Tag Archives: Medieval law

Rethinking medieval history: Jacques Le Goff (1924-2014)

Phptp Jacques Le Goff - source: L'agenda du médiévisteWith the death of the French medievalist Jacques Le Goff on April 1, 2014 the academic worlds loses not only a prolific historian, but also one of its great inspiring teachers who devoted himself to renewing our insights into medieval people and the medieval world at large. At the heart of his work was the belief that for understanding medieval culture in all its aspects you need to gain insights of medieval minds. The histoire des mentalités was not his invention, but together with Georges Duby he succeeded in applying the ideas of the French Annales school of historiography to medieval history in far greater depth than its founders Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch could ever have hoped for. Johan Huizinga wrote somewhere: “We will need to have a history of the hat”, a history of all those countless elements of daily life which make up your surroundings, without realizing how particular they are. Le Goff choose not material objects as his theme, but he did delve into often neglected sources to find out the habits and workings of medieval minds.

Of his many books the brief study La bourse et la vie. Ëconomie et religion au Moyen Âge (Paris 1986) [Your money or your life. Economy and religion in the Middle Ages, Patricia Ranum (transl.) (New York, 1988)] can be singled out as perhaps entering the fields of legal history more than any other of his publications. On the surface this short book is a sequel to his major study La naissance du purgatoire [The birth of purgatory] (Paris 1981), the history of the slow surfacing of the purgatory, a new theological concept, His foray into economic history might look at first surprising, but it is not when you remember the subtitle of the Annales journal during the second half of the twentieth century, Économies – Sociétés – Civilisations. Among Le Goff’s early publications was a volume for the famous French series of short introductions Que sais-je? on medieval merchants and bankers [Marchands et banquiers du Moyen Âge (Paris 1955)].

It was typical of Le Goff to build his essay-like study about usury and usurers around sources which normally would only figure at the margin of a study touching on legal history. His choice to focus on a number of exempla, medieval short stories often used by preachers, and sermons containing an exemplum about an usurer, is richly rewarded. Le Goff succeeded in this study in offering also an introduction in a nutshell to medieval economic thought. He published this study before most of Odd Langholm’s fundamental studies about medieval economic thought appeared. However outdated Le Goff’s views on medieval economy might become, his lesson that medieval thought came very close to ordinary people remains fruitful and inspiring, not in the least because Le Goff was a great story-teller, too. As few historians before or after him he bridged supposed and real gaps between theories of medieval society and medieval theories at one end, and medieval life and behavior in its various dimensions at the other end. At the heart of Le Goff’s studies were medieval men and women. At the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) he fostered the field of historical anthropology. It is difficult to imagine much modern work on medieval history in France and elsewhere in Europe without the influence of his work and the studies by a number of his students who became themselves influential medievalists, in particular at the EHESS center’s Groupe d’anthtropologie historique de l’occident médiéval (GAHOM). You will find here for example digitized literature with exempla and the Thesaurus Exemplorum Medii Aevi.

Le Goff lived long enough to see the great blossom of medieval studies since the last quarter of the last century. He had the greatness and humility to see the blind spots and omissions of his early work. In the 1984 edition of Les intellectuels au Moyen Âge, originally published in 1957, he readily admitted to have underestimated the close relation between intellectuals and urban life, between intellectual power and political power. He cited with approval Giovanni Santini’s Università e società nel XII secolo: Pillio da Medicina e lo Studio di Modena (Modena 1979) who stressed the importance of the common background for cathedral schools and the new medieval universities.

Many seemingly normal qualities and characteristics of current medieval studies, including the study of medieval legal history, such as its awareness of the social context, attention to the close relation of any subject to people and their lives, and the use of a wide variety of sources, are due to the example of Jacques Le Goff. In his late work he turned to major figures of medieval society such as Saint Louis (king Louis IX of France) and Francis of Assisi. He wrote their lives anew as no other before him. It is alway hazardous to predict which of his books will remain influential. I would vote for La civilisation de l’Occident médiéval (2nd edition, Paris 1984; many translations) but you will be excused most readily for taking from the shelves any of his other books and articles. In every single publication you will find yourself in the company of a great historian, a fresh thinker and a generous teacher who always opened windows which had been long closed. The title Pour un autre Moyen Âge (1977) puts it most simply, “for different Middle Ages”. Le Goff gave lectures in my country, too. In 2004 he received the coveted Heineken prize for history. It is strange he was never awarded the Erasmus Prize.

Let us remember Jacques Le Goff whenever we connect legal history to culture and history at large in daring and hopefully fruitful ways. Let’s not forget to keep telling stories making history and law alive for new generations.

The Belgian blog L’agenda du médiéviste alerts in its notice about Le Goff’s death to broadcasts on Le Goff by the French television network France Culture. On the website of the EHESS, too, you will find links to further hommages.

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.

Pronouncing the city’s law: aldermen as judges

In pre-modern European cities the aldermen were not just members of a city council charged with deciding on city policies. Creating and maintaining policy in the more pregnant sense of daily law and order was one of their prime tasks. In many cities a number of aldermen sat regularly as the city’s judges. In the past years a number of archives has created online databases to search for cases and verdicts in the records of aldermen. Outside the cities schepenen functioned within regional and manorial jurisdictions. We will meet some of them here, too. This post aims at showing you a wide variety of online search possibilities and presentations. The main focus of my post are aldermen in the Low Countries, called schepenen or in French-speaking regions échevins, I will look at seven projects. The Netherlands and Belgium will bring most of the examples adduced here, but I am sure elsewhere more can be found that would merit as much attention as the cities mentioned here.

Pronouncing the law

Curiosity to find out about recent projects for the digitization of the records of medieval and Early Modern aldermen was my first reason to starting looking for online databases and other projects. I was surprised I did not encounter quickly somewhere a list of relevant projects, or at least some links to similar projects at the websites with a particular database. Unfortunately this might suggest such projects are developed in at least relative isolation, or in the worst cases in splendid ignorance or with complete disregard of similar efforts.

The first project I would like to present concerns the records of a number of villages situated in the very heart of the Rhine and Meuse estuary. The schepenen conveyed at Tuil, the village most to the west of the contemporary province Gelderland, now a part of the municipality Neerijnen. Tuil gives the project its name, De Hoge Bank van Tuil, “The High Court of Tuil”. Nowadays we say in Dutch parlance these villages are positioned in the Rivierenland, the Rivers’ Country. Geographically it is more sensible to say they are situated in the Tielerwaard, “The March of Tiel”, between the cities of Tiel and Gorinchem.

The website for the Hoge Bank van Tuil is a project of three historians, Peter van Maanen, Gijsbert van Ton and Marco Schelling. It presents transcriptions of some 1,300 records from 1335 to 1525, from 1631 to 1637, and a number of scattered records yet to be integrated. The team has used records from several archives and printed editions. For some records the transcriptions are accompanied by images of the documents. This project aims at a reconstruction of the activities of this high court by combining data from a large variety of resources. As for now the records are not yet part of a searchable database, but they can be searched with the normal web browser search function. It is one thing to bring these materials together, but the material still needs editing before it can become the contents of a database. Exactly the preparation of this step is probably the main hindrance to tackle for further research in these regional records. Consultation with for example the Gelders Archief in Arnhem, the Regionaal Archief Rivierenland, Tiel, and the Regionaal Archief Gorinchem will surely be most helpful to start preparing a new phase for this project.

