Tag Archives: Medieval canon law

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.

Legal texts in digitized manuscripts at the British Library

Logo British Library - image http://pressandpolicy.bl.uk/Last week I spotted somewhere on the web an announcement about the digitization of a particularly lavishly illuminated medieval manuscript with a legal text, the Decretales Gregorii IX, the major collection of papal decretals issued in 1234 by command of pope Gregory IX. The manuscript from the fourteenth century which prompted me to write this post is commonly called the Smithfield Decretals (Royal 10 E IV). At the British Library in London the digitization of manuscripts is a project on a vast scale, first of all in view of its rich and manifold collections concerning many themes, periods and countries. A blog dedicated to news on digitized medieval manuscripts at the BL helps you to stay informed about the progress of digitization for manuscripts from a particular period. The BL even advertises a smart phone application for the Royal manuscripts, but this app will no longer be supported.

In this post I will look at legal manuscripts digitized by the British Library. Even if the absolute number of relevant manuscripts is really small, an overview of them might be useful. The variety of periods and legal systems merits attention. To redress the balance I will take into account here also illuminated manuscripts with legal texts for which the BL has digitized at least a number of pages or illustrations. A comparison of the search functions of both catalogues is included, too. At the end of this post it might perhaps be possible to conclude which legal text could be scheduled as a new addition to the eBook Treasures of the British Library.

Searching for digitized legal texts at the BL

Some people will like to know as quickly as possible about the things that make a search interface more effectively or hamper its working. For once I agree in starting with a negative remark: the detailed view with the description – and most often a detailed bibliography – of a digitized manuscript at the BL seemed at first to lack a permanent web address. When you save the URL of this view – without noticing the tiny notice “Show link URL” – and you try to reopen it in a new tab or window you cannot access it anymore. A redirection notice appears, and you have to enter your search again. Thus the link I provided in the first paragraph to the Smithfield Decretals is not the link to the detailed view, but to the first page of the digitized manuscript Royal 10 E IV itself. I will give below the correct links to the full descriptions. In the manuscript view you will find a summary of the content placed at the top of the screen. You can search for manuscripts either using a quick search with two fields, keywords and manuscript numbers, or using the advanced search interface with search fields for keywords, manuscript number, title, author/scribe, provenance and acquisition, and bibliography.

A long search for digitized manuscripts with legal texts yielded as a result a rather short list with only some twenty manuscripts. For each manuscript I give the call number, a summary view of the contents, its date and a link to the full description:

The papyrus with the complete text of the Athenian Constitution is the subject of a recent post at the BL’s manuscripts blog. What strikes me most while searching for these manuscripts is the lack of concise categories added to the description of a manuscript. Of course I realize the difficulty in adding systematic descriptors when dealing with composite manuscripts and convolutes. The sheer number of manuscripts in the British Library has as one of its consequences that some manuscript descriptions can be rather outdated, but newer descriptions are often very detailed.

Some legal texts surfaced really by chance. I looked for the exchequer when I found Harley 1498, an agreement concerning the royal burial chapel at Westminster. This indenture is not a chirograph, a charter split into two or more parts, but a book with indentures. A second part of it is kept at the National Archives, E 33/1. The coronation book of the French king Charles V (Cotton Tiberius B VIII) can serve as a reminder that a coronation is a ritual with legal elements in it. The texts of French coronation ordines have been edited anew by Richard A. Jackson (ed.) , Ordines Coronationis Franciae: Texts and Ordines for the Coronation of Frankish and French Kings and Queens in the Middle Ages (2 vols., Philadelphia, 2001).

After repeated searches with a substantial number of very different search terms with a clear meaning for legal history I still have not found more than this tiny sample from the immensely varied and large manuscript collections of the British Library. I hesitate to include here a fragment of farming memoranda of Ely Abbey from the first quarter of the eleventh century (Add. 61735). The New Minster Liber Vitae from Winchester (Stowe 944) does contain the text of some charters and the will of King Ælfred, but these legal texts are not the core of this manuscript.

For some manuscripts guidance can be found online in repertories, and sometimes even at a specialised blog. Greek manuscripts clearly get special attention in London. The Zonaras blog for the history of Eastern Christian canon law is a very useful guide to this field, and I am happy to point to it for more information about authors such as John Zonaras and Theodoros Balsamon. Manuscripts with text concerning Byzantine law are the subject of two German repertories which are available online at the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main. You can download PDF’s of both the Repertorium der Handschriften des byzantinischen Rechts, Teil I: Die Handschriften des weltlichen Rechts (Nr. 1-327), Ludwig Burgmann, Marie-Theres Fögen, Andreas Schminck and Dieter Simon (eds.) (Frankfurt am Main, 1995), and the Repertorium der Handschriften des byzantinischen Rechts, Teil II: Die Handschriften des kirchlichen Rechts I (Nr. 328-427), Andreas Schminck and Dorotei Getov (eds.) (Frankfurt am Main 2011). Both books were published in the series Forschungen zum Byzantinischen Rechts; more PDF’s of some publications in this series can be found at a special subdomain of the website of the Frankfurt institute. English legal manuscripts are being catalogued by the untiring efforts of Sir John Hamilton Baker. He did this also for the Taussig collection with many English manuscripts now at the Lillian Goldman Law Library of Yale University [John H. Baker and Anthony Taussig (eds.), A catalogue of the legal manuscripts of Anthony Taussig (London 2007)].

Light on illuminated legal manuscripts

The Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library does quickly dispel any misgiving about the percentage of legal texts among the various manuscript collections. Let’s not overdo things here, and first go to the origin of this post, manuscripts with decretals or commentaries on papal decretals. Here, too, you can choose between a quick general search and an advanced search mode.

Prisoner seeking sanctuary, bas-de-page scene from the Smithfield Decretals

Prisoner seeking sanctuary – Smithfield Decretals, British Library, ms. Royal 10 E IV, fol. 206 verso – image British Library

A search for illuminated manuscripts with decretals yields 35 records. For each manuscript you can go to a page with thumbnail images and summary descriptions of the illuminations. Often you will find more detailed images, too. Thus choosing a scene using this overview from the bas-de-page illustrations of the Smithfield Decretals is even easier than using the complete digital version of this manuscript. The illustrations in the lower margins present often consecutive scenes and tales. In August 2012 Alixe Bovey (University of Kent) contributed a very interesting post on the decorations of this manuscript to the BL’s manuscripts blog, ‘Finishing the Smithfield Decretals’. Some books have only penwork flourishes at the beginning of chapters. Among these illuminated manuscripts with decretals I would like to single out Harley 2349, a manuscript written between 1340 and 1450 with papal decretals and statutes of England. The manuscript Royal 10 C IV with the Abbreviatio Decreti Gratiani by Omnibonus, written between 1198 and 1202 has penwork initials and some additional drawings in the margins. Omnibonus’s name made me remember the Omne Bonum, the illustrated encyclopedia by James le Palmer, a clerk of the Exchequer (four volumes, Royal 6 E VI and 6 E VII, written around 1360-1375).

A lawyer addressing an assembly

A lawyer addressing an assembly – British Library, ms. Harley 947, fol. 107r – image British Library (size reduced)

As for other legal texts in illuminated manuscripts you will have to pick your choice from a wide variety of manuscripts, from books with only one decorated initial to manuscripts with lavish almost full-page illustrations in historiated initials. Let one example suffice, the Statuta Angliae. This text and other statutes can be found in nearly sixty illuminated manuscripts. Hargrave 274 (written around 1488) contains the Nova Statuta and is probably the most elaborately illustrated example. Harley 947 (first half fourteenth century) with both the Statuta Angliae and the text of the Magna Carta deserves mentioning for its picture of a lawyer speaking to an assembly.

The Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts is truly a treasure trove, even if the manuscripts of the Cotton collection have not yet been included. When searching for an image with some relevance for legal history you find yourself here with a mer à boire. Legal iconography will not come back empty-handed from searches at this website or in the Online Gallery of the British Library. It is surely possible to include the BL in a comparison of online image resources of major research libraries, something that might be really interesting. In particular the use of taxonomies such as Iconclass might come into view when comparing different databases. A comparison with a portal such as Manuscripts Online: Written Culture from 1000 to 1500 would be equally valuable. In this post, however, I wanted to give due attention to the world’s second largest library and its manuscript holdings. I invite you to use its resources for yourself and to choose a manuscript that deserves digitization, or even inclusion among the showcases. The British Library has much more to offer, and I am sure this library will be present again in future posts.

Connecting and relating legal history

This week WordPress, the provider of my blog, turned on a new feature, showing for every post related posts. In the current layout you will find them at the end of every contribution. WordPress has created an algorithm based on the labels added to each post – both categories and tags - to come up with results that stand in some relation to a particular posting. Thoughtfully WordPress makes it possible to turn off the new feature.

It is surely tempting for me to invite the readers of one particular post at my blog to read more posts! The new suggestions feature might be helpful to achieve this aim. However, the very crux is of course the quality of the categories and tags added to my posts. Is it not wiser to rely on them? For every post I try to provide sensible labels, either by selecting one or more categories and a fair number of tags. WordPress gives you a number of suggestions for additional tagging immediately after the publication of a post. For a number of scientific disciplines thesauri have been created, classification systems with terms which help you to locate and describe an object, be it a book, an image or any other object, in a systematic way, and to place it in a coherent and ordered way at its right place within such a system. At the Université Paris-Sud, Faculté Jean Monnet, François Jankowiak and Brigitte Basdevant-Gaudemet and other scholars at the Centre Droit et Sociétés Réligieuses maintain GREGORIUS, an online bibliography for medieval canon law where search terms are added to bibliographical records in a systematic way. It is certainly wise to follow their example, but most often it is really difficult to fit posts within any system on this blog where I try to cover many aspects of legal history.

