Category Archives: Centers

Centers of legal history: Paris

Perhaps writing about historical research in Paris is bringing coals to Newcastle. Is there any real need for yet another attempt to bring information together? If you want to study France and French legal history you will be able to read French. If you are convinced French scholars have said all you would like to know, just skip this post, I will not feel offended… The Portail Numérique de l’Histoire du Droit and Paolo Alvazzi del Frate’s blog Storia giuridica francese-Histoire juridique française are two of the safest points of depart for any research into French legal history, but you will soon admit they do not focus in particular on institutions in Paris.

A month ago I could point in a post on French customary law to a useful guide to legal history online created by the Bibliothèque Cujas, and it is certainly wise to use it. For the legal history of medieval France you can start visiting Ménestrel, in particular for the great sections on auxiliary historical sciences, such as diplomatics, palaeography and sigillography which are each models of its kind, as is the section on cartularies. However, the section Histoire du droit contains only a few links, albeit with full commentaries, and a few book reviews. An earlier version of Ménestrel had a section on medieval canon law, but now there is only a paragraph on the ecumenical councils in the section on religious history. The section on France offers a useful overview of institutions, libraries, archives and museums relevant to French medieval history. In this post I will give slightly more attention to medieval history than to other periods. I hope this will not be an obstacle to seeing the core of this post, Paris as a center for doing legal history.

Centers for legal history

Where to start in Paris? In view of the high degree of centralization in France the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) has a claim to take the first place. Its Institut d’Histoire du Droit (IHD) is associated with the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris-II and the Centre Historique des Archives Nationales. This spring the IHD offers a seminar led by Isabelle Brancourt on the history of the French parlements, the regional high courts, and royal justice during the Ancien Régime in an European perspective. Isabelle Brancourt blogs regularly about her research on the Parlement de Paris. At its website the IHD offers access to a large number of databases, starting with the DRoits ANTiques bibliography on ancient law. Most databases are concerned with the French judiciary. The oldest records, registers from the archives of the Parlement de Paris, can be tracked down with the help of the Olim database, an index to the registers of verdicts of the royal court between 1254 and 1319. Similar indices are provided for the fourteenth and fifteenth century, for the parlement during its period at Poitiers (1418-1439) and Tours (1589-1592), and for the parlement criminel between 1311 and 1328. The edition by Auguste-Arthur Beugnot, Les Olim, ou registres des arrêts rendus par le Cour du Roi (…) (4 vol., Paris 1839-1848) can be consulted online at Gallica. At the Hathi Trust Digital Library you can find the volume edited by Edgard Boutaric, Arrêts et enquêtes antérieurs aux Olim, 1180-1254 (Paris 1863). The IHD has microfilms of relevant manuscripts and further materials concerning French royal jurisprudence, including a refined thesaurus for defining the character and subjects of cases, and a bibliography of publications concerning the Parlement de Paris.

A second centre at the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris-II is the Centre Sainte Barbe. This center is host to the Institut de Droit Romain and its famous series of Friday lectures during every winter and spring by scholars from all Europe. Its building house also a library, the Bibliothèque Sainte Barbe. More lectures, seminars and workshops in Paris are announced by the Société d’Histoire du Droit, also seated at the Place du Panthéon. Apart from the Bibliothèque nationale de France Paris can boast a number of important libraries. Legal historians will find much at the Bibliothèque Cujas of the Université Sorbonne Paris-I. This library maintains Jurisguide, a special site with online guides to many fields of law and jurisprudence, including legal history. Some books in its rich holdings have been digitized in its own digital library, with not only French publications but also editions for medieval canon law. The online exhibition on the bicentenary of the Code civil (1804-2004) amounts to a short introduction to French legal history. Among the Parisian centers devoted to the study of modern legal history is also the CERAL, the Centre de Recherche sur l’Action Locale of the Université Paris-XIII. Slavery and its history get attention at a CNRS institute, the Centre International de Recherches Esclavages. Criminocorpus, the platform for the study of the history of justice, crimes and punishments, is another major project in which CNRS, the Centre d’Histoire des Sciences Po, the Ministère de la Justice and the Archives nationales de l’outre-mer cooperate.

Medieval canon law

Medieval canon law is one of the areas of interest at the Centre Droit et Sociétés Religieuses of the Université Paris-XI, Faculté Jean Monnet. This center, too, has its own library. François Jankowiak is responsible for GREGORIUS, an international bibliography for the history of medieval canon law. Even at home you can benefit from their list of works on medieval canon law and medieval religious institutions digitized by Google Books or presented at Gallica. Both for the history of canon law and for modern ecclesiastical law the Institut Catholique de Paris has a special library, the Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Droit Canonique. Here it is appropriate to mention the Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris and the ongoing work for Gallia pontificia, the edition of medieval papal documents in France.

The old libraries and manuscripts

Let’s not forget the old libraries in Paris: the Bibliothèque Mazarine has rich holdings for the Ancien Régime. Among the digitized treasures is one of the mazarinades, the various texts from the turbulent period of the