The very beginning

The Hoge Bank van Tuil came first in my post because it presents in a nutshell a number of very real questions and problems you face when you start with a project for the digitization of the records of aldermen. What period do you choose? Do you aim at a full reconstruction of archival records concerning a particular institution or jurisdiction, in this case a schepenbank? Do you restrict yourself to the records from one resource, be it records kept at an archive or records surviving sometimes only in print? Do you prepare from the start onwards for the creation of an online database, or would you like to stick with simple web pages? Sometimes you have to wait for the creation of proper archival guides and finding aids before even contemplating a project… Cities and their archival services often choose themselves for the digitization of judicial records. In the case of the Hoge Bank van Tuil three researchers decided to combine efforts for their project.

Logo Scabinatus

The project that prompted me to write about digitized verdicts of aldermen is concerned with verdicts of the échevins in Liège. The website Scabinatus 4000 was launched last autumn by the Université de Liège. The actual database contains acts from the vast series of scabinal registers kept at the Archives de l’État in Liège dating from 1409 until 1797. Some 1,750 (!) registers exist with each around 400 pages, good for some 750 acts. The registers 1 to 67 could be searched online already at a website of the Belgian National Archives, but this website with registers for the period 1409 to 1510 was last updated in 2007.

On the new Scabinatus website the registers 68 to 153 have been added, reaching now 1558. You can search for particular registers, a particular kind of acts (e.g. approbation, arbitrage, wills and witness statements), toponyms, a particular date or period, the kind of goods at stake, names, professions and social status. The website of the National Archives offered drop down lists for the kind of acts and the kind of goods. The scale of this project is clearly staggering. The functionality of the search screen is very detailed, and you are thus able to conduct all kind of searches. Comparisons in activities over long periods become here possible and fairly reliable. However, this database does not offer the complete text of acts, but only a summary with a lot of details. You will need to view the original registers for further research. This project has clear limits in time and resources which seems understandable in view of the sheer number of records to be processed.

New roads to the records of aldermen

Logo Itinera Nova

At Louvain (Leuven) the municipal record-office has combined forces with a German partner, the Universität Köln, for its joint project Itinera Nova. The city of Louvain can boast a series of 1128 scabinal registers from 1362 to 1795. The project started in 2009, and more than one million pages will be transcribed by volunteers. 255 registers are now available online, mainly for the periods 1362-1460 and 1550-1590. Knowing the difficulties sixteenth-century handwriting can pose it becomes very interesting which role the transcribing software MONK, a tool created at the university of Groningen, has played here. The MONK website presents extensive word samples from the Louvain registers. The Itinera Nova project in cooperation with the department at Cologne for Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Informationsverarbeitung involves crowd-sourcing. An online tutorial helps volunteers to start transcribing pages with a basic knowledge of palaeography. On April 25 and 26, 2013, Louvain hosted an international congress with the title Itinera Nova: Tools, People & History, The blog De Digitale Archivaris [The Digital Archivist] published a series of posts in Dutch about this congress. The website of Itinera Nova can be viewed in Dutch, English and French. You can browse at will and conduct general searches, and there is an advanced search option with drop down menus. You can also restrict a search to a particular register or period. From the transcriptions you can go directly to images of the original register. Registered users can get access to the annotation screen.

One of the major assets is a search interface for annotations. Compared to the project for Liège the texts of the records seems to be the focus and very heart of the project at Louvain. The Scabinatus project allows much more the serial analysis of similar acts, but the website does not bring you to the actual records, images or transcriptions. The approach for Liège seems to have been determined by scholars, the approach at Louvain is much closer to the general public. The schepenen of Louvain served as a court of appeal for other cities following the rule of hoofdvaart. Later in this post we will meet Den Bosch, one of the cities which went to Louvain for this purpose.

Dutch projects

For those readers waiting for a regular element of my blog, commonly known as the Dutch view, I will discuss next some Dutch projects. In March 2013 the Regionaal Archief Tilburg launched the Charterbanka charter database, the result of the combined efforts of archivists and visitors of the regional archive working together in a crowdsourcing community with its own website. The Charterbank contains some 450 medieval charters mainly issued by local schepenen from Tilburg and surrounding places. The search interface has fields for place, date, record number, inventory number, and persons adding their seal. In the result view you can enjoy images of the document, read the transcription in a rather small column, consult information about the seal or seals when present, and check for relevant literature and comments. This project focuses on the late Middle Ages and Early Modern period with a regional approach. Charters until 1312 from Noord-Brabant can be found online in the Digitaal Oorkondeboek van Noord-Brabant.

At ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc), commonly called Den Bosch, the regional record office, with as its current name Brabants Historisch Infomatiecentrum, has created an online database with records created by both schepenen and notaries in small towns and villages in the present-day province Noord-Brabant. With some 180,000 records the harvest seems at first rich, but only in a few cases you can study a long period, mainly for Lith and Veghel. Resolutions of the Dutch Supreme Council for Brabant, the Raad van State in The Hague, from 1629 onwards, are also present in this database. In my view they constitute a very important source, but they are in a different class, even if they deal with the villages and towns of Brabant. The Dutch description of the database emphasises the possibility to search for persons in these records. Online projects with a genealogical approach flourish at this regional record office, and I could trace many of my own ancestors using the results of these efforts, but for dealing in real depth with other records this approach is narrow. Scans of many records are available, but you will encounter many items which surely touch upon history and legal history but do not strictly concern the activities of aldermen. The useful overview of processed records and items bears witness to the wide range of records deemed fit for inclusion. However, the word genealogie (genealogy) in its URL seemed at first telling. By choosing in the left-hand menu Gescande bronnen (“Scanned resources”) you can already search directly in a number of digitized registers of schepenen, by selecting the schepenprotocollen.

Very much city centered are the efforts at the Stadsarchief Den Bosch for the analysis of and access to the series of aldermen’s charters and registers starting with the famous Bosch’ Schepenprotocol. In this massive series running from 1360 to 1811 the schepenen of Den Bosch dealt with matters concerning voluntary jurisdiction, passing acts on the purchase and sales of real estate, probate inventories, acts concerning guardianship, etc. I must strike a harsh note: to my surprise there is here no online database. The information for a database concerning the criminal jurisdiction has been assembled in the project Dataschurk (“Data Villain”). You can download all relevant inventories, an inventory of criminal dossiers and summaries of the dossiers themselves, and there are indexes on record number and name.

Decades of painstaking research have resulted in a rich harvest of materials. The Bosch’ Schepenprotocol itself can be consulted on microfiches. It will certainly take courage to create a workable database which brings all information together and makes them accessible in a most reliable way. Luckily archivist Geertrui van Synghel can guide your research with her guide Het Bosch’ Protocol: een praktische handleiding (‘s-Hertogenbosch 1993), and her study “Actum in camera scriptorum oppidi de Buscoducis”: de stedelijke secretarie van ‘s-Hertogenbosch tot ca. 1450 (Ph.D. thesis Leiden 2006; Hilversum 2007) with a cd-rom containing 5735 scabinal charters and acts written by the city’s secretaries until 1450. The Bosch’ Schepenprotocol transcends the city borders with the letters of surety enabling the confinement of psychiatric patients, even at institutions as far away as Liège. In his comment Christian van der Ven (Den Bosch, BHIC) announces that preparations for a digital version of the Bosch’ Schepenprotocol are in a final phase.

