Reconstructing Irish history from the ashes

Logo Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland

The loss of archival records by an accident, deliberate destruction or whatever other cause is one of the greatest threats for the collective memory of peoples and nations, and even for humankind in general. How can you substitute things lost for ever? Such thoughts were very much alive after June 30, 1922, when the Public Record Office of Ireland in Dublin went on fire during the Battle of Dublin. Munition stored in the building was hit by shells and multiple fires destroyed documents from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Only in 1928 the PRO could reopen. On June 30, 1922 the National Archives of Ireland launched the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland, a portal with at its heart three reconstructed archival collections. In this post I will look at the new portal, and also at the project of Trinity College, Dublin, for the reconstruction of records for the medieval Irish Chancery.

Lost in one afternoon

Logo National Archives of Ireland

The turns and key moments in irish history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can readily be defined as tragedies. The famine in the mid-nineteenth century became worse by appalling English actions and negligence. With the emigrants to the United States of America Ireland was bereft again of many thousand people. Gladstone could nearly bring Home Rule for Ierland, but both he and Asquith just before the First World War did not succeed in accomplishing it. The Easter Rising of 1916 and the civil war that led to the foundation of the Irish Republic took a heavy toll, and the Troubles since 1969 were another grim period which ended just a few decades ago. After the Brexit the Irish frontier has become again a real political frontier. By the way, the National Archives in Dublin bring the period between 1912 and 1923 to your attention with the apt heading Decade of Centenaries.

When even the memory of many periods with turmoil is destroyed more happens than just irreparable loss of documents. It is a cultural disaster, damaging the collective memory and removing a point of reference. Normally I try to avoid writing about centenaries and commemorations, but with the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland you have a very important sign of revival, a kind of light shining and bringing back things that seemed totally lost. For a long period after the Four Courts Blaze only the socalled Salved Records, charred record remains, survived as did rather miraculously the finding aids, catalogues and the staff library.

Let´s go immediately to the core of the new portal. Three collections are presented in a new digital form, starting in chronological order with the medieval exchequer from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, the Cromwellian Surveys from the late seventeenth century, and the 1766 religious census. If anything this choice of records ornamented with the lofty title Gold Seams shows already the range in time of the holdings at the National Archives of ireland.

The medieval exchequer

Example of a record from the Exchequer for Ireland, TNA E 101/237/5 - image source VRT / TNA
Example of a record from the Exchequer for Ireland, TNA E 101/237/5 – image source VRT / TNA

The collection concerning records of the medieval exchequer for Ireland is not entirely characteristic of the Virtual Record Treasury, because almost all these records are held at the National Archives, Kew. Three main record types are presented: issue rolls, receipt rolls, enrolled parchments and two memoranda rolls (NAI, EX 1/1 and EX 1/2) from the fourteenth century. Luckily the Irish Record Commission had made summaries of the memoranda rolls; a digital version of the 43 volumes is a desideratum. The web page with illustrated examples of these records series and related documents (Manuscripts Gallery) is very instructive. In the section Delving Deeper you will find more historical background and additional images, including editorial conventions and a liost of recurring phrases. The section with stories does what it promises.

Navigating the images of records can be done in several ways. The free text search filed offers the most simple search mode, but you can alo filter for reference code, title and creator. The advanced search mode functions for the whole Virtual Record Treasury. You can start with the fields for title, creator and reference code, and chnage them or add a field for repository and/or transcription. After scrolling down you can find under the heading Further search options filters for a particular time range, Gold Seam, query expansion, fuzzy search, and items without images. Apart from a particular Gold Seam you can also limit your search to the Treasures.

The option Gold Seam Highlight in the navigation menu for the exchequer brings you not only a number of useful general descriptions of medieval record genres, but also access to records

Document view screen in the highlights section for the medieval exchequer
Document view screen in the highlights section for the medieval exchequer

Only after trying to use this view I succeeded in accessing actual images. By clicking on a record title you can access them in a kind of workspace with at your left several view options. Some way of highlighting the choices when you hover over them would be helpful. I did not yet find a concise user manual for this workspace. The use of the term manifests and the presence in the left corner of the distinctive logo are normally sufficient signs for indicating the use of the IIIF compliant Mirador viewer, but due to tropical temperatures I clearly failed to recognize them at first!

At this point I would like to mention the general User Guide which does not just help a casual visitor or a curious historian. In my opinion the National Archives of Ireland succeed here splendidly in explaining not only the features of the Virtual Record Treasury, but also a number of archival matters in an exemplary way. The distinctions between several possible grades of documents in relation to an original are given, and also a number of key description terms. A four colour code is used to indicate linked records in the three Gold Seams, the three core collections of this portal.

The Cromwellian surveys of the seventeenth century

The next core collection brings you to Early Modern Ireland in the period starting with the revolt of 1641 that eventually led to the end of landholding by the Catholic gentry and aristocracy. The landowners’ surveys of the 1650s formed a key element in this development. In the nineteenth century the Irish Manuscript Commission created a massive index for the socalled Down Surveys or Cromwellian Surveys. The digitized surveys are reinforced by some 2,000 digitized maps. These resources show landed property in a very detailed way. The starting page of this section leads you also to a video and a background essay.

The Barony of Sheelburne in the County of Wexford by George Tuffin alias Johnson - London BL, 72868, f. 077
The Barony of Sheelburne in the County of Wexford by George Tuffin alias Johnson – London BL, add. ms.72868, f. 077

Exactly the combination of records and maps helps you to view matters in telling detail. The manuscript gallery for this section shows a fine example how using a number of survey records gives you a much fuller view than each of them separately. Land already owned by Protestant supporters of Cromwell is shown as blank spaces in the Down Survey. Among the items shown are also some editions of records, but the coloured maps attract your attention, too. I could not readily spot clear references for the resources shown. The highlights for the Cromwellian surveys contain documents held at Dublin, Belfast, London and Paris. Here, too, you can use the IIIF-compliant Mirador viewer to view images of records. I must again admit I was initially a bit confused by the way of navigating to the record images. However, I realize that until now I met the Mirador viewer exclusively for viewing medieval manuscripts, not for archival records or record series.

For understanding the Cromwellian Surveys it pays off to start with the page Delving Deeper. You can read here about the historical background of the plans for confiscation and their aftermath. There is precious information about parish maps and barony maps, on further archival resources elsewhere, editorial explanations, and information about some relevant publications about the digitization project. By the way the subdomain The Down Survey of Trinity College Dublin, offers another digital road to this survey.

The 1766 religious census

The importance of the 1766 religious census is the wealth of historical and genealogical information it provides concerning the period before the census of 1813. Just 59 original items survived the 1922 disaster, but luckily transcripts and records held elsewhere can now supplement this information bringing you some 50,000 names.

This time I started with the page Delving Deeper in order to get a good view of the documents and their background. The information for each parish was not uniformly recorded, and thus it is by chance some very rich records have survived. In some cases ministers added social or political comments in their record. The archival history and use of this census before 1922 is traced here, too. Some remnants of editorial remarks for preparing this webpage made me smile abou the efforts of the webteam preparing this splendid portal. We should not complain about every small blemish and forget the overall quality!

A Parliamentary Return, here for Cullen (detail) – Dublin, National Archives of Ireland, IHP/1/688

The manuscripts gallery for this section gives further illustrations of the record genres themselves and of the whole process to create and evaluate this census, including diocesan overviews of parishes and the final recording in the Book of Returns. The highlights bring you to six different records, not just the offical Parliamentary Returns. Here again a better way of indicating the navigation is most welcome, for example by just adding some marker to each item, perhaps only a streak before each title. Maybe the fact the Mirador viewer was developed with the aim to contain single manuscripts plays a role here, but this viewer has now also been adapted by the Dutch Nationaal Archief for viewing some digitized records of the former Ministerie van Koloniën, and they can be navigated without any ado. Alas this archive did not translate its message of October 11, 2022 about this new feature into English, nor has it been duplicated in the research section. As an addition to the three aspects common to each of the three main collections you will find in the Virtual Record Treasury also a story section, albeit with currently just two essays.

Beyond digitized collections

The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland is a true treasure trove! It points also nicely to the fact the word treasure is both a noun and a verb. The rich collections of this portal help very much to rekindle interest in several periods of Ireland’s chequered history. Not the least bonus is the way light is shed on the importance of records elsewhere, in particular in England, and on the changing relations between England and Ireland. The word United Kingdom has definitely a hollow ring in view of some dark periods in Irish history where English rule seems to deserve the adjective colonial.

The new portal contains much more that I will only mention briefly here, because you will want to investigate these features yourself. There is a useful glossary of technical terms around digitization. The virtual tour of the old Public Record Office desrves your attention, too. It is also possible to browse the items from particular contributing institutions. The section Thematic collections brings you to more newly digitized collections with additional resources, such as the 1922 Salved Records, the Down Survey and Grand Jury maps. The overview of partners can serve you as a web directory for institutions with relevant holdings for Irish history.

Although I could point you to more corners of the Virtual Treasury of Ireland I would like to mention here a few other online projects well worth visiting. Somehow I had expected to find the respective links also at this portal, but this can readily be redeemed. The records of the medieval Irish exchequer can be supplemented with the project CIRCLE: A Calendar of Irish Chancery Rolls c. 1244-1509, created by Trinity College Dublin in a couple of decades. This institution created also the project The Down Survey: Mapping a century of change. where you can use a HISGIS map next to the survey records. The decision for the Cromwellian Survey came following a period of much turmoil. In particular The 1641 Depositions, another project from Dublin, from a decade before the great surveys, should not be forgotten. The Great Parchment Project of the London Metropolitan Archives focuses on a survey in 1639 of landed property in county Derby.

