Spotlights on Henri Bohic, a medieval canon lawyer

When I started my blog in December 2009 I intended to give medieval canon law attention as often as possible. Nearly two years later it is clear I have widened the scope of my web initiative. This week I received a notice about a website dedicated to a French medieval canonist, Henri Bohic. Apart from the Domus Gratiani website maintained by Anders Winroth and the website created by Bruce Brasington and Martin Brett for the works of Ivo of Chartres there are subdomains for the forged decretals of Pseudo-Isidor and Benedictus Levita at the website of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica in Munich, but it is really rare to find a website dedicated exclusively to a medieval canon lawyer. Eric Knibbs’ blog about Pseudo-Isidore is one of the few sites to mention. Jean-Luc Deuffic enters a more virgin territory of the study of medieval canon law, the fourteenth century, with his website Henri Bohic, un juriste breton au Moyen Âge. The fact that Deuffic writes French should not stop you from looking at his new website.

A lawyer from Brittany

Henri Bohic was probably born around or before 1300 and died in 1357. Sometimes his name is spelled Bouhic or Boich. Deuffic uses on his website information he published in two articles, ‘Au service de l’Université et au conseil du duc. Notes sur le canoniste breton Henri Bohic (+ v. 1357)’, Pecia 4 (2004) 47-101, and ‘Henri Bohic et le receveur Yves de Cleder’, Pecia 9 (2009) 57-62. Deuffic is the editor of the journal Pecia for which he also has created a very interesting blog, Pecia: Le manuscrit médieval – The medieval manuscript. Deuffic adds to the summary biography of Bohic who had studied law at the University of Orléans. He taught in Paris and acted as a councillor to the duke of Orleans and king Philip VI. He owned a house in Paris called the Clos Bruneau. His family stemmed from the Bas-Léon, the most western region of Bretagne (Brittany).

Utrecht, University Library, ms. 615, fol. 9r

Henricus Bohic, Distinctiones in liber primum Decretalium; Utrecht, University Library, ms. 615, fol. 9r - image by kind permission of Utrecht University Library

Deuffic gives on the new website a very extensive list of the remaining manuscripts of Bohic’s major work, his Distinctiones super quinque libris decretalium, a commentary on the Liber Extra, the collection of decretals edited in 1234 by Raymond of Peñafort on behalf of pope Gregory IX. He adds to this some notes from archival records, a survey of printed editions, starting with an incunable published at Lyons in 1498, and a bibliography of studies which mention Bohic either in passing or in some depth. For both famous and less known medieval canonists Kenneth Pennington (Catholic University of America) provides on his webpages the provisional version of the volume with bibliographies that will eventually be published in the series The History of Medieval Canon Law. It has taken Pennington many years to bring together the massive amount of information in these Bio-Bibliographies of Medieval Lawyers. The project is now being extended to include jurists from the Early Modern period. Pennington gives four references to literature on Bohic, admittedly references to articles and a book paragraph summing up the knowledge at the time these authors were writing. In particular the article by Paul Fournier is important.

Knowing this one can only look in disbelief at the amount of notices and references found by Deuffic. Perhaps the seemingly indispensable search tool with all its accessory devices – yes, the one which name has almost surpassed the verb surfing in daily use – has helped, too, finding some of these references, but the results are stunning. These references are often concerned with the content of Bohic’s Distinctiones. The sheer number of manuscripts of Bohic’s main work, too, is a reason for pausing and looking attentively at Deuffic’s list, for he gives far more than listed by Giovanna Murano on her fine overview of Initia operum iuris canonici medii aevi. The number of manuscripts is flattered by the fact that in many of them only a part of Bohic’s commentary is transmitted. Even the manuscripts Amiens, Bibliothèque Municipale (BM), 365, Arras, BM, 445, and Chartres, BM, 270 with the complete text, consist of two volumes. For many manuscript notices Deuffic has provided links to the online version of the relevant library catalogue. Some of the colophons by the scribes in these manuscripts are very expressive!

In my eyes the number of manuscripts with Bohic’s Distinctiones containing illuminated pages is quite remarkable. Of the main text books of medieval canon law, the Decretum Gratiani and the Liber Extra many illuminated manuscripts are known,1 but apart from these works hardly any commentary on canon law received this honour. Frank Soetermeer found only a substantial number of illuminated manuscripts for the summa of Henricus de Segusio (Hostiensis) (circa 1200 – 1271), one of the most famous treatises on medieval canon law. 2 In my view the illuminated manuscripts of the Distinctiones point to a much higher rank and esteem for Bohic than modern historians of medieval canon law have thus far imagined. The number of manuscripts, too, is surprisingly high. Is it rash to guess that Bohic’s activity as a councillor to the French king has helped creating demand for his commentary? In the face of possible questions about the copyright for the images shown by Deuffic at his site I suggest you look either there or at the Enluminures website for illuminated manuscripts in French municipal libraries.

Medieval manuscripts and the pecia system

In the second part of this post I would like to look more generally at medieval manuscripts and the guidance for the study of this subject offered by Deuffic’s websites. The name of Deuffic’s blog Pecia stems from the medieval Latin word for a quire, a part or piece of a manuscript. In the cities with medieval universities the pecia system refers to the process of text control and multiplication. Quires of the official copy of a medieval text-book were lended by professional scribes to copy for their patrons, medieval students and other people using these texts. In many medieval manuscripts you can find pecia marks, indications of the particular quire and the sequence of peciae used to produce a manuscripts.3 The first volume of the Bohic manuscript Amiens, BM, 365, contains a note on the number of quires and refers to an official copy, an exemplar, held by the Carmelites: “Item sciendum est quod exemplar totius libri constitit in locagio Martino bedello Carmelitarum quinque francos”. This manuscript was produced in Paris. Soetermeer does not mention Bohic in his overview of juridical works available within the pecia system at Bologna and Paris, but it seems worthwhile to check the descriptions of Bohic’s manuscripts for the presence of pecia marks.

