Lex scripta

Lex scripta, “written law”, a thing you would almost take for granted. Our medieval ancestors coined the phrase quod non est in actis, non est in mundo, “what is not noted in acts, does not exist in the world”. Written evidence started to become the only evidence admitted in court, yet oral proceedings and oral pleading exist until today. I could continue musing on this theme, but today I would like to bring something else to your attention. Thanks to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, affectionately abbreviated to Penn Libraries, you can now find the digital proceedings of the second Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age, held October 30-31, 2009, under the title Lex Scripta: The Manuscript as Witness to the History of Law.

In the proceedings of this two-day symposium edited by Lynn Ransom you will find papers by Abigail Firey, Edward Peters, Kathleen E. Kennedy and Susan L’Engle on medieval manuscripts. Jonathon Brockopp discusses early Islamic legal manuscripts -alas there is not yet a PDF of his and L’Engle’s presentations- and Georg Vogeler writes about the forms of presenting charters online. Timothy Stinson reports on the concluding panel discussion concerning the digitization of medieval legal documents. Hugh Cayless addresses the subject of open licensing and images of medieval manuscripts.

The symposium last year was also held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Henry Charles Lea, the great historian of the medieval inquisition, whose library has been held since 1926 by Penn Libraries. At the symposium Edward Peters discussed Lea’s early work and his views on medieval canon law. Speaking of medieval canon law: it is never too late to visit the new website of ICMAC, the Iuris Canonici Medii Aevi Consociatio or International Society of Medieval Canon Law, launched last February at the University of Toronto!

Another vast subject of legal history is touched upon by many of the digital exhibitions also presented on the website of Penn Libraries at their Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Jewish law is one of the main subjects in the Judaica Online Exhibitions. This last section, too, helps to confirm the merits of the plural name Penn Libraries. Let’s not forget to mention the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image (SCETI) with information on manuscripts from the Schoenberg collection and the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, the enterprise to bring together information on the sales and presents whereabouts of medieval manuscripts.

An addendum: these digital proceedings are really not the only materials concerning medieval canon law now available online. In particular The Medieval Canon Law Virtual Library is worth visiting.

A second addendum : Jörg Erdmann wrote a study called “Quod est in actis, non est in mundo”. Päpstliche Benefizialpolitik im sacrum imperium des 14. Jahrhundert (Tübingen 2006) published by the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rome. At the DHI website you can find statistical appendices to his book.

Yet another postscript: some images accompanying Kenneth Pennington’s lecture Legal Manuscripts and Books in Cyberspace can be found at his own website.

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