Monthly Archives: December 2011

Digitized legal manuscripts at Europeana Regia

Yesterday’s post on the Europeana Regia project for the reconstruction with digitized manuscripts of three royal medieval libraries left me with a somewhat unsatisfied feeling. Why not try to provide a list of the legal manuscripts which are at this time present in Europeana Regia? After all it does seem the project faces several difficulties hampering its completion. Why wait until 2012? Indeed not all designated manuscripts have yet been added. Instead of more than a thousand manuscripts the total number of manuscripts is now below two hundred.

Using the English interface I have created a list with thirteen manuscripts with texts of a legal nature. Each signature is linked to the English page for the manuscript in question. Before giving the list I would like to make clear that each of the pages at Europeana does give you a considerable amount of information about a digitized manuscript. Not only links to manuscript catalogues, but sometimes even links have been added to library catalogues holding relevant literature. I have included the text of the Descendentia dominorum regum Sicilie in the belief this treatise on the genealogy of the kings of Sicily no doubt involves also claims of a legal nature or will mention kings or pretenders to the throne taking part in legal conflicts.

More surprising is the fact that the team of Europeana Regia is clearly thinking about a wider scope for the project. To the five original libraries have been added some manuscripts from the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, the Bibliothèque de Genève, the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, and the Stiftsbibliothek in Sankt Gallen. This expansion focuses on Swiss manuscripts digitized in the e-codices project. Only the cooperation with the Swiss project has been noted in the news section.

The number of digitized legal manuscripts which you can reach at Europeana Regia is decidedly low, especially in the face of the lists given in my earlier post guiding you to the digitized manuscripts at the respective home libraries. If you query for instance the Digitale Sammlungen in Munich for the Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana, a canon law collection, you will easily find five digitized manuscripts more, Clm 6244, 6246, 6355, 14407, and 14422.

At Wolfenbüttel the Wolfenbüttler manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel by Eike von Repgow, the famous legal treatise on German customary law, was among the first manuscripts to be digitized (Cod. Guelf. 3.1 Aug.). The list at the Herzog-August-Bibliothek mentions apart from those present in Europeana Regia a few other legal manuscripts, among them a volume with several texts written in 1419 and 1420 (Cod. Guelf. 167 Helmst.), Constitutiones concilii Moguntinensis, canons of a church council at Mainz in 1310 (Cod. Guelf. 478 Helmst.), and fragments from the thirteenth century of the Stadtrecht, the city statutes of Wisby and Novgorod (Cod. Guelf. 404.9 (17) Nov.). Making similar shortlists for the libraries in Paris and Munich is simply not feasible because the number of relevant manuscripts is much larger.

A provisional list of digitized legal manuscripts

Paris, BnF

ms. latin 12832: Liber de donnibus et redditibus monasterii Sancti Germani a Pratis [Polyptych of Irminon, abbot of St. Germain-des-Prés], around 823-828 – digitized version

Brussels, BR

ms. II 2572: Liber de diversis questiunculis (et alia opera), 8th-9th century – digitized version
ms. 1312: Poenitentiale, 9th-10th century – digitized version

Wolfenbüttel, HAB

Cod. Guelf. 50.2 Aug. 4° : Lex Salica; Capitularia, first half 9th century – digitized version
Cod. Guelf. 254 Helmst.: Capitulare de villis, second quarter 9th century – digitized version
Cod. Guelf. 496a Helmst.: Admonitio generalis and other works, 8th-9th century – digitized version
Cod. Guelf. 513 Helmst. : Lex Alamannorum, late 8th century – digitized version
Cod. Guelf. 3 Weiss.: [Collectio canonum] Dionysio-Hadriana cum glossis, first half 9th century – digitized version

Munich, BSB

Clm 6242: Collectio canonum Dionysio-Hadriana, around 815-825 – digitized version
Clm 14468: Documents concerning adoptianism, capitularies, etc., 821 – digitized version
Clm 28135: Synod resolutions. Sermones, early 9th century – digitized version

Valencia, BU

ms. 394: Paulus Rossellus, Descendentia dominorum regum Sicilie, after 1438 – digitized version

Bibliothèque de Genève

Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer

Cod. Bodmer 68: [Amalarius of Lyon], Institutio canonum Aquisgranensis; Regula canonicorum, first half 9th century – digitized version

Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek

A postscript

In January 2012 the Europeana Regia team announced the addition of manuscripts held at Amiens, Rheims and Valenciennes. When I asked about the actual appearance of the manuscripts to be included in 2012, Elizabeth MacDonald kindly answered my inquiry. The manuscripts will be added during the first half of this year. On May 21, 2012 I published a new post with an additional list of digitized legal manuscripts.


Europeana Regia and the royal road to medieval manuscripts

A few days ago the Europeana Regia project with digitized medieval manuscripts from five major research libraries came suddenly to my attention in a discussion of the search interface at the Europeana portal, a gateway to digitized sources from many European cultural institution. At present Europeana Regia offers no search interface at all, only a number of filters such as the present repository, the presumed historical collection, century and language. The user interface can be used in six languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Catalan and Dutch – and it is understandable that not every manuscript title has yet been translated in all featured languages, nor are all general pages translated or even available.

In this post I want to look how you can find and use manuscripts in Europeana Regia with legal texts. In the absence of a search interface it is difficult to search for a particular text. Can other websites help you to find a digitized manuscript more quickly? What is the exact scope of Europeana Regia and what can scholars and the proverbial general public get from it?

Logo Europeana Regia

The five libraries in Europeana Regia

The five libraries working together in the consortium behind Europeana Regia which aims at the virtual reconstruction of three royal collections are two national libraries, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) in Paris and the Bibliothèque royale de Belgique in Brussels, and three research libraries, the Biblioteca Històrica of the Universitat de Valencià, the Herzog-August-Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. What do these libraries offer themselves in the field of medieval manuscripts? I will give an overview of the most important online resources.