On the Pecia blog you will find more articles of interest for legal historians. On the blog appear regular posts in a series on medieval masters from Brittany. Among them figured recently Guillaume Chaloup (died 1370), a canonist at the University of Paris. One of the earlier post in this series is concerned with Guillaume de Rennes (around 1250), a decretist – a law professor teaching on the Decretum Gratiani – and his commentary on a summa by Raymund of Peñafort (circa 1180-1275). The books in the will of Laurent Surreau, a fifteenth-century canon of the cathedral at Tours, are the subject of another post. Surreau owned a substantial library with a lot of law books. Deuffic wrote about a missal from Italy owned by Thomas James, a canon lawyer and bishop of Dol-de-Bretagne around 1500. Recently Deuffic made a very useful list of the digitized volumes of the Gallia Christiana and its sequel Gallia Christiana novissima which offer precious information on the medieval history of French dioceses. The same post indicates also a number of digitized volumes of the Recueil des historiens des France. Deuffic alerted his readers recently to a new French database for researching illuminated manuscripts, Initiale.

This week Deuffic launched a second website, Manuscrits du Moyen Âge. Like the Bohic site Deuffic uses a new blog system. The choice for a grey background on both sites might hamper the visibility and contrast of the texts he publishes. As for now the second site seems to aim at publishing information about medieval manuscripts that will be sold at auctions.

The first time I noticed Henri Bohic was in citations of his work in the book of Nicolaus Everardi on juridical argumentation and in his consilia, extended advisory notes on juridical questions. Thanks to Jean-Luc Deuffic we now know a lot more about Bohic and about the transmission in manuscript and print of his legal commentary. It is really interesting to see how he and other masters from Brittany hold important posts in France, because this is one of the dimensions which show the degree of integration of the Bretons within France. Yves Hélory de Kermartin (around 1250-1303), a lawyer from Tréguier in Brittany, is one of the patron saints of lawyers, together with Raymund of Peñafort. It is good to realize this Breton lawyer stands not alone among the medieval lawyers from Brittany.

A postscript

When I created this post I did intend to point you also to the actions on behalf of the Wissenschaftliche Stadtbibliothek in Mainz. The city of Mainz has plans to either close this municipal library and to disperse its collections or to cut its budget drastically. You can sign the online petition to keep the rich collections at its place. The Stadtbibliothek has four manuscripts with parts of Bohic’s Dinstinctiones: II, 31 (liber V), II,118 (libri III-IV), II,231 (liber V) and I,1500 (liber V).

Notes

1. See Anthony Melnikas, The Corpus of the Miniatures in the Manuscripts of the Decretum Gratiani (3 vol., Rome 1975) and Kathleen Nieuwenhuisen, Het jawoord in beeld. Huwelijksafbeeldingen in middeleeuwse handschriften (1250-1400) van het Liber Extra (Ph.D. thesis, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 2000).
2. Frank Soetermeer, ‘”Summa archiepiscopi” alias “Summa copiosa”: Some remarks on the medieval editions of the “Summa Hostiensis”‘, Ius Commune 26 (1999) 1-25, online at the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt am Main.
3. See for juridical manuscripts Frank Soetermeer, Utrumque ius in peciis. Aspetti della produzione libraria a Bologna fra Due e Trecento (Milan 1997), also translated as Utrumque ius in peciis. Die Produktion juristischer Bücher an italienischen und französischen Universitäten des 13. und 14. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt am Main 2002).

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2 thoughts on “Spotlights on Henri Bohic, a medieval canon lawyer

  1. Rijcklof

    Beste Otto,
    allereerst: ik ben ontzettend blij met de vele links die je op je site en hier plaatst – ik heb er al vaak profijt van gehad.
    Bohic is inderdaad zeer invloedrijk, ik heb Jean-Luc al eens gewezen op de grote invloed die hij op Geert Grote heeft uitgeoefend. Lees p. 69-81 in Gerardi Magni Opera Omnia, Pars II.1. Sermo ad clerum Traiectensem de focaristis – Opera minora contra focaristas, cura et studio Rijcklof Hofman, Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaeualis 235, Turnhout, 2011, 653 p. Als je niet snel toegang hebt tot de UB, kan ik je evt. ook het relevante stuk uit mijn word bestand sturen.
    hartelijke groet,
    Rijcklof

    Reply
    1. rechtsgeschiedenis Post author

      Beste Rijcklof,

      hartelijk dank voor je lovende woorden! Ik ben zeker geïnteresseerd in je bijdrage over de invloed van Bohic op Geert Grote. Jean-Luc Deuffic heeft gisteren weer een bijdrage over Bohic gepubliceerd op de Pecia blog, zie http://blog.pecia.fr/post/2012/04/01/Du-nouveau-sur-le-juriste-breton-Henri-Bohic-%28%E2%80%A0-ca-1357%29

      Dear Rijcklof,

      Thanks for your compliments about my blog! I am certainly interested in your contribution on the influence of Bohic on Geert Grote. Jean-Luc Deuffic has just published a new blog post on Bohic, see http://blog.pecia.fr/post/2012/04/01/Du-nouveau-sur-le-juriste-breton-Henri-Bohic-%28%E2%80%A0-ca-1357%29

      Reply

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