Monthly Archives: January 2011

Switched off?

Did you make your list of good intentions for 2011? I surely had one particular intention for my blog, to follow a much-needed list of subjects I want to write about. In January I succeeded not only in creating a number of these posts, but to my own surprise other subjects, objects and themes came to my attention. These days bring us many events and developments, and it seemed strange none of these would eventually influence me. The past and the present do touch each other. It was a matter of time before even I would find space here to present some of the connections between them. Let’s not longer write about serendipity, particular circumstances or alertness, but just present a few things that seem to stand in a particular constellation.

On January 23, 2011 the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an article about the opening of an exhibition at Teylers Museum in Haarlem around their copy of the famous Description de l’Égypte (23 volumes, Paris 1809-1829). Teylers Museum is the oldest public museum of The Netherlands. It will show this encyclopedic work on Egypt’s ancient history until May 8, 2011. In the same newspaper I read about the decision of the Al-Azhar University to freeze contacts with the Vatican. The Egyptian government decided this week to cut off the internet in order to stop growing resistance against it. Which online sources within Egypt about Egypt’s reality now and in the past can still be used? As a visitor of many digital libraries my thoughts went to the Digital Assets Repository, the digital library of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria. Can we reach it or not? Luckily this digital library and the library’s website still function. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has not only created a special website for the digitized version of the Description de l’Égypte, but also a website called Memory of Modern Egypt. Unlike the other websites, however, the user interface is only in Arabic. I could not reach a third website, Eternal Egypt, on objects from Egypt’s long history. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has got its own Internet Archive, but storage of Eternal Egypt goes only back to 2007, and worse, it could not be reached when writing this post.

The Description de l’Égypte is a monument to the efforts of French scholars from the Napoleonic era. One of its drawbacks is obviously that hieroglyphs had not yet been fully deciphered at the time of the expedition in Egypt and during the years of publication. In 1822 Champollion succeeded in breaking the secrets of this script when he succeeded in reading the trilingual inscriptions on the Stone of Rosetta. Too late for the first edition, and not yet included in the second 36-volume edition (Paris 1820-1830), and thus no wonder law is scarcely touched upon in this imposing work. By the way, the book title Description de l’Égypte had already been used in 1735 by Jean Baptiste le Mascrier. His book can be seen at the Gallica digital library.

Back to legal history! Some types of sources from Egypt containing information on Egyptian, Greek and Roman law can safely be consulted online. Papyrology, the study of papyri, is not only an auxiliary discipline for historians, but a discipline which brings much for the field of ancient law. It is really remarkable how papyrologists have taken large steps for digital initiatives which enable scholars – and thanks to a growing number of accompanying translations also others – to take good notice of texts preserved partially or only by papyri. Gregg Schwendner and his indispensable blog What’s New in Papyrology help you to stay informed about this field and its scholars. The number of interesting papyrological websites is substantial and I had better not present them all in just one blog post, so I will restrict myself firmly to a few examples. Almost every website has a generous links selection.

The Papyrological Navigator (New York University) is perhaps the most sophisticated search site available now bringing together information on papyri from other databases as well. The Trismegistos portal (Leuven and Cologne) has probably the most assets and the widest range, for it aims at presenting papyri and inscriptions from Egypt and the Nile Valley between 800 BC and 800. You can find here texts, collections, archives, downloads, special fonts for your computer and a bibliography. The texts section of Trismegistos brings you to other databases covering the field of papyrology such as the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV) and the database with Coptic documentary texts (BCD) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Probably the most famous collection of papyri are the Oxyrhynchus Papyri at Oxford. The Giessener Papyri- und Ostrakadatenbank brings you also Greek ostraka. Giessen has even a digital library for publications about their papyri. Apart from texts –  in connection with the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University –  you can also find photographs of papyri in American holdings using the Advanced Papyrological Information System of Columbia University. I cannot leave out Leiden and its papyrological institute and show at least its links collection.

Those who think studying the ancient history of Egypt is harmless or disconnected from the present should surf to the website about the history of medieval Nubia. This site aims at bringing together many resources. It has been the target of several internet attacks during the last week of this month. I found this site in a link collection for the classic period of papyri. There are also papyri with Arabic texts. The university of Zürich, host to the International Society for Arabic Papyrology, has started a project for an online Arabic Papyrology School.