Header CICLE project, Trinity College Dublin

I promised at the start to look here also at the CIRCLE project of Trinity College Dublin. This project contains some 20,000 charters. Charters in Latin have been translated into English. It is possible to browse and search charters by reign and by roll type (patent rolls or close rolls). The advanced search mode offers you even more. The project helps your research with fine introductions, overviews of medieval and editorial abbreviations, a glossary and a bibliography. In the links section you will find more projects with medieval accounting rolls. For many items there are images. In my view this project is truly much more than just another calendar for medieval sources. Let’s not insist too much on the obvious fact that your research can benefit enormously from combining this resource with the exchequer records now available online in the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland.

I had intended to finish this post much earlier, but surely I mean this contribution as a heartfelt homage to al efforts shown here to bring Irish history to the widest possible public. Twenty years ago the archival building of my own employer, the Regionaal Archief Zuid-Utrecht in Wijk bij Duurstede, was flooded. Thanks to swift, massive and apt efforts almost every damaged record could be salvaged and restored. Such catastrophes make it less normal for me that we are are at all able to consult historical records, and hence my interest and admiration for this most valuable project in Dublin. Keeping archival records safe and creating access to them in various ways, from finding aids and indexes to transcriptions and digital collections, can only happen when we sustain efforts to investigate the past and to cherish cultural heritage for the present and for future generations.

Roads to foreign legal gazettes

Startscreen interactive map Foreign Law Gazettes, Law Library of Congress

To find current laws you will probably start by going to a national portal for legislation. Until two decades ago it was quite normal to search for new laws in legal gazettes, many of them now only appearing in an electronic format. Finding foreign legal gazettes can be a real challenge, especially for older issues. In this post I will look at some directories for foreign legal gazettes, and I will fcous in particular on the interactive map for finding legal gazettes created recently by the Law Library of Congress. This library is without any doubt the largest law library in the world. For me it meant a welcome opportunty to update the concise information about this subject on my legal history website Rechtshistorie and to write here at greater length about ways to trace legal gazettes.

Protecting the law

I was alerted to the new interactive map of the Law Library of Congress by a post at its blog In Custodia Legis. In fact several recent posts concern the efforts to create access to the LoC’s own vast collection of legal gazettes, for example a post from January 2021 with a video about the cataloging project leading to theninteractive map, and a post in May 2022 about recent additions ot the digital collection of legal gazettes at the LoC.

Logo Law Library of Congress

Apart from navigating the interactive map you can also use the search filters provided at the start screen of the interactive legal gazettes map. It is most thoughtful to distinguish between national and subnational gazettes. In the overview below the map historical and municipal jurisdictions have not been forgotten, too, as is a succinct notice about the coverage of a legal gazette. You can also filter for six preset formats. There is also a mobile version of the interactive map. The menu button in the top right corner of the online map leads you to the LoC’s digital collection of legal gazettes, back to the main LoC website, or to the Ask a Librarian service. It would be helpful to provide here also a direct link to the Law Library itself which is not easily found from the startscreen of the Library of Congress. Its dimensions and importance make better visibility in my view an absolute must.

Strangely the website of the Library of Congress currently lacks a separate page devoted to its gazettes collection. The link to such a page does lead you only to its digital collection. The interactive map cum database is not included in the list with available databases, nor does it merit a guide among the rich choice of research guides. However, the LoC’s digital collection of legal gazettes – with currently nearly 8,500 items – is supported by a current number of 34 web archives of online legal gazettes worldwide. Maybe a kind of Quick Links section can help visitors of the website of the Law Library of Congress, at the collections page or its section Nations of the World of its Guide to Law Online. Internal references at such points can be most helpful, as are the directions provided in the introduction to its own important digital collection for this subject. I suppose we have to keep in mind the website of the Library of Congress is actually a portal site. It mirrors faithfully its vast dimensions and manifold qualities. The Law Library is one of the jewels in the crown of the Library of Congress that should shine more brighly at this great online portal! When you take into consideration the many positive aspects going often far beyond your expectations my remarks are not meant to diminish these qualities which I greatly admire.

Other roads to foreign legal gazettes

When writing this post it seemed the Library of Congress’ online repertory wins in importance by the fact I could not reach the online repertory for foreign legal gazettes created by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) in Chicago. In fact I could not reach the CRL and its digital collections at all. There is a more restricted Directory of Online Government Gazettes at a personal web page of the University of Michigan. It can be helpful to use the list of government gazettes at Wikipedia, even when considering the very succinct listing with few details wihtin the list, but for a number of these gazettes dedicated Wikipedia pages exist. The similar list of the German Wikipedia, called Liste gesamtstaatlicher Vorschriftensammlungen shows more details. The version at the Spanish Wikipedia is just a list, giving you only fifteen gazettes for Europe and most national gazettes for Latin America, and also regional gazettes for Spain and Mexico.

Startscreen FLARE Foreign Offical Govenment Gazettes search, IALDS, London

Luckily the FLARE Foreign Official Government Gazettes Database of the IALS, School of Advanced Legal Studies, London, is up and running. With a free text search field and six fields for advanced search some reassuring care for bibliographical and practical information of this database is clearly present. However, when you click on results you will not always find exact information about the publication period of a gazette, but surely the notes are helpful, such as no more than one year is missing inholdings, and sometimes there is very full information about legal online portals for a particular country.

For some regions and continents you can benefit from special online portal. Thus for Latin America you might want to look at the Red de Boletines Oficiales Americanos, but alas this link, too, did not function. The Digital Library of the Caribbean (DLoC) contains a number of official gazettes. The International Union List of South Asian Newspapers and Gazettes is a searchable database of the Digital South Asia Library, University of Chicago.

The digital collection of some African and South Asian legal gazettes created by Harvard Law School Library has vanished from the HLS library website, nor can you quickly find an overview of all its digital collections after the latest overhaul of its website. It might be useful indeed to give some direction to the digital collections of Harvard University Library which brings you to these gazettes within its digital collections. Some kind of list or overview at a logical point would be helpful and certainly feasible, but this seems to have been only an element of earlier online forms of these rich collections. You will be happy to use the Excel sheet created in 2019 by LLMC Digital for holding of African legal prints at the Library of Congress and eighteen other libraries in the United States and Canada, with information about legal gazettes. law codes and legal journals. For Africa you can luckily use the subdomain for gazettes of Laws.Africa.

Some concluding remarks

From this brief post it becomes clear finding foreign legal gazettes can indeed be daunting, but the interactive map of the Library of Congress is surely a fine point to start your search for this document type, as is the database of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies. Both institutions offer more than just ionformation on current legal gazettes. The paragraph for the main portals to legal gazettes at my website needs definitely some updating. It is disturbing to note some very respected institutions do not longer offer the full information about the legal gazettes they hold, nor indicate the current gateway to their materials. For some continents addiitional overviews exists, and their information is a welcome addition. The longevity of Internet and digital collections is not as complete as you would like it to be. In my view legal historians should take due notice of the fact many overviews of legal gazettes focus on their current form and presence. Historical overviews are a rarity on the main portals for foreign law, and also in library guides for the laws of paricular countries.

Whenever I come across digital collections with a substantial number of older issues or earlier gazettes I try to list them, but of course I cannot guarantee complete coverage. We should very much appreciate and welcome the efforts of teams at some of the world’s most renown libraries to create effective overviews of particular resources. Such initiatives should be a spur for research institutions to create better visibility for their libraries which offer so much more than just stacks for holdings in print and access to databases, online repositories and digital collections.

Along Dutch borders. Looking at Early Modern maps

Book cover of Grensverkenningen

Summer time has been for me amidst of other things a book reading time. One of the new books I read became within a few months a bestseller in my country. Author Kester Freriks published already several books about nature and maps. His new book Grensverkenningen. Langs oude grenzen in Nederland [Border reconnaissance. Along old frontiets in the Netherlands] (Amsterdam 2022) came into existence thanks to Leiden University Library. Martijn Storms, curator of maps and atlases at this library, is his co-author. Earlier books by Freriks showed gems from the maps held at the Allard Pierson, the combined museum and special collections of Amsterdam University Library. The rich map collection created by Johannes Tiberius Bodel Nijenhuis (1797-1872) is the central element of this book which helps you to perceive more borders than you would have imagined yourself. This post offers you some glimpses of the riches of this book and some reflections about them.

150 years Bodel Nijenhuis collection

Leiden University Library celebrates this year the arrival of a great gift 150 years ago. In his will Bodel Nijenhuis donated his vast collection of maps and atlases, not just for the Netherlands but for many other countries, too, to Leiden University Library. It became the core collection of the current Maps and Atlases department. For his new book Kester Freriks not only worked together with curator Martijn Storms. Storms provided for each of the twenty maps shown a description with background information. In each chapter Freriks walked in the particular landscape of the map with different people helping him to either find traces of old borders or to perceive better the meaning of still visible border markings in a landscape.

