Tag Archives: Roman law

At the scene of crime with the Romans

Flyer "Plaats Delict"- Nijmegen, Museum Het ValkhofFor a number of very sensible reasons the history of Roman law has a prominent place within the study of legal history. However, in most cases we tend to focus on Roman private law, sometimes we take public law into account, and criminal law holds at its best a marginal place. This blog tries to avoid undue attention to Roman law, but there is no need here to exclude it completely. The current exhibition about Roman criminal law at Nijmegen (Nimwegen/Nimègue) at Museum Het Valkhof is an excellent occasion to look at this subject in some depth. Its title Plaats delict. Misdaad bij de Romeinen [The scene of the crime. Crime among the Romans] suggests correctly that artefacts will help you to get a better view of Roman attitudes towards crime.

The variety of crimes

Inscription about a murdered farmer

The exhibition at Nijmegen has been developed in cooperation with a number of German museums which created the travelling exhibition Gefährliches Pflaster. Kriminalität im römischen Reich [Dangerous pavement. Criminality in the Roman Empire]. At Museum Het Valkhof, a museum for art, history and archaeology, there is a clear stress on a way of presentation suited to young people. There is no accompanying catalogue, but only short texts with brief explanations about the objects put on display. Children are invited to play the role of Quintus, a Roman crime investigator, and to find out who has committed a murder. From Frankfurt am Main there is a skull with traces of a murderous attack. Children can also take a seat in a Roman court and deduce the exact way cases did take place. An inscription concerning a Roman investigator at Nyon (Switzerland) and an inscription telling us about the murder of a farmer certainly help to imagine how crimes touched the lives of very real people. At Nyon Quintus Severius Marcianus had been very successful as a praefectus arcendis latrociniis, and his home town honoured him with an inscription.

The crimes shown in this exhibition offer a wide variety, from theft and counterfeiting coins to playing with prepared dices, and from burglary to murder and the plundering of tombs. Punishments, too, show a great variety: penalties in money, hand cuffs, slavery and forced labour, and the death penalty in various forms, be it as a gladiator, fed to the lions, by beheading or crucifixion.

Waxtable with a fine

From the perspective of legal historians it is remarkable that Roman law is scarcely invoked at this exhibition, often only implicitly or strictly in the context of an object. For lesser crimes your punishment would often be a fine, an amount of money to be paid. It is a pity the exhibition shows only a replica of a second century wax table with such a fine, held at the Archäologisches Museum Baden-Württemberg in Rastatt.

The longest text about Roman law in the exhibition gives a short overview of the diverse sources of Roman law. The major place of private law is mentioned, as is the efforts under emperor Hadrian (117-138) to unify Roman law. The Codex Justinianus is described as a text-book for students. Just two paragraphs to summarize a development of many centuries is simply too short to bring more than a few things to the attention of people. More to the point is the explanation about the accusatory nature of judicial proceedings. The parties involved had to bring a case themselves to court. The role of provincial governors to hear cases and to ask for judgments from the emperor himself is also mentioned, but none of this information is further corroborated.

Roman burglars at work

The information concerning the objects on display fares better, with nice captions such as Inbrekers aan het werk [Burglars at work] for a box with traces of an attempt to force its lock. Some walls of the exhibition rooms have been decorated with actual Roman wall paintings or evocative artists’ impressions, showing for example a number of inscriptions in a Roman settlement. The exhibition shows small statues of dogs given to the dead in their graves to protect the gifts accompanying their bodies. The ubiquitous Cave canem [Watch out for the dog] is only hinted at by showing a bronze head of a dog and by a series of small statues of dogs which accompanied the dead in their coffins.

Objects, stories and history

I left the exhibition at Nijmegen with mixed feelings. It is easy to admire the telling array of objects, to learn about them from the concise information about them, and to get here a general impression of Roman life, crimes and punishments. The immediate involvement of children in an imaginary murder investigation is to be welcomed as an example of teaching a subject by making students play a role in a historical setting. However, I cannot ignore the lack of more information about the Roman judiciary, and in particular about its development. The quality of the information for each object is much better, but this shows also forcefully that texts – or maybe a video presentation – can enhance the understanding of objects.