Making choices about periods and subjects

Logo Stadsarchief Amsterdam

Last week The Guardian included the city archives of Amsterdam in a survey of Europe’s best free museums. The building of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam is surely imposing, but the reason for being featured here are the archival records kept here and the way their contents are disclosed more and more online. When I look at sources with a relation to legal history you can choose from a substantial variety of resources. The example I present here is restricted to a particular class of verdicts, those concerning “averij grosse“, general average or in German “Grosse Haverei”, cases in maritime law in which either a ship, a cargo or both had suffered unavoidable damage in emergency situations, and costs thus made or yet to be made or recovered had to be divided in an equal way [Archief van Schout en Schepenen, nos. 2806-2924, Vonnissen terzake van averij grosse, 1700-1810]. A separate chamber of the schepenen for “Assurantiën, Averijen en Zeezaken” dealt with relevant affairs.

Two splendid overviews of the history of European private law, Helmut Coing’s Europäische Privatrecht, I: Älteres Gemeines Recht (1500 bis 1800) (Munich 1985) 554-555, and Reinhard Zimmermann’s The law of obligations. Roman foundations of the civilian tradition (Oxford 1996) 406-412, provide you with basic information about the legal principles at stake, the role of the Lex Rhodia de iactu and with references to important commentaries, including those issued in the period of the Roman-Dutch law. Zimmermann gives the date of publication of the first edition of Quintyn Weytsen’s early treatise in Dutch on general average as 1651. According to the information in the Short-Title Catalogue Netherlands this can be corrected to a first appearance in print in 1617 as an appendix to Cornelis van Nieustad’s Curiae Hollandiae, Zelandiae & West-Frisiae decisiones (…) Item een tractaet van avarien gemaeckt door Quintijn Weytsen (…) (Leiden 1617), and a first separate edition in 1631 [Een tractaet van avarien, dat is Ghemeene contributie vande koopmanschappen ende goederen inden schepe bevonden (Haarlem, 1631)].

Quintyn Weytsen (1518-1565) became a councillor in the Court of Holland only in 1559, and in 1561 and 1562 he was also charged with hearing accounts in the province of Zeeland, information easily gathered from resources such as the Dutch Biografisch Portaal and the Repertorium van ambtsdragers en ambtenaren 1468-1861 (The Hague, Huygens Instituut). Some of the later editions of his work, specifically Adriaen Verwer’s Nederlants see-rechten, avaryen, en bodemeryen (editions e.g. 1711, 1716 and 1730) contain also two ordinances concerning general average from 1551 and 1563 which no doubt prompted him to write his treatise. The lapse of half a century before a printed edition was published is remarkable. The 1617 edition gives no introduction at all for Weytsen’s text, and therefore his short text (from p. 226 onwards) might have been circulating already in manuscript – or perhaps a much read pamphlet? – long before.

The pages on general average at the website of the municipal archive of Amsterdam were launched in Autumn 2013. They offer a succinct introduction to the doctrinal side of things, and introduce you to the procedure before the bailiff and schepenenOne of the important things stated is that both the Dutch East India Company and the West India Company did not use the services of this court, because the administrators took care of freighting and transport. Statements confirmed on oath before Amsterdam notaries about cases of avarij formed the starting point of the procedure; you can find them using an index of these scheepsverklaringen (PDF), some 5,400 cases. The hint to check the Amsterdamsche Courant for its notices about shipwrecks and averages in its scheepstijdingen is most useful. You can check this newspaper in digital format at the new Delpher portal of the Dutch Royal Library. Do reckon with variant spellings such as avarieavary, avarij and averij! The suggestions to look in other record series for further information are most helpful. In the database of the Amsterdam city archives you find a digital version of the index created in 1980. The search interface allows you to search for the names of shippers and ships, harbours of depart and arrival, and dates. Two examples of cases from 1726 and 1780 help you to prepare your specific search actions. A search action leads you to further information on a particular case, often supplemented with thumbnail images of the documents.

Can I mention anything negative about this project in Amsterdam? With just two titles about general average this information is rather to short, and the reference to the article by Ivo Schöffer lacks the page numbers (pp. 73-133). Elsewhere on the website a treasure page has been dedicated to the case of the vessel St. Antonio di Padova which was attacked by pirates off La Spezia in 1704. The ship commanded by Jan Lens suffered a lot of damage during a four-hours fight. Repairs were made in Genua. The page shows a part of the notarial statement on this case. Somehow the section on general average does not link directly to this showcase, the only relevant page translated completely into English. In view of the international standing and importance of this archive the maIn point to criticize is alas the absence of a page-to-page translation into English of its marvellous website. The Amsterdam city archives ask people to pay for full-scale images of scanned documents, but before deploring this you must realize they offer a very rapid scanning on demand service.

Different situations, different approaches

In many fields awards and prizes are given yearly for the best project. Is it possible and sensible to do this for this group of six random picked projects? In a bird’s-eye view we saw:

  • transcriptions from the Rivierenland in the Hoge Bank van Tuil
  • large-scale indices and an analytical approach in the Scabinatus 4000 project for Liège,
  • crowdsourcing, transcriptions and images, with even an annotation tool for Itinera Nova at Louvain
  • images and transcriptions of charters at Tilburg
  • indexes for both scabinal and notarial registers, and a growing number of scanned registers for the province of Noord-Brabant
  • inventories, indexes and finding aids concerning the wide judicial functions of the schepenen of Den Bosch – with a printed guide and a cd-rom of the earliest records but without a database -
  • finally the verdicts from Amsterdam concerning maritime law from a distinct period, with an online searchable index and scanned images which have to be paid for.

If you put these seven projects into a grid you can probably more easier see which qualities they share or lack. What makes these projects successful or not? I cannot predict what visitors of these websites will want to know nor what they would like to have at hand on the screen of their computer or tablet. Some researchers might want to start making grand analyses as quickly as possible and therefore applaud transcriptions and online indices, others prefer painstaking transcriptions of the originals or of images provided by an archive. The pioneers for the Rivierenland have not yet reached the phase of building a database. One archive, the city archive at Den Bosch, does not provide a database, and I suppose this is a policy decision, because so much energy has already been put into the resources in question during more than twenty years. For other cities printed critical editions of the verdicts of schepenen exist, and thus the need for an online database might be less urgent.

Even though this is a rather long post I still feel I have treated all projects presented here rather briefly. It is wise not to judge their qualities too quickly! A stronger objection is the choice of examples which is very much personal, but at least also for a part guided by the lack of an easy overview of relevant digitization projects for this particular kind of resource. I would not feel ashamed if this post serves as a stepping stone for more and better.