Adding tags does help people to find information on a particular subject in a systematic way. A title of a publication cannot contain all you might be looking for, and this is even more obvious for languages you are unable to read or speak. Tagging can be a cumbersome affair. It is easy to create confusion. Only lately I noticed that I used both Great Britain and United Kingdom as tags, and I changed this in all relevant cases into United Kingdom. On the other hand some posts touching on the field of epigraphy, the study of inscriptions, have both the tag Epigraphy and Inscriptions, and I guess it is wiser to keep using the term Inscriptions as well. If you look for Holland on this blog for legal history with a Dutch view I must inform you that Holland is currently only the name for two provinces. The country of the Dutch people is called the Netherlands. In order not to find yourself reading involuntarily a post on the medieval county of Holland I use the tag Netherlands as often as necessary.

Tag clloud Rechtsgeschiedenis blog, 2013

Instead of coming with more doubts about and objections to prefigured reading suggestions I had better tell you what is already provided here. As categories I use Buildings, Centers, Editions, Exhibitions, General, Landscapes, Manuscripts and Scholars. You will find many tags. In the tag cloud on my blog you can easily deduce which themes figure most often on it. As for now the tag cloud is located near the end of the side bar, almost down under. My tweets with @Rechtshistorie come last. I have done this on purpose in order not to detract your attention from the blogroll with a nice selection of institutional blogs, personal blogs on legal history, a number of blogs created at (law) libraries with great interest for legal historians, in particular in the field of old books and manuscripts, and a selection of e-journals for legal history. To me it seems the blogs of law libraries are often overlooked. They do not deal exclusively with legal history, but it is the very point that they do include it that makes them interesting. In other words, I give you every possible chance to get as quickly as possible to other legal history blogs instead of keeping you confined any longer to the posts I have published since 2009.

Searching Aragon’s royal history

Logo International Archives Day

This year’s International Archives Day, an initiative of the International Council on Archives, took place on June 9. In many countries archives organized activities, among them also Spanish archives. Lately I noticed the substantial number of websites devoted to the history of Aragon, and when preparing this post it became clear how many resources you can find online. On my blog I wrote in 2011 and 2012 about the project Europeana Regia which aimed at reconstructing three medieval royal libraries with digitized manuscripts. One of them was the library of the kings of Aragon and Naples. In his acclaimed study Vanished kingdoms: The history of half-forgotten Europe (London-New York 2011) Norman Davies devoted a chapter to Aragon. In fact he had to deal with two kingdoms, both the Reino d’Aragón (1035-1715) and the composite kingdom of the Corona d’Aragón (1162-1716), a confederation of monarchies including in Spain the county of Barcelona and the kingdom of Valencia, and outside Spain Sicily, Sardinia, Naples and Majorca, to mention only its largest parts.

For clarity’s sake I use in this post the Castilian and Aragonese spellings of locations in a multilingual kingdom. The Catalan name of the Archivo de la Corona d’Aragón (ACA) in Barcelona is Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó. You can view this website also in Galician, Basque and Valencian. Legal history is certainly present at the websites I mention in this tour of institutions digitizing Aragon’s history.

Digitizing the history of Aragon

In my earlier post concerning Europeana Regia I had tried to make a preliminary list of manuscripts touching on legal history. I found some thirty manuscripts among the more than thousand manuscripts brought together in this project. From the library of the kings of Aragon 294 digitized manuscripts are presented. In 2011 I had found for Aragon only one work touching legal history, a treatise on the genealogy of the Aragonese kings (Paulus Rossellus, Descendentia dominorum regum Sicilie, after 1438; Valencia, BU, ms. BH 394), but luckily there is more. In 2012 I tracked a well-known source in Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 4670 A, the Usatici et Constitutiones Cataloniae, a manuscript written at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, and I could also point to Paris, BnF, ms. Italien 408Ordinacione fate per lo S.re Pere Terzo Re d’Aragona supra lo regimento de tuti li oficiali de la sua corte, a manuscript from the 15th century.

On closer inspection, after the closure of the Europeana Regia project, more can be found. Paris, BnF, ms. Espagnol 63 is the Latin and Catalan version of these ordinances of Pedro III, the Ordinacions de Pere III d’Aragó. A Spanish version of royal ordinances of Pedro IV of Aragon can be found in Paris, BnF, ms. Espagnol 62. Yet another manuscript at Paris (BnF, ms. Italien 958; written around 1477) contains the text of Orso Orsini’s Del governo et exercitio de la militia. Correspondence of king Ferdinand I from 1458 to 1460 in Latin, Catalan and Italian has been preserved in the manuscript Paris, BnF, ms. Espagnol 103. A copy of Guillelmus Duranti’s Speculum iudiciale (Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 4254) was both owned by the French king Charles VIII and later by the kings of Aragon, but eventually it returned to Paris. An illuminated and glossed Bolognese copy of Justinian’s Institutiones and the Authenticum at Paris (BnF, ms. Latin 4436) belonged once to the royal library in Naples. It is intriguing to note that only one of these nine manuscripts with legal texts is now at Valencia.

Behind the doors of the Archivo de la Corona d’Aragón

Logo Archivos Estatales

Jonathan Jarrett (Oxford) gave in 2011 at his blog A Corner of Tenth Century Europe a nice description of the building of the Archivo de la Corona d’Aragón (ACA) in Barcelona and its workings. The ACA traces its history back to 1318 and offers its own virtual tour. Among the many Pedro’s in Spanish history Pedro el Gran (1240-1285) stands out. The ACA organized in 2012 an exhibition on this king; some information on it can be downloaded (PDF). The ACA shows several virtual exhibitions on its website, for example on its own history, historical maps, and especially on Los Libros de Repartimiento of king Jaime I on his possessions in Mallorca and Valencia.

The first initial in Gratian's Decretum - Barcelona, ACA, Manuscritos, Ripoll 7, fol. 17 recto - image Archivo de la Corona de Aragon

The first initial in Gratian’s Decretum – Barcelona, ACA, Manuscritos, Ripoll 78, fol. 17 recto – image Archivo de la Corona de Aragon

In the online exhibition of illuminated medieval manuscripts at the ACA figure a Liber feudorum major from around 1180, the oldest document kept at Barcelona (ACA, Real Cancilleria, registro 1), a Liber feudorum Ceritaniae (ACA, Real Cancilleria, registro 4), and a Decretum Gratiani (ACA, Manuscritos, Ripoll 78), actually one of the very few sources for the first version of Gratian’s Decretum. The progress of the project led by Anders Winroth at Yale University for the edition of this version can be followed online. Winroth described Ripoll 78 in his study The Making of Gratian’s Decretum (Cambridge, etc., 2000) without mentioning the illuminated initials. The ACA provides links to several databases with guides for archival research. At PARES, the Portal de Archivos Españoles, you can search for digitized archival records from Spanish archives. The ACA gives you at its website a brief list of items and records present at PARES. Ripoll 78 is among the digitized manuscripts at the ACA which you can view at PARES.

Apart from archival records you will also find digitized manuscripts from the monasteries of Ripoll and San Cugat now kept at the ACA. At PARES you can find resources using the Inventario Dinámico by selecting the ACA and searching the tree-like representation of the various collections. With the more normal search function you can simply type your preferred term and get a result list. In the winter of 1991-1992 I participated at Leiden in the yearly seminar on juridical palaeography. We read some treatises contained in San Cugat 55, in particular at fol. 92 and 93. I suppose you will forgive me for choosing the 87 digitized medieval manuscripts from this monastery as an example of a result list with items at the ACA. Alas the images are disfigured by a watermark of the Archivos Estatales. On the legal manuscripts from both monasteries more information is available online in the Manuscripta Juridica database of the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main and in Giovanna Murano’s incipitario of medieval manuscripts with canon law texts. Due to the move to a new building the library of the institute at Frankfurt am Main is temporarily closed, and thus it is really useful to know that you do not have to wait for all of its microfilmed manuscripts if you want to study them.

Among the digitized archival records are ninety registers of the Real Cancilleria from the thirteenth century – a project briefly described here -, registros of other kings, and several trial records (procesos). A large number of records from the Consejo de Aragón and the Real Audiencia have been digitized. It is difficult to choose examples from the digitized riches at the ACA. Surely I would single out in the section Diversos y Colecciones the nearly 200 cartes árabes and the 126 autógrafos of Spanish kings and queens. Trials in civil law, pleitos civiles, are being digitized from the Real Audiencia de Cataluña where some 22,000 trials survive. Archival records for the Gran Priorato de Cataluña del Orden de San Juan de Jerusalén the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John, have been digitized, too (ACA, ORM, Gran Priorato, Volúmenes y Legajos).

One of the highlights at the ACA are the socalled Capitulaciones de Santa Fe, which bear also the name of Capitulaciones del Almirante don Cristóbal Colón, the agreement between Christopher Columbus and the Reyes Católicos, signed on April 17, 1492. Some of these documents are kept at the ACA (fondo Real Cancilleria, Diversorum, registro 3.569; PDF, 3,2 MB) and elsewhere in Spain. In 2009 the Capitulaciones were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World register. However, the UNESCO photo database shows just two images, and I therefore like to point also to information on an exhibition concerning the Capitulaciones provided by PARES.