The French national library has a separate website to search manuscripts, there is a general image collection and for illuminated manuscripts you can use the Mandragore database. You can tune the Catalogue collectif de France, a service of the BnF, to search only for manuscripts. The BnF participates in Europeana. For the current manuscript exhibition Miniatures flamands in cooperation with the Belgian Royal Library you can consult the online version which features in particular the Grand Armorial of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Toison d’Or) (BnF, ms. Arsenal 4790), the heraldic guide to the blazons of the knights of this Burgundian order.

The manuscript catalogues of the Belgian Royal Library have been digitized at Belgica. Some manuscripts of particular interest have also been digitized for Belgica. Legal historians will welcome the digital version of the Vieil Rentier d’Audenarde (ms. 1175), a late thirteenth-century register of rents, and the manuscript 14689-14691 with both Der Könige Buch and the Schwabenspiegel, the “Mirror of the Swabians”, a legal treatise. The manuscript was written in the Alsace region between 1430 and 1440. Here, too, a fifteenth-century illuminated armorial is featured (ms. IV 1249).The library prepares a new catalogue of texts in Middle Dutch of which you find a summary list on the website.

The university library at Valencia presents digitized items in the SOMNI digital library. 67 manuscripts are at present available also through Europeana Regia, four manuscripts can be seen only using SOMNI. Manuscripts are included in the TROBES general online catalogue which you can filter for digitized items, for manuscripts and other special collections such as incunables.

At the website of the Herzog-August-Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel you will find a manuscript database and digitized manuscript catalogues. The manuscript database allows you to search directly in the data on nearly 500 digitized manuscripts. The library has created a useful list of its digitized manuscripts with direct links to them.

In the last few years the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has concentrated much of its digitization projects at the special website for digital collections, the Digitale Sammlungen of the Münchner Digitalisierungszentrum. The range and number of digitized works is stunning as already the summary list indicates. This list allows you to filter for the several manuscript collections such as the Clm (Codices latini monacenses) and the Cgm (Codices germanici monacenses). The Bavarian State Library has published a substantial number of catalogues describing the manuscript collections. You can search for medieval manuscripts in this library and also for those at Wolfenbüttel at the Manuscripta Medievalia website. Manuscripts with texts in Old German and Middle German can be searched using the Handschriftencensus at Marburg.

It is safe to submit that all these libraries have done a considerable effort to catalogue their medieval manuscripts, to work at their digitization and to present their manuscript catalogues online, be it in digitized versions of printed catalogues or in databases. Europeana Regia has been designed to make in three years, from 2010 to 2012, the virtual reconstruction possible of three more or less historical collections with royal connections, the Bibliotheca Carolina with manuscripts from the Carolingian age (8th-10th centuries), the library of the French king Charles V, said to have consisted of some nine hundred books in 1380, and the library of the kings of Naples from the house of Aragon.

Searching and presenting medieval manuscripts: a comparison

Some years ago I have added to my old website a page on medieval manuscripts where you can find many manuscript catalogues and examples of digitized manuscripts and manuscript collections. More recently Gero Dolezalek has created a very well-informed webpage about online information on medieval legal manuscripts. Dolezalek had already provided space at Leipzig for the list of incipits in medieval canon law created by Giovanna Murano (Florence) and several other invaluable lists of legal manuscripts. With Hans van de Wouw Dolezalek published one of the earliest computer aided catalogues, the Verzeichnis der Handschriften zum römischen Recht bis 1600 (4 vol., Frankfurt am Main 1972), and with Laurent Mayali the Repertorium manuscriptorum veterum Codicis Iustiniani (Frankfurt am Main 1985). On my webpages on medieval canon law I try to offer further guidance. Anyone looking for manuscripts with texts concerning medieval canon law will have to consult for example Lotte Kéry’s Canonical collections of the Early Middle Ages (ca. 400–1140) : a bibliographical guide to the manuscripts and literature (Washington, D.C., 1999) and Stephan Kuttner’s Repertorium der Kanonistik (1140-1234). Prodromus Corporis Glossarum, part I (Città del Vaticano 1937; reprints 1973, 1981).

In order to assess the qualities of Europeana Regia it is not necessary to lead you along a large number of manuscript websites. For convenience sake and in practice it will suffice to use the websites mentioned in the paragraph above and a few examples of guides to specific manuscripts, the catalogue of medieval manuscripts in Dutch collections (MMDC) and Luxury Bound, the database created by Hanno Wijsman (Leiden) concerning illuminated manuscripts from the Netherlands in the period 1400-1550. As examples of digitized manuscript collections I have chosen the project Codices Electronici Sangallenses (CESG) for the manuscripts at Sankt Gallen, and another Swiss project, e-codices.

Much effort has gone worldwide into the cataloguing of medieval manuscripts. These very catalogues make projects for the virtual reconstruction of a library or the overview of a particular manuscript genre possible, such as medieval legal texts or texts in a particular medieval language. The digitization of these catalogues both at their respective homes and in projects demanding close cooperation has resulted in some particular interesting results. One of the bottlenecks in these projects is the way the information about manuscripts has to be not only consistently collected and checked, but also faithfully transmitted in a way which permits digital harvesting and use – through recoding and other techniques – in several formats. It seems logical to accompany a digital collection of medieval manuscripts with a searchable catalogue or descriptions, however summary, and this is common practice. In technical terms it involves the presentation of both data – in this case the digital images – and meta-data, the description of the digitized items.