Kester Freriks is a keen observer. He came first to my attention when I found his book Vogels kijken [Watching birds] (Amsterdam 2009) where he gave succinct descriptions of 300 birds he saw himself in the Netherlands, each of them shown with beautiful old drawings from the library of Artis, the Amsterdam zoo. His concise bird observations originally appeared in the NRC newspaper. In 2010 appeared Verborgen wildernis [Hidden wilderness], written with Jan W.H. Werner of the Allard Pierson, with stories about walks at surprisingly wild locations in my densely populated country, combined with short notes about old maps showing these areas in earlier centuries . Later on Freriks offered with Joyce Roodnat and Erik van Zuylen a hommage to the nine volumes of the Atlas der Neederlanden in a book showing both old and modern maps accompanying Freriks’ observations during various short walking tours in my country [Wandelingen der Nederlanden. Hedendaagse voetreizen door historisch Nederland (Amsterdam 2013)]. Writing about him makes me smile about my own series of posts with adventures of a walking historian…

Maps in many genres

This new book pleases me much. Freriks’ choice to walk together with different people decidedly enlivens the book. The cover of Grensverkenningen shows a map dealing with a national border, in fact a very particular one. After the French occupation of the Netherlands during Napoleon’s reign new borders were drawn at the Congress of Vienna (1815). The map shows the projected border of the new province Limburg with Prussia in the area near the town of Roermond, the former main town of Opper-Gelre, one of the four regions constituing the duchy of Gelre (Guelders). Here Freriks made a walk with Peer Roselie, city archivist of Sittard and Geleen. They ended at Gangelt where German territory now cuts deep into Limburg, not as planned on this map. Gangelt is the place where the famous Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator (1512-1594) was a pupil at the Latin school. I suppose this map with both a military and a legal purpose favored my decision to write about this book here, but anyway the combination of insights brought together is simply most captivating (pp. 202-213).

"Brouillon de carte - ou plan des prairies de Doorweerth+ - COLLBN Port 10 N 208
Brouillon de carte – ou plan des prairies de Doorweerth, ca. 1700 – image: Leiden University Library, Maps and Atlases, COLLBN Port 10 N 208

The second chapter (pp. 30-41) opens with a beautiful map created around 1700 showing a part of Guelders – now Gelderland – near the Rhine river and castle Doorwerth, to the west of Arnhem. Architectural photographer Luuk Kramer accompanied Freriks on his walk. This map uses at least partially a bird’s eye perspective. When you look this way the tiny coloured details appear indeed very bright, not just the castle Doorwerth and its gardens, but also for example the nearby gallows. Freriks’ book does show such details very well. The only thing to complain about are the modest dimensions of his book, but for the same reason its price is modest, too.

Until now I mentioned two map genres which are fairly common, a frontier map and a domanial map. In the chapter introducing Bodel Nijenhuis and in another chapter Freriks uses several maps of Leiden showing the impact of the 1807 gunpowder disaster killing many people and destroying an area along the Rapenburg canal in the old city centre (pp. 68-79). Leiden figures also in a chapter around a late seventeenth-century set of city maps showing the division of neighbourhoods (pp. 106-117).

The forces of nature come in particular into view in the chapters about two islands. First comes a chapter focusing on the former island Urk, once a vital point for ships sailing the former Zuiderzee from Amsterdam to the North Sea, now located in Flevoland, a province reclaimed from the sea in the last century (pp. 118-127). From 1660 to 1792 the city of Amsterdam even owned Urk. Freriks looks at a map from 1649 showing a screen of wooden poles protecting the inhabitants against the sea, and he walks with local historian Johannes Kramer. The battle against the sea was eventually lost at another island. In the early eighteenth century the village of West-Vlieland could not be saved from the waves of the Wadden Sea (pp. 214-227). Beachcomber Dirk Bruins helped Freriks to find traces of this story centered around a map from 1712.

It is invidious to select here more chapters. When walking the nearly straight line of the frontier between the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe Freriks visited also the Drents Archief in Assen (pp. 138-151). The Semslinie is reputedly the first linear frontier drawn on a map. It was created in order to settle disputes about fens claimed both by the powerful province Groningen and the much poorer landschap Drenthe. This frontier runs very close to Ter Apel, once the location of a Cistercian monastery, but nowadays known for a very different institution, the national arrival centre of the Dutch inmigration service. Freriks shows his mastery as a writer at its strongest by mentioning very calm this utter difference, and leaving space for your own thoughts about this year’s appalling humanitarian situation. Just for the record, I cannot help remembering the medieval Hollandse Rading, a straight line between the diocese Utrecht and the county of Holland running between the villages Maartensdijk and Breukelen.

Whether discussing a map showing the changing role of waters near the Vecht river in Utrecht, walking the grounds of a former estate near Leiden, imagining the church bells of Leeuwarden toiling and thus delineating jurisdictions outside the town walls or looking into the vast empty lands reclaimed from the sea near Groningen Freriks shows himself a wonderful observer. Moreover, he bcomes a true partner of his companions, be they philosopher, photographer or archivist. At home you can look online at several of the maps discussed in Grensverkenningen within the digital collections of Leiden University Library. This subdomain is not mentioned in the book, but another website might be interesting, too, for your own imaginary walks, the Actuele Hoogtebestand Nederland (AHN), an online map showing in amazing detail current heights in my country which partially is situated below sea level. Freriks’ book is a splendid invitation to explore historic maps about many Dutch regions, to walk yourself in towns and the countryside, and to open dialogues with people helping each other to gain shared fresh insights about the past and present.

Kester Freriks and Martijn Storms, Grensverkenningen. Langs oude grenzen in Nederland (Amsterdam: Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennep, 2022; 247 pp.; ISBN: 9789025314637)

A mirror of Dutch scripts: Some thoughts around a manual for palaeography

Cover Schrittspiegel by Peter Horsman and Peter Sigmond

This month at long last the third edition appeared of a renown manual for Dutch palaeography from 1500 to the mid-eighteenth century by Peter Horsman and Peter Sigmond, Schriftspiegel. Oud-Nederlandse handschriften van de 13de tot in de 18de eeuw (3rd edition, Hilversum, 2022). For at least ten years no new manual of its kind had been published in the Netherlands and Belgium, and thus I was immediately curious about this revised edition, announced last year but printed and published only now. Which differences can be found between the last and this edition? What are its qualities, and where can one wish for more? Recently reading old scripts has developed for me a new dimension making me more aware of things to be expected in guidance when reading old archival records.

Both authors of the new Schriftspiegel [Mirror of scripts] are well known for their achievements. Peter Horsman worked as an archivist at the Dordrecht archives and taught at the Archiefschool and the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Historian Peter Sigmond taught at the former Rijksarchiefschool and ended his professional career as head of collections at the Rijksmuseum. As a specialist of maritime history he taught also cultural history at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Thus it is only natural their manual shows a bit more examples of records from the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht and on maritime history than you would expect otherwise, and these are valuable elements of this book.

The use of calligraphy books in this manual attracted my attention so much that I decided to look at some length at this subject. The paragraph on Early Modern Dutch calligraphy follows directly after my review of the new Schriftspiegel which takes its name from a seventeenth-century namesake.

Safe guidance to old scripts

I was really anxious about the way Horsman and Sigmond would introduce old scripts in this edition. They opt for a rather concise introduction aiming at clarity for novice readers, and rightly so. It is wonderful how they use the calligraphy of scripts in two early sixteenth-century manuals, among them the Spieghel der schrijfkonste (…) by Jan van de Velde (Amsterdam 1608) as a key element to familiarize readers with examples of Dutch scripts. They did not forget to include also examples of scripts closer to Germany. Some texts are even written in German. The choice of further literature is very good, even if it a bit strange to find a number of manuals dealing with both Dutch palaeography and Early Modern archival records under the heading Taal en tekstverklaring [Language and textual interpretation]. Four examples of online manuals for Dutch palaeography are mentioned, three of them without the actual URL. Among the books on Dutch chronology the authors have not added the concise work by C.C. de Glopper-Zuiderland, In tijd gemeten. Inleiding tot de chronologie (Den Haag 1999). However, I did not really know about P.G.J. Sterkenburg, Een glossarium van zeventiende-eeuws Nederlands (3rd impr., The Hague, 1981), mentioned as available also online, but this book has not been digitized for the Digitale Bibliotheek der Nederlandse Letteren nor at Delpher incidentally. Some fact checking and editorial control would have helped to avoid such glitches and the impression both authors belong to an older generation.

In my view the best part of the introduction is the very good presentation of letter forms and the development of letters. Using color photographs of documents takes this certainly to a new level. The four pages on abbreviations are pretty good, although the typography could have been clearer. Here, too, the column with colorful examples redeems this easily, although using at some points a black or grey font on a blue background is not ideal. A list of often encountered abbreviations would have been most welcome.

The variety of Dutch scripts and archival records

Of course attention should now rapidly go to the 134 examples of Dutch scripts shown in this book, going from 1279 to 1753. The authors want to show texts in Dutch, and medieval texts in Latin have not been included at all. No. 100 from 1645 is in German. There are just two texts from the late thirteenth century, twelve from the fourteenth century, and seventeen from the fifteenth century. The sixteenth century is presented with 40 examples, and for the seventeenth century 55 texts and images are shown. By the way, for some longer texts two images are shown, always accompanied by transcriptions on the left page. The eighteenth century figures with just eight examples up to 1753, an addition to the edition Zutphen 1986 which ended in 1700. As in earlier editions you can find an explanation where to start in growing order of difficulty, going from the eighteenth century to the Middle Ages.

The choice and numbering of items has changed at a few points. A rather visible oddity are some dubious references. Take the very first item, a charter from 1279, “Stadsarchief Breda, VZ0010, 582”. The city archive in Breda has two collections with miscellaneous additions called Varia. This reference points to collection Varia 1; compare “V-1, collectie varia” in the edition 1986. The reference to item no. 133 is simply incomplete: With “Oud-Rechterlijk Archief Haarlem, inventarisnummer 3111” they do not indicate the inventory number, this is lacking. Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief, 3111, Oud-Rechterlijke Archief Haarlem, …” would be correct. It is a nice challenge to find the correct item number in the inventory, probably no. 780 (accounts, 1748).

You might guess correctly Tresoar is located at Leeuwarden which you could mistake easily for the Leeuwarden city archives, the Historisch Centrum Leeuwarden. The two locations of the Historisch Centrum Overijssel in Zwolle and Deventer are not sufficiently indicated, too. Two former professors at the Dutch school for archivists should realize adding the location is not just a wish or a whim but a necessary element in a transcription. Such infelicities should not hide the fact the authors have chosen documents from a wide range of Dutch archives, not only from the Nationaal Archief, The Hague and the provincial capitals, but also from other city and regional archives. Only Brabant and Limburg could have been presented with more items from regional archives.