A postcript

In his comment Christian van der Ven of the BHIC at Den Bosch stresses the actual cooperation of Dutch archives for this kind of projects. I have taken over his factual corrections, and the important information about online access to a number of registers of schepenen already avaiable now at the BHIC, and the appearance of the Bosch’ Schepenprotocol in digital form in the near future.

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.

At the death of two leading Dutch legal historians

Tom de SmidtLast month Dutch legal historians were saddened to hear about the death of Jacobus Thomas de Smidt (December 19, 1923-February 18, 2013). In several obituaries, for instance by Arthur Elias for Leiden University, by Joke Roelevink for the Huygens Institute of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, and at the website of the Dutch National Archives, the great efforts and merits of Tom de Smidt for the study of Dutch legal history and the organization between Dutch legal historians are commemorated. Among the major projects he initiated are the project on the history of the Great Council of Malines, a project for the edition of the Dutch codifications in the period around 1800, and for example the West Indisch Plakaatboek, a multivolume edition of legal sources for Dutch colonial history in the Caribbean. De Smidt also helped Dutch archives to modernize, and helped the Indonesian government to deal with the records of the Dutch East India Company in the Indonesian National Archives. People remember his warm personality, his sense of humour and his encouragement to young scholars, and I can testify myself for this. In fact his words “Ja, moet je doen!” [Yes, do it!] are for me among his most characteristic utterances.

Robert Feenstra 1920-2013On March 2, 2013, Robert Feenstra passed away at the age of 92. For legal historians abroad he was without any doubt the best known and most respected Dutch legal historian. This week John W. Cairns (Edinburgh) is one of the first legal historians to commemorate Feenstra. If you want to mention major themes and projects with which Feenstra dealt during his long scholarly life you are faced with a very great variety. The history of Roman law in Europe after the end of the Roman Empire and Dutch legal history give only the boundaries of his research interests. Let it suffice here that only four years ago he published with Jeroen Vervliet a new edition of Hugo Grotius’ Mare Liberum (Hugo Grotius, Mare Liberum 1609-2009 (Leyden 2009)), and that in 2011 he witnessed the completion of the project for the Dutch translation of the Corpus Iuris Civilis. He continued the research started by Eduard Maurits Meijers (1880-1954) on the history of the School of Orléans, and many scholars from Leiden have followed him on this path. Feenstra published a number of volumes with articles by Meijers.

For six decades Feenstra was on the editorial board of the Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis. Feenstra helped fostering the relations between Belgian and Dutch scholars. Just like Tom de Smidt he served for many years on the board of the Foundation for the Study of Old Dutch Law. Today Paul Brood (Nationaal Archief) wrote a brief obituary for both scholars on the website of this foundation. Surely its own journal Pro Memorie will contain longer obituaries on both scholars in its coming issue. Luckily this journal published in its series Rechtshistorici uit de Lage Landen [Legal historians from the Low Countries] interviews with both scholars on their scholarly lives and careers (Pro Memorie 5 (2003) 3-38 (Feenstra); with De Smidt in the special issue Prominenten kijken terug. Achttien rechtshistorici uit de Lage Landen over leven, werk en recht [Prominent scholars look back. Eighteen legal historians from the Low Countries on life, work and law] (Pro Memorie 6 (2004) 313-329). Feenstra founded a circle of scholars studying the reception of Roman law in the Low Countries – convening either in Leiden or in Antwerp – where young scholars, too, often got and get a chance to present their doctoral research. I remember how I presented the first results of my doctoral research for this circle. The austere company listened patiently, asked questions on subjects I had neglected or problems which I had not yet grasped, and encouraged me to pursue my research. Robert Feenstra had a keen interest in people and he did not fail to help scholars with practical advice and suggestions for sources and literature. One of the things that impressed me always was the way Feenstra corrected his own views expressed in earlier articles. It makes you realizes how Feenstra’s career spanned almost half a century, his tenacity about cherished subjects, and the high scientific standards he applied to scholars and to himself. His presence at scholarly meetings all over the world expressed the continuity of Dutch legal history.

It is sad that both scholars are no longer with us to respond to our ideas, questions and emerging publications, but we can remain faithful to their memory by remembering their tireless efforts, smiling presence and amazing wide interests in contemporary life and legal history, and by following the paths and roads they paved for present-day scholars and future generations.

A postscript

On March 6, 2013, the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main published an obituary of Robert Feenstra. On March 28, 2013 the blog of the Peace Palace Library publshed an in memoriam on Robert Feenstra by Laurens Winkel.

Blogging about medieval glosses

Today I launched my new blog Glossae – Middeleeuwse juriidische glossen in beeld, “Glosses – Looking at medieval legal glosses”. The very heart of this blog is a manuscript fragment with glosses, marginal and interlinear comments, on Justinian’s Digest, not the ordinary gloss edited by Francesco Accursio in the thirteenth century, but glosses by twelfth-century lawyers, collectively sometimes known as the glossators. The fragment with these early glosses surfaced during the cataloguing of fragments, in itself part of the preparation of a new manuscript catalogue at the Department of Special Collections of Utrecht University Library. Bart Jaski kindly provided detailed photographs of the manuscript (Utrecht UB, ms. fragm. 7.67) which help very much in the decipherment of the glosses which are sometimes very small and barely visible in the original.

The new blog is the first Dutch blog at the Hypotheses network, a French initiative. In 2012 a German branch has been founded. Encouragements from this branch helped me to decide to join this German portal. Of course the question of the main language for my contributions looms large. I have published a first, more general description of the blog in Dutch, with summaries in German and English. The study of medieval legal glosses is indeed marked by the uses of several modern languages, such as French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Publications in English are relatively new in this field. In my first post I mention the appearance of several blogs concerning medieval – in particular Carolingian –  glosses based in the Netherlands.

A very Dutch phenomenon is the collaborative study of manuscripts by both lawyers, historians and palaeographers. I feel privileged to have participated in the yearly Friday seminars on juridical palaeography at Leiden University. It seems this example has until now not be followed anywhere, but its advantages have been recognized and applauded. Scholars from Leiden, Utrecht and Amsterdam joined in the decipherment and study of medieval legal manuscripts, often covered with tiny glosses. By bringing together each other’s skills, talents and experience we were able to read these manuscripts and to discuss their contents at a level which hardly one of the learned participants could have reached independently. The seminar at Leiden gave me a living example of the great importance of scholarly exchange, discussion and support.

Even when writing (sometimes) in Dutch, a langauge spoken only by some 22 million people worldwide, I am very much aware of the need to transcend borders in time, language and approaches. I am happy that Bart Jaski will join me to write postings for the new blog, either about the manuscript fragment at Utrecht, about other juridical fragments, or about interesting projects and promising methods to deal with medieval manuscripts at large. In particular the use of digital tools to edit and comment on (layers of) annotation seems able to shed new light on the edition of medieval glosses, too.

In itself the fragment at Utrecht is not particularly long. Its importance lies in the presence of the relatively rare preaccursian – i.e. before the Glossa ordinaria edited by Francesco Accursio – glosses, which help us to document not only the development of medieval legal doctrine but also the growth of the mass with many thousand glosses at the disposal of Francesco Accursio during the decades in which he created the final form of the ordinary gloss. This year hope to bring you regularly news about my new project. Hopefully it will not distract me too much from this blog. I could not resist the opportunity to create a wider network around my new blog with a new Twitter account, @GlossaeIuris.