Europeana Regia proves to be exceptional in doing without a user led search interface. Instead one can only use predefined filters. If you cannot search yourself in an efficient way in a digital collection you are faced with what can be termed in a friendly way as a showcase, and not the treasure room in which you can find your way at your will. The Europeana Regia is only loosely connected with the main Europeana project, even if you can search in Europeana solely for items appearing in Europeana Regia using the relation parameter, which however yields only 144 manuscripts, an incorrect number. For all purposes the Europeana Regia project could very well be a temporary solution which therefore lacks a specific search mask, apart from the predefined set of filters mentioned at the start of this post. The Europeana Regia project is said by Europeana officials to last three years. It started in 2010, and perhaps 2012 will bring more for those wanting to search at Europeana Regia, and not ony to admire the manuscripts.

Hanno Wijsman’s Luxury Bound database features both a simple search and an advanced search mode. You can choose a number of genres to select manuscripts, but today for some silly reason searching for the genre “legal and administrative” does not work; other genres appear correctly in the search results… The MMDC website, too, has both a simple and advanced search. You can even save your searches. Searching in MMDC for manuscripts with canon law texts brings you nearly 400 results, for “local law” 90, and for Roman law 67. The MMDC database is strengthened by a rich offer of extra tools, such as a palaeographical atlas, an online version of the Manuscrits datés conservés dans les Pays-Bas and information on bookbindings.

Choosing CESG with its famous holdings in Carolingian manuscripts adds more perspective to the comparison with Europeana Regia with its Bibliotheca Carolina. The virtual library of CESG is in fact presented as a subsection of e-codices. You can but need not select one of the Swiss libraries participating in e-codices. One can add a particular search field in the simple search, and filter the search results by a number of fields appearing in the right sidebar of the website. You cannot select any text genre. You can view both a detailed description of the manuscripts with often extensive reference to relevant literature and view the digitized manuscripts. Let’s end for this moment with the Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts (CDMM) which offers search possibilities with five fields (location, shelfmark, author, title and language). For each of these search fields works an automatic suggestion for completion of the search term. With at present some 3,100 digitized manuscripts CDMM is surely not complete. Putting the data into a correct and uniform way is just one of the tasks facing the team behind this project.

Europeana Regia and the Europeana portal

David Haskiya, one of the product developers at Europeana, wrote in October on his personal blog about the recent changes in the user interface and functions of the Europeana portal. What impresses me is the fact that some of the changes are literally user-driven, following from the way of use visitors to the portal have shown. Only a very small number of users used the advanced search mode. Mr. Haskiya kindly reacted in two comments on my latest post where I expressed in a postscript my amazement at the disappearance of Europeana’s advanced search. Haskiya briefly mentions new functions such as the suggestion of similar items in a carrousel presentation. I had not yet thought of using Europeana on a tablet, but this, too, is taken into account in assessing the quality of the website’s performance.

Europeana Regia is currently not featured on the Europeana portal. On Europeana’s own blog the whole project has not been mentioned at all. At Delicious you will find just a few institutions who have listed the project in their link selection. The project for the reconstruction of three royal libraries from the Middle Ages is certainly not unique. Klaus Graf has made a useful list of projects for the reconstruction of monastic libraries. Among them is Sankt Gallen, which is also served in the Early Medieval monastic project started by Albrecht Diem (Syracuse University).

In the Europeana newsletter for June 2010 the late Thierry Delcourt of the BnF spoke about the project, stressing the practical advantages of the project, in particular bringing together manuscripts held in libraries in different corners of Europe. Delcourt mentions two specific manuscripts, one an evangeliary written for Charlemagne and his wife Hildegard, the other containing the Mustio, a gynaecological treatise. As for now I cannot search directly for those very manuscripts at Europeana Regia. You can only find them after completing a more or less long search viewing all the items in one of the preset presentation modes. Luckily Delcourt said the manuscript with the Mustio is held at Brussels, and by sheer luck it is featured at the first page with manuscripts from the Belgian Royal Library, ms 3701. The other manuscript is only shown on the thirteenth page of the manuscripts from Paris, and turns out to be the Evangeliary of Godescalc, written between 781 and 783, BnF, ms. NAL 1203. I should have used the selection for manuscripts from the eight century with less results to find it quicker… When you use the Dutch interface many manuscripts are not shown at all.

In a presentation at the eChallenges 2011 conference Matthieu Bonicel (BnF) gives a very clear overview in English of the problems facing Europeana Regia. Integrating data from very different systems, dealing with a fair number of languages, addressing the general public, school teachers and scholars in an equally satisfying way, dealing with different standards for the description of manuscripts, and having to choose a standard for iconographic description without having one international standard are only the major problems he mentions. It would be fair if this information was also presented at the Europeana Regia website. Explaining the difficulties in this project would not be amiss. The general public, people working in education and scholars will be thankful for such explanations. By now it is also clear that for further research you will have to use the resources provided at the websites of each library involved with the project. A commented list of these resources with the respective links can be easily added to the project website. A very simple search function for the website would already be most welcome.

As for iconography, choosing between the systems of the Index of Christian Art, Iconclass and the Art & Architecture Thesaurus, is indeed a challenge. It will help when one looks for the most successful implementation with medieval manuscripts, but even success can be disputed. The Dutch Royal Library and its website Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts is for Iconclass probably the best example, but in this consortium a Dutch view might be ruled out of court.

The royal road

For my part I do not want to leave you here with just a bunch of critical remarks about a remarkable project. I did not write this because I presumably like the role of a sour Dutch reviewer who delights in stressing faults, I am always looking for positive elements. Blogs like Digital Medievalist, BibliOddysey and Medieval Manuscripts Online have until now scarcely mentioned Europeana Regia. Surely it is not the first multilingual pilot project running into difficulties, but I have good hopes at least some of these problems will be solved. Scholars doing research in the field of medieval law will need to use the repertories of relevant manuscripts, the online resources indicated by Dolezalek and the specific online resources of the five libraries working together for Europeana Regia to study with most profit the digitized manuscripts of this project. It is only ironical that scholars need to go the royal road when others can simply enjoy their encounter with these witnesses from medieval royal libraries. If it is feasible to make a simple list of the legal manuscripts included at Europeana Regia, it is probably just as well possible to do this for other subjects. Let’s wait and see what 2012 brings!