In a book written by a specialist of Dutch maritime history you will be happy to see for instance a ship journal kept by Michiel Adriaansz. de Ruyter, in document no. 95 from 1633 still a young chief mate. With a view to the large overseas trade and the Dutch colonial empire some attention to Dutch connections with other countries outside Europe is only natural. As no. 90 you see the famous letter about the transaction bringing ownership of Manhattan to the Dutch in 1626. For example, no. 128 from 1703 is an attestation with the views of a Dutch woman about de swarten, “the blacks” in India. No. 123 is a document about paying ransoms for Dutch slaves in Morocco in 1687, and no. 134 from 1753 tells you about slaves in the Cape colony.

Is there any comparable manual for Dutch palaeography? The only serious competitor to this manual was published thirty years ago, the Album paleographicum XVIII Neerlandicarum. Paleografisch album van Nederland, België, Luxemburg en Frankrijk, edited by R. Baetens, C. Dekker and S. Maarschalkerweerd-Dechamps (Turnhout-Utrecht 1992) which includes also medieval documents from the tenth century onwards and documents written in Latin, Dutch, French and German. Its introduction is given in Dutch and French. It reminds me about the very real need for people not fluent in Dutch all over the world for a concise introduction in English. Horsman’s and Sigmond’s introduction deserves an English translation.

The length and details of this post should be a sure indication I think this book deserves both close inspection and a warm welcome! The strength of this manual was and remains the choice of a splendidly wide variety of documents, not in the least for those documents touching on legal history. The authors have listed them conveniently. For example, the range of document types for notarial acts is very large. Horsman and Sigmond rightly refer for more on this subject to A.F. Gehlen’s guide Notariële akten uit de 17de en 18de eeuw. Handleiding voor gebruikers (Zutphen 1986). The glossary of terms and old words brings you many words with a legal nature, a feature of earlier editions, too. Each item in the manual is given with a short and helpful introduction. The way letter forms are explained is the most salient visual change as are the color photographs, and also the format is slightly larger. I expected the highest possible quality of this new edition of a classic work for doing Dutch history, certainly when you realize it was prepared during a period with lockdowns. Surely I agree this new edition improves on the second edition.

Ironically, some things I applaud here were the very points criticized by J.L. van der Gouw in his review for the Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 98 (1985) 414-415 of the first edition (Zutphen 1984). His prophecy that things helping amateurs and students would make them lazy is alluring, but I honestly think good guidance is not amiss when starting and long afterwards. You might almost think Horsman and Sigmond as a small revenge did not give the publication year of the third edition of Van der Gouw’s Oud schrift in Nederland (Alphen aan de Rijn, 1980).

Since July 2022 I work at the Regionaal Archief Zuid-Utrecht, Wijk bij Duurstede. Among other tasks I will help volunteers with transcribing archival records, an important recent tradition of this regional archive. Both my young and senior colleagues rightly greeted the new edition of the Schriftspiegel with enthusiasm as a valuable and serviceable manual for newcomers to old Dutch scripts, professionals and even the general public.

P.J. Horsman and J.P. Sigmond, Schriftspiegel. Oud-Nederlandse handschriften van de 13de tot in de 18de eeuw (3rd edition, Hilversum: Verloren, 2022; 296 pp.; ISBN 9789087049607).

A bibliographical excursion on Dutch Early Modern calligraphy

Cover of Jan van den Velde, Spieghel der schrijfkonste (...) (Rotterdam: Van Waesberghe, 1605) - image source STCN
Cover of Jan van den Velde, Spieghel der schrijfkonste (…) (Rotterdam: Van Waesberghe, 1605) – image source STCN

Using calligraphy as a start and only almost as an afterthought actual archival records is sound for a didactic purpose, going thus from the easy and recognizable to more common and even ugly scripts you encounter in actual research. I thought it would be helpful to guide you here to a digital copy of the marvellous Spieghel der schrijfkonste by Jan van der Velde, and this led me to a discovery I would have liked to avoid. I wonder very much why the authors made the mistake to state the Rijksmuseum copy shown in their manual was printed at Amsterdam in 1608. The library catalogue clearly shows as location and date of printing Rotterdam 1605, published in three parts. The Universal Short Tile Catalogue (USTC) does not mention this copy (no. 1028389). The three editions mentioned in the USTC have all derived printing locations, dates and printers.

The only digital copy I found at Umeå Universitet of this edition shows only two parts from 1605 (part I, scripts, 75 pp., and part III, scripts, 147 pp.). When you check the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN) for no. 833360815 it becomes clear the Rijksmuseum has taken its information from three separate STCN items for its library catalogue entry, but in its turn the STCN shows clearly the Rijksmuseum has several copies of this beautiful work, not only the one stemming from the Koninklijk Oudheidkundig Genootschap. Luckily the value of the introduction does not mar other qualities of the new Schriftspiegel, but a bit more carefulness with the very book the authors took as one of their models would have been right. Dealing with a book without a clear location and printing date – and changing titles! – is a difficult matter, in particular for a multi volume set like this one. In addition this work has also been translated soon, another thing to complicate matters to be investigated. I will not try to solve these bibliographical questions here entirely, but just wanting to give you a link to a digitized version led me to this addendum.

Let’s end here with sending those interested in seventeenth-century calligraphy to the fine commented list of (digitized) works at Penna Volans. This particular Van de Velde edition does not figure in it with a link to a digital version, only for its title page. However, the Allard Pierson at Amsterdam, the combined special collections and university museum of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, put images of it online at Flickr among their calligraphy albums, alas with few meta-data, thus leaving you in the dark which of their three copies they used.

Horsman and Sigmond also give some examples from Cornelis Dirckz. Boissens’ Exemplaren van veelderhande nederlantsche gheschriften (…) (Amsterdam 1617), and here, too, you face the challenge of finding a copy at all. The STCN nor the USTC does mention it. The Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog lists copies at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin [Kunstbibliothek, OS 5016 quer] and the Bibliothèque nationale universitaire at Strasbourg. The Berlin catalogue clearly indicated the place of printing and date have been inferred, and adds question marks. It leaves me wondering a bit what book the authors really saw. In view of its rarity and the changing titles of editions a clear reference to the copy used is simply necessary. These Early Modern calligraphy books remain a feast for the eye and a bibliographical challenge.

A postscript

The Noord-Hollands Archief in Haarlem has digitized its copies of several caliigraphy books created by Jan van de Velde (1568-1623), among them its copy of the Spieghel der Schrijfkonste, dated 1605 (part I, signature 185 H 22:1).

Medieval sources for Normandy’s (legal) history

Startscreen Norécrit (detail)

Musing about a possible goal for a holiday this summer France is bound to enter my thoughts! Thus it made me really happy to find a new portal about French regional history with an European dimension. The portal Norécrit. Aus sources de la Normandie. Pratiques de l’écrit das la Normandie médiévale is a project at the Université de Caen Normandie bringing you a tripartite online corpus with sources for legal history, ecclesiastical administration and the history of medieval archives and libraries, in particular for the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. In earlier posts I looked here at Norman customary law and at the cultural heritage in the form of manuscripts from Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres. What kind of sources can you find at Norécrit? How does the version presented at the new portal differ from earlier (online) editions?

Familiar and unfamiliar

Logo Craham, Université de Caen Normandie / CNRS

The portal Norécrit came to my attention thanks to the Réseau des médiévistes belges de langue française (RMBLF) which offers a calendar of scholarly events concerning medieval studies in Europe, and much else, too, such as notices about new publications and online projects. Let’s first chart the institutional constellation for Norécrit. The portal is the fruit of a team at the Maison de la Recherche en Sciences Humaines (MRSH), and more specifically its unit Centre Michel de Boüard – CRAHAM (UMR 6273). Earlier on this centre launched in cooperation with numerous other institutions already the Bibliothèque virtuelle du Mont Saint-Michel. You can read more about the CRAHAM also at its blog Les Échos du Craham.

Law in medieval Normandy

The first section of Norécrit is directly concerned with medieval legal history. The équipe for this section is led by the director of CRAHAM, Laurence Jean-Marie. Under the heading Ecrits nomratif et vitalité économique. Les coutumes des villes et des ports you will find nineteen texts with customary law. Those for harbors contain regulations for tolls, they are not just tariff lists. The introduction states clearly we should not expect too much uniformity. Many texts are not official statements, but instead more privately produced text collections. Texts concerning forestry law have not been included. The Grand Coutumier de Normandie is not mentioned at all, since these texts have clearly a more local range. The Coutumes de la prévôté d’Harfleur (1387) is the first text edited at Norécrit, and the edition comes with a useful introduction and a presentation of the sources. A nineteenth-century edition used only one archival source, but here three medieval sources have been used for the new edition. You can browse the text using the sommaire or use the search function (recherche). This section brings a most valuable addition for the study of customary law in Normandy.

Viewing church life in the archdiocese Rouen

Administration par l’écrit dans l’Église du XIIIe siècle is the theme of the second section, led by Grégory Combalbert, and more specifically the development of the use of written records in the archdiocese Rouen covering the territory of Normandy. Three sources brought together here can show you church life during the thirteenth century in great detail. Apart from a pouillé, an overview of parishes in this archdiocese and episcopal acts from three bishops the main resource here is the famous register of archiepiscopal visitations created by Eudes (Odo) Rigaud, archbishop from 1248 until 1275.