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.

Centers of legal history: Milan

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

Legal history in Milan

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

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

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

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

Legal history at large in Milan and Lombardy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier posts in the series Centers of legal history

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

Hunting for origins: the example of companies

A few weeks ago I read about the purchase in 2008 by China of a copper mine at Mount Toromocho in Peru for the sum of 3 billion dollars. It reminded me that I still have a story up my sleeve about another copper mine to illustrate the early history of companies with shareholders, and even better, the company in question still exists. When writing here in 2011 about the oldest share of the Dutch East India Company from 1606 I read also about companies founded much earlier. In this post I want to follow that track. However, this will lead also to questioning the idea and practice of searching for and claiming the earliest occurrence of legal constructions.

Searching for the oldest companies

Logo Hudson Bay Company

My search for companies older than the Dutch example of a company which issued stocks in the early seventeenth century is in itself in no way new or original. In fact I am surprised how much space has been devoted to this search in the English Wikipedia, with inevitably a list of oldest companies. This list is marred by the fact that a number of companies can claim indeed a foundation at a very early date, but they did not start outright as stock companies, the definition to be explored here. It was during a search last year for a particular person that I encountered the website of the Hudson Bay Company, founded officially in 1670. The Hudson Bay Company is proud of its long history. The full name, Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay, indicates clearly the role of stockholders. Its archives are since 1974 at Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 2007 the UNESCO admitted these archives to the Memory of the World Register.

Another necessary distinction to be made is between temporary stock companies and more permanent ventures. In ancient and medieval history and law you will encounter examples of joint ventures which last for just one voyage of a ship. Temporary companies such as the English Guinea or African Company (1577-1580) were followed by the East India Company (1600), the Dutch Noordse Compagnie and the Companie van Verre predated the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), founded in 1602. The name of the VOC indicates that in it a number of earlier companies merged together.

A sale concerning the Stora Kopparberg, 1288

The “founding charter” for Stora Kopparberg, 1288 – image Riksarkivet, Stockholm

When I wrote in November 2011 about the oldest share of the VOC dating from 1606 I found comments on the website of Radio Netherlands Worldwide stating that Stora Kopparberg, a Swedish company, is the oldest existing stock company documented as early as 1288. The text of the June 16, 1288 charter can be found in the printed version of the Svenskt Diplomatarium, digitized at a website maintained at the Riksarkivet in Stockholm (SDHK, no. 1406). You can also use a modern transcription and a more extensive summary in the Svenskt Diplomatarium, all in Swedish. In this charter bishop Peter of Västerås acknowledges the sale of an eight part of the copper mountain called Tiskasjöberg, octauam partem montis cupri dicti Tiscasioberg, to his nephew Nils Christinaeson, who however commutes the sale for the possession of two parishes, Fröslunda and Hasselbäck. The sale was certainly important, because the charter was sealed also by king Magnus Ladulås and four other bishops. How the division of this property into eight parts came into existence is not clear, nor is there any mentioning here of the issue of shares. I feel sympathy for the anonymous comment on the RNW website that one can perhaps describe it better as a privately owned firm with external shareholders. In view of medieval canon law it is indeed the question whether you should see this property of the diocese Västerås as property of the chapter and bishop, a part perhaps of the mensa episcopalis. Were the king and the other bishops sealing themselves shareholders?

Mining at the Stora Kopparberget, also known as the Falu Grava, had started already in the tenth century. A charter from 1347 records the granting of several rights to the miners by king Magnus IV (SHDK, no. 5394; February 17, 1347), and here it becomes clear the mine worked as a company. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries this copper mine was the largest source of copper worldwide. In 1862 the official name became Stora Kopparsberg Bergslags Aktie Bolga, a name indicating the issue of stocks. The delving of copper ended in 1992. The UNESCO added the site of the copper mine in 2001 to the World Heritage List. In 1998 Stora AB fused with the firm Enso into StoraEnso.

Are there any other examples of early stock companies? The firm of Francesco di Marco Datini in fourteenth century Prato had certainly partners. The Fondo Datini at the Archivio di Stato in Prato is one of the largest medieval commercial archives still preserved. If I would have to answer at point blank for examples still existing medieval companies I am tempted to look at the so-called Livery Companies in London, late medieval craft and trade associations, but they did originally function as guilds and did not trade as companies. Helmut Coing’s Europäisches Privatrecht 1500-1800 I, Älteres Gemeines Recht (Munich 1985) 523-530, distinguishes between different kinds of trade companies: Personengesellschaften, partnerships with mining companies as a special subspecies, Kapitalgeschafften with for examples the Italian montes – excluding the montes pietatis -, privileged seafaring and colonial companies in England and the Low Countries, and more modern companies from the late seventeenth century onwards.

In France the Société des Moulins du Bazacle was a milling company near Toulouse which was owned since the mid-thirteenth century by shareholders. The mills were driven by the water at the barrage de Bazacle, a dam in the Garonne river. Eventually the shares got traded on the market in Toulouse. The company existed until 1946. Companies are already mentioned in French law in the Livre de Jostice et de Plet around 1260 (Li livres de jostice et de plet, Louis-Nicolas Rapetti (ed.) (Paris, 1850) ch. 7.15, pp. 167-168; online for example in the Hathi Trust Digital Library).

Logo Sumitomo

The webpages of the Hudson Bay Company Archives mention the Japanese keiretsu (business group) Sumitomo. It took over a copper mine founded in 1591 by Riemon Soga in Kyoto. In 1691 the firm started winning copper from the Besshi copper mine which closed only in 1973. Sumitomo Mining Company is the very heart of this business group, one of the world’s largest firms. It is interesting to note that both Stora Kopparberg and Sumitomo had copper mining as a basic activity.

Let’s return briefly to the Wikipedia list of oldest companies. You might indeed object I was too dismissive of its qualities and rejected it too quickly as unuseful. Of course it is a nice list of early enterprises which have continued active until modern times, but not every enterprise took off at its start as a stock company. Here a few examples should suffice to illustrate this argument. The British Royal Mint was founded in 886, but king Alfred the Great did certainly not found a firm. Only in 2009 the Royal Mint became a company with limited liability, Royal Mint Ltd. The second example I know from my own experience in South Germany. The Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan reckons its foundation as a brewery back to a charter issued by the city of Freising in 1040 allowing the abbey of Weihenstephan brewing and serving beer, but surely at that time the brewery was not a separate corporate entity. By the way, the genuineness of the 1040 charter is disputed.