Muchos libros digitizados

A particular motive to write about Aragon is the proliferation of digital libraries. Last week I encountered yet another digital library, at the Cortes de Aragón. On my website I listed already some twenty-five Spanish digital libraries! The Biblioteca Virtual de Derecho Aragonés is maintained by the Gobierno de Aragón. The Gobierno de Aragón at Zaragoza maintains also its own Biblioteca Virtual. I did know about the Biblioteca Valenciana Digital and the SOMNI, Fondo histórico of the Universidad de Valencia. The Biblioteca Municipal de Zaragoza has its own digital library, too. Some 1100 rare books have been digitized at the Biblioteca Virtual de la Diputación de Zaragoza. You will find manuscripts, incunables and other early editions among the Tesoros of the Biblioteca Universitaria de Zaragoza, a selection from its Biblioteca Digital del Fondo Antiguo. The ACA, too, thoughtfully provides a bibliography of the main publications concerning this archive, with links to digitized resources, some of them available at the Internet Archive.

In the Fondo Documental Histórico of the Cortes de Aragon you can find digitized manuscripts, drawings, maps and books. Among the manuscripts is a fifteenth-century legal treatise, and you will find also manuscripts of the Coran. Fuentes, source editions for Aragonese law, are to be found in the section with printed materials. My interest was guided to the sixteen printed allegaciones, legal pleadings, and the nine volumes with ordinaciones. I found a Dutch twist, too: Blaeu and Hondius figure among the digitized maps.

In 2012 a portal was created around the life and historical works concerning Aragon of the Jesuit Jerónimo Zurita (1512-1580) who became in 1547 the Cronista del Reino, the official historian of the kingdom of Aragón. The portal brings you not only to digitized editions of his books, foremost among them the Anales de la Corona de Aragón (1562-1580), but also to other chronicles, documents showing Zurita’s activities, and digitized studies on this scholar.

A proud heritage

Arragonia et Navarra, map by Joan Blaeu,1647

Aragonia et Navarra, map by Joan Blaeu, from: Le Theatre du Monde ou Nouvel Atlas (Amsterdam 1647) – image Cortes de Aragón, Fondo Documental Histórico

Let’s not overload this post with too much digitized materials from Aragon! At PARES it is wise to look for the history of Aragon not just at the ACA, but also in Madrid and Simancas. The DARA website for the Documentos y Archivos de Aragón is one of the places to look for further guidance. In fact the PARES portal guides you also to the Censo-Guía de Archivos de España y Iberoamérica, an online guide to Spanish and Ibero-American archives. The Gobierno de Aragón gives an overview of Aragonese culture and heritage at the portal Patrimonio Cultural de Aragón. It is possible to mention here a number of archives, but I will restrict myself to the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Zaragoza, with in its holdings records of the Tribunal de la Inquisición de Zaragoza between 1440 and 1621. The ACA is an institution in Barcelona, within Catalonia. The Memòria de Catalunya portal brings you to many collections. One of these collections is specifically concerned with Aragon and contains some 1700 allegaciones, pleadings by barristers who were members of the Illustre Collegi d’Avocats de Barcelona. I could not help noticing the library of this college has also digitized its Atles Blaviana, the Atlas Major of Joan Blaeu (11 vol., Amsterdam 1662), accessible at the Memòria de Catalunya. A very interesting and detailed online bibliography on Aragonese law in past and present is offered at Standum est chartae, the website of the department for derecho civil aragones of the Universidad de Zaragoza.

Of course other Spanish digital libraries offer online access to books and other documents concerning Aragon. It is in particular useful to look at the portal Legislación Histórica de España. The Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid yields many hundreds results after a simple general search for Aragon, among them nearly 200 manuscripts. At Hispana, the general portal for Spanish digitized heritage, it is not only possible to access digitized items, but you can benefit also from the indications found in the directory of digital collections. Similarly the Biblioteca Virtual del Patrimonio Bibliográfico helps you to search for materials in many Spanish libraries and archives. A number of Spanish archives, including the ACA, the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, and the general archives at Madrid and Simancas, have created a network for their library catalogues, the Catálogo Colectivo de la Red de Bibliotecas de los Archivos Estatales. At the end of this post I feel confident that you will find something useful here when you start to study Aragon and the many sides of its legal history. A number of websites mentioned here is also accessible in English. Digitization projects provide in a very real sense a royal road to many valuable resources concerning the kingdoms of Aragon.

Digital wealth: comparing national digital libraries

On April 13, 2013 the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was launched, an initiative that brings together digitized sources from a number of cultural institutions in the United States. In November 2012 the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB) started which combines the digital collections of over 2,000 institutions in Germany. The DDB is still in its beta-version. A Wealth of Knowledge is the motto of the DPLA. In this post I will try to make a comparison between the new American and German national digital libraries. For this purpose I will look both at rather random chosen subjects, and also at specific subjects with a link to legal history. How rich are both initiatives? Do these two new digital libraries compare favorably with other national digital libraries? Actually it is already interesting to look how many comparable initiatives exist worldwide. A number of them is mentioned on my own webpage for digital libraries. Moreover, it is sometimes difficult to tell a national library portal apart from a general search portal or a national portal for digitized cultural heritage.

The limits of comparison

Logo Digital Public Library of America

Perhaps it wise to start here with a Dutch proverb, je moet geen appels met peren vergelijken, do not compare apples with pears, in other words, don’t compare incomparable things. Each of the digital portals and national digital libraries has its own history, background and very different cooperating partners. In my view it is not unimportant to bear in mind this when I assess the qualities of the DPLA and the DDB. I do not want to judge them, but solely to put the efforts behind both libraries in perspective.

The first impression of the website of the Digital Public Library of America is colourful and inviting. A rolling banner shows an impressive array of beautiful images and photographs of important people and events. Visitors of the website can immediately starting looking at information for particular locations, dates and years. The exhibitions section brings you quickly to a number of themes. For legal history I would like to single out Indomitable spirits: Prohibition in the United States. Below the motto A Wealth of Knowledge you can enter a free text search. The DPLA gives prominent space to its tweets, a news section and its apps, alas not yet the applications to use on smartphones to search its contents, but two separate search interfaces. One of the apps enables searching in both the DPLA and Europeana. I will include this double search app and Europeana, too, in my comparison. For brevity’s sake I will not discuss here the Library Observatory with a more abstract presentation of the search interfaces of contributing institutions.

A first hesitation occurs when you notice no less than three horizontal menus to navigate the DPLA portal. The uppermost menu is definitely more concerned with the background, and perhaps you will scarcely need it. For navigation a site map would be helpful, also when facing the multiple browse and search options, the choice in the presentation of results and the way to filter them. In one of the new items you can read in small print that the DPLA is launched as a beta-version.

Engraving of Aaron Burr

Engraving of Aaron Burr – Enoch Gridley after John Vanderlyn, c. 1801 – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

How to probe faithfully the quality of any meta-catalogue or portal to cultural heritage? In my view both well-known matters and rather randomly chosen examples will help clarifying this matter. As for the random example, I will choose subjects and themes which just happened to be within my view these days. At his blog Appealingly Brief Dan Klau wrote on April 18, 2013 a posting on Aaron Burr (1756-1836), the vice-president who shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, and the ancestor of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, the endless speech used to stop senators from voting on bills and other proposals. Until now the filibuster figured on my blog only in his original form as a pirate, and thus I am happy to welcome his namesake!

The DPLA finds 20 results on Aaron Burr. Not one of them is directly connected with the filibuster, but more with the conspiracy for which Burr was indicted on November 25, 1806, and with Liberty Hall in Frankfort, Kentucky, a place visited by Burr. I found just one image of Burr himself. The double app for the DPLA and Europeana, too, brings 20 results from the DPLA, and 3 digitized books in Europeana. It is the constellation of holding institutions in the DPLA that surprises me, and their content. The search term filibuster gives me just six results, all of them cartoons from the twentieth century. No doubt the cultural institutions that cooperate in the DPLA hold great treasures, but you would expect results from digital collections at Ivy League universities, and from libraries such as the New York Public Library, the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Boston Public Library, although this library is present as a general partner in the Digital Commonwealth portal of cultural institutions in Massachusetts, a portal linked to the DPLA. As for now only the NYPL and Harvard Library already participate in the DPLA. In the digital gallery of the NYPL I found 57 images concerned with Aaron Burr. It seems that you cannot search yet all digital collections of Harvard Library in one search action at its website.

At present it seems the DPLA has enlisted the services of only a few major institutions, among them The Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Searching the Smithsonian collections for Burr yields more than 200 results. Looking for Burr on the website of the NARA will easily bring you 75 results. Clearly not of all of them connect immediately to digitized materials, but still the difference is very large. Somehow the aggregating process behind the DPLA is not working as completely and correctly as possible. However, the DPLA is helpful in another way: when you click on More subjects you will find a nice overview of associated themes. For Burr the filibuster is missing among these proposed subjects.

Culture and knowledge

Logo Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek

The second library portal in my comparison is the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB). At its launch in November 2012 only a beta-version became visible, thus inviting criticism. The first impression of the DDB is austere, a white background with only a search interface, a slide show with just six pictures, and two clear menus. A sitemap seems at first superfluous, but with a view to the future it is wise to include it already. The language of the search interface can be switched to German or English. Below the general free text search field you can click on Advanced search where you will find initially find just two search fields. However, you can add search fields at will, choose from ten categories, and set the character of a boolean search on “AND”or “OR”. The link to institutions brings you to a map of Germany and a search interface to filter for archives, libraries, museums, research institutions, media and monument protection. At present nearly 2,000 German institutions contribute to the DDB.