I suppose I am not the only scholar remembering reading about him in the great synthesis of medieval ecclesiastical history by the late Sir Richard William Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Harmondsworth 1970). The concise introduction to the visitations refers to both old and modern literature about this very active archbishop and his register. The edition by Théodose Bonnin, Regestrum visitationum archiepiscopi Rothomagensis : journal des visites pastorales d’Eude Rigaud, archevêque de Rouen 1248-1269 (Rouen 1852) can be consulted online at Gallica as can also the manuscript Paris, BnF, ms. latin 1245, alas only taken from an old but serviceable microfilm. It is wise to look at the full description of this manuscript at the website of the BnF, too, because it points you to some scholarly articles and the English translation by Sidney M. Brown with an introduction by Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan, The register of Eudes of Rigaud (New York-London 1964).

A page of the pouillé for Rouen, 1236-1306 - Paris, BNF, ms. Latin 11052, fol, 5v - image source: Paris, BnF
A page of the pouillé for Rouen, 1236-1306 – Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 11052, fol, 5v – image source: Paris, BnF

The document with an overview of parishes in the archdiocese Rouen between 1236 and 1306, too, is preserved in a manuscript held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Ms. Latin 11052). Léopold Delisle published an edition of the text in 1894. The manuscript has been digitized in full color at Gallica, and you can find a succinct description in the online Archives et manuscrits catalog of the BnF.

Acts of four archbishops of Rouen between 1231 and 1275 form the third and last element in this section. Currently only acts up to 1257 are presented in the online edition. For some acts of Eudes Rigaud copies are found in his register. The edition contains both the texts of original charters and of later copies. The critical apparatus and annotation are all you can desire. It has to be noted that some seventy acts of the 154 acts stem from Eudes Rigaud. This Franciscan scholar and archbishop was clearly in many ways exceptional, but even when you acknowledge the bias caused by his zealous personality he remains most remarkable.

The archives and libraries of monasteries

The third axe of the project at the Université de Caen is led by Marie Bisson and focuses on one particular and very singular abbey, the Benedictine abbey under royal protection of the Mont Saint-Michel. The projected corpus of texts at Norécrit has not yet been completed. As for now you will find liturgical texts, followed by De abbatibus, the chronicle written by abbot Robert de Torigni about earlier abbots, and a subsection with sources concerning miracles happening at or touching Mont Saint-Michel. In a later phase of the project a corpus of texts written and reunited by Dom Thomas Le Roy in 1647 and 1648 will be published, and also the Constitutiones abbatiae Sancti Michaelis (1258) and statutes issued by pope Gregory IX. The constitutions will be edited from the manuscript Avranches, BM, 214, f. 9-16, and the papal statutes are at fol. 8-9 of this manuscript which you can view online in the Bibliothèque virtuelle du Mont Saint-Michel. In fact you will find there a description of this manuscript and already the incipits and explicits. It would be helpful if the French team provides this link at Norécrit, too. As an excuse for not doing this they can point to the online journal Tabularia. Sources écrits des mondes normands médiévaux with in the 2019 issue a critical edition of De abbatibus with translations in English and Italian by Pierre Bouet, Marie Bisson and others [‘Écrire l’histoire des abbés du Mont Saint-Michel 3. Édition critique et traduction’]. As a bonus they can point to the blog Mondes nordidiques et normands médiévaux.

Three windows on medieval Normandy

After creating the Bibliothèque virtuell du Mont Saint-Michel with numerous digitized manuscripts, most of them held at Avranches, it is not by coincidence this abbey figures large, too, at the new Norécrit portal. Its preeminence simply cannot be denied, but the portal helps to create a more balanced view in the two other sections. It is is splendid to see customary law at a local and municipal level, thus helping to place the Grand Coutumier de Normandie in its original context. In the Bibliothèque David Hoüard, Bibliothèque numérique de droit normand you can find numerous digitized resources concerning law in Normandy from the Middle Ages onwards. You might want to look also at the blog for the project RIN CONDÉ  (Constitution d’un Droit européen : six siècles de coutumiers normands). By the way, Gallica has among its Essentiels du droit a fine section with books and medieval manuscripts around the Coutume de Normandie. The second section of Norécrit brings together precious and interesting sources on medieval church administration and canon law. When searching for synodal statutes from Rouen you can find fourteen texts from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the Corpus synodalium created at Stanford University.

The connections between Normandy and England, and the position of this duchy within France are obvious reasons for looking at Normandy as a region with European importance already in the medieval period. Hopefully my brief introduction to Norécrit and references to some accompanying projects and blogs helps you to put Normandy into perspective as more than just a lovely region for a summer holiday in France!

A digital approach to the Early Modern inquisition in Portugal

Banner e-Inquisition

Sometimes a word evokes almost automatically an association with a distinct historical period. The word inquisition is first and foremost linked with medieval Europe. On this blog and website I explain why speaking about the inquisition is misleading. In Early Modern Europe the Spanish and Italian inquisition received most attention from historians, but in Italy you have to distinguish between Rome and Venice. Recently the project TraPrInq started for the transcription and study of records of the inquisition in Portugal between 1536 and 1821. The project is accompanied by the blog e-Inquisition hosted by the international Hypotheses network. In this post I will look at the plans of the project team and its importance for studying both Portuguese and Brazilian history.

Records from four centuries

The blog for TraPrInq itself show nicely how much this project is in a starting phase. While preparing this post its layout changed. At the blog a concise presentation of the project is offered in French, Portuguese and English. The core of the current team is the Centro de Humanidades (CHAM) at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Alas I could not find any information about this project running in 2022 and 2023 at the website of the CHAM. However, it is stated TraPrInq is connected with an earlier CHAM project on censorship and the Portuguese inquisition. One of the main objectives is to create transcriptions of court records using the Transkribus technology, discussed here earlier in a post about Early Modern court records and legal consultations in Germany. In fact Hervé Baudry, the blog editor, is responsible for the Transkribus model for Latin-Portuguese print from the seventeenth century. By the way, this and other models are also present for free use without registration at the recently launched platform Transkribus AI.


As for now 140 records have been transcribed, good for some 190,000 words, a fair base for a HTR (Handwritten Text Recogniition) model in Transkribus. I was somewhat mystified by the utter absence of information about the actual location of the records to be transcribed and studied. The clue for a unmistakable identification is the fact the records stem from a tribunal with jurisdiction both in Portugal and Brazil. The Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (ANTT) in Lisbon is the holding institution. It is not a bad idea to start with one of its four virtual exhibitions concerning the inquisition in Portugal. preferably with Inquisição da Lisboa online telling you about the nearly 20,000 registers for which 2,3 million digital images have been put online. The ANTT has within the archive of the Tribunal de Santo Oficio (TSO) records of the Inquisição de Lisboa (IL). The scope note and inventory in Portuguese of this archival subfonds is available online at the :Portuguese Digitarq portal. Series 028 contains the processos. Digital images of documents are directly linked to numerous items.

Perhaps due to my unfamiliarity with the Portuguese inquisition I tried to look a bit wider for information about its archival traces. The wiki of FamilySearch brings you only to records for a few years digitized earlier and available at SephardicGen. The online inventory of the ANTT is mentioned by Family Search, but not its inclusion of digitized records. It is a nice exercise to compare versions of the relevant Wikipedia articles in English, Portuguese and Spanish, in particular for their bibliographies and linguistic preferences. Luckily I found a special of the Brazilian journal Politeia: Historie e Sociedade 20/1 (2021) with a Dossiê Temático Tribunal do Santo Ofício Português, 200 anos após extinção: História e Historiografia opening with a contribution by Grayce Mayre Bonfim Souza about the archive of the Tribunal do Santo Oficio.

Let me not forget to note here the CHAM has created an online index of the fonds Manuscritos do Brasil held at the ANTT. The e-Inquisition blog contains currently apart from the brief introduction five articles,four in Portuguese and one in English touching a wide variety of themes, The recent brief article in English brings you an overview of the palaeographers and historians in the project team. Baudry wrote for example about censorship in the books of Henricus Cornelius Agrippa and (in French) about the famous trial of Manuel Maria de Barbosa du Bocage, with images and transcriptions of four documents. Baudry’s article about Pedro Lupina Freire brings a seventeenth-century notary into the spotlights who became an agent for the tribunal. A most fascinating article is concerned with the double use of asterisks by censors, both to hide information and to highlight matters.

No doubt more information about the TraPrInq project will soon appear at the e-Inquisition blog and at the website of the CHAM, in particular concerning the progress at Transkribus of the creation of the new HTR model for Portuguese Early Modern script, and the location where transcriptions will become available online for the wider scholarly community. Thanks to this transcription project the records of the Inquisição de Lisboa will surely show more of their rich content touching many parts of the Early Modern world, not just Jewish and colonial history. The combination of a detailed inventory, digitized images and digital transcriptions will make it possible to ask different questions. This project shows at least the very real need for trained palaeographers, but I am sure the knowledge of legal historians, too, will be necessary to tap this wealth of information.

An addendum

In Spring 2022 the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal held the exposition Bibliotecas limpas. Censura dos livros impressos nos séculos XV a XIX curated by Hervé Baudry. The virtual exposition Bocage 1735-1805 created by the BN brings you to the life and works of this poet; the chronology mentions his trial in 1802.

Censorship by the Portuguese inquisition is the subject of the portal Inquisition in Action launched on June 20, 2022 by the CIUHCT, also in Lisbon.