Understandably I will not try to plod through a list of dates and firms to be checked, and produce yet another tedious list. Since already two mines figure in this post it is just an educated guess to look briefly at the Wieliczka salt mine near Cracow in Poland. This mine was already known in the Neolithicum (3500 BC). In the eleventh century the mine was nicknamed Magnum Sal. The oldest shaft still present dates from the thirteenth century. In the late thirteenth century the Cracow Mines Company was founded. The Wieliczka mine operated until 2007. This mine, too, has been added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Mining and law

At the end of this post it might seem I have offered here a kind of tour of the Memory of the World Register and the World Heritage List, with only a very vague link to legal history. You might feel lucky I did not yet include a Dutch twist to this post, but the history of mining law brings me an opportunity to do just that. Mining law is indeed a separate branch of private law. In 1978 J. de Boer defended at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam his Ph.D. thesis on De winning van delfstoffen in het Romeinse recht, de middeleeuwse juridische literatuur en het Franse recht tot 1810 [The extraction of minerals in Roman law, the medieval legal literature and French law to 1810](Leiden, 1978). This thesis has a summary in English. Coing’s survey mentioned above brings you to other studies concerning mining law including works by Early Modern lawyers, for instance the Speculum iuris metallici, oder Berg-Rechts-Spiegel by Sebastian Span (Dresden, 1698; digitized at Heidelberg). In Dutch history mining took place in Limburg and also in the former Dutch East Indies.

Using the catalogue of the Max-Planck-Institut für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main, you will quickly find more relevant and even earlier works on the history of mining law. In Norway mining law was already codified in 1540. When you combine the results obtained there with a search in the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog for digitized books you will be able to look at a number of relevant works from your screen. The Metallicorum corpus iuris oder Bergk-Recht (Leipzig 1624) by Johann Deucer has been digitized at Dresden. Mining often belonged to the regalia, the royal rights. Eike von Repgow deals with this aspect of mining in the Sachsenspiegel (Landrecht I,35), written between 1220 and 1235, and the gloss by Johann vom Buch from the early fourteenth century expands on it (Glossen zum Sachsenspiegel-Landrecht: Buch’sche Glosse, Frank-Michael Kaufmann (ed.) (3 vol., Hannover, 2002; available online at dMGH, section Leges). The library at Frankfurt am Main is a treasure trove which you might indeed compare to a gold mine for legal historians! Here I have restricted myself to mentioning just a few titles and indicating some aspects.

The lure of looking for origins

American readers might have expected me to deal with originalism as the major subject of this post, but in a way my post is already in itself a comment on any form of originalism. The Legal History Blog is very helpful in tracking the discussions on originalism. One of the major problems with the approach favored by originalists is the question to which origin you would like to point. Do you go back to the debates of the Founding Fathers about the American Constitution, do you look at the early Congress or at congressional debates concerning specific amendments, or do you dare to consider also debates concerning the constitution and statutes of the original states before 1776? As for the Founding Fathers, in the book by Philip Kurland and Ralph Lerner and in the web version of their study The Founders’ Constitution (5 vol., Chicago 1987; reprint Indianapolis 2001) you can look even beyond them to the sources and arguments they adduced or debated.

In the wake of the controversies about the American Constitution and its present application many roads have been opened, some of them new and promising, some well trodden and somehow pale. The major flaw with the less interesting perspectives is the Whig interpretation of history, the tendency to use history and law as a handmaiden of the present, in fact only valuable because of the present, and thus sometimes called applied legal history. History and legal history can seem just fuel for debates and are reduced to ammunition for political views. At the very best history and the development of law are not totally neglected in Whig interpretations. In my country the ignorance about history of many members of the Dutch parliament is often shameful. Another problem in the present use and role of the American constitution is the tendency to avoid fundamental debate, and to press for solutions to political questions by the judiciary with as its main vehicle judicial review. A recent attempt in Dutch politics to let a court judge political matters was rightly rejected: the Dutch States General have to decide them, not the courts. Democracy and political debate can regain relevance when they become really relevant and decisive.

As for the history of early companies, it is better not to reduce the history of company law to the sometimes fascinating stories of their foundation or a series of snapshots of all kinds of companies in history, but to look at many aspects of commerce and law in context in longer periods, and to attempt perspectives from all around the world. Legal historians can bring in questions of law to gain insights which historians and other scholars can only neglect at their peril.

Turning to good account: medieval account rolls and legal history

How to present a faithful picture of legal history? Writing here about various subjects enforces the conviction that talking about legal histories in the plural is closer to the mark. Taking account of everything that is going on in this scholarly discipline is not possible. In my view the very subject of keeping accounts and its connection to legal history deserves a post here. In this case, too, you can choose a wide variety of perspectives, sources to be highlighted and stories to be told from the Ancient Near East until modern computerized accounting systems. I will in particular discuss a number of projects for the digitization of medieval account rolls.

From clay tablets to computers

Accounts are among the earliest surviving written sources of mankind. From ancient Mesopotamia clay tablets have been found written in cuneiform script. You can find an example of a digital collection of cuneiform records from the Assyrian empire on the website of the Library of Congress. A substantial percentage of ancient papyri, too, tell us about expenses and income, or stem indeed from official administration of all kinds for both secular and religious institutions. At Papyri.info you can search the bibliography for papyri rolls. From Roman times accounts have been preserved on various materials. Wax tablets with accounts are among the Vindolanda tablets found near Hadrian’s Wall in 1973. The tablets now on display at the British Museum in London have been digitized by Oxford University.

Logo Computatio

For our knowledge of medieval history accounts and account rolls are abundantly present. Otto Volk (Universität Marburg) has put anyone interested in medieval accounts and accounting into his debt by his efforts to create at Computatio an online bibliography of scholarship concerning the late medieval and Early Modern period.

Lately a number of projects in the United Kingdom has started to digitize a substantial number of medieval rolls. You will find a very large number of digitized records at Anglo-American Legal Tradition, a website of the O’Quinn Law Library, Houston University in cooperation with the National Archives at Kew. Among the records are plea rolls, Chancery Rolls and pipe rolls (E 372 series). The pipe roll from 1130 is the second oldest item from the royal administration, only preceded by Domesday Book (1086). Finding digitized pipe rolls and digitized editions published by the Pipe Roll Society is made easier using the overview and guide at Medieval Genealogy. The Pipe Roll Society announces for 2012 a new edition of the oldest surviving pipe roll from 1129-1130 and new editions of the pipe rolls for Normandy. The first edition of the oldest pipe roll was by Joseph Hunter, Magnum rotulum Scaccarii vel magnum rotulum Pipae (…) (London 1833; digitized at the Hathi Trust Digital Library). An edition of Norman rolls was published by Thomas Stapleton, Magni rotuli scaccarii Normanniae sub regibus Angliae (2 vol., London 1840-1844). These volumes have been digitized in the Digitale Sammlungen at Munich where you can find also the Rotulus cancellarii vel antigraphum magni rotuli pipae de tertio anno regni regis Johannis (London 1833). For Normandy the first volume of the new edition has already appeared, Pipe rolls of the Exchequer of Normandy, I, For the reign of Henry II 1180 and 1184, Vincent Moss (ed.) (London 2004). Mark Hagger writes in his article ‘A Pipe Roll for 25 Henry I’, English Historical Review CCXXII (2007) 133-140, about a fourteenth-century register from St. Albans Abbey containing a fragment from the pipe roll for Michaelmas 1124.