At the entrance of the exhibition you read the Romans faced much the same crimes as we do nowadays. The very substantial difference in punishments could have been highlighted stronger. The attention paid by Romans to safeguard their possessions could have been easily linked to their veritable obsession with hereditary law, the very heart of Roman private law. In the museum shop at Nijmegen with a nice selection of books on Roman history I searched in vain for the German book published for the original exhibition by Marcus Reuter and Romina Schiavone, Gefährliches Pflaster. Kriminalität im römischen Reich (Mainz 2013). Reuter works at the Archäologischer Park und RömerMuseum in Xanten, a town not far from Nijmegen, which makes this omission even more painful.

Apart from the leaflet for children and a general flyer no printed information is available. In face of the Dutch fondness for English books studies such as Jill Harries, Law and crime in the Roman world (Cambridge 2007) and Olivia Robinson, The criminal law of ancient Rome (London 1995) could at the very least have been shown. For me it seems legal historians at the Radboud University Nijmegen have missed a chance to create for this occasion at least a succinct brochure which might redeem this conspicuous lack of further information. The city of Nijmegen can proudly trace its history back to Roman times, At Museum Het Valkhof is also a permanent exhibition about the Peace of Nijmegen (1678-1679), which without any doubt has benefited from advice by legal historians. Let’s hope they will exploit more actively future chances for cooperation with archives, museums and libraries, starting in their own town or region.

Plaats delict. Misdaad bij de Romeinen, Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, May 18-October 5, 2014 – www.museumhetvalkhof.nl

A postscript

While finishing this post I visited also the exhibition De Krim / The Crimea at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam. A splendidly flowing projection of tribes and their movements in the Roman empire from the first to the seventh century and a movie about excavations help here to see the context of the treasures shown. If I had noticed it earlier this year a posting about the Crimea and Ukraine would have been close to current world news, and for that reason the exhibition did not end in May, but will be open until August 31. In fact the museum fears either Russia or Ukraine will come with juridical claims when the objects would return now to the lending museums on the Krim (see a press release of the Allard Pierson Museum (August 20, 2014) and for example the Dutch newspaper Trouw, August 22, 2014). In one of the corridors of the Allard Pierson Museum is a small photo exhibition Culture under attack about the threats to cultural heritage worldwide since 1945.

The dog, the cat and the mouse: animals and legal history

Monkeys playing slaves - sculpture in wood - source: Kommissio für das Deutsche Rechtswörterbuch, Heidelberg

Man and animals live together since the domestication of a number of animals many thousand years ago. Through the ages they often got along quite well, but sometimes man needed the law to deal with the unexpected behaviour of animals. The company and companionship between women, men and animals is not completely harmless or effortless. Relationships ranged and range today from animal worship and sometimes almost human care for pets at one end to harsh treatment as mere objects and outright systematic cruelty, serving mankind in the end as food, provider of skins, cruel entertainment and other goals.

In a conference on Das Tier in der Rechtsgeschichte [Animals in legal history] at Heidelberg from April 2 to 4, 2014, legal historians and other scholars will discuss several aspects of animal and human life and the interaction between them. The program of the conference at Heidelberg has been created in cooperation with the commission for the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch. In this post I will look at some aspects of the interaction between animal history and legal history. This is an occasion, too, to look at the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch, one of the typical German dictionary projects.