Getting close to medieval papal registers

Logo Archivio Apostolico VaticanoEven when you are interested in totally different subjects in medieval history emperors, kings and popes attract your attention. Their power and authority make them a natural focus for research, also because the most powerful people and institutions leave a rich track in archival records and manuscripts. Upheavals such as wars, fires and revolutions destroyed parts of this legacy in parchment and paper, but a massive amount of information has survived five or more centuries. The papal curia is rightly seen as one of the earliest and most active medieval bureaucracies. In 2019 the Vatican archives received a new name, Archivio Apostolico Vaticano (AAV) instead of the familiar Archivio Segreto Vaticano, a term which could led people to believe enormous secrets still await discovery. In my view the sheer number of documents, the challenge of languages, medieval scripts and intricate legal matters form the real barrier for abundant use of this archive in a class of its own. In this post I will look at the ways medieval papal registers are now made accessible in print and online. However, it is necessary and useful, too, to look also at least briefly at ways to find documents held at the AAV.

Logo XVIth congress 2022

This post is also meant as a salute to the upcoming XVIth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, to be held at St. Louis, MO, from July 17 to 23, 2022, and as a service to anyone interested in studying pivotal documents for the study of papal history and medieval canon law. For a real understanding of the documents mentioned here it will not do to merely having a glance at them, you will need to immerse yourself into them, and this will enrich you.

In this post the focus will be on access to the original documents, and much less on projects with databases for papal documents. A number of databases and projects for medieval charters is presented in a recent post.

Finding papal registers from the Middle Ages

Two years ago I stated in a post about digital resources rather flatly you cannot find any online inventory at the website of the AAV. This was not entirely true. In fact the four series of medieval papal registers are the very exception to my observation. I had better give you immediately the links to the inventories for these series:

Registra Avenioniensia (RA) 1-349
Registra Lateranensia (RL) 1-138 / 498-534 / 925-1126, 1128
Registra Supplicationum (RS) 1-265 / 479 – 509 / 961-1169
Registra Vaticana (RV) 1-545 / 772-884

These inventories can be found in the section for publications of the AAV website. I had not realized that the lists with the contents of the four cd-rom sets give you in fact at least a partial inventory of these registers. The cd-roms are only available at research libraries and cannot be accessed worldwide online. You will notice with me these four inventories seemingly do not list all registers of the four series, and I will come back to this fact quickly. For your convenience the overview of papal registers in chronological order by pope from Innocent III to Benedict XIII offered by the Centre Pontifical d’Avignon is very useful.

The modern editions of papal registers from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries form the core of the subscription-only online resource Ut per litteras apostolicas hosted by Brepols. The overview of the Brepolis resources portal gives you a useful concise list of the modern editions published by French scholars since the late nineteenth century. In a period with no or very limited physical access to libraries I felt hard pressed to find a list of these editions in print. My copy of Raoul van Caenegem and François Ganshof, Encyclopedie van de geschiedenis der middeleeuwen (Ghrnt 1962) is a bit old. This first edition in Dutch contains relevant information at pages 211 to 215. Somewhat newer is my copy of Winfried Baumgart, Bücherverzeichnis zur deutschen Geschichte. Hilfsmittel-Handbücher-Quellen (12th ed., Munich 1997) with information on pages 170 to 173. The information given by Olivier Guyotjeannin, Jacques Pycke and Benoît-Michel Tock (eds.), Diplomatique médiévale (Turnhout 1993) at pp. 333-338 contains less details for the two major French edition series, but the editors send you rightly to the book of Thomas Frenz, Papsturkunden des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit (Stuttgart 1986).

On April 24, 2021 Yvonne Searle published a valuable post with links to various resources with editions of medieval papal documents. The editions of papal registers from the thirteenth and fourteenth century form just a section of her contribution. For these editions she points mainly to digitized versions in the Internet Archive and the Hathi Trust Digital Library. I hesitated to add here for a number of these registers links to Gallica and Princeton Theological Commons, but it would have been repeating a job already sufficiently well done.

Not only for English readers you might sooner or later, but preferably as soon as possible turn to the guide by the late Leonard Boyle, A survey of the Vatican Archives and of its medieval holdings (Toronto 1972; new edition 2001). Almost seventy pages of this book deal with medieval papal registers. Even a cursory reading of these pages should make you aware of the danger of any superficial approach of these registers. The general remarks in my post should be seen in the light of Boyle’s detailed explanations and telling examples. As a student I was explicitly told to read first this classic guide before going to Rome or Vatican City. His book should for once and all teach you the fact you need to know not only about the inventories or the editions, but also use every reliable guide you can find. Just reading Boyle’s remark that some Avignonese registers have been placed among the Registra Vaticana and vice versa should serve as a wake up call. For English readers his remarks about the contents of the various calendars created in England from papal registers are a must read. Instead of going blissfully unaware to digitized calendars at the British History portal reading Boyle’s explanations should alert you to many things concerning the study of papal registers.

Guidance to records of the medieval papacy

Logo ArchiveGrid

Far more voluminous than the surprisingly concise guide offered by Boyle is the guide created by Francis Blouin et alii (eds.), An Inventory and Guide to Historical Documents of the Holy See (Oxford 1998). First of all this fruit of the Michigan project (1984-2004) goes beyond the AAV also to other archives in Rome. There is an online version of Blouin’s guide at ArchiveGrid showing introductions to many hundred archival collections, including to the series with papal registers from the High Middle Ages. You can also benefit from the 2019 edition of the Indice dei Fondi e relativi mezzi di descrizione e di ricerca dell’Archivio segreto Vaticano is available online (PDF). The concise introduction to medieval papal records offered at the website of the Vatican Film Library should be mentioned here, too.

For studying records of the medieval papacy there is a wealth of scholarly literature. Some most useful basic introductions to the most important relevant works can be found in the section Analyzing Sources of the multilingual Swiss history portal Ad fontes (Universität Zurich). Searching for relevant scholarly literature is much helped by the online bibliography of the Regesta Imperii project in Mainz. The Regesta Imperii lists among its publications also the volumes of Papstregesten, systematic summaries of papal charters for the period 800 to 1198, an important help in studying this resource. An online resource in Munich, the Bibliographischer Datenbank Historische Grundwissenschaften, can be helpful, too, for finding literature. Both the database in Mainz and Munich can be searched with keywords (Schlagwort), the Munich database only in German. The portal LEO-BW (Landeskunde Entdecken Online-Baden Württemberg) has within its Südwestedeutsche Archivalienkunde [Archivistics for South-West Germany) in the section on charters (Urkunden) an illustrated introduction to papal charters, Papsturkunden by Anja Thaller. She points to online resources and mentions literature on several aspects.

Finding digitized papal records and manuscripts

In the compass of just one blog contribution it would in the end not help much to put in here literally everything. At my legal history website Rechtshistorie the page about canon law mentions a fair number of online projects concerning the medieval papacy. Over the years I have written here several posts on documents and manuscripts connected with the medieval papacy. In 2016 I published for example a post about the Palatini, the manuscripts originally from the library of the dukes of the Pfalz in Heidelberg brought to the Vatican Library in 1623 and now being digitized. Some manuscripts returned to Heidelberg, others remain in Vatican City.

Finding digitized manuscripts in the Vatican Library is easy thanks to the portal Digital Vatican Library. Perhaps it is more surprising to find also digitized archival records of the papacy at this portal. In my 2020 post about the 1352-1358 interdict on the city of Dordrecht I mentioned a number of digitized source editions, not only for the Avignonese papacy, but also for Dutch medieval history and the Vatican. My biographical research into a particularly interesting lawyer connected with the Dordrecht case led me to a latarium, a digitized register of verdicts and fines from the civil tribunal in Avignon (BAV, Vat. lat. 14774). Fourteen lataria ( BAV, Vat. lat. 14761 to 14774) have been digitized. Within the section for archives of this digital library you can find several small archival collections. There are also five notarial registers from Orange. I am quite aware that it might be possible to find more archival records among the digitized manuscripts of the BAV, and I hope to add them here or elsewhere.

It is harder to find digitized records online from the Archivio Apostolico Vaticano. Registers Introitus et Exitus of the Camera Apostolica between 1316 and 1324 (John XXII) 1334 and 1342 (Benedict XII) are the subject of digital editions as part of the project Ressources comptables en Dauphiné, Provence, Savoie et Venaissin (XIIIe-XVe siècle) with medieval accounts from four French regions and the papacy in Avignon and the region around this city, the Venaissin. Here, too, figures a papal register (Reg.Av. 46) among quite different resources, but it contains indeed accounts. In 2020 I thought this edition included also digitized images, but this is not the case.

Logo Metascripta, Vatican Film Library

Sometimes an approach from another direction can be helpful. We are used nowadays to viewing online digitized manuscripts and archival records in full color. The manuscripts digitized by the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana show a sometimes irritating watermark. Aaron Macks helps you every week to information about recently digitized manuscripts from the BAV. In former times scholars would often have no choice but to use black-and-white microfilms. The Vatican Film Library at Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, offers not only microfilms but also a useful overview by genre of manuscripts at the Vatican Library, an overview of papal registers, and the Metascripta portal for online research with Vatican manuscripts, mainly Vaticani Latini. On the page for medieval law of my website I mention more (digitized) microfilm collections.

A few years ago a team at the Università Roma Tre started the project In Codice Ratio for creating computerized character recognition in order to make possible automate transcription of handwritten text. In this project archival records from the AAV will be transcribed. As for now you can find the data set with the initial input and the ground truth, the set of images and transcriptions with a degree of error free results.