The university of Heidelberg is working on the digitization of old Egyptological literature, including the Description de l’Égypte. Therefore even if the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and its digital library would be cut off from the web, you can still look online at the mighty volumes of this enterprise. The Dutch newspaper presenting the exhibition in Haarlem headed the article with the words ‘Battle lost, knowledge gained’ (Slag verloren, kennis gewonnen). Switching off the internet is a battle lost.


Changing your search angle

Many posts on this blog and a growing list on my website are concerned with digital libraries with holdings for legal history. At the back of my mind there has been a nagging doubt whether this is the only way to find digitized books. Luckily the answer is negative: there are other ways to find them. Remarks by Robin Vose (St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick) led me again to the medieval inquisition and libraries with holdings concerning this institution, and I am grateful for his encouragements.

In my post Digitizing a medieval inquisitor (January 4, 2011) I had presented a digital version of the manuscript Toulouse, Bibliothèque Municipale, 609. I mentioned also the Historia Inquisitionis, a famous book on the inquisition by the Dutch writer Philippus van Limborch, but at that time I could not offer you information about a digital version of it. Its second part contains an edition of a manuscript now in the British Library (Add. 4697) with records of an inquisition held in the early fourteenth century by Jacques Fournier and Bernard Gui.

Using the BASE search engine at the University of Bielefeld I found a digital version of Van Limborch’s Historia Inquisitionis (Amsterdam 1692) . Both parts of Van Limborch’s book have been digitized: at page 417 the “Liber Sententiarum Inquisitionis Tholosanae” starts. The digital version, published on June 3, 2010, is present in the DSpace of the CEU-Net libraries, Universidad San Pablo CEU, Madrid, at this link. You can find digitized versions of the English translation of Van Limborch’s work in the Hathi Trust Library, but this English translation does not include the second volume with the edition of the inquisitorial records.

BASE, the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine, enables you to search with one search action in a very large number of digital libraries and repositories. More than 1700 collections are covered now. A digital repository typically holds the publications of scholars from one scientific institution.

Robin Vose was involved in creating the online exhibition on the materials for the history of the medieval and Spanish inquisition at Notre Dame University. I would like to draw your attention to their online exhibition Familia Praedicatoria on the history of the Dominican order. A number of Dominicans became very soon after the foundation of this mendicant order involved with the medieval inquisition. Vose points to several other American libraries with holdings on this subject, in particular the Henry Charles Lea Library at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Among the digitized manuscripts in Pen in Hand: Selected Manuscripts of UPenn Libraries, too, one finds some items concerning the medieval, the Spanish and the Roman inquisition. The Lilly Library of the Indiana University at Bloomington Libraries has some manuscripts concerning the inquisition in Peru, but none of these is to be found in the digital collections of this library. Chicago’s Newberry Library has fine holdings for literature concerning the various inquisitions. Among their wealth of digital collections presented together with other libraries in Illinois at CARLI no item is connected with the history of the Catholic inquisitions. As a happy reader of the Introduction to Manuscript Studies by Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham (Ithaca-London 2007) I am a bit surprised that the Newberry Library which provided many illustrations for this volume does not have many manuscripts bearing on legal history, apart from charters and administrative rolls. Looking at the libraries of the Hebrew Union College did not bring me immediately to materials in their holdings, but I can at least mention the digitized version of the American Jewish Archives Journal. The Witchcraft Collection of Cornell University Library yields only four digitized books focusing on any form of the inquisition.

Perhaps this sunny Friday afternoon does not help me much to dig deeper, but surely it’s time to look briefly at European institutions. Perhaps it is a kind of justice that this afternoon the search function of the MICHAEL website does not seem to work at all, and thus it seems wiser to turn again to the BASE engine. Was finding Van Limborch a case of being just lucky, or can this search engine bring you more? The results might have been relevant only when searching for the Middle Dutch Roman van Limborch or the Limburg brothers… With the basic search term inquisition at least two of the results have directly to do with Jacques Fournier, the article ‘Per modum quem solent tenere heretici in respondendo. Confessione, prova e dissimulazione nel tribunale di Jacques Fournier (1318-1325)’ , Les Dossiers du Grihl, 2009-2 by Irene Bueno, and her article ‘Dal carnalis concubitus all’heretica pravitate. Sesso, matrimonio ed eresia nel tribunale di Jacques Fournier (1318-1325)’, L’Atelier du Centre de recherches historiques, 4-2009.