A postscript

The question of the diversity of the public visiting or wanting to use Europeana Regia and the variety of user-driven wishes is addressed in a study by Philippe Chevalier, Laure Rioust and Laurent-Bouvier-Ajam, La consultation des manuscrits en ligne, Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France 56/5 (2011)  17-23.


City statutes and legal order in medieval Italy

One of the most characteristic features of medieval Italy is the amazing quantity of large and small towns. Within these towns there might be feuds about the supremacy of families or guilds, but to the world at large fierce pride of one’s own town reigned supreme. Many Italian towns had since the twelfth century or even earlier their own city council which issued laws in the form of statuti. Thus medieval lawyers had already to deal with questions about which law had to be obeyed in case of collision of laws. Albericus de Rosciate (Alberico da Rosate) (around 1290-1360) wrote a long tract De statutis, in early editions also appearing under the title Quaestiones statutorum. At Munich the incunable edition Como 1477 of this work has been digitized. Alberico was preceded by Alberto Gandino (around 1240-1305) , mainly known for his Tractatus de maleficiis edited by Hermann Kantorowicz, but also responsible for quaestiones statutorum written around 1284, published by A. Solmi in the Bibliotheca iuridica medii aevi. Scripta anecdota glossatorum, Augusto Gaudenzi and Giovanni Battista Palmiero (eds.) (3 vol., Bononiae 1888-1903; reprint Torino 1962; Gandinus’ text is in vol. 3, 157-214). The way medieval lawyers dealt with municipal laws is the subject of the great study by Mario Sbriccoli, L’interpretazione dello statuto. Contributo alla storia della funzione di giuristi nell’età comunale (Milano 1969). Sbriccoli was not the first to write about this subject. City guilds and confraternities, too, had their own statutes and ordinances. The Italian historiography on statutes has a long and colorful tradition.

Just before Christmas Mike Widener, curator of rare books at the Lilian Goldman Law Library of Yale Law School, blogged about the presentation in Rome on November 23, 2011, of the edition of a manuscript at Yale with the statuti of Montebuono, a town in Rieti, some fifty kilometers north of Rome. Widener gives more details about these fifteenth-century statuti in his post. In 2008 the library of Yale Law School organized an exhibit on early Italian statutes. In the online version of the exhibit you can find a very useful commented overview of editions, bibliographies and online resources. The presentation in November of this year was held at the Biblioteca dello Senato in Rome which undoubted has the largest collection of printed Italian statutes worldwide. You can use a special online catalogue to search its holdings for this field alone.

It is difficult but worthwhile to add substantial information to Widener’s 2008 overview. When you search for statuti in the Hathi Trust Digital Library you will find a few dozen digitized editions of municipal statutes, and also some studies. Using the Internet Archive yields roughly estimated the same number of results. The much more user-friendly interface of digitized books held in the Internet Archive – and now also at the Hathi Trust Digital Library – is a major advantage on using the books digitized by the monopolizing firm at its own book subdomain. Avoiding the name of this multinational firm is a kind of running gag here, but it is very much like not choosing spaghetti when literally hundreds of other forms of pasta exist… The German ZVDD finds also some fifty digitized Italian city statutes, but BASE, the Bielefeld Search Engine, does find more. The Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue) allows you to search with one search action not only many library catalogues and collective catalogues, but also the ZVDD and BASE.

A few websites presenting municipal statutes from Italy not listed by Widener in 2008 can be added here. The Società Pistoiese di Storia Patria has digitized a number of the statuti of Pistoia published by this learned society. You will find there also the edition of regesta, standardized summaries, of charters for several ecclesiastical institutions in this Tuscan town, and an edition of census records. Mario Ascheri and Silvio Pucci have created a website with a searchable database for the Statuta Reipublicae Senensis, the city statutes and the later statutes dello Stato of Siena. Donatella Ciamponi has created a bibliography of medieval municipal statutes in the Siena and Grosseto area. Her bibliography can be found among the digitized materials at the website of the Dipartimento di Storia at the Università degli Studi di Siena. Here I would single out the bibliography of medieval Siena and the edition of statutes of the Lega del Chianti (1384). The website on municipal statutes in the Liguria region of Rodolfo Savelli at Genoa which features also a bibliography on this subject, mentioned by Widener, does point to a project with digitized texts from Pisa. Among them are juridical texts, foremost the Constitutum Legis Pisanae Civitatis. The Società Ligure di Storia Patria has plans to digitize more editions of medieval sources. I mention this website in particular because you will find here links to the websites of many other regional historical societies in Italy.

Probably more websites with digitized statutes exist but I have not yet found them at any of the Italian biblioteche pubbliche statali, the main state archives (Archivi di Stato) and city archives. Please do not hesitate to share your knowledge if you know more! In this post I have linked the names of Alberico da Rosate and Alberto Gandino to the website of the publisher of the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. This company also publishes an encyclopedia and a vocabulary of the Italian language, useful if you want to study Italian history in any real depth. The article on Alberico da Rosate by Luigi Prosdocimi dates from 1960, but the article on Gandino by Diego Quaglioni was originally published in 1999. Both articles have a comprehensive bibliography.

American scholars can benefit from the rich holdings concerning Italian statutes and other juridical books at Yale Law School, at Harvard and at the Law Library of the Library of Congress. In the Netherlands the collection of Eduard Maurits Meijers (1880-1954) contains a number of early editions of Italian municipal statutes, now held at Leiden University Library. In Utrecht, too, you will find some editions of medieval statuti. The Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main has really rich holdings on the history of medieval law in Italy. Its library should be one of the places to visit before you will find more in Italy.