Of man and beasts

Animals are no aliens in legal history. Especially in German legal history animals come into view already early. I invite you to look for example at images from medieval bestiaries in Bestiaire du Moyen Âge, a virtual exhibition of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (interface French, English and Spanish), They are portrayed in various ways in the famous illuminated manuscripts of Eike von Repgow’s Sachsenspiegel. In April Dietlinde Munzel-Everling will discuss the animals in the Sachsenspiegel. Jacob Grimm, one of the pioneers of German academic legal history did not only study and publish versions of the medieval animal epic about the fox Renard in his Reinhart Fuchs (Berlin 1834). In an earlier post here I looked in more depth at the various versions of this much liked medieval story. His explanation of German words in his Deutsche Grammatik (first edition Göttingen 1819) often included historical explanations. The word vogelfrei, meaning literally and originally “free as a bird”, was in the context of exiled people and victims of execution who were denied a funeral narrowed to “delivered to the birds”. No doubt Grimm will figure in the contribution of Michael Frosser-Schell on animals in his edition of the Weisthümer (6 vol., Göttingen 1840-1878).

At the conference in Heidelberg a physician and a theologian will help looking at animals and legal history from different academic disciplines. Wolfgang Eckhart will look at relations between humans and animals from a cultural and medieval perspective. Martin Jung will look at animals in early French protestant theology. Apart from a section on animals in some selected legal sources the conference has sections on animals in public and private law, both in towns and rural areas, animals and their roles in criminal law, animals and law in art and language, and finally a section looking at animals in Spanish law (Marita Giménes-Candela) and animals in the German and French Enlightenment (Ulrich Kronauer). In this last contribution the change in views about the maltreatment of animals will be discussed.

Legal procedure is a subject in the contribution of Inge Kroppenberg about the damnatio ad bestias in Roman law. Peter Dinzelbacher, too, will look at Tierprozesse, criminal procedures against animals. The hanging of dogs is the theme of Stephan Meder’s contribution. Hopefully they pay due respect to the classic study The criminal prosecution and capital punishment of animals by Edward Payson Evans (London 1906; reprint London 1987), but follow also the example of historians such as Esther Cohen to look beyond cases to their context and to patterns of argumentation. For studies about animal behavior and views about animals it is worth looking at the Animal Studies Bibliography created at Michigan State University. The College of Law at this university is home to the Animal Legal & Historical Center where you can conveniently search for specific historical cases and subjects, broader themes and jurisdictions.

Animals, law, history and the German language

Logo Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch

In the second part of this post the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch (DRW) takes pride of place. German scholars have a fine tradition of creating and editing dictionaries, with without any doubt the Deutsches Wörterbuch started by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm as one of its major feats. The long time it takes to create such dictionaries is almost proverbial for the tenacity of German scholarship. A second association with these enterprises are the efforts of the various German learned academies. Not only academies with a budget for these projects, but also scholarly teams have the courage to start them, for example the team of 400 scholars behind the second edition of the Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte (HRG). The online version of the HRG gives you free access to the list of entries and keywords, some examples and to excerpts of the other articles. Paid subscription is necessary for full access to the complete online version, but you can buy PDF’s of separate articles.

The project for the DRW was started in 1897 by the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Since 1959 the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften leads and finances the project. This academy supports also the Dictionnaire Étymologique de l’Ancien Français. The idea for a dictionary of the German legal language comes from the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. On the website of the DRW you can view the original printed version, a digital version and a summary of each article. The DRW has now reached the word Schulbuch. The website of the DRW contains an introduction in English and French to facilitate its use. For the DRW a great number of sources from Germany and elsewhere for example from the Netherlands, has been digitized on a separate website, where you can search in specific sources; you can check this overview with a list of the digitized titles. A list with externally digitized relevant sources counts some 1,300 titles. The DRW has a special text archive for full text searches. Thanks to scholars such as Grimm the scope of the DRW is not just the legal language of Germany, the former Holy Roman Empire. Grimm wanted it to cover all languages of the Western Germanic language family. Thus Old English, Anglo-Saxon, Old and Middle Dutch, Old Frisian and even Lombardic, and the several medieval phases of the German language are included.