It was no chance to find after a first attempt already two incunabula in the Verteilte Inkunabelbibliothek of the Herzog-August-Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel and the University Library in Cologne of works mentioning the workings of the inquisition in passing – the Summa theologica of Antoninus of Florence – and more substantially – the Practica nova judicialis by Johannes Petrus de Ferrariis. Doing the same search with the INKA Inkunabelkatalog for incunabula in German scientific libraries yields results with indications of digitized copies of for example Francesco Accolti’s commentary to the decretals of the title De accusationibus, inquisitionibus et denunciationibus (X. 5.1). The Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz also increasingly marks search results with links to digitized copies, for instance a copy at Munich of repetitiones by Azo de Ramenghis, including a repetitio on X. 5.1. Because the new DFG-viewer of the digital collections at Munich is not yet easily reached I will give the permanent link to it.

In the Digi20 project of the Digitale Sammlungen in Munich you can find fairly recent publications on the Roman inquisition from the series Römische Inquisition und Indexkongregation edited by Hubert Wolf. The literature database of the Regesta Imperii, an indispensable tool when searching literature on the Middle Ages, too, has started to mark search results with indications of digital versions. You will find here much more on Bernard Gui and Jacques Fournier. Let’s finish today’s search for digital collections with the Editti e bandi pontifici at the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome, a collection of papal documents from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century mainly concerning censorship of books by the Roman inquisition, but sometimes about the inquisition in its widest sense.

You might argue with some justification that this post only skates the surface of the huge literature on the inquisition in its various incarnations and deviations. What needs underlining for the medieval inquisition is its deep inner paradox of being an institution in which the role of accusing party and judge were united in one person against all indication of what constitutes due process. Medieval canonists did work to create the doctrine of due process while at the same time they factually condoned or ignored the workings of medieval inquisitors. Unravelling the facts surrounding such questions is one of the arguments of placing high value on research concerning medieval canon law, its doctrinal development, jurisprudence and actual practice. The digitization of manuscripts and books pertaining to this history is one of the means to fulfill this aim, and certainly not the only one.

A postscript

I should add two rather obvious additions to works in medieval canon law concerning the inquisitorial procedures of which digitized incunabula exist. The Digitale Sammlungen at Munich contain several incunabula editions of the major reference work on medieval procedure, the Speculum iudiciale by Guillelmus Durandus (or Duranti). In this digital library, and in the Verteilte Inkunabelbibliothek, you can find also the Repertorium aureum iuris canonici ascribed to this author. In this work “inquisitio” is a separate lemma. Sometimes this repertory is also included within the bindings of, or printed alongside the Speculum iudiciale.

A second postscript: the Universidad San Pablo-CEU in Madrid has at its website a PDF with a collection of books from Emil Van der Vekene, the author of the Bibliotheca bibliographica historiae sanctae inquisitionis (3 vol., Vaduz 1982-1992). In Dresden Gerd Schwerhoff has created a fine bibliographical introduction to inquisitional history.

Annette Pales-Gobilliard edited and translated the texts of the manuscript British Library, Add. 4697 in Le livre des sentences de l’inquisiteur Bernard Gui, 1308-1323 (2 vol., Paris 2002).

Imagining a lictor

At the end of last week’s post featuring Lady Justice’s square I wrote about a bas-relief by Jeanot Bürgi showing a Roman lictor as his reaction to the invitation to make a sculpture portraying a law faculty, but I did not include a picture of it. Today I made a photo of this bas-relief along the Nieuwegracht in Utrecht. The medieval canals in Utrecht are very typical. Unlike canals in cities as Amsterdam, Leiden and Delft they have werven, quays on each side. Only the Kromme Nieuwegracht and Plompetorengracht have a more usual form, but there, too, the street with cellars under the pavement is high above the water level.