With this post I reach the end of 2011. In 2010 I wrote 35 posts, this year brought nearly 50 posts, almost one post every week. I hope you have enjoyed reading my contributions. Thanks to everyone who sent comments here, by e-mail and even in tweets! This year I have skipped the seasonal post simply because there has been no snow this month.

A postscript

When I decided to correct a few things here I wanted to have a look at another major gateway to digitized information. The results are different from what I had expected. They qualify for a rather long postscript.

When you add the Europeana portal to the array of possible gateways to digitized editions you might in principle find a lot of Italian statutes. However, much to my dismay I cannot detect anymore the advanced search mode which enables you to search directly for titles and to narrow your search efficiently. The new search mode is to some extent an English version of the old mnemonic maxim quis, quid, cur, quomodo, ubi, quando, quibus auxiliis: of the Five W’s you will find who, what, when and where. The refine search option is not completely useless, but surely more vague than necessary. By all means it is a setback when the carefully developed way to access information is thrown away without any warning. Fuzzy search or associative search would be more welcome as a second search mode, not as an exclusive way to search information at this portal which prides itself on the huge amounts of content from many corners. Some people will want to cast a wide net, but others have very precise search questions, and both approaches should be equally possible.

I would have liked to pass silently over the fact that you will find in a search for Italian statutes at Europeana also results with only the bibliographical data assembled in the EDIT16 project, which is not a digital library, but a bibliographical database. Surely you need to know not just something about bibliography when you search for these old statutes. In a project like Europeana a catalogue is simply not at the same level as access to digitized items, unless you like to swim in an ocean of ill digested information. There is a real need to distinguish between data and meta-data. Luckily Europeana has not deleted the filter function in the search interface. In fact this becomes more important than before. Is Europeana becoming a victim of the old proverb multa sed non multum, a lot of things but not much? The number of subdomains and new branches with interesting initiatives is impressive, as are some results, too, but it seems the core needs all possible care and attention. The Europeana Regia project with digitized medieval manuscripts has no search interface at all, only predefined selections and filters.

David Haskiya of the Europeana team sent a comment in which he explains you can still use the search parameters of the advanced search, such as title and creator. User statistics show only a very small percentage of users did use the advanced search interface.

A second postscript

A salutary warning not to isolate the text and importance of medieval Italian city statutes is provided by the Atlante della documentazione comunale (secoli XII-XIV), a project under the aegis of Scrineum (Università di Pavia) with online editions of texts concerning the administration and government of several Italian towns. The section on statuti contains only a notice about work in progress.

Finding more…

Two months after the second postscript I can add at least one online edition of medieval Italian city statutes, the project Statuti di Vicenza del 1264. The bibliography at this website is not only concerned with city statutes, but also with diplomatics and the technical aspects of digital editions. Patrick Sahle (Universität Köln) mentioned it in his annotated list of scholarly digital editions. Sahle’s list contains also a project for statuti from Grosseto, but alas the link is broken.

A 2015 postscript

Mike Widener (Lillian Goldman Library, Yale Law School) has created an inventory of manuscripts with Italian statutes in the holdings of Yale Law School.

Rivista di Diritto Ellenico, a new e-journal for ancient Greek law

A few days ago the French legal history blog Nomôdos, the twin sister of the e-journal Clio@Themis, announced the first issue of the Rivista di Diritto Ellenico, a journal devoted to the study of ancient Greek law.

Logo Rivista di Diritto Ellenico This new journal is edited by scholars at Torino, Isernia and Verona. The Rivista di Diritto Ellenico is published in open access, but there is a connection with the publishing firm Edizioni dell’Orso in Alessandria. The first issue of the Rivista di Diritto Ellenico contains eleven articles and seven book reviews. The translation in Italian of an article from 1963 by Hans-Julius Wolff, ‘Verjährung von Ansprüchen nach Attischen Recht’, is a service which could very well be inspired by the translation into French of classic articles in each issue of Clio@Themis. All contributions in the first issue are in Italian. However, the editors invite authors to submit articles in Italian, English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish and modern Greek. You can send email to the editors at this address.

In the section Rara et dissertationes you will find digitized versions of articles and theses which are difficult to trace; at this moment you will find just two items. The Foglio Giusgrecistico is the news bulletin of the review, with announcements of conferences and details on the contents of new publications. The section Collana announces the republication of Diritto greco antico by Arnaldo Biscardi (Milano 1982). In the links section you can download either as a PDF or as a text document a useful commented list of links for the study of ancient Greek law.

The creation of a new platform for scholars working in the field of legal history is an enterprise for which the founders need great courage, stamina and discernment. The choice for an e-journal in open access seems a promising one. Let’s hope the editors and all people involved with the Rivista di Diritto Ellenico succeed in making this new e-journal a success!

Centers of legal history: Edinburgh

Centre for Legal History, Edinburgh

The longest running series of posts here is concerned with centers of legal history. After a long break I will continue this series, starting at Edinburgh. The Centre for Legal history at the University of Edinburgh, founded in 1992, offers a many-sided program to its students. The research done by its staff concerns several main themes of legal history, in particular Roman law and law in Classical Antiquity in the interdisciplinary network Ancient Law in Context. A university in Scotland gives of course due attention to Scots law and Scottish legal history.

The staff of the Centre publishes some of its research results in the Edinburgh Studies in Law. One of the latest volumes edited by John Cairns and Paul du Plessis, The Creation of the Ius Commune: From Casus to Regula (Edinburgh, 2010) has been presented here in a comparison of two volumes of essays introducing medieval law. Apart from Cairns and Du Plessis W.H.D. Sellar and Hector MacQueen are the other staff members of the Centre. MacQueen blogs with Scott Wortley on Scots Law News, and he is also a member of the team behind the blog for European Private Law News. It is interesting to note Sellar’s activity as the Lord Lyon King of Arms, the official heraldic authority in Scotland with responsibility for State Ceremonial in Scotland. A King of Arms is the main herald of a region or country.