Separate projects are devoted to several types of roles. In the Henry III Fine Rolls Project rolls from 1216 to 1272 are being digitized on which the payments for royal concession were noted (C 60 and E 371 series). A translation will also be provided. This project at King’s College London is accompanied by a blog. The project website can boast a useful links selection to other projects. The Gascon Rolls Project is concerned with rolls similar to the Henry III Fine Rolls for the period 1317-1468 for matters concerning Gascony (C 61). On a French webpage you will find much information on previous editions of earlier rolls concerning Gascony. The Parliament Rolls from 1275 to 1504 have been edited earlier. The digitized version can be consulted only for subscribers at British History Online. Luckily you will find here digitized editions of many types of medieval rolls in open access. Access to a number of relevant sources is also provided by many calendars, the typical English finding aid created for many sources. The Online Medieval Sources Bibliography is a very useful tool to find digitized editions of medieval sources. At present for example 160 digitized editions of account rolls are included. In the 2011 issue of Digital Medievalist Morgan Kay and Maryanne Kowalewski discuss this bibliographical database which includes now more than 4,000 items.

Accounting and counting in medieval times

In this post I want to look at digitized medieval accounts and in particular account rolls, but sooner or later it becomes necessary to look first at the medieval way of accounting. Accounts were kept and sometimes rolls created to make it possible to account for both the actions of for example a royal officer, and also for the fines due to the king, which might not necessarily and automatically match with the actual amounts of money received. The accounts present a picture of posts concerning actions and money transfers for which the authors were held accountable.

The very word control stems from the practice of checking rolls against the receipts and the amount of money present after a particular period. In the field of trade and commerce medievalists often point to the invention of double entry book-keeping and the treatise La pratica della mercatura by Francesco Balducci Pegolotti (fl. 1310-1347). The edition by Allan Evans (Cambridge, Mass., 1936) has been digitized by the Medieval Academy of America. The first clear late medieval presentation was long said to be found in the Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita (Venice 1494) by Luca Pacioli (1445-1517) – GW 44422, digitized for example at Cologne and at the ECHO project of the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin – whose chapter on book-keeping stems partially from Giorgio Chiarini, the Florentine author of the Libro che tratta di mercanzie et usanze dei paesi. An incunable edition of this work appeared at Florence in 1481 (GW 22847). Alas the link to a digitized version at the Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart does not work. Vincenzo Gitti edited a text by Pacioli, the Tractatus de computis et scripturis / Trattato de’ computi e delle scritture (Turin 1878), also available online at the Universität Köln.

These treatises came into existence after some major merchants and towns had already started using the double entry book-keeping system during the fourteenth century. Vittorio Alfieri, La partita doppia applicata nelle scritture delle antiche aziende mercantili veneziane (Turin, etc., 1891) – digitized at Cologne – made already clear that Pacioli was probably not the first to explain this system. Alfieri discusses similar treatises up to Benvenuto Straccha’s De mercatura (1553), the first legal treatise exclusively devoted to commercial law. Straccha is the subject of a virtual exhibition at the Università Bocconi in Milan, where you can find a bibliography on him and more treatises concerning commercial law. Anne van der Helm and Johanna Postma of the Instituut Pacioli found in 1998 the manuscript of a mid-fifteenth century Italian treatise by Benedetto Cotruglio, Libro dell’arte della mercatura with an appendix, La riegola del libro which according to Van der Helm and Postma dates from the first half of the fifteenth century. This appendix is missing in the edition of Cotruglio’s text by Ugo Tucci (Venice 1990). In the paper discussing this newly discovered text – dealing not only with book-keeping but with many aspects of commerce – the authors provide an ample bibliography of relevant scholarship on the earliest book-keeping treatises.

As for the question where double book-keeping occurred for the first time L. Lauwers and M. Willekens mention in their sketch on the history of book-keeping, ‘Five hundred years of book-keeping. A portrait of Luca Pacioli’Tijdschrift voor Economie en Management 39/3 (1994) an article by Michael Scorgie, ‘Accounting fragments stored in the Old Cairo Genizah’, Accounting, business and financial history 4 (1994) 29-42, who studied a fragment of a journal dating from 1080 and four pages of accounting with credits and debts dated 1134. One can search part of the Cairo Genizah in the Genizah On-Line Database of Cambridge University Library. Images can be found also in the Friedberg Genizah Project, and in Cambridge’s DSpace. Lauwers and Willekens mention also a study by John Caldwell Colt, The Science of Double Entry Book-keeping (New York 1844; online, University of Rhode Island). Colt already guessed that the connection with Egypt, Constantinople, and the commercial network of Arabic merchants stretching from northern Africa to India, is vital for the introduction of double book-keeping. Pointing to the activity of Lombards all over Europe is another sensible line of argument. However, his assumption that the Hanseatic League also quickly took over this method, is wrong, because the cities of this commercial league long refused it.

Probably the largest single medieval commercial archive is the Fondo Datini at the Archivio di Stato, Prato, with the famous documentation about Francesco di Marco Datini, immortalized in Iris Origo’s The Merchant of Prato (1957). On the website one reads the affirmation that from the end of the thirteenth century double book-keeping was used in Tuscany. However correct or incorrect this statement, the Fondo Datini shows an overwhelming variety of account books.

It would be foolish not to mention at least briefly the use of Roman and Arabic numbers. Counting with Roman numbers was mostly done with an abacus. The story of Leonardo Fibonacci and his Liber abaci (1202) can be found almost anywhere. In this mathematical treatise he introduced the modus Indorum to Europe, the numerals as we know them, including the use of zero. Laurence Edward Sigler published a study and translation in English, Fibonacci’s Liber Abaci: a translation into modern English of Leonardo Pisano’s Book of Calculation (Berlin-New York 2002). The edition by Baldassare Boncompagni, Scritti di Leonardo Pisano (2 vol., Rome 1857-1862) has still to be used, and can now be consulted online in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. You can find it also together with other digitized Italian mathematical works on the Mathematica Italiana portal of the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa. It is not included in the section for the history of mathematics of the Berlin website European Cultural Heritage Online.

Rolls and scrolls on many subjects

Let’s go back from the treatises to the account rolls and account books. Many years ago I was fascinated by the rotuli mortuorum, the rolls with the names of deceased medieval monks for whom prayers were requested. More recently rolls of arms figured here in a post concerning medieval heraldry. The chapter of the Introduction to manunscripts studies by Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham (Ithaca, NY-London 2007) devoted to rolls and scrolls made me again curious about this format and its uses. Not only here figure rolls, but elsewhere in this book, too, for example a thirteenth-century roll cartulary written by a notary from Asprières in the Provence (Chicago, Newberry Library, Greenlee ms. 39), and a parchment roll with a large hole caused by the corrosive pigments of an illustration (Chicago, Newberry Library, MS 22.1). The authors mention also an example of an account roll from thirteenth-century Florence.

Michael Clanchy mentions the use of rolls in his classic study From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307 (London 1979; 3rd ed., New York 2012) and more particular also the way written records were used. Auditing a roll was indeed done by reading them aloud. Clanchy points to the possible influence of Arabic practice transmitted by English mathematicians such as Adelard of Bath on the introduction of the roll form. He reckons also with influence from Sicily which in the early twelfth century had only just been conquered on the Arabs. Scholars still debate the actual forms of this influence from the Arab world and the precise ways they might or could have led to developments in Italy.