A lictor in his role of executioner

A lictor in his role of executioner - sculpture by Jeanot Bürgi

My photo does not present the sculpture in its very new, almost white form as on the photograph in Reliëfs in blauw, but thirty years later, tested by time and rain. I had to take this picture from the other side of the canal standing on the wharf, not more closely from a bridge like the picture in the other post. Even now you can see a lot. Bürgi has clearly chosen a rather grim aspect of early Roman law. As an executioner the lictor does not look very likeable when his axe comes down on the neck of the criminal. The public is represented by a series of wide opened yelling mouths. The fasces are also an element of the fence around the old Court of Justice. The immediate vicinity of this court probably worked as a suggestion for the sculptor. You can see these sculptures only when you walk fairly attentive along the old canals of Utrecht. For some images of justice you certainly have to search carefully, and these sculptures below street level offer an example in its own class.

Lady Justice’s square

In an earlier post on legal iconography I expressed the view that past images of justice do influence our imagination of justice. Reflecting again on this subject made it clear to me that there is no harm presenting modern images of justice on my legal history blog. When preparing this post I became more and more aware that I want to restrict myself here to sculptures, but buildings and even open space matter as well. Although I focus on modern sculptures in Utrecht you will also see pictures of buildings.

Buildings and objects in Utrecht have been the objects of earlier posts here. It seemed feasible to expand the series of photos I already presented with new ones. What triggered me to fulfill this wish was a very simple fact. The modern Court of Justice in Utrecht has its main entrance at the Vrouwe Justitiaplein, “Lady Justice’s Square”.

Lady Justice

A scuplture of Justice


At the entrance of the modern Court of Justice is a bronze sculpture of Justice created by Elselien van der Graaf in 2000. Before you want to judge this representation of justice as rather traditional I would like to look at a second sculpture at the same square.

Between good and evil - sculpture

Between Good and Evil, the Justice Column

Between Good and Evil, the Justice Column is the title of this sculpture in reinforced concrete by Nicholas Pope placed in 2000. This column looks rather like a leg with a large foot. At the top the words Vrowue Justitia is inscribed in yellow letters. The full text becomes only visible when you look at all sides of this sculpture. At Rechtspraak, the Dutch central website for jurisdiction, you can find more information about these objects and other art objects in and around the building. I should note that in Dutch court rooms you will find copies of a very modern styled painting of the Dutch queen, and this, too, adds to the image of justice.

This post is to some extent a kind of round-up. The legal world and legal systems are not only made visible in images of justice, but also in buildings and the actual forms of justice, law and legal imagination and representation. At the corner of the Lange Nieuwstraat and the Hamburgerstraat in Utrecht is the old court of justice with the entrance shown in the banner of my blog. It came to my attention that the angel like figure is not an allegory of justice. The sculptor Joannes Rijnboutt completed in 1838 a design by city architect and draughtsman Christiaan Kramm aiming to represent The Genius of Legislation.

The Dutch blazon at the former kantongerecht

The Dutch blazon at the entrance of the former kantongerecht

In a corner of this square is also an early 20th century building which has housed the kantongerecht, the lower court in the Dutch judicial system. With the faces of the lions turned threateningly to possible visitors the sculpture with the Dutch blazon and the motto Je maintiendrai (I will maintain) is more pregnant than usual versions.

The old back entrance of the court or justice

At the back of the old court of justice on the premises of the Benedictine Saint Paul’s Abbey you can still see a seventeenth century entrance along the Nieuwegracht in typical Dutch Renaissance fashion. Apart from the blazon of the province of Utrecht this gate could have been present in any Dutch city.

A sculpture of righteousness

A lantern console with a sculpture representing righteousness

The column at Lady Justice’s square was rather large. The sculpture below street level at the Kromme Nieuwegracht at a lantern console is really small, perhaps some forty by thirty centimeters. More than 300 lanterns along the medieval canals of Utrecht have been enriched since 1953 with such sculptures as Rechtvaardigheid (Righteousness) by Jeanot Bürgi. Two children fight over an object, and the woman raises her left hand to stop their fight. When discussing justice, you cannot leave out righteousness and equity. I had to search for this particular sculpture created around 1980, because my copy of the first edition of Reliëfs in blauw (Relief in blue) by A. Graafhuis and C.A. Baart de la Faille (Utrecht-Antwerpen 1974) obviously does not mention it.