On its website the Centre – notice the British spelling! – provides easily accessible information to its activities and its research. Every year a substantial number of lectures and other events is organized. The Legal History Discussion Group is one of the key elements in the yearly schedule of activities. For the annual Peter Chiene Lectures, held in memory of Peter Chiene, scholars from all over the world are invited. All this is crowned by a fine selection of links. The legal historians at Edinburgh have their own blog, edited by John Cairns and Paul du Plessis, with very regular postings, and they are also active at Twitter to provide you the latest news in legal history. The website of the Edinburgh Law School features among the podcasts also lectures on aspects of legal history. You can look in particular at or hear several lectures given during the 2007 Tercentenary of Edinburgh Law School.

Law and history in Edinburgh

The Centre for Legal History at Edinburgh is part of the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh. The Law and Europa Library is located in the Old School, home to the School of Law. Apart from the Main Library of the university it is good to be aware of the Scottish Studies Library. The University of Edinburgh has a number of virtual image collections, none of them specifically dealing with legal history or Scots law. Charting the Nation: Maps of Scotland and associated archives, 1550-1740 is probably the one with the most immediate interest for legal historians. Both the popular and scholarly imagination of Scottish and medieval history have been fueled and inspired to considerable extent by the writings and activities of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). The University of Edinburgh has a digital archive on him. The Edinburgh University Archives have created an online database for the alumni of this university. As for now substantial periods and indeed whole faculties and schools are not yet dealt with here.

In Edinburgh the National Library of Scotland has many things to offer to scholars. Just looking briefly at the wealth of presentations in the Digital Gallery brings you for example to maps of Scotland, including the 1654 Atlas of Scotland by Blaeu, Jacobite prints and broadsides – which could have figured in the recent post on riots – and the digital collection The Word on the Street with more broadsides, and these I did notice in my July post on ballads and broadsides. The Early Gaelic Book collection is worth mentioning, too, as is Scottish History in Print with digitized editions from the publications of a number of historical societies, and a number of transcriptions of historical documents. A Guid Cause…: The women’s suffrage movement in Scotland is a digital collection for educational purposes on the history of Scottish suffragettes. Among the manuscripts and collections at the NLS one should notice not only manuscripts, but also estate papers.

For images alone it is useful to turn to the project Scotlands Images. The online collection of the National Galleries of Scotland can bring you to portraits of Scottish lawyers. For searching in this database you can use the taxonomy of the Art & Architecture Thesaurus created at the Getty Institute.

The National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh have as one of its particular strengths on its website the series of guides to several genres of historical records. Sources for legal history take pride of place here. Another service is the online introduction to the palaeography of Scottish documents. The NAS contribute also to the website Scottish Documents where you can find in particular digitized wills and testaments, most easily searched, however, at the website Scotlands People, with also census records and coats of arms. For Scottish charters and their presence online you should benefit from this links selection provided by Glasgow University, a reminder that you do not have to look exclusively at Edinburgh. My own selection of links for Scottish legal history can bring you more, but for seeing a wider context it is wise to visit first the selection of legal history links at the website of the Edinburgh Centre for Legal History.

The series Centers of legal history

Claiming the streets. Legal history, riots and upheavals

Between an isolated incident of violence and a full-scale revolution exists a wide variety of possible forms of violent actions. Their cause, form and the people involved have differed widely, as do the backgrounds of such events. The second week of August 2011 saw riots in the streets of London and other English cities, which at first seemed largely an outburst of violence but soon turned into plundering of shops and pillaging of neighbourhoods. The reactions of authorities, even their relative unresponsiveness to events, are ever so much determining factors in assessing the exact character of events as the actual events themselves, their media coverage and opinions about them. In many countries one can scarcely imagine a police force without water cannons which were conspicuously absent in England. In this post I want to look at some historical riots and upheavals from the perspective of materials nowadays digitally presented.

Dutch upheavals

In historiography there has been a tendency to see the Dutch Republic as an island of order in the midst of the turmoil that struck Western Europe from the sixteenth to the late eighteenth century. However, a title like The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama (1987), echoed by A.Th. van Deursen, De last van veel geluk. De geschiedenis van Nederland, 1555-1702 [The burden of lots of luck] (2004), indicate a less rosy state of affairs. Van Deursen died last month. He was an eminent historian who has considerably enriched our views of the Dutch Golden Age. War was a characteristic of the period of the Dutch Revolt, roughly between 1566 and 1609. The Eighty Years War (1568-1648) of the United Provinces lasted even longer than the Thirty Years War and the destructions that hit the German Holy Empire. Already in 1979 Rudolf Dekker published an anthology of eyewitness accounts of troubles and riots in Holland (Oproeren in Holland gezien door tijdgenoten (Assen 1979)), and in 1982 appeared his study Holland in beroering: oproeren in de zeventiende en de achttiende eeuw [Holland in trouble: riots in the seventeenth and eighteenth century] (Baarn 1982).

One of the most striking revolts in the Dutch Republic was the 1696 Aansprekersoproer, literally “The Undertaker’s Men Revolt”. You can find the occupation aanspreker among the occupations in the History of Work Information System of the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam. The city of Amsterdam had decided to lower the number of men working as an undertaker’s man from around 300 to 72. In order to win the favour of the poor the aansprekers launched the rumour that due to this new policy poor people would not get anymore a decent funeral. An indignant mob attacked the houses of burgomasters and other members of the city’s elite and killed several people. The city council immediately issued ordinances against the violence, but to no avail. The second day sailors joined the revolt. Only the third day a former burgomaster succeeded in calming the mob. Students of Utrecht University have created an interesting online presentation concerning the Amsterdam city government, this riot and the subsequent trial.