The Grimm brothers

The Grimm brothers, drawing by Ludwig Emil Grimm, 1843 – Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen – image Deutsche Fotothek, Dresden

How to test the qualities of the DBB in a fair and reliable way? 150 years ago Jacob Grimm died, the eldest of the Grimm brothers. Jacob Grimm (1785-1863) was not only responsible for the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812) – the fairy tales had their own bicentennial last year; a digital version of the first edition is present at the Deutsches Textarchiv – and with his brother for the Deutsches Wörterbuch, but published also a number of works which touch upon legal history, starting perhaps with a famous article ‘Von der Poesie im Recht’, Zeitschrift für geschichtliche Rechtswissenschaft 2 (1816) 25-99, on the poetry of the law, and editions such as the texts in Reinhart Fuchs (Berlin 1834) and the Deutsche Rechtsalterthümer (first edition in two volumes, Göttingen 1828).

Just entering “Jacob Grimm” in the DDB gives you already more than 200 results, with 80 images of either Jacob Grimm or both him and his brother Wilhelm. You will find the first three volumes (A to Forsche) of the Deutsches Wörterbuch. The DDB does not bring you to a digitized version of the 1816 article, online in the digital library for German legal journals of the nineteenth century at the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main. The DDB does contain the Reinhart Fuchs from 1834, and a letter on the subject of this book on several medieval versions of the Ysengrinus story by Grimm to the philologist Karl Lachmann, Sendschreiben an Karl Lachmann von Jacob Grimm über Reinhart Fuchs (Berlin 1840). The DDB lists several digital copies of the 1828 and 1854 editions of the Deutsche Rechtsalterthümer. Twice it is stated the first edition appeared in Leipzig, but the title pages of both volumes of this edition mention Göttingen. The error is due to the source of the meta-data on the digitized copy in question, in this case the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich.

With Grimm I choose an example from the very heart of German romanticism and scholarship. The formal end of the German Holy Roman Empire came in 1803 with the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, a decision of the German Reichstag at Regensburg. One of its consequences was the end of the secular power of a number of German ecclesiastical institutions over large territories, and the secularisation of all possessions of German monasteries. Many libraries were torn apart and ended in the holdings of new large libraries such as the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. By some German scholars 1803 has been described as a more decisive turn in German history than the French invasion by Napoleon. The DDB shows 106 results concerning this decision, not just books, but also links to archival records. Alas the links to the Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg in Stuttgart are only links to the online finding aids, not to the archival records themselves. When searching for Jacob Grimm at Europeana you get literally hundreds results. A search for the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss as a subject brings at Europeana only four results, but they happen to be the digitized appendices to the decision of the Reichstag with detailed information about institutions and territories. These volumes have been digitized by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. If you search for titles with the same word, you get seven results, again from the same library.

Promises to be fulfilled…

How to assess the results presented in the DPLA and the DDB? Even when bearing in mind we have only been in touch with the beta-version of both digital portals a feeling of disappointment is not far away. For all its colourful and alluring aspects the actual search results at the DPLA are meagre. When you try to search for the same subjects in the online collection databases of some of the major participating institutions you get more results than are at presented harvested by or aggregated at the DPLA. The presence of less well-known digital libraries in the DPLA is a promise for the future. It is good that the nets of the DPLA are not only cast in familiar fishing waters. No doubt the number of participating institutions will steadily grow. In itself it is a strength that this portal does transcend the borders and limits of the traditional library. Images, sound recordings, archival records and artefacts are welcome in the DPLA without any prejudice. The side effect is, however, that books are not as prominently present as you would wish them to be. Some subjects are distinctly nearly absent in the DPLA. The last thing I expected to find in the DPLA among the few results for decretals was a digitized copy at the Brigham Young University of a rare edition of a medieval decretal taken from the edition of the Compilationes antiquae (Lerida 1576) by Antonio Agustín.

The DDB is a bit of a paradox. I have never seen before a digital portal with nearly 2,000 cooperating institutions behind it. I had expected more and more interesting search results for the examples I have chosen here. They stem from a pivotal period in German history and culture. It is not very reassuring to find that searches elsewhere, for example at Europeana and in the collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek yield more results than at the DDB. Especially when you realize German regional meta-catalogues, and at the top of them the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog, help you to track books, including digitized copies, in a very quick and reliable way, the question arises what the aims and goals of the DDB are. Is one it aims to do better than the BAM-Portal? The BAM-Portal finds more results, but on closer inspection only a portion of them concerns digitized materials.

How do the DPLA and DDB compare to similar national and international initiatives? Europeana came into view here already several times. A search for Aaron Burr at the European Library brings you 35 digital results. I found for the filibuster 68 results, with just 5 digital resources. Among the results you can filter for disciplines, which is helpful to find the right kind of filibuster. A similar search for the decision in 1803 to dissolve the Holy Roman Empire yields 23 digital results, with again mostly items digitized at Munich.

Worldwide several library portals exists which combine the forces of several national or even foreign collections to present their digitized resources. Here just a few examples: Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, increasingly aggregates also digitized books from other libraries, for example at Lyons and Toulouse. The Biblioteca Europea di Informazione e Cultura is an Italian initiative which combines the forces of a number of thematic and special collections. In Mexico a number of institutions work together in the Biblioteca Digital Mexicana. Fifty digital libraries in Poland can be searched using the portal of the Federacja Bibliotek Cyfrowech. The Biblioteca Virtual Miguel Cervantes is a portal of several major Spanish institutions. For Catalonia the portal Memòria Digital de Catalunya brings you to even more institutions. In the portal Digital NZ – Á-Tihi Aotearoa a number of cultural institutions in New Zealand bring digitized collections together.

One of the main factors for the success of digital library portals is the way data and meta-data are harvested and aggregated. In countries where many different digitization standards prevailed it is surely more difficult to create a successful portal website. The Polish consortium of digital libraries unites institutions which use exactly the same system. Efforts to create a national portal can diminish the financial means for participating institutions to digitize materials that you would like to find also at the national level. The launch of the DPLA took place in Boston. It was no coincidence that I mentioned the position of the Boston Public Library. Its participation in the Massachusetts portal Digital Commonwealth surely poses both possibilities and limits.

Not the least factor in the success of digital portals is sticking to international standards and at the same time creating a tool that is useful for users with different interests and backgrounds. Some portals might in fact be closer to a kind of national showcase than a research tool that fits the needs of scholars from various disciplines. Sometimes it is clear you will start your search elsewhere: for digitized historical maps a first orientation is given at such portals as David Rumsey’sOld Maps Online and Archival Maps, and a second major resource to use for this purpose is the GEO-LEO-portal of the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg and the university library at Göttingen. In my view the DPLA and DDB should get the benefit of doubt. It is clear that they do not yet fulfill all high expectations, but at the same time it is wise to realize nobody would see them as the one and only gateway to digital resources in a particular country. Hopefully constructive comments will be more helpful than harsh early criticisms to create the first complete releases of the DPLA and DDB more satisfactorily. These promising portals deserve a second chance.

A postscript

The portal to historical maps of David Rumsey will shortly join the forces of the DPLA. Among the European portals I could have mentioned the Spanish portal Hispana.

The first papal abdication since six centuries

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

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

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

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

A postscript

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

Tracking medieval careers and legal history

How to put life into history? History becomes alive when you can see or imagine real people. Having their names, knowing about their activities, their homes and work, beliefs and customs, facing laws or whatever happens to them, is surely the most powerful way to connect to history and to understand its importance. However, often you can find about people only data when you look at the groups to which they belonged. They might have been members of a guild, of a particular family, they might have followed similar careers or be supined for particular reasons. It is wonderful when you can combine both a personal approach and a more general way of looking at people’s life. In the field of medieval legal history it is increasingly possible to find information about the same people both in more general online databases and in more specialized databases. The particular historical auxiliary science dealing with people and their careers is called prosopography. In this post I want to look at some projects concerning medieval prosopography, and show some ways of tuning them to good use for legal history.

The wide fields of prosopography

Prosopography is a discipline developed for the study of Classical Antiquity. The very word has Greeks roots and means something akin to “writing the faces”. The Prosopographia Imperii Romani (3 vol., Berlin 1897-1898) by Hermann Dessau and other scholars is surely the most important pioneer work. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire (3 vol., Cambridge 1971-1992) edited by A.H.M. Jones and other British scholars extended the range well into the early medieval period, for it covers the years 260 to 641. These large-scale projects are nowadays accompanied by a number of smaller projects, some of them even available online either as digitized books or as searchable databases. For medieval history with a very substantial link to the Roman Empire you can use for example for the period 641 to 1025 the Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit, a website of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, and for the period 1025-1250 the online version provided by King’s College London of M. Jeffreys (ed.), Prosopography of the Byzantine World (2011). At Bibliotheca Classica Selecta you will find a fine list of relevant works and websites concerning Classical Antiquity.

In this post I will focus on the European Middle Ages, starting with England. One of the databases for early medieval history is the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE) which contains names and data on people living in England between the late sixth and the late eleventh century. The database is accompanied by a sister project for the Domesday Book (1086), PASE Domesday. In order not to write inside this post an entire account of the history and online representations of the Domesday Book I will restrict myself here to a reference to the Domesday Book Net and to the information at the website of the British National Archives. I did not see there a link to Coelweb where you can find a database on the continental origins of English landholders, 1066-1166.