Willem Molengraaff

Willem Molengraaff (1858-1931), law professor at Utrecht University

During my round-up I spotted even more interesting consoles. Graafhuis and Baart de la Faille show at the Nieuwegracht 3 a console by Bürgi representing the law faculty with an image of a Roman lictor, but this example will have to do. For your consolation, and because I think it fits into this post, I will end here with a sculpture showing one of Utrecht’s law professors. This bas-relief designed by Jeroen Hermkens and made by Amiran Djanashvili was placed in 2004 outside the Institute for Private Law. Since 1958 this institute is named the Molengraaff Instituut in honor of Willem Molengraaff (1858-1931). The text placed below this sculpture mentions for instance his work for the Dutch bankruptcy law of 1893. Molengraaff worked not only in the field of commercial law, in particular maritime law, but he advocated also international law and pleaded very early for extensive interpretation of the concept of unlawful action.

Some of Molengraaff’s famous early articles have been digitized for the Igitur Archief, the digital repository of Utrecht University Library, and four of his books are present in the digitized special collections of the same library. Studies on and works by Molengraaff can be easily found using library catalogues. The online Bibliography for Dutch History does not mention the essay on Molengraaff by Ter Horst and Korthals Altes in the volume Rechtsgeleerd Utrecht, edited by three legal historians, the late Govaert van den Bergh, Job Spruit and Marijke van de Vrugt (Zuphen-Linschoten 1986).

Introducing legal history

Where to start when you want to know more about legal history? Is it the wisest thing to start with ancient law, or to go directly to Roman law? Should you start with looking at one aspect of a period in legal history or a legal system during a particular period, or is it better to cast your nets wider? After you have formed your own answers to these and similar questions another kind of question follows immediately: where to find introductions? On my old web pages and on I try to present introductions to some legal systems and to some periods. Of course more can be said and is present at other websites, and in learned books and articles.

When I decided to make my web pages on legal history I aimed in particular to present medieval canon law. The two books I want to mention in this post both deal with medieval canon law. In the first book, a volume of essays, The Creation of the Ius Commune. From Casus tu Regula, edited by John W. Cairns and Paul J. du Plessis (Edinburgh 2010) medieval canon law gets special attention in the first article. When Cairns and Du Plessis announced the book on the Edinburgh Legal History Blog in July 2010 they modestly only indicated the article’s title and authors, ‘The Sources of Medieval Learned Law’, by Harry Dondorp and Eltjo Schrage (pp. 7-56). What Dondorp and Schrage actually offer here is a condensed and updated version of their book Utrumque ius. Eine Einführung in das Studium der Quellen des mittelalterlichen gelehrten Rechts (Berlin 1992) of which the first version was published in Dutch in 1987. At last you can read in English this introduction to medieval learned law, to both medieval Roman law and medieval canon law. Dondorp and Schrage focus on legal doctrine, but they do treat also medieval procedure and feudal law. One of its prominent features is the sketch of a research strategy. This is a clear and succinct guide, and you would have to search very hard to find a comparable guide on this scale and of this quality. Their contribution to the Edinburgh volume is reinforced by essays among others on the methods of the medieval civilians (James Gordley), medieval marriage law (Laurent Waelkens), feudal law (Magnus Ryan) and medieval procedure (Richard Helmholz). Articles by Kees Bezemer and Jan Hallebeek show here to a large extent the results of applying the research strategy advocated by Dondorp and Schrage.

Legal doctrine is at the heart of the Edinburgh volume. A rather different approach is offered in the volume Christianity and Law. An Introduction, John Witte, Jr. and Frank S. Alexander (eds.) (Cambridge, etc., 2008). Richard Helmholz contributed also to this volume for which he wrote a chapter on Western canon law. Mathias Schmoeckel tackles here procedure, proof and evidence. Medieval canon law is shown here in its context. Jewish religious law and early Christian law are treated to put canon law into perspective. The wide impact of canon law is for example shown in chapters on natural law and natural rights (Brian Tierney), the Christian sources of general contract law (Harold Berman), family law (Don Browning), Christianity and human rights (Michael Perry), Christian love and criminal punishment (Jeffrie Murphy), poverty, charity and social welfare (Brian Pullan), and property and Christian theology (Frank Alexander). Modern church law is the subject of Norman Doe’s contribution. The sixteen essays in this volume certainly offer an introduction to several aspects of law in the history of Christianity, but some contributions are simply too short. They give you a taste of things to explore, and not a plunge into detailed discussions of large or small questions. The great merit of Witte and Alexander is showing this variety of aspects involved in the study of law and its relations to Christian society.