Many roads, many wishes

This post brings you perhaps less than you had expected, but it is longer than I assumed. Originally I planned a post dealing with text editions, digital libraries, inventories and digitized archival records. In the end I am happy I could recently write here about databases with medieval charters, among them papal charters, and in 2020 the papacy at Avignon figured large in a post. Thus the results here are at least less confusing and profuse. However, it was necessary to show indeed the variety of resources and some of the difficulties in using them for historical research, and in particular for legal history. If there had been a clear starting point for using online digitized records at the AAV I would surely have started here with them. The sheer mass of relevant text editions is overwhelming, although the Online Medieval Sources Bibliography is perhaps too generous in adding the label Papacy to many editions. Using multiple resources has as one implication thinking out of the box and working interdisciplinary without much ado. Legal history, too, should not be a confined discipline, a kind of silo as is the current phrase. Our discipline is well placed to question the use of digital resources when you or your students do not have the necessary skills and training to use them to their full extent. Combining such training and experience in using original sources should help you to tap the wealth of digitized medieval sources, and at the same time to be aware of what more can be found, what has been lost and which traces of such lost resources can enrich your research.

A postscript

Of course I was curious enough to find out quickly more about digitized registers among the manuscripts in the digital Vatican Library. For example, the manuscript BAV, Ross. 733 is a fifteenth-century register of taxes paid for the collation of diocesan sees. However, I should first of all add some registers from Avignon, starting with Vat. Lat 14775 with criminal inquests for the years 1365-1368 (copy in black and white), Vat. lat 14776 and Vat. lat. 14777 with verdicts in civil cases from 1364 and 1372, 14478, 14479 (fragments) and 14780, also from the fourteenth century. The descriptions of these registers clearly lack the word latarium for quick identification and grouping of Vat. Lat. 14761 to 14780.

Klaus Graf alerts at Archivalia to the fact a number of digitized edition of papal registers within the Hathi Trust Digital Library can be reached in open access only from the United States. Thus there is indeed space for another list of digital copies of these editions. Graf points also to some resources from Germany.

Social justice and American legal history

Banner "Gun Regulation and Legislation", HeinOnline (detail)

This week I received a message about free access to four portals touching the theme of social justice in the USA. Several times I expressed here my wish not to forget themes such as injustice, discrimination, violence and abuse of law. Sometimes good laws can be indeed the remedy to set things right, but alas there are examples where law and justice themselves are the very core and root of evil situations instead of doing what they are meant to do. I seldom discuss here the licensed products of the major firms offering online legal information, not just because they focus on contemporary law, but because access is restricted to those working or studying at universities, research centers and law firms. Many of these products figure prominently in online guides to legal resources, and I do not need to repeat them here.

In 2016 I looked here at some length at the slavery portal of HeinOnline. The same firm has now created a Social Justice portal with free access after registration to four more or less related resources. Apart from the slavery portal legislation about guns, the struggle for human rights and social justice since the second half of the last century, and the Open Society Justice Initiative are available, the latter with a clear focus on the contemporary world. In 2018 I looked here at the historic gun laws database created at Duke University, and it is only logical to compare both resources in some detail. Even if a number of these resources are already a few years available it is interesting to look at them here.

Social justice in various perspectives

Banner with four items at the Social Justice portal (detail)

The four resources now available through the new Social Justice portal are not completely new. Slavery in America and the World was launched in 2016. Gun Regulation and Legislation in America appeared online in 2019. A year later came Civil Rights and Social Justice, and in 2021 HeinOnline launched the digital library for the Open Society Justice Initiative. I could quickly register for combined open access to the four portals

Let’s start here with the resource on gun regulation and legislation in America. This resource is a digital library, and not a database as offered with the Repository of Historical Gun Laws by the team of Duke University. Only a few items date from before 1900, and the vast majority, more than 600 items, date from the period since 1950. In fact it seems this resource takes at its starting point the end of the long period covered by Duke’s database. Here you will find various types of documents, such as congressional hearings, legislative histories, reports of the CRS and the GAO, three periodicals, Supreme Court briefs, and also scholarly articles. The digital library is about relevant regulation and legislation, but not a resource for actual laws, statutes and other legislative acts. You can browse all items and sort them by title, author, date or subject, but you will probably want to use the advanced search mode where you can create sharply defined searches, in particular for document types. The real snag comes with scholarly articles. Being able to sort them in many ways should not hide the fact they are only accessible online to subscribers of the respective legal journals, a thing noted in the introduction. You cannot search these articles with the advanced search mode. Some solace is certainly offered by the bibliography, but alas you can only browse it ordered by title and author.

My first impression of HeinOnline’s resource on gun regulation is that it offers a digital library around gun regulation and legislation documenting legislative history with some additional information, in particular a bibliography. This resource does offer you much in open access, but not everything. I suppose you might be able to find preprint versions of more recent scholarly articles in a number of American institutional repositories, giving you at least the factual information of articles, but not automatically in a legally citable format. It seems to me this resource can be viewed to some extent as the sequel to Duke’s gun laws database, but with a focus on the legal history around laws and regulation. There seems to be room for a similar digital library dealing with pre-1950 legal history, and also for a database containing federal and state regulations in whatever form after 1930. HeinOnline certainly scores with the accompanying LibGuide to this resource. an element visible also without registration, as are a total of currently 65 guides.

The road to civil rights and social justice

The second resource which I would like to present is the portal on civil rights and social justice. The introduction rightly points to the long march, the pitfalls and setbacks during the long and slow march to equal rights, and most specifically to the role played by law and justice. I started using the advanced search mode sorting all items, more than 36,000, in ascending chronological order. Some undated items and items from the 1940s appeared first, followed by publications from 1734 and 1761. With item 100 you reach the year 1846. The main focus of this digital library is the period 1950 to 2000 with some 20,000 items, and it is good to note already some 10,000 items from the current century. Some 7,000 items stem from the Commission on Civil Rights. Some document types are present here as in the gun regulation digital library, but the Statements on Essential Human Rights Archive is a distinguishing feature. By the way, the icon in the advanced search mode pointing to Venn-Diagram Search only helps you to create search strings with AND. There is also a feature to use the FastCase system for subscribers to this system. The scholarly articles here, too, cannot be searched within the advanced search mode, but instead there are five sorting options and just two search fields. I am not familiar with HeinOnline’s subscribed resources, but this seems definitely below its usual standard of searchability. All in all there are some clear blemishes, but Civil Rights and Social Justice is a rich and most interesting resource, and its existence in open access is indeed most welcome. It is a true companion to the earlier slavery portal.

Justice and open society

Logo Open Society

Living in an open society is easily taken for granted when it looks like all roads are open to you and that you can choose at will what to do and how to live and express yourself. Alas for many people this is not their reality. After looking here at two resources of the new portal, and in 2016 already at the slavery portal, should bring the message home that much needs to be done and much patience is needed in creating and maintaining a stable open society. It is a bit confusing that both the initiative of the Open Society Foundatione and HeinOnline’s digital resource have the same name. Adding the word Publications as on the actual search page would repair this quickly.

This small digital library has a worldwide scope and range. You can select three document types (briefing paper, publication and report). Only after selecting a document type you can put them in a chronological order. Alas only with the latest item you see immediately a publication date. A look at library catalogs and their standard features would decidedly enhance the overview of items. There are currently 45 publications, 127 briefing papers and 126 reports. It is a bit irritating that you have to navigate back to choose another document type. The advanced search mode makes things easier indeed.

Before you think I am just in a grumbling mood I decided to look for items specifically aiming at my own country within this digital library. There is a 2015 report from the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and the Dutch branch of Amnesty International on ethnic profiling. These institutions wrote in 2018 a report for the UN Committee against Torture on ill-treatment in the context of counter-terrorism and high-security prisons. OSJI and TRIAL International published together in 2019 a briefing paper on universal jurisdiction law and practice in the Netherlands. As in my 2020 post ‘Against racism, for justice’ it is sensible to look first at your own country or situation before trying to assess the situation elsewhere. Seeing these three publications is a sobering thing for me.

Commercial core business and additional open access

How should one look at the open access activities of HeinOnline? Answering this question is not a straightforward thing to do, at least not for me. I suppose similar firms have their own open access products as well, but at this moment I can only immediately remember LLMC Digital which since a few years brings increasingly resources in open access for US legal history, both on the federal and state level, and for some other countries, too, at its open access section. Its Civil and Human Rights Law portal offers some documents in open access, but it is mostly a portal, as is the Indigenous Law portal.

However, today my main aim is bringing to your attention the four resources in open access created by HeinOnline, one of them for an institution acting worldwide for the cause of rights making a truly open society possible. HeinOnline has chosen themes connecting the past with the present in a very clear way. I mentioned in particular the good use of the LibGuides system with clear commented information, only lacking the touch of distinguishing with symbols between licensed resources and resources in open access. This seems to me a thing too often neglected in the guides offered by libraries, even after two years of lockdowns and restricted live access to scholarly and cultural heritage institutions. At some points the four resources clearly betray their origin from a firm focusing on contemporary law, sometimes as an advantage and sometimes as an obstacle for historical research. Let’s use them for your own benefit as a researcher, but I think they should indeed enjoy wider circulation as an addition to digital public history.

Jacques Cujas and legal humanism

Portrait of Jacques Cujas - Musée du Vieux Toulouse - source Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of Jacques Cujas – anonymous painting, 17th century – Musée du Vieux Toulouse, Inv 22.5.1 – image Wikimedia Commons

Tracing the influence of famous lawyers is not a straightforward thing. Some scholars were already famous during their life, others exerted a lasting influence through their pupils or by their published works, sometimes only decades after their death. Reputation can be an obstacle to critical assessment of achievements. The recent publication of a monograph about Jacques Cujas (1522-1590) helps to create a new focus on Cujacius and his importance as a lawyer, professor and legal humanist. On March 28-29, 2022 a conference will be held at Paris with a telling title, Jacques Cujas 1522-2022. La fabrique d’un “grand juriste”. In this post I will look at the congress program and look at some aspects of Cujas’ life and work as foundations for his influence, first in France and later in other European countries and beyond Europe.