English ecclesiastical history is the subject of the series Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300 where you can search for ecclesiastical officers in the nine digitized volumes of the first series. At British History Online twelve volumes of the second series, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300-1541 have been digitized, too. You might try to combine the services of the first database with the Taxatio Ecclesiastica Angliae et Walliae Auctoritate P. Nicholai IV, a searchable online version of the edition from 1802 by the Record Commission of a uniquely preserved assessment of ecclesiastical wealth in England and Wales from the years 1291-1292. The second series can be combined for the archdiocese of York with the database for the York Cause Papers with cases from 1300 to 1858. For the period from 1541 to 1835 one can search for English clerics in the Clergy of the Church of England Database. For Early Modern history the portal Connected Histories, British History Sources 1500-1900 can do splendid services, but without even much searching the legal history of medieval England is served online almost as good.

As for Scotland it is well worth pointing to People of Medieval Scotland (1093-1314), launched last month. The project is connected with the projects on The Breaking of Britain (on the period 1216-1314) and the Paradox of Medieval Scotland (1093-1286).

Germany, Italy, France and more

When you approach the Romana Repertoria put online by the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rome online research comes really into its own. At this website scholars have combined the Repertorium Germanicum (RG) and the Repertorium Poenitentiariae Germanicum (RPG). The RG is concerned with Germans appearing in late medieval papal registers in the holdings of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano. The RPG deals with supplications from the late medieval German Holy Empire to the Cancellaria Poenitentiaria, one of the highest papal courts. Clerics asked this court for dispensation or even absolution after having committed offenses. In 1992 the Swiss scholar Ludwig Schmugge (Zurich) started this project, and it is remarkable to see an online database based on the paper publications so soon after their publication. Both databases enable you to look not only for German clerics and other Germans in an important source for the history of the papacy, but also to look at possible questions and cases about them which they filed with a particular papal court.

Things get even more interesting when you combine the forces of the RG and the RPG with online databases of the Germania Sacra project of the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen. Recently the Klerikerdatabase for research about medieval German clerics has been redesigned. At Göttingen a number of the original volumes of the Germania Sacra have been digitized and made searchable online, too. This month an additional Personendatenbank has been launched for searching persons in both these volumes and the general database.

The Pius-Stiftung in Göttingen has under its aegis the series of editions and regests (systematic summaries) of medieval papal charters, such as the Germania Pontificia. Better than complaining about the absence of a digital edition of these vast series at its website is going to the digital version of the Regesta Imperii at Mainz and the accompanying online bibliography or using the numerous online resources provided by the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) in Munich. Stanford University has digitized twelve volumes of Italia Pontificia, but I had rather not present here a tour of charters online when this is given abundantly elsewhere, for instance at the university of Munich.

A link with the Germania Pontificia is provided by the online database of Italia Regia, a database aiming at an overview of charters issued by medieval kings and emperors, placita (court records) and pontifical charters for the Regnum Italiae. The subtitle of this Italian-German project, “Il potere pubblico nei secoli VII-XI. Diplomi, placiti, persone” is telling: public power from the sixth to the eleventh century in charters, placita and people is at stake here. It is difficult to choose other prosopographical databases from Italy. The least I can do is giving the link to the Florentine Tratte, a database at Brown University on officeholders in Florence between 1282 and 1532, which tends to be used in conjunction with the online catasto (tax register) for Florence from 1427. In Italy several universities have created online database concerning historic teachers and students. You can for example use a database on medieval scholars at Siena and Perugia or use the onomasticon for Perugia.

The database Ut per litteras apostolicas published by Brepols gives its subscribers – mainly libraries – access to the volumes with papal letters edited in the French series Registres et lettres des papes du XIIIe siècle and the sequel for the fourteenth century, two major source series. For the letters of pope Clement IV (1265-1268) you can find a preliminary version of a critical edition of 556 letters prepared for the MGH by Matthias Thumser at the Freie Universität Berlin. Brepols offers also subscriptions to Europa Sacra, a database with 30,000 records on medieval bishops, archibishops and patriarchs from the standard works by P.B. Gams, Series episcoporum ecclesiae catholicae (Regensburg 1873) and its successor, C. Eubel and others (eds.), Hierarchia catholica medii et recentioris aevi ab anno 1198 (Münster 1898-). To me it seems at first sight that you have to use the newer databases already mentioned here to supplement and rectify data in Europa Sacra. For information on late medieval and later bishops the website Catholic Hierarchy often is helpful, but alas unsourced.

For France, too, projects concerning medieval clerics exists. The Fasti Ecclesiae Gallicanae are the modern sequel to the volumes of Gallia Christiana in provincias ecclesiasticas distributa (…) (15 vol., Paris, 1715-1865). It includes bishops, canons of cathedral chapters, abbots and other ecclesiastical dignitaries. At his blog Pecia Jean-Luc Deuffic has listed links to digital versions of both these volumes and the three volumes of the Gallia Christiana novissima (1895-1900). The website of these French fasti points to similar projects elsewhere. You encountered here already the Germania Sacra and the Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, but Helvetia Sacra and the Fasti Ecclesiae Portugaliae deserve mentioning, too. The Laboratoire de Médiévistique Occidentale de Paris (LAMOP; Université Paris-1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne)) has more cards on its sleeves. Recently it launched the Base des collegiales séculières de France (816-1563), a database for searching medieval secular chapters, secular meaning here not following a particular special rule for canons at collegiate churches. At Paris a website has been developed with data on clerics at the cathedral of Meaux, accompanied by a more general site on this project including maps and a bibliography; one has to register to get access to the database. Another prosopographical database from the LAMOP is Opération Charles VI, a database with people active during the reign of the French king Charles VI (1380-1422).

By now it is no surprise the LAMOP offers this academic year a seminar on medieval prosopography. For this discipline a journal exists, Medieval Prosopography, published since 1980 by the Western Michigan University. For modern history Oxford University has created an online tutorial for prosopography. The tendency for research along national lines is deplored at this Oxford website, and yet the new project for Scotland seems to be blissfully unaware of the dangers of limits along arbitrary borders. In fact the very way Scotland broke apart from England spurred this project. Interestingly some projects concerning Germany use the borders of the former Holy Roman Empire, including parts of Italy and the Low Countries. At the Germania Sacra website you will find a useful selection of links to projects for university registers (Matrikel) from Germany and in particular the Repertorium Academicum Germanicum (1250-1550). I guess it is wise with such projects to set yourself some borders in order to escape from starting an all-compassing or even utopian project. It might drag on infinitely or end as a dead-end indeed, by lack of funding or real scientific importance, because aims, methods and standards might easily have developed in different directions during the long periods in which such projects run.

The same wisdom helps me to end this post here. It is certainly not the definitive guide to online medieval prosopographical databases with particular relevance for legal historians. For medieval Britain the website on medieval genealogy offers a detailed presentations of online resources for medieval biography and prosopography. I skip even the customary Dutch twist, for example with online university immatriculation records for Dutch universities, but I give you in exchange the link to a database on Belgian magistrates from 1795 to 2005, Just-his, a website of the Université Catholique de Louvain. However, if you think that it is easy to expand on this post, please send me your comments and additional references!

A postscript

As for Dutch matriculation registers, I am afraid I mixed up things. Several Dutch alba promotorum have been digitized:

- Digitaal Album Promotorum, Utrecht University
- Digitaal Album Promotorum, Groningen University
- Album Academicum, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Utrecht University has a fine website on its professors since 1636, the Catalogus professorum Academiae Rheno-Traiectinae.

A second postscript

Medieval prosopography is a prosperous research field. Earlier this year I had already noticed in a post the website Prosopographia Burgundica, and I simply did not remember writing about it, but it deserves inclusion here.

Crossing many borders: the study of medieval canon law

When I started my blog in 2009 this happened not only because I wished to do so, but also in answer to the very question how to blog about legal history. The question came from the Stephan-Kuttner-Institute of Medieval Canon Law (IMCL) at the University of Munich. Since 1996 this institute is housed at the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte. One of the earliest posts in my series Centers of legal history centered around both institutions.

Stephan Kuttner and the modern study of medieval canon law

The IMCL is a creation of the late Stephan Kuttner (1907-1996). Kuttner was born in Bonn. He studied law in Berlin. His family was originally Jewish, but they had converted to Lutheranism. After his promotion in 1930 Kuttner was refused the opportunity to do research for a Habilitationsschrift at any university in the German-speaking world. Kuttner left Germany and was during a few years able to teach at the Lateran University, and to do the research for two studies which altered the study of medieval canon law radically, a model study on the canon law theory of guilt and a repertory of manuscripts with medieval canon law texts. Eventually Kuttner had to leave Italy and succeeded in 1940 in entering the United States. He taught at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., at Yale University since 1964, and finally from 1970 onwards at the University of California at Berkeley, where he became one of the directors of the Robbins Collection at Boalt Hall, Berkeley’s law school. In 1955 Kuttner founded the IMCL.