From more recent centuries, too, one can find several major riots. The most picturesque riot is probably the Palingoproer, the “Eel Revolt” of July 1886 in the Jordaan, a neighbourhood of Amsterdam. Pulling eels from a rope while standing on a boat in an Amsterdam canal was one of the few pastimes in a poor and squalid quarter of Amsterdam. Not that other Dutch cities were any cleaner. Auke van der Woude has chosen a most winning title for his latest study Koninkrijk vol sloppen. Achterbuurten en vuil in de negentiende eeuw [Kingdom of slums. Backstreets and rubbish in the nineteenth century] (Amsterdam 2010), a book in which you can smell the poverty that reigned in the slums of many cities. Pulling eels had been repeatedly forbidden, and police action against it seemed to be the trigger for protest. On the first night policemen used swords to get safely back to their headquarters. On the second day the army came into action with 26 victims as a result. The image database of the Amsterdam City Archives contains a number of contemporary photographs of the Lindengracht where this revolt happened. The Amsterdam City Archives have developed a very active policy of digitization on demand, and not only for this reason you should look at the services offered here. During the inquiries after these riots it proved impossible to detect agitation by anarchists.

The Jordaan, now a much-loved neighbourhood in Amsterdam, saw in 1917 a week called afterwards the Potato Revolt with nine casualties and over one hundred wounded people. In 1934 a protest in Amsterdam against a cut in the doles combined with a protest against the Dutch national-socialist party NSB. During this Jordaanoproer not only the Jordaan became the scene of a revolt, but other quarters of Amsterdam as well. With five dead people and more than fifty casualties this might seem a less violent revolt, but the Amsterdam police failed again to quench the revolt quickly.

Most recent in Dutch memory are the riots in Amsterdam on April 30, 1980, during the coronation of Queen Beatrix, and therefore called either the Coronation Riots or the Squatter’s Revolt. A substantial number of houses in the old city of Amsterdam had become illegally inhabited by groups of squatters. They announced a day of action as a protest against the Dutch housing shortage, and more specifically against the authorities which according to the squatters failed to act against speculation on the housing market. The very city heart of Amsterdam had been sealed off to ensure a smooth coronation, but elsewhere in the city centre a number of fierce battles were fought. A growing number of squadrons of a special police force, the Mobiele Eenheid, the “Mobile Units” was called upon to fight against the squatters. Due to inadequate communication these forces at first did not help much. Only late in the evening of April 30 the streets became quiet after a day with hundreds of casualties and severe damage to shops and other buildings. Afterwards the Coronation Riots were absolutely the main reason for the Dutch police to give the Mobile Units more training, to enhance communication and to revise police strategies against possible violence. Novelist A.F.Th. van der Heijden wrote in 1983 De slag om de Blauwbrug [The battle for the Blue Bridge], a short story about an episode during the Coronation Riots, which functions as the prologue to a series of novels by this author.

Only the Jordaan Riots of 1934 have been canonized in the Canon of Amsterdam. If you want to find more Dutch riots and upheavals mentioned in the current Dutch vogue for historical canons you can search for words like rellen, oproer or opstand at the Regiocanons website which presents a number of regional historical canons.

Riots in the United States

Surely one of the best documented events concerning a riot in the United States is the Haymarket Affair. In May 1886 a four-day labor protest in Chicago was met by a large police force. On May 1 and 2 things went uneventful, but in the evening of May 3 a bomb exploded amidst the policemen just as they had summoned people to clear the streets. One police officer was killed immediately, six others died later. The police responded with gunfire which wounded an unknown number of protesters. Afterwards the police arrested a number of anarchists. In the subsequent trial four defendants were sentenced to death. The trial became an international affair. In fact the remembrance of this protest created the international celebration of May 1 as Labor Day.

The Chicago Historical Society has created a digital collection on the Haymarket Affair, in which you will find all kinds of documents on the protest, the events of May 3 and the trial. At this site is also a so-called dramatization of the events, a narrative with the purpose to put the events into perspective. The Library of Congress presents in the digital collection of the American Memory both the documents digitized at Chicago, more documentation and a full transcript of the trial. Perhaps it is good to note the title of the collection at Washington, D.C.: Chicago Anarchists on Trial. Evidence from the Haymarket Affair, 1886-1887. The trial is of course present at the Famous Trials website of Douglas Linder, who specifies the title of the case, State of Illinois v. Albert Spies et al. Despite rumours about machinations by anarchists or social-democrats the investigations at the trial did not bring convincing evidence for this charge.

Linder mentions several other riots which resulted in epoch-making trials. The Boston Massacre in 1770 was one of the events leading to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Soldiers opened fire at unarmed citizens when they felt threatened by them. Five people died, many others were wounded. In his introduction to The Boston Massacre, a history with documents (New York, etc., 2010), a useful collection of documents on this event, Neil L. York does not fail to mention the paradox that what happened was not a massacre, but it surely had similar impact. The Carthage Conspiracy Trial has at its centre a mob killing Joseph Smith in Carthage, Illinois in 1844, just one man.

In fact this paragraph could easily be extended to mention much more riots and upheavals. The Villanova University in Philadelphia launched this month an online exhibit called Chaos in the Streets. The Philadelphia Riots of 1844 on the violence against Catholic and Irish people in May and July 1844. It is already interesting to note the time span of these riots. On the Anglo-American Legal Tradition website of the O’Quinn Law Library, University of Houston you will find for example materials among the Privy Council Miscellaneous Papers at the British National Archives concerning the Stamp Act Riots of 1765. The New York Draft Riots in July 1863 were probably the largest riot in American history. Protest against the conscription act enacted by Abraham Lincoln culminated in fierce riots after the publication of the names of draftees. The number of victims has been estimated between at least twenty to perhaps 2,000 people. In Making of America Books, a digital library at the University of Michigan, you can find a book by Joel Tyler Headley, The great riots of New York, 1712 to 1873,: including a full and complete account of the Four Days’ Draft Riot of 1863 (New York 1873). Its title clearly indicates the events in 1863 did not constitute the first riot in New York.