This brief comparison of two volumes nicely shows that doing legal history is in fact researching legal histories in plural. You cannot safely neglect legal doctrine, and you have to face great perils when you leave out institutional history and the history of society at large. It is also true you ask for too much when you want an introductory volume to include all these things. Let’s hope both volumes briefly introduced here will guide and encourage people to set their own steps on the vast and sometimes very different territories of legal history.

Pirates, a sequel

You could have placed a bet on it: a post on pirates mentioning pirate movies inevitably will get a sequel! Just creating a postscript to last week’s post would have been a possibilty but for the length of that post. Here I offer only some additions to restore a certain imbalance and to bring some information about a few obvious gaps.

  • Esquemelins De Americaensche zee-roovers (Amsterdam 1678), the first edition in Dutch of this classic book, can be consulted online at the library of the University of Virginia.
  • Spanish resources were scarcely mentioned in my post. Using for instance the Hispana portal to digitized sources from the Spanish cultural heritage brings already substantial results. Old and modern books on pirates are abundantly present in the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Biblioteca Nacional de España.
  • Pirates have different names in European languages. In English one encounters for example privateers, buccaneers, filibusters and pirates. Germans write about Piraten and Kaperei. The Barbary corsairs are in German Rifpiraten. The French words corsaire and piraterie come as no surprise. The Dutch word kaper stands also for a kind of cap, a rather different thing. When searching in the Memory of the Netherlands you will meet both kind of kapers. You will find these caps also in the database for Dutch probate inventories between 1600 and 1900 of the Meertens Instituut in Amsterdam.
  • I did not at all mention pirates in classical Antiquity. Fik Meijer, not only a renown historian of antiquity but also a maritime archaeologist and an avid diver, writes in De Middellandse Zee. Een persoonlijke geschiedenis [The Mediterranean, a personal history] (Amsterdam 2010) also about piracy. Meijer is one of the editors of the 2010 exhibition catalogue Sail Rome! De koopvaardij in de Romeinse tijd [Sail Rome! Naval commerce in Roman times] of the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Medieval images of ancient pirates, in fact medieval views of pirates, are for example present in manuscripts at the Dutch Royal Library and the Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum, both in The Hague. Their combined image database can be searched using Iconclass. You will find for example an image in a manuscript with Plutarch’s life of Pompey. Manuscripts of both institutions can also be seen at a second manuscript website.

Writing about illuminated manuscripts and their digital presence  is tempting, but you can find wonderful online guides to them. Clearly much more can be said about pirates: more is present online, more can be found in print, but let’s leave the pirates for today. Good luck in following the traces of pirates in history!

A postscript

Karen Tani points at the Legal History Blog to a review by Bruce Buchan of several recent books on law and empire, among them Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations (New York 2009).

Pirates in past and present

Searching for subjects to write about on this blog and looking back at the themes I have chosen until now it might seem I prefer the sunny side of legal history. My post on the inquisition can be regarded as an exception. The question of themes is more poignant when I consider what I can write about or add to subjects like slavery, genocide, discrimination, child abuse and abuse of political power. Do these themes not also have a substantial importance for today? Is it not very justifiable to show connections between the past and the present in the field of legal history?

Just when I wanted to ponder this question in more depth I found a subject that nicely shows two sides of the same coin, the perennial attraction and fascination of a subject, and its very real importance for the world’s economy and the international legal order. Who has not been all ears and attention when reading about pirates or seeing a movie about them? Every generation finds in books and on screen its own image of the age of piracy. No doubt a lot of Dutch readers share with me the memory of Paddeltje, de scheepsjongen van Michiel de Ruijter by Johan Been, and some might remember my favourite, Pieter Straat, scheepsjongen van De Halve Maen by Anthony van Kampen. Cabin-boy Paddeltje met both the Dunkirkers and the Barbary corsairs. Pieter Straat sailed aboard the ship of a pirate captain who could have been the archetype for the Flying Dutchman. Of course the subjects of intellectual property and radio pirates could make their appearance here, but let’s stick here with the original pirates.