In the sixties Kuttner and Gérard Fransen from the Université Catholique de Louvain decided to organize an international congress for the field of medieval canon law. The first congress took place in 1963 at Boston College. In 1968 the university of Strasbourg hosted the second congress, and in that year it was decided to organize the congress every four years, with the venue alternating between Europe and America. From August 5 to 11, 2012, the University of Toronto hosted for the second time – 1972 was the first time – this congress, the fourteenth of a distinguished series. Andreas Hetzenecker used the resources of the IMCL to write a study about Kuttner’s early years in America and his scholarly role for the multidisciplinary field of medieval canon law, Stephan Kuttner in Amerika 1940-1964 : Grundlegung der modernen historisch-kanonistischen Forschung  (Berlin 2007). Kuttner ranks with other brilliant German scholars such as Erich Auerbach and Richard Krautheimer, Fritz Stern, Paul Oskar Kristeller and Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Kantorowicz and Hermann Ulrich Kantorowicz, and many others who had to flee from Germany in the face of the Nazi regime.

Languages and medieval canon law


Both the IMCL and the series of congresses are supported by a society with a Latin and an English name, Iuris Canonici Medii Aevi Consociatio or International Society of Medieval Canon Law, which should not surprise you in view of the language of many sources concerning medieval canon law. When you look at the book titles in the online catalogue of the library of the IMCL you will find works in many languages which is a faithful reflection of the worldwide community of scholars studying medieval canon law.

Quite recently Dante Figueroa wrote for In Custodia Legis, the blog of the Law Library of Congress, a guest post on medieval canon law with at its center the edition of the proceedings of the 2008 congress on medieval canon law at Esztergom. The author evidently was surprised not only by the uncut pages of the proceedings published by the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in 2010, but also by the very fact of scholars publishing in a wide variety of languages on a subject which in itself has so many sides. I added a comment to this post mentioning this year’s congress in Toronto, and the fact that the first see of the Institute for Medieval Canon Law was in Washington, D.C., more precisely at the Catholic University of America, where the webpages of Kenneth Pennington remain one of the earliest and most informative pages on the study of medieval canon law.

I always feel slightly disappointed when links in the often very interesting posts at In Custodia Legis lead you only to the venerable Encylopedia Britannica. However, Figueroa has taken the trouble of searching for online information sometimes far away, but he could have found much online in Washington, too. If someone of the fine blogging team at the Library of Congress would take the trouble to add the category canon law to all relevant and often revealing posts at In Custodia Legis they would save anyone interested some time in finding them… Anyway, I am most willing to admit that the post by Figueroa made me think about addressing the subject of languages and medieval canon law.

Medieval canon law in Toronto

When starting this post I soon realized that Toronto would surely qualify for inclusion in my series on centers of legal history. Writers’ received wisdom says you should not mix up things too much in one story, and I confess to a strong tendency to put too much of a good thing in one post. Let’s therefore opt for the best of two worlds and just refer to the Toronto institutions involved in the 2012 congress. The Centre for Medieval Studies is the first to mention. I am intrigued by the references to research projects on the Florentine monte and on Beneventan script, but the website of the CMS does nor bring you directly to more information about them. Among the scholars doing research in legal history one can point to Alexander C. Murray and Giulio Silano. At present Lawrin Armstrong is the editor of the series Toronto Studies in Medieval Law. Medievalists all around the world turn to the well-known series with sources in translation, the Toronto Medieval Texts and Translations.

The second institution at Toronto was the venue of the congress – which incidentally I had liked very much to attend – St. Michael’s College, which can boast Marshall McLuhan, Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain among its former teaching staff. The third institution is the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS). To honour the memory of Leonard Boyle O.P. (1923-1999), for many years not just a renown palaeographer and codicologist but also a scholar working in the vast territory of medieval canon law, a chair with his name has been founded. The sheer width of his scholarship and his interest in modern technology is mirrored in the Internexus part of the PIMS website which amounts to a full-scale portal for medieval studies online. Here Boyle’s motto taken from Hugh of Saint Victor’s Didascalicon should serve as a reminder that you will never look in vain for something to learn which will help you to understand the medieval world at large and medieval canon law as one of its essential components. The PIMS has its own series of publications, including the journal Medieval Studies and the Mediaeval Sources in Translation. Legal history and medieval canon law are among the subjects of the publications. The PIMS is home to the project Monumenta Liturgica Beneventana in which Roger E. Reynolds takes account of medieval canon law.

Blogging about legal history

In my blog roll I try to present as many relevant blogs for legal history as I can. My collection is surely not complete, but at least many countries and languages are represented. Returning briefly to the opening of this post where I told about the impulse I received from Germany in 2009  it is only quite recent that German scholars have started embracing this medium. Klaus Graf is probably the best known pioneer, if not the very godfather of German history blogs. He started his Archivalia blog in 2003. The German branch of the French Hypotheses blogging network was officially launched during a symposium Weblogs in den Geisteswissenschaften in Munich on March 9, 2012. At de.hypotheses.org you can now find 23 German scholarly blogs, including a new one edited by Klaus Graf with references to reviews of recent studies on Early Modern history, the Frühneuzeit-Blog der RWTH. Graf wrote a very substantial paper for this meeting, with many links to blogs on history instead of traditional German footnotes, and a picture of a hilarious game in which you will win by noticing as many stock prejudices against the use of Internet as possible. It is no incident that the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Paris and its librarian Mareike König have taken a lead in getting German scholars to create blogs and to use Twitter.

As for blogging about canon law by a Dutchman, this should not surprise you anymore at the end of a post where linguistic borders are just one of the frontiers to conquer when studying medieval canon law. A recent inquiry from the United States made me think again about the importance and afterlife of medieval ecclesiastical law, and I hope to add soon some pages to my website to show this in more detail.

A postscript

In a comment Anders Winroth (Yale University) announces the return to New Haven of the Institute of Medieval Canon Law in 2013. Some of the contributions to this year’s congress at Toronto are the topic of recent posts at Medievalists.

More medieval legal manuscripts at Europeana Regia

In December 2011 I gave in a post about the Europeana Regia project for the virtual reconstruction of three medieval royal libraries a provisional list of digitized legal manuscripts. On January 25, 2012 the addition of manuscripts kept at Amiens, Rheims and Valenciennes was announced on the project website. At Europeana Regia you can read a report and watch two short videos about this latest digitization campaign. Following the example of this earlier post I will provide here a similar list of digitized manuscripts with medieval legal texts. After the original impulse for a new list more manuscripts have been added from other libraries as well. For brevity’s sake I will not give here a short presentation of these mostly well-known libraries. It took the project team several months to digitize more manuscripts and to create the webpages presenting them. In January 2012 only a restricted number of newly digitized manuscripts became immediately visible at Europeana Regia, hence the delay in publishing this post.

Three French libraries

The Bibliothèques d’Amiens Métropole has as its core the former Bibliothèque Municipale, where since the French Revolution a number of manuscripts from confiscated monasteries have been kept, in particular from Corbie. Europeana Regia contains eleven manuscripts kept at Amiens. The Bibliothèque municipale de Reims holds medieval manuscripts from Rheims Cathedral and from former abbeys around Rheims. You can search directly for manuscripts in the library catalogue. The Bibliothèque de Valenciennes offers not only the possibility to browse a number of medieval manuscripts in color, but also a chance to look at digitized black and white microfilms of other manuscripts. The library has organized these versions in chronological order, but you can also consult a general index and a list of provenances. Valenciennes is strong in manuscripts from the abbey of Saint-Amand. This library points to the Catalogue Général des Manuscrits, part of the Catalogue Collectif de France, where you can also search for manuscripts in the holdings of other French municipal libraries.

The new list contains 22 medieval legal manuscripts, twice as much as in the first list where I listed eleven manuscripts. Still 33 legal manuscripts as an overall total is not particularly rewarding. Just two medieval legal manuscripts at Amiens, none at the two other French libraries added in 2012, is meagre. Looking at the harvest of newly digitized legal manuscripts it seems almost one has read my earlier post with the list of manuscripts of the Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana at Munich which now have been added to Europeana Regia. The number of legal manuscripts at Sankt Gallen included here is comparatively low. In the project for the Codices Electronici Sangallenses 436 manuscripts have now been digitized. On May 31, 2012 a final conference at Paris will be held to discuss the general results and the future of Europeana Regia. One of the questions one can think of is why these medieval kings obviously did not collect more legal texts. Europeana Regia offers indeed a filtered view on the transmission of medieval legal manuscripts. I would like to repeat that in most cases you can find more digitized medieval legal manuscripts at the websites of contributing libraries.

When I first looked at the presentation of the manuscripts at Europeana Regia the absence of a search function, apart from the predefined filters for collection, location, language and date, made me frown. I thought this was really exceptional, but this year Utrecht University Library changed the online presentation of its digital special collections. On the new website the showcases are splendid, as are the accompanying essays and the small current exhibition Heavenly discoveries at Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. However, instead of the old ordered presentation you will only find an alphabetical list of digitized “objects”. Both the manager of the digital collections and the keeper of manuscripts have said to me it is their absolute priority to add a search function to this website…

In the list here below I will give the link to the English version of each manuscript description as provided at Europeana Regia, brief information about the texts in and the date of each manuscript, and the link to the digitized version.

A postscript

In the final version of Europeana Regia you can use a direct free text search for manuscripts and also an advanced search interface with fields for shelfmark, author, title and place of origin. The project ended in the summer of 2012. The resurfacing of the advanced search mode unarms my earlier remarks about the lack of this mode. You can even filter the results by author, origin, illuminator, scribe and writing material. Even the Dutch version of this part of the portal has been created.

A number of manuscripts from other libraries than those listed below in May 2012 have been added, but I think it is easy to find out now which legal texts are included in the manuscripts added in the latest phase. Looking for collectio one would easily overlook the manuscript Sion, Archive du Chapitre, 120 with the Collectio Dacheriana, because only the word Dacheriana appears in the description. At Paris more manuscripts with French translations of the major texts for Roman law have been added. You will find now for example four manuscripts with the Lex Salica.