The American Civil War (1861-1865) forms the background of the 1863 riots, and puts them into a different perspective from riots during more peaceful times. It is hard to distinguish between a single riot and riotous days during or even starting a revolt or revolution. Therefore I have excluded riots during such periods from the sample of riots presented here. It is certainly not for a lack of riots in American history that I mention only a few. Slavery and racial tensions were just a few of the ingredients at hand and at stake in riots. By chance I spotted the Tulsa Race Riot in the night from May 31 to June 1, 1921, with an estimated number of deadly casualties between one hundred and three hundred in this Oklahoma town. The Tulsa Historical Society has created an online exhibit about this event.

Riots in the United Kingdom

Events in the United Kingdom pushed me to write about riots. The British people are no newcomers to such events. In 1381 the Peasants’ Revolt had been a nationwide upheaval. The study of riots by historians has been decisively influenced by Eric Hobsbawm, George Rudé and their book Captain Swing (New York 1968) on the farmer protests in 1830. Threshing machines were demolished, workhouses and tithe barns attacked. The actions were accompanied by letters written by a Captain Swing, an invented figure. No killings took place during the Swing Riots. The protests followed after two seasons of poor harvests. It has been argued that the 1830 riots were in the long way also the consequences of earlier enclosures which deprive poor farmers of a decent source of income.

Hobsbawm minted the term social banditism, a kind of bottom-up, grass-roots rebellious action against law and order. According to him the bandits gained a stronger social status by protesting violently against and breaking through the borders of society. As a medievalist I would think immediately of Robin Hood, and realize also that his romantic legend grew only in much later times. The studies by Hobsbawm and Rudé are still worth reading because of their scholarship, but inevitably they point also to the weakness of hypotheses about the causes of riots which favour just one reason or factor behind riots and revolts.

This post would become a bit tedious if I would continue to go from one case to another without sufficient reasons and explanation. However, in order not to let you suffer too much from the apparent lack of information here you had best turn to bibliographies and journals on legal history. Law, Crime and History is one of the journals you might start searching in for more. In the most recent issue (21/2 (2011)) of this e-journal you will find for example an article by David Cox on the Staffordshire Election riots in 1835. This journal is an offspring of the Solon project at Plymouth University. Checking for seminars and conferences concerning legal history at the website of the Institute of Historical Research is another thing to do. You will also consult with profit the bibliography of British and Irish legal history compiled at Aberystwyth University, alas only for publications between 1977 and 2005. If you use as a search term the word riot in the database of the proceedings of the Old Bailey for the period 1674-1913 you will find easily more than 400 cases. This website has an extensive bibliography. This fact, too, explains my hesitation to choose any example from these rich court records.

Violence and (legal) history

One blog post is not enough to tell more of the story of violence and its presence in legal history on the local, regional or national level. Here I have only tried to point you to some examples which came to my attention recently. Let’s finish this post with the remark that preparing this post and seeing the great variety in the form of these riots and upheavals, the wide spectrum of issues at stake, the different views on their causes and the very different stories these riots make, has helped me to become more sceptical of easy explanations. No doubt some easy explanations still figure in the presentation I give here of some events. The depth of explanation is probably inversely related to the number of examples given… Sometimes giving a taste of things to explore further is just as important as giving a seemingly complete story.

Expanding stories: a postscript

In order to make it more obvious how many revolts and rebellions can claim your attention a few examples which came to my notice in December 2011. It is only logical to make up here for the rather scarce information on riots in the United Kingdom, even more because the original impulse to write this post stems from the August riots in English towns earlier this year. In my post about the Centre for Legal History in Edinburgh I mentioned the digital collection of Jacobite prints and broadsides at the National Library of Scotland. In the section Historical News of the website of the Institute for Historical Research in London I found a notice about the digitization of the depositions after the Irish rebellion of 1641. Trinity College Dublin has recently launched a website with these depositions. If you search for riots on the website of the Institute of Historical Research you will be richly rewarded. One of the search results is the conference at Brighton from September 5 to 7, 2012 at Brighton on the theme Riot, Revolt, Revolution. To the selection of websites on British History which I made to make up for the relatively short treatment of events in the United Kingdom I would like to add History Online.

The Boston Massacre

The blog In Custodia Legis of the law librarians of the Library of Congress alerted me to documents at the Library of Congress concerning the role of John Adams in the aftermath of the Boston Massacre in 1770, and brought also a special website to my attention. A number of documents has been digitized, and you can find out more at the website of the Boston Massacre Historical Society.

Contemporary history

The riots after the death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, got world-wide attention. The Washington University in St. Louis, MO, has created the digital archive Documenting Ferguson. You can look also for example at a Ferguson research guide created by the University of Arizona and a similar guide from Michigan State University. This university has also put online a special guide concerning riots and trials touching upon African-American history, Outrageous Justice: Riots, Lynchings, False Accusations and Court Trials with numerous links to websites about trials and courts.

A new journal about legal history: Historia et Ius

A few months ago I included the Italian portal Storia del diritto medievale e moderno in my comparison of independent portals for legal history. This Italian portal was launched earlier this year, at the same as the new Dutch portal In fact I even announced the launch of both sites in a post.

This weekend the team behind the Italian site led by Paolo Alvazzi del Frate (Università Roma Tre) sent a message with a call for papers for a new e-journal, Historia et Ius. The new journal is integrated with the portal site: behind the button “Rivista” you will find Historia et Ius. The redaction invites in the call for papers – thoughtfully provided in Italian, French and English – authors to submit their contributions for the first issue due to be published on July 1, 2012 before February 29, 2012. Articles may be written in Italian, French, English, German or Spanish.

The quality of this new journal will not only depend on the weight of the board of editors and reviewers, but surely first and foremost on the quality of the contributions to be published. You can submit your papers to the e-mail address Tanti auguri per Historia et Ius!