The importance of biography

Affiche "Jacques Cujas 1522-2022"

Xavier Prévost (Université Bordaux) is responsible for bringing Cujas into the limelight again in this century. After his voluminous thesis Jacques Cujas (1522-1590), Le droit à l’épreuve de l’humanisme, defended in 2012 in Paris, he published Jacques Cujas (1522-1590), Jurisconsulte humaniste (Genève 2015) and a shorter work Jacques Cujas (1522-1590) (Paris 2018) as a part of the series Histoire litttéraire de la France.

A quick search for more information sheds light on the scale of the commemoration of Cujas’ five-hundredth birthday. The platform France Mémoire has created an online dossier for the 2022 activities around Cujas. The Bibliothèque Cujas, the central law library of the Université de Paris, will launch on March 28 a virtual exhibition about Cujas, a most welcome thing. Obviously the link to the online exhibit does not yet function. The physical exhibition at this library well be on display until June 24, 2022. Prévost will hold a lecture in Paris on the theme “La (seconde) Renaissance du droit romain” on March 17, 2022.

The program (PDF) of the conference on March 28-29, 2022, shows a most sensible approach in several layers which also can be helpful to view other legal humanists in Early Modern Europe in different settings. The local approach contains papers looking at some places where Cujas was active, Turin in the paper by Valerio Gigliotti (Turin) and Toulouse in the paper by Florent Garnier (Toulouse). The section on patrimoine (heritage) has the arts and literature as its subject. Jacqueline Lalouette (Lille) will discuss sculptures of Cujas, and Valérie Hayaert (Warwick) will speak about Cujas and the arts. Literature is the theme in the contribution of Stéphan Geonget (Tours). In the international section the reception of Cujas in Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Dutch Republic will be discussed, with papers by Diego Quaglioni (Trento), John Carins (Edinburgh), Rafael Ramis Barceló, (Universitat de las Illes Balears), and Laurens Winkel (emeritus, Rotterdam). The final section on historiography looks at the representation of Cujas in general history, for example in biographical dictionaries during the Ancien Régime, and of course within the field of legal history, Anne Rousselet-Pimont (Paris) will speak about the place of Cujas in the works of the French arrêtistes. Pierre Bonin (Paris) will discuss dictionaries. Géraldine Cazals (Bordeaux) and Anne-Sophie Chambost (Lyon) will confront the theme of Cujas’ authority, in partciual after the French Revolution.

A very active life

Photo of the Hôtel Cujas, home to the Musée de Berry, Bourges - image: Wikimedia Commons

The sheer number of themes at this two-day conference in itself is already interesting. What made Cujas so special among French lawyers? Let’s look quickly at the main points of Cujas’ life. Either in 1520 or 1522 he saw the light of life in Toulouse, He studied law in his home town. After teaching in Toulouse from 1547 to 1554 he did not become a professor in Toulouse, and this started a career which brought him to a number of French cities: Cahors (1554), Bourges (1555-1556, 1559-1565, and 1575-1590), Valence (1557-1559 and 1567-1575). In 1575 he taught briefly in Paris, and outside France he lectured in Turin (1566). In Bourges you can visit the Hôtel Cujas, home since 1875 to the Musée de Berry. The variety of cities and his long stay at Bourges pinpoint the fact that he was not just a great successor to Andrea Alciato who had also taught at Bourges, making it into virtually the main French city for legal humanism.

When you start searching for Early Modern printed editions of his works, for example within the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC, St. Andrews) the very first – and quite rare – work called Catalogus legum antiquarum (…) (Paris 1555; USTC no. 154264) has a title showing already the different path he was to follow. A focus on order is clearly visible. Cujas devoted much time to reconstructing the original works of Roman lawyers such as Ulpian. Cujas did not just study the Justinian Digest, Code and the institutes. He published one of the earliest critical editions of the Codicis Theodosiani libri XVI (Lyon 1566; USTC no. 158074). Writing a commentary on the Libri Feudorum was not the next thing you would expect. Among the earliest edition of his De feudis libri V is an edition Heidelberg 1567 (USTC no. 629710). He commented also the Justinian Novellae (first published as Novellarum constitutionum impp. Justiniani expositio (Cologne 1569; USTC no. 678571). Thus Cujas studied the Corpus Iuris Civilis in its full width, but he studied also earlier and later sources for Roman law. He did not bring the first edition of the Basilica, but he certainly drew attention to this importance source of Byzantine law with his Latin translation [Basilikon liber LX (…) (Lyon 1566; USTC no. 154652).

With Cujas you see not just a professor with only interest in Roman law in its original form. Like many other Early Modern law professors he wrote legal consultations and published them, too [Consultationum liber singularis (Cologne 1577; USTC no. 664682)]. However, characteristically he opened his collection with an edition of the Consultatio veteris cuiusdam iurisconsulti, the very editio princeps of this text. I will not mention here any other titles of his works, apart from his Observationes et emendationes, a modest title taken from other humanists expanded in every edition. All in all the USTC gives references to some 180 editions of Cujas’ works, most of them published after his death in 1590. Of course this is just an impression of Cujas’ printed legacy: The USTC stops at 1650, and searching in for example the Heritage of the Printed Book database (CERL) will show you re-editions of his works until the mid-eighteenth century. For Cujas at least four Opera omnia editions exist. It is good to note that Ernst Spangenberg devoted many pages of his study Jacob Cujas und seine Zeitgenossen (Leipzig 1822) to a detailed bibliographical overview of Cujas’ published works.

Cujas taught scholars who became famous in their own right, too. Jacques-Auguste De Thou, Josephus Justus Scaliger, Jacques Labitte, Antoine Loysel, Pierre Daniel, Pierre Pithou and Étienne Pasquier are just some of them. Through Pierre Daniel some of Cujas’ manuscripts came in the hands of Jacques Bongars (1554-1612) whose large library eventually arrived at the Burgerbibliothek in Bern. You might jump to the conclusion all these men occupied themselves mainly with either law or Classical Antiquity, but for example Antoine Loysel (1536-1617) studied in particular French customary law. Étienne Pasquier (1529-1615) was a poet, but also a member of the royal Chambre des comptes.

Influence beyond borders

A Dutch and even Utrecht connection with Cujacius is mentioned by the indefatigable Danish historian Jen Jensen Dodt van Flensburg (1800-1847) who devoted so much energy in unlocking sources for the history of Utrecht. In his article ‘Doctoraal diploma, door Jac. Cujacius in 1586 verleend aan Everard van de Poll, Utrechtenaar’, Bijdragen tot regtsgeleerdheid en wetgeving 5 (1830) 67-69 – online at Delpher – he gives the text of the doctoral degree conferred by Cujas in Bourges to Van de Poll (died 1602). later on the advocate of the States of Utrecht, a benefactor of the city Utrecht with his workhouse and the posthumous gift of his library to the city library, eventually part of the collections of Utrecht University Library. Interestingly this text also mentions Bernardinus de Monte Valdone (died 1618), a student from The Hague, who later on served as the advocaet-fiscael of the Hof van Utrecht, the provincial tribunal. Dodt wrote more about Cujas in another article for the Bijdragen tot regtsgeleerdheid en wetgeving 6 (1831-1832) 1-33.

In Cujas we see a scholar aiming not only to find out about the original order of Roman law, but also preparing new approaches to contemporary law by reinvigorating the study of Roman law, and inspiring numerous students to follow the paths of both law and history as twin subjects. Cujas was able to inspire his own students and later generations with his wide knowledge and deep insights. No wonder he defies easy labeling, and this invites scholars since four centuries to look at his achievements and legacy from many perspectives. The sixteenth century saw in France a galaxy of legal humanists, each of them with distinct qualities taking part of the emerging Republic of Letters, and influencing much else, too, in politics, government and the development of law and justice in their age. Studying legal humanists helps you to rethink approaches of legal history for our time, too.

A journal for digital legal history

Logo The Journal for Digital History

In some cases it can be very hard to find the right words for a post about a particular subject. Luckily announcing a new journal is a different matter! A few weeks ago the Journal for Digital Legal History has been launched by the Universiteit Gent on its platform for scientific journals in open access. The editors-in-chief of the new journal are Dirk Heirbaut, Annemiek Romein and Florenz Volkaert. Among the seven members of the editorial board are for example Andreas Wagner, officer for digital humanities at the Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory in Frankfurt am Main, and Stephen Robertson (George Mason University). Familiar names in the advisory board are Serge Dauchy (Lille), Thomas Duve (MPILHLT), Heikki Pihlajamäki (Helsinki) and Dave de Ruysscher (Tilburg).

In their opening statement the editors-in-chief explain the need for a journal devoted to digital legal history as a wish expressed by several scholars during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year at the online digital legal history conference in March 2021 organized by the MPILHLT – reviewed here – scholars from Ghent did not hesitate to mention their wish to create and host a new journal with this particular focus. Other journals might devote more or less regularly space for articles on digital legal history, but creating a special platform is indeed welcome and sensible, too. Not just subjects touched by both legal history and digital humanities should get space in the JDLH, but digital methods, too, need to be presented, reviewed and discussed. Scholars are in particular invited to bring new approaches and widen the horizons of legal historians at large. Scholars willing to act as reviewers of digital projects are also invited to contact the editorial team.

Creating a journal is a sign of the willingness to create a part of the scholarly infrastructure that will help to lay sure foundations for any new discipline. It expresses also the seriousness of scholars devoting their creativity, curiosity and other scholarly qualities. Digital legal history is not a passing hype or whim. There is all reason for reflection on the digital turn and its impact on doing legal history in our days. It is up to all scholars with an active interest in digital legal history to contribute not only to this field in the ways they see fit, but also to help establishing this journal as a clear point of reference for this discipline. My best wishes for the future of the Journal for Digital Legal History (@DigiLegalHisto)!