-ms. 671: Dionysius Exiguus, Collectio canonum priscorum conciliorum et epistolarum decretalium summorum pontificum, 9th century – digitized version

-ms. 789: Institutio et Regula canonicorum in concilio Aquisgranensi (816) editae, 9th century – digitized version



Apart from these three libraries more legal manuscripts have been added since the end of 2011 for the other libraries participating in the project:

Brussels, BR

-ms. 10127-44: Liturgical texts and treatises on canon law, 8th-9th century – digitized version

-ms. 5413-22: collection of canon law, with – mainly – historical and astronomical additions – digitized version

-ms. 8780-93: canon law texts, 8th century – digitized version

Munich, BSB

-Clm 6243: Collectio canonum “Frisingensis”, late 8th century, around 800 – digitized version

-Clm 6244: Collection canonum Dionysio-Hadriana; Exhortatio, Freising, early 9th century – digitized version

-Clm 6355Collection canonum Dionysio-Hadriana, Freising, 2nd quarter of the 9th century – digitized version

-Clm 14008: Collection canonum Dionysiana adaucta, Rome, late 9th century – digitized version

-Clm 14422: Collectio canonum Dionysio-Hadriana, early 9th century – digitized version

-Clm 14780: Theodorus, Canones paenitentiales Theodori, around 800 – digitized version

-Clm 19415Lex Bauivariorum, Iunilius Africanus: De partibus divinae legis, etc., Freising, 820-830 – digitized version

Paris, BnF

-ms. Français 495: Justinianus I, Digeste veille, anonymous French translation; France, around 1270-1280 – digitized version

-ms. Français 1064: Justinianus I, Institutiones, anonymous French translation; France, 2nd half of the 13th century – digitized version

-ms. Italien 408Ordinacione fate per lo S.re Pere Terzo Re d’Aragona supra lo regimento de tuti li oficiali de la sua corte, 15th century – digitized version

-ms. Latin 4436: Justinianus I Imperator, InstitutionesAuthenticum, cum glossa ordinaria; Bologna, 13th-14th century – digitized version

-ms. Latin 4476Infortiatum, cum glossis Accursii; Bologna, late 13th century – digitized version

-ms. Latin 4594: Petrus de Unzola, Opus IudiciorumDisceptatio daemonis in judicio contendentis adversus homines et beatam Mariam eorum advocatam; Bologna, first quarter of the 14th century – digitized version

-ms. Latin 5411: Johannes Berardi, Chartularium monasterii Casaurensis, ordinis sancti Benedicti, around 1170-1182; chartulary of San Clemente a Casauria – digitized version

-ms. Latin 4670 A: Usatici et Constitutiones Cataloniae, 14th-15th century – digitized version

-ms. Latin 10758: Capitularia,leges et varia de Carolo Magno, 10th century – digitized version

Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek

-Cod. Sang. 150Libri paenitentiales, texts of the Church Fathers, and other texts, 9th-10th century – digitized version

-Cod. Sang 731: Lex Romana Visigothorum, Lex Salica, Lex Alamannorum, 794 - digitized version

A mosaic of digitized medieval legal manuscripts

On this blog the twin brother of the walking historian is the armchair historian, comfortably seated at his desk in front of a computer screen, with access to a multitude of digitized sources online. Among these sources medieval legal manuscripts, too, are present. The ability to see a source in its original form can be fascinating, although at the same time you need to know about old scripts to read and interpret them correctly. On my website for legal history I mention a number of websites with digitized legal manuscripts, both for medieval law as a general subject and more specifically for medieval canon law. Some of the websites indicated offer solely digitized medieval legal manuscripts. In this post I will look at two digitization projects at the Università di Bologna, Europe’s oldest university, where the teaching of law was for centuries at the very heart of the university.

Progetto Irnerio

Logo Progetto Irnerio

The first project to be discussed is the Progetto Irnerio in which the legal manuscripts at the Collegio di Spagna (Real Colegio de España) in Bologna have been digitized. The collection of manuscripts was started by cardinal Gil de Albornoz (1310-1367) who founded this college in 1364 and gave 36 manuscripts to the library of his new foundation. The college has illustrious people such as Ignatius of Loyola and Miguel Cervantes among its students. In 1992 a team of scholars published a detailed catalogue of the sizeable manuscript collection, I codici del Collegio di Spagna di Bologna, Domenico Maffei, Ennio Cortese, Antonio García y García, et alii (eds.) (Milan 1992) which stressed the rich value of the nearly 300 manuscripts for the study of the history of medieval and early modern law. In 2002 the CIRSFID, the center for the history of law, philosophy and sociology of law and legal information at the Università di Bologna, started the project for the digitization of these manuscripts.

On this project the images of the manuscripts can be viewed in two ways. Subscribers to the project get access to high-resolution images. The snag for non-subscribers is that even when you try to enlarge images the resolution is so low that they are almost useless. The registration includes the signing of a full contract with all kind of stipulations. A restricted number of images can be viewed freely, for anything more one has to pay. It creates the distinct impression one will get access to documents with a priceless value or at least value to create a considerable sum of money out of them. The project was founded with money stemming partially from a foundation created by a savings bank in Bologna, the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio. The difference between the liberality with which information about the manuscripts is available and searchable at this project, and the strictness of the access to images which can be used for study is questionable.

Progetto Mosaico

Logo Mosaico

For the second project the same center at Bologna cooperates since 2008 with a number of libraries, initially with the Università di Roma Tre and the Università di Napoli, but now also with institutions outside Italy such as the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and the ENRICH project for a European digital library of manuscripts, an offspring of Manuscriptorium. In the Progetto Mosaico you will find both descriptions of medieval legal manuscripts and a number of digitized relevant manuscripts. The number of manuscripts with images currently shown is surely not very high.

The first main difference between the Irnerio and Mosaico projects is the presentation of high quality zoomable images at the Progetto Mosaico. Progetto Mosaico offers immediately full access to the manuscript images after agreeing online with the terms and conditions of use. A second substantial difference is the grouping of the manuscripts around a number of subjects. Let’s look at the largest of these groups which focuses on the Authenticum, the medieval collection of Justinian’s Novellae. Not only the Digest but also these constitutions from the sixth century became the object or study only from the twelfth century onwards. At Mosaico 28 descriptions of manuscripts are given and their contents are compared. A further overview graphically shows the slow way the manuscripts with these constitutions were taken into account and described in the first half of the nineteenth century. For four manuscripts images are available (Angers, Bibliothèque Municipale, 333; Bologna, Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio, A 132; Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, sin.7 plu.9; Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek, Haenel 5).

It is good to have here detailed descriptions of the manuscripts and the texts included in them. It reminds you the text of the Authenticum was transmitted together with other legal texts. Most of the manuscripts described here contain also glosses. In the study by Charles Radding and Antonio Ciaralli, The Corpus Iuris Civilis in the Middle Ages. Manuscripts and transmission from the sixth century to the juristic revival (Leiden, etc., 2007) the earliest medieval manuscripts of the Authenticum figure, too. One of the arguments Radding favors is to consider the possibility of new datations of these manuscripts. In the nineteenth century many manuscripts were ascribed a date which according to the modern knowledge about palaeography and codicology might strongly differ, a century or even more. In principle this could place the start of the renewed interest in Justinian’s compilations and constitutions much earlier, and also in other places. In order to localize and date manuscripts it is very useful to have them together. The online presentation of manuscripts held at many different cities across the world is a most welcome tool to facilitate such inquiries and to probe Radding’s hypotheses.

Among the other manuscripts presented at Mosaico is a focus on legal procedure. One of the results of the study by twelfth-century lawyers of the actiones in Roman law was the creation by Giovanni Bassiano of the so called Arbor actionum, the “Tree of Actions”, a kind of didactic scheme to explain the main differences between legal actions. On the Mosaico website the design of this tree is explained, and two different versions of it are presented. Images are provided from two manuscripts with the vulgate – most common – version, Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, ms. Can 23, fols. 270v-271r, and Bern, Burgerbibliothek, fols. 61v-62r. A different version has been preserved in three manuscripts, of which Admont, Stiftsbibliothek, 234, fols. 179v-180r, and Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, ms. Jur. 13, fols. 1v-2r can be viewed at Mosaico. The third manuscript, Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek, 921, fol. 187v-188r, can be seen at Manuscripta Mediaevalia. In this section you will find also ample references to earlier literature about the arbores actionum.

Mosaico shows that medieval lawyers did not only know the arbores consanguinitatis et affinitatis, about which you can read in two recent blog posts, the first by Jolande Goldberg at In Custodia Legis, the blog of the law librarians of the Library of Congress, the second at Interfaces/Livres anciens de l’Université de Lyon. At this French blog a comment guides you to an online exhibition of the Bibliothèque nationale de France about the symbolic value of the tree in medieval thought with an analysis of the genealogical uses.

The other manuscripts presented at Mosaico concerning medieval legal procedure are Olomouc, Státni árchiv, C.O.40 with the Tractatus quaestionum attributed to Giuliano da Sesso, introduced and transcribed by Lucia Sorrenti, the author of Il “Libellus Quaestionum” di Giuliano da Sesso. Un giurista ghibellino a Vercelli (Messina 1992), and Prague, Knihovna Národního Muzea, XVII.A.10, with the glosses of Roffredus Beneventanus on the Codex Justinianus. For the manuscript Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 8011 an introduction and summary description is lacking. In fact only a part of this manuscript is shown (fols. 86r-107v) with quaestiones disputatae in iure canonico by Aegidius de Fuscariis and other jurists.

