project of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., a tool is presented which would indeed fit in the series from a well-known Californian company which in fact graciously supports iClay, a tool for three-dimensional representation of cuneiform tablets. Depending on your browser and the capacities of the graphic card of your computer you can look at such tablets from many angles. Epigraphy, the auxiliary historical science for the study of inscriptions, could benefit, too, using this kind of tool. One of the results of the project is a standard for computer encoding of Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, included in 2006 into Unicode 5.0. The Electronic Tools and Ancient Near East Archives (ETANA) with its own digital library is one of the best websites to look for more information about Hammurabi and his laws. The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, will help you to learn more about the cuneiform script.