Digital collections and pirates

When I blogged in December about early editions of works by Hugo Grotius I mentioned De iure praedae, Grotius’ commentary on booty from 1608, however without any comment on the practice of pirates, privateers, buccaneers and filibusters nor paying attention to the fine distinctions between self-made pirates and those privateers working with letters of marque, not to mention the regional variants. The pirates of the Caribbean are a different stock than the pirates who thrived in the Channel or the Mediterranean. Doing research on them is not made easier by the way their names differ radically according to the language one speaks and reads.

Bringing texts and materials together in different languages is the great merit of the digital library on piracy trials presented by the Library of Congress. The world’s largest library has digitized not only accounts of historic trials of pirates before 1923, but also a number of juridical books on piracy and maritime law against pirates written in English, French, German and Dutch. The accounts of the trials are almost all in English. Where can one find more materials? For Dutch maritime history my thoughts turned to the project Maritiem Digitaal, a digital portal to the collection of eleven Dutch maritime museums, among them the Maritiem Museum in Rotterdam and the Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam. I felt rather disappointed when their websites yielded only a few meagre results. However, the 2010 yearbook of the Maritiem Museum focuses on piracy, Kapers & piraten, schurken of helden?, edited by Joost Schokkenbroek and Jeroen ter Brugge (Zutphen 2010) .

The Memory of the Netherlands with over a hundred digital collections brought me at first only to the radio pirates of the sixties! Searching for kapers instead of piraten (pirates) is the easy solution to find more here. The British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has rich holdings in books on piracy, but there are no books in their digital collections which do bring you to many interesting objects. The Europeana digital library yields better results, but clearly they stem not from institutions for maritime history. A nice harvest of images featuring pirates is to be found in the digital gallery of the New York Public Library. The online catalogue of the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum is called Corsair after Pierpont Morgan’s yacht, and this library has indeed materials concerning or mentioning pirates. The Morgan’s image database with 15,000 images from medieval and renaissance manuscripts accompanying Corsair brings you to just one medieval image of a pirate.

It is no coincidence that the imagery of pirates conveyed by images and movies succeeds in attracting my attention. The Library of Congress, too, definitively realized this when launching a three-dimensional presentation of one of the classic books on piracy, De Americaensche zee-roovers by Alexander Olivier Esquemelin (Amsterdam 1678) under the title The Buccaneers of America. The portraits of pirates in this volume are so wonderful, the accompanying translation so useful and the way of turning over the pages so enticing that I almost did not notice one does not have here a digitized version of the whole book. The presentation is part of a larger online exhibition on Exploring the Early Americas with books and objects from the Jay I. Kislak collection. More items on piracy from this collection are featured in an interesting online exhibition from 2002 at the Miami-Dade Public Library System entitled Reefs, Wrecks and Rascals: The Pirate Legacy of the Spanish Main.

The multinational digital libraries for the Caribbean might be a first port of call for digitized books on the history of pirates in this region. Alas the Digital Library of the Caribbean contains only a few titles on this subject. Manioc yields more books, and this library in French on the Caribbean, the Amazone regions and the Guyanas, cleverly searches also in the Digital Library of the Caribbean and in Gallica. My search attempts in the Réseau francophone numérique, a project of fourteen national libraries, and in the Pacific Rim Digital Library, a project in which 25 libraries around the Pacific work together, brought me only few results.

Digital archives and piracy: letters at Kew and sites for the VOC

The digital collections of archives seem to bring us closer to the history of piracy than digital libraries. At Baltic Connections you can search in the finding aids of archives with holdings on the Baltic heritage between 1450 and 1800. From the seventeenth until the nineteenth century English privateers captured many Dutch vessels, their cargoes and luggage. Part of the loot now preserved at the National Archives in Kew in the archival collection of the High Court of Admiralty are some 40,000 letters in Dutch. They form a mine of information on life at sea and on the development of the Dutch language. The project Brieven als buit (Letters as loot) at Leiden University aims at studying and publishing this collection of sailing letters in cooperation with the Dutch Royal Library. Roelof van Gelder’s report from 2005 on these letters informs you about the rich variety of sources at Kew awaiting further exploration.