You will excuse me for not giving examples here of all kinds of medieval rolls, even though Clanchy discusses a generous range. The Parliament rolls have been mentioned here already. Among the main sources concerning English medieval law are the plea rolls, the Exchequer rolls, the eyre rolls, the coroner rolls, the statute rolls and the assize rolls, almost all of them also treated in Clanchy’s book. For the patent rolls it is interesting to visit the website for the itinerary of King John and the rotuli litterarum patentium, with Hardy’s 1835 edition. It might seem useful to remember the Rolls Series, a major series of editions of sources from medieval Britain, but the Master of The Rolls, responsible for the series, decided to publish mainly chronicles in this series. Court rolls often contain the fines of cases. One of the major online projects for court rolls is The Court Rolls of Ramsey, Hepmangrove and Bury, 1268-1600, based on the edition of sources for this part of the East Midlands with the same title (Toronto 1990) and accompanying the book Ramsey. The life of a Fenland Town by Anne Reiber DeWindt and Edwin Brezette DeWindt (Washington, D.C., 2006). The Conisborough Court Rolls (University of Sheffield) present rolls from a manorial court in Yorkshire. For medieval Ireland the website Irish Chancery Rolls, c. 1244-1509 has been launched recently with rolls patiently reconstructed from the materials that survived the disastrous bombing of the Irish Record Office in 1916. It would be splendid to view documents from medieval Spain. Thomas Bisson’s study Fiscal accounts of Catalonia under the early count-kings (1151-1213) (2 vol., Berkeley-Los Angeles 1984) contains the text of a number of documents. For an earlier period Michel Zimmermann has written a major study on the role of writing in Catalonia, Écrire et lire en Catalogne (IXe-XIIe siècle) (2 vol., Madrid 2003).

I would like to close this post with a shortlist of separately digitized medieval account rolls and similar documents with a clear link to administration, government or jurisprudence. Don Skemer deals with statute rolls compiled by individuals in ‘From Archives to the Book Trade: Private statute rolls in England, 1285-1307′, Journal of the Society of Archivists 16 (1995) 193-206. I will exclude here many other forms, such as genealogical rolls – though I would like to point to the digitized world chronicle and genealogy of Edward IV in roll form at Philadelphia, Free Library - mortuary rolls and heraldic rolls. My brief list opens with a number of examples from the Digital Scriptorium, choosing of course examples completely digitized:

  • Los Angeles, UCLA Library, ms. Rouse 61: Rent roll; Hertfordshire, 1560 – ms. Rouse 53 is an homage roll from Norfolk, 1446-1453
  • Los Angeles, UCLA, Bancroft Library, BANC UCB 119: Purchase of land, Bergamo, 1500
  • New York, Columbia University, ms. Montgomery 22: Account roll, Ely, 1400-1415
  • San Francisco, San Francisco State University, J. Paul Leonard Library, De Bellis Collection, De Bellis H 121, Box1:A3: Roll, 1338; Italy – the exact nature of this roll is not indicated in the description
  • New York, Columbia University, Smith Documents 63: Tax roll of tithes, Vaux (Somme), first half 15th century
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, ms. Ash. Rolls 45, Procession to Parliament; 17th century – a beautiful illustrated roll; for digitized genealogical and heraldic rolls Oxford provides an ample choice
  • Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, ms. Oversize 23: Property survey; Val Secret, department Aisne, 1324
  • Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Codex 1116: Distribution of funds for churches; Volterra, 1490
  • Paris, Archives Nationales, AE/II/216: Toll tarifs, Sens, around 1223; two rolls
  • Paris, Archives Nationales, AE/II/329: Document of three apostolic commissioners concerning the nullity of the marriage between Charles the Fair and Blanche of Burgundy, 1322
  • Paris, Archives Nationales, AE/III/203: Letter of Uldjaitu, king of Persia, to Philipp the Fair and other christian princes to renew the existing alliance, 1305 – on the back of the roll is an Italian translation of the Mongol text
  • Beaune, Archives Départementales de la Côte d’Or, Chambre des Comptes de Bourgogne, B 11525: Tithe roll for the region around Beaune, 1285

Of course one can point to interesting documents concerning legal history in roll form elsewhere, not only in medieval Europe, but for example in medieval Japan. Harvard Law School Library has digitized 22 komonjo, scrolls with various legal texts from the period 1158-1591. Jewish marriage contracts in roll form are being digitized in the Ketubbot project of the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem. The Society for Old Dutch Law published a merchant guild roll from Deventer, De koopmansgilderol van Deventer voor 1249-1387, H.R. van Ommeren (ed.) (The Hague 1978), and the text of this edition – without images of the roll – can be consulted online. For Flanders and Brabant H. Nélis created an overview of account rolls in his study Chambre des Comptes de Flandre et de Brabant. Inventaire des comptes en rouleaux (Brussels 1914)

At the French Archim website you can consult online the roll with the interrogation of members of the Knights Templars from October 19 to November 24, 1307 (Paris, Archives Nationales, J 413 no. 18). Another roll from this famous trial is J 413 no. 29, a digitized inventory on six parchment leaves of the goods of the Templars in the bailliage of Caen. Using the collections search interface of the French Culture portal it seems you cannot find easily other examples in France. The Archives Nationales held in 2011 an exhibition on the Templars affair. The accompanying leaflet L’affaire des Templiers: du procès au mythe shows an interesting selection of manuscripts and contains a concise bibliography on the trial of the Templars, its impact and afterlife. The database of the Lichtbildarchiv älterer Originalurkunden at Marburg contains examples of charters in roll form (Rotel), of which you can view images in black and white. At Monasterium.net, too, one can search for digitized charters of this type, but the search results here are not straightforward.

When writing this post I had to scroll to the end of my text, and thus in a way this post has become a roll, too. The pieces of parchment of a medieval roll were stitched together. I am afraid my text has some rather obvious stitches. At some points I have been much too brief, and at the same time this post contains almost too much. The scholarship in print on the variety of medieval rolls concerning the royal government of England is extensive, and I have mentioned but a few titles here. Perhaps this post just wets the appetite for more!

A postscript

What should be included, and what excluded in such a long post? Certainly not the website of the center for the history of accounting at the Université Lille-3. You will find more links on this website. Comparable centers are mentioned in the links section of the e-journal De Computis. At least three articles in the e-journal Comptabilité(s) deals directly with medieval rolls, Harmony Dewez’s 2011 illustrated contribution on the manorial rolls of Norwich Cathedral Priory, Jean-Baptiste Santamaria on accounts for the bailliage of Hesdin in fourteenth-century Artois, and Patrick Beck on accounts for the comune of Dijon.

By chance I visited the website Richard II’s Treasure, created by the Institute for Historical Research and Royal Holloway College, where besides many objects the treasury roll of this king from 1398-1399 is featured (National Archives, E 101/411/9). However, you will find on the website just two images of the roll, and the text of this 40 meter roll is missing, too. Jenny Stratford who helped creating the website gives the text in her study Richard II and the Engish Royal Treasure (Woodbridge 2011).