As with any dictionary created over a long time span the early parts of the DRW are not as rich as later volumes. The first volume appeared in 1914. The presence of digitized resources helps you to extend the examples adduced for early and later articles of the DRW. Let’s look for example at the cat (Katze) (DRW VII, col. 563-564). The cat figures gruesomely in a punishment dating from the Early Modern period in which someone was to be put into a sack with some living animals, among them a cat. The Katze was also the nickname of a punishment or a prison. The DRW links directly to other general German dictionaries, and indicated further textual sources, where you can even exclude certain word forms. Interestingly the ten additional textual examples from digitized sources for the cat stem all from Old Frisian law, mainly from the Westerlauwersches Recht, W.J. Buma (ed.) (Góttingen 1977). Here the cat is one of the animals which when they cause damages oblige their owner to pay only a part of the normal sum of money to be paid as a fine. The cat gave its name also to a number of following entries in the DRW which you might look up yourself.

I owe you here information about the other animals figuring in the title of my post. The mouse (Maus) is only very rarely mentioned in a legal context (DRW IX, col. 380). In fact the evidence from a trial according to canon law Tirol around 1520 given by the DRW has already been printed by Evans (p. 259-260) in Appendix A of his study from a German almanac for 1843. As a Dutchman I can dream of a case of mice invading a room with Dutch cheese! Combining cats and dogs in the title of this post was seducing, but I could have guessed easily that a dog (Hund) would only for its literal sense take very much space in the DRW (VII, col. 53-61). However, the hunting dog (Jagdhund) has an entry for itself (DRW VI, col. 356-357), with additional entries for such subjects as the servant dealing with hunting dogs. I could not help smiling at the wonderful long compound German word for the very brief separate entry concerning the costs of the care for a hunting dog, Jagdhundverpflegungskosten.

Mistaking the scope of dictionaries

Even if you can detect limits to the range and quality of the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch you should remember that most languages do not have any kind of legal-historical dictionary worthy of a comparison with the DRW. Many people in my country complain about the largest dictionary – nicknamed the Dikke Van Dale [The Fat Dictionary] – it does not explain everything like an encyclopedia. They would be baffled by the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT) which looks very much like an encyclopedia of the Dutch language from 1500 to roughly 1925. Its sheer size makes it the largest existing dictionary of any language. You will forgive me this paragraph when I tell you on this website you can even find words from the Lex Salica using the combined search mode of the WNT with dictionaries for Old Dutch and Middle Dutch. A dictionary of the Frisian language is also present on this website. Verily the DRW is not an encyclopedia, and also not a lexicon of juridical constructions and concepts, for which you can turn to the HRG.

I would have liked to comment on the image with the chained apes, presumably a wooden sculpture somewhere in Germany, but I have not yet found more information about it. At the end of this post I would like to turn from history to the present, For a dictionary of current legal German you can consult online for example the Rechtswörterbuch, which brings you also to current German laws and legal study books. Animals in contemporary German law are the subject on the website of the foundation Tier im Recht. When I looked at this website with a poodle staring at you Germans will remember Goethe’s words in Faust about the heart of the matter, des Pudels Kern. In my opinion the various ways we looked and look at, dealt and deal with animals can say much about our attitude towards people, life and nature. The story of animals and animal law is not to be detached from human history, because it tells us about both the bright and darker sides of human life, our views of culture and society, its order and limits.

 

Legal texts in digitized manuscripts at the British Library

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

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

Searching for digitized legal texts at the BL

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

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

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

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

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

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

Light on illuminated legal manuscripts

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

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

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

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

A lawyer addressing an assembly

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

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

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

A postscript

A very substantial number of digitized manuscripts with legal texts held in the British Library is accessible online thanks to the recent edition project Early English Laws which aims at creating new editions of English laws issued before 1215. Among the 81 manuscripts selected within this project nearly forty are at the British Library. However, here only these pages are shown which contain relevant legal texts. Hopefully it will be possible to include them in their entirety as a part of the BL’s Digitized Manuscripts program.

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.

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.

More medieval legal manuscripts at Europeana Regia

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

Three French libraries

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

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

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

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

A postscript

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

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

Amiens

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Rheims

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

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

Valenciennes

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

Brussels, BR

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

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

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

Munich, BSB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paris, BnF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek

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

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