The Institute for Dutch History in The Hague has created the database Dutch Asiatic Shipping with information on more than 8,000 voyages by ships of the Dutch East India Company (abbreviated as VOC). A first search in this database brings you to the story of six voyages on which encounters with pirates happened, but here surely more can be retrieved. The Atlas of Mutual Heritage presents thousands of images on the history of the Dutch East and West India Companies, including pictures of ships. On the Tanap website one can search in VOC documents, in inventories of archival collections concerning the VOC and in documents of the Cape of Good Hope, the supply station of the VOC. More websites on the VOC are listed at the VOC site.

Digital exhibitions

Some online exhibitions merit your attention as well, and even if some of them are rather small, their quality counts. Peddlers, Privates and Prostitutes. Subaltern Histories of Southeast Asia, 1800-1900 (Cornell Southeast Asia Program and Echols Collection, Cornell University Library) brings you to a journal kept by a pirate, On the Water (Smithsonian Institution) has a section on pirates in the Atlantic world, and Spoils of War. Privateering in Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management) presents digitized log books of three privateers. Written on Water. Literature of the Sea in the Age of Sail (Lilly Library, Indiana University) presents a small section on piracy with images of the first English translation from 1684 of Esquemelin’s book. Bucaniers of America gave birth to the English term buccaneer. The Lilly Library has a much larger online exhibition on Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. The National Geographic has created an online exhibition with further links on the wreck of the Whydah, a pirates’ship sunk in 1717. Piraten: Die Herren der Sieben Meere is an online exhibition of the Übersee-Museum in Bremen with navigation using a treasure chart which shows this site aims mainly at children, but the information is sound.

Songs about pirates

Since letters show up already in this post, literature and music should not remain behind. The popular imagination of pirates was not only propelled by images and stories, but also by songs. In particular popular ballads featured pirates. At Revolution and Romanticism, a private collection of street literature held in Edmonton, Alberta, you can find a parody on Lord Byron’s The Corsair. The English Broadside Ballad Archive (University of California at Santa Barbara) contains ballads from the Pepys collection of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and the Roxburghe collection of the British Library; as for now I found already some ballads about pirates. I did not find yet anything relevant in the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads database. The Dutch song database of the Meertens Institute for Etnology and Folklore in Amsterdam contains at least ten items on pirates (kapers). One post cannot contain everything, so let me just remark in passing that when you search for pirates in image databases such as the one for French emblem books at Glasgow you should use the Iconclass code 44G56 to find your corsair or pirate.

Further sailing with pirates…

It’s time to end this voyage and to find harbors with more information on the history of piracy, both archival records and books. The Louisiana Digital Library attracted my attention with their records and documents on several pirates. The digital collections of the State Library of North Carolina contain among other documents a letter of marque from 1776; note also the collection of links. Stories that fired the popular imagination were printed in books with various titles commonly referred to as The Newgate Calendar. Trials of pirates supplies a nice number of piracy stories. There exists also a digitized version of a five-volume compilation of the Newgate Calendar edited in 1926, but the link to this edition at the Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas at Austin has recently been removed, hopefully just temporarily. CityArk is a project of the Medway Council Archives Service which brings you to gifts by the Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral to victims of the Barbary corsairs in the eighteenth century.

And now piracy in the present: the Digital Library of the Combined Arms Research Library in Fort Leavenworth offers not only digitized books and reports on modern pirates, but also on the history of piracy. The International Chamber of Commerce has established a piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the International Maritime Bureau. When finishing this post it was not by chance but really fitting to find a piracy research guide at The Competitive Edge, the blog of Cornell Law Library. That post mentions books and articles, something I did not include here, and I gladly refer you to it.

Since its launch in August 2010 many blogs have mentioned the digital collection of piracy trials at the Library of Congress. I only noticed it this week at the Dutch forum for archives maintained with such zeal by Eric Hennekam. Not every item of interest for legal history is tagged at this forum, and thus I had overlooked it. I found a book review at the Steamthing blog of Caleb Crain very interesting, also because of his well stocked blogroll. After such a long post it is good to know the Dutch television broadcasts tonight one of this century’s favorite pirate movies!

…and of course there is a sequel to this post!