Presenting medieval manuscripts and texts

One of the interesting aspects at Mosaico is the use of different models for presenting the images and creating space for transcriptions and comments. This makes the project a kind of laboratory for editing manuscripts using online tools. In the absence of agreement among scholars about a general way of describing medieval manuscripts along standards which are also consistent with presentation online using XML, and dealing with both data and meta-data concerning manuscripts, any initiative showing different approaches for one very wide manuscript genre is valuable in itself. The model Susa – after Henricus de Segusio (1190/1200-1271), often nicknamed Hostiensis because he ended his life as cardinal of Ostia – is a simple database for searching manuscripts, with for now perhaps not enough data to consider its functioning properly. The model San Pietroburgo presents data and meta-data in a series of windows with information for each manuscript page.

The model with the tempting name Processo di Satana offers a viewer in which you can compare two manuscripts and add comments and transcriptions. In the late Middle Ages several texts presented the story of a trial of the devil against God claiming human souls. These treatises offer a kind of nutshell guide to forms of procedure at court, and at the same time also a guide to a number of theological matters. At Mosaico you will find the Processus Sathanae contra genus humanum ascribed to Bartolo da Sassoferato (1313-1357). The manuscript tradition of this treatise is the subject of another section, which alas is not complete, but at least you will find an introduction and a provisory list with 43 manuscripts. The list is certainly not complete, but has the distinct merit of noticing the context of the transmission in both juridical and theological manuscripts. You can view images of four manuscripts of Bartolus’ text. Readers of an earlier post here might remember that Bartolus’ treatises have been preserved in many manuscripts. The fourth model Bertram offers images, a classic transcription and commentary by Martin Bertram of the manuscript Montecassino 266 of Goffredo da Trani’s Apparatus decretalium, one of the earliest and most original commentaries on the Liber Extra, the major official decretal collection published in 1234.

It is only fair to indicate that Mosaico offers the result of work in progress. At some turns there is little to desire, at other points progress seems to have halted soon after the start. It is certainly thoughtful of the makers to present the manuscripts from the Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio in Bologna also in a separate section, but here, too, an introduction is lacking. Ms. A 34 contains the Processus Sathanae. Ms. B.1484 presents the text of Salatiel’s Ars notariae. Ms. B.2794 and ms. B.2795 are both manuscripts with various legal texts which again are concerned with legal procedure. The first has for example the Margarita legum of Alberico Galiotti, quaestiones by Azo and the Libellus questionum of Pillius and a Summula de libellis formandis atrributed to Salatinus. The second manuscript offers a Libellus de ordine iudiciorum ascribed to Pillius, Guido de Suzaria on the same subject, the Tractatus de summaria cognitione by Giovanni Faseoli, and a number of texts without a clear attribution. The best modern starting point for research on these two manuscripts is no doubt the study by Linda Fowler-Magerl, Ordo judiciorum vel ordo judiciarius. Begriff und Literaturgattung (Frankfurt am Main 1984). The genre of the quaestiones is one of the subjects dealt with by Annalisa Belloni, Le questioni civilistiche del secolo XII: Da Bulgaro a Pillio da Medicina e Azzone (Frankfurt am Main 1989), and in the proceedings of a symposium, Die Kunst der Disputation. Probleme der Rechtsauslegung und Rechtsanwendung im 13. und 14. Jahrhundert, Manlio Bellomo (ed.) (Munich 1997).

A summary of the contents of the twin manuscripts B.2794-2795 is also to be found in the catalogue of the microfilms held at the Istituto di Storia del Diritto Italiano, Sezione di diritto medievale e moderno, in Milan. For medieval manuscripts in Italy one can use online BIBMAN, the Bibliografia dei manoscritti in alfabeto latino conservati in Italia, which helps you finding literature on specific manuscripts, MANUS, the Censimento dei manoscritti conservati in biblioteche italiane, a general database for Italian manuscripts, the Nuova Biblioteca Manoscritta database for manuscripts in the Veneto, and Codex, the Inventario dei manoscritti medievali della Toscana, yet another database for manuscripts. For Lombardy a comparable censimento exists, to mention only the largest regional projects and those projects most relevant for legal history. However, musical manuscripts and Greek palimpsests (Rinascimento Virtuale) are certainly not forgotten in Italy, and you can find more projects in this list at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and at the portal Internet Culturale. The Vatican Library is anyway in a class of its own, and this is certainly the case for its manuscripts. Searching for manuscripts in Italy bearing a date is possible online with the online version of Manoscritti Datati d’Italia.

Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum

Logo Università di Bologna

Near the end of this post it is clear that at Mosaico the door is wide open for studies in the field of medieval legal procedure. The models for presentation merit close scrutiny and further elaboration. The doors of the Progetto Irnerio remain much more closed, an alluring treasure vaguely visible from outside. It is time to put my findings in a perspective, first on the level of medieval legal manuscripts, secondly in the context of other Bolognese libraries and their services.

How do both projects compare with other websites and presentations devoted solely or partially to medieval legal manuscripts? Illuminating the Law is a fine online exhibition of beautiful medieval juridical manuscripts at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. However, the exhibition shows only twenty images, almost exclusively from canon law manuscripts. The first images show the tree of consanguinity (Decretum Gratiani, ms. 262, fol. 71r) and the tree of affinity (ms. 262, fol. 71v). From a manuscript with the Volumen parvum which contains Justinian’s Institutiones and the Authenticum (McClean 139, fols. iv-iir), the arbor actionum is shown. Penn in Hand, the gallery of digitized manuscripts at the libraries of the University of Pennsylvania, contains a number of medieval legal manuscripts and records among a very large selection. The UPenn libraries offer only very short descriptions of these manuscripts. The Saint Laurentius Digital Manuscript Library of Lund Universitet, too, contains a number of legal manuscripts, with a full description of all 77 digitized manuscripts. Both Scandinavian law, and texts on Roman and canon law are present. Using the various websites which present illuminated medieval manuscripts one can easily find more images of the legal trees mentioned here.

Libraries and others institutions in Bologna offer more besides the Progetto Irnerio and Progetto Mosaico. The Biblioteca Universitaria has much to offer, including a substantial number of online databases. The link collection gives due attention to legal websites in Italy. In ALMA@DL, the digital library, a whole section is devoted to digitized historical works, AMS Historica. A digital version of the Corpus Iuris Civilis in the edition Lyon 1556-1558 is its showcase. The historical catalogue of the university library has been digitized for the Cataloghi Storici project of the Biblioteca Digitale Italiana. The university’s Archivio Storico is worth attention, too, with historic photographs and its online database in which you can find diplomas, charters, medals and much more. The various colleges are not forgotten, with for example the Collegio Jacobs, nowadays the Collegio dei Fiamminghi.

Bologna is home to more archives. The largest institution is the Archivio di Stato di Bologna (ASB), which has also its own Scuola di archivistica, paleogafia e diplomatica. Among the digitized sources is the Liber Paradisus, a register about the liberation of nearly six thousand slaves at Bologna in 1257. Together with the Centro Gino Fasoli per la Storia delle Città the ASB has created a digital version of the Estimi di Bologna di 1296-97, records estimating the properties of Bolognese citizens. After online registration you get immediate access to the original documents and further information on them, including an overview of similar records, a guide on the structure of the estimi and a bibliography. The Archivio Comunale di Bologna is the city archive. It participates in the initiative of a number of European municipal archives, Evidence! Europe reflected in archives. Other archives include the Archivio Storico Provinciale di Bologna and the Archivio Generale Arcivescovile.

Logo Archiginnasio

At Bologna the Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio is really a jewel in the crown for everyone looking for old printed books and manuscripts. The library has several special catalogues online - for example for seventeenth and eighteenth century printed books – and a full overview of its collections. Archiweb, the digital library, presents a wealth of varieties of which I can hardly make a choice for a shortlist: the Bibliografia bolognese (1888) by Luigi Frati, the Raccolta dei Bandi Merlani with 22,000 digitized decrees and other legislative documents for Bologna from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, Il Blasone Bolognese, a database with heraldic images created between 1791 and 1795, and FACIES, 10,000 digitized portrait images, are just some highlights you might want to look at when you are going to study Bologna’s legal history. Among the online exhibitions I would like to mention Nascità di una nazione on the Risorgimento period and the creation of a unified Italy.

If you would like to search for medieval lawyers in one of Bologna’s museums, the Museo Civico Medievale, one of the four Musei Civici d’Arte Antica, would certainly live up to your expectations thanks to the collection of medieval tombs, sculptures and inscriptions. In order to find more museums, archives and libraries in Bologna and in the region around Bologna you should benefit from the online guides provided by the Provincia di Bologna. The only institution without a website which nonetheless deserves at least mention here is the Deputazione di Storia Patria per le Provinze di Romagna.

With a comparison of two projects at Bologna presenting medieval manuscripts, reference to some projects elsewhere, and two nutshell guides, both for manuscripts in Italy and for archives, libraries and some museums in Bologna this post has become rather long. It is almost too much of a good thing, but I am sure you will find something of interest. Perhaps the very length of this post is fitting when you write about medieval Bologna. The town had two nicknames, La Dotta, the learned, and La Grossa, the fat one. It’s for you and your taste to file this post in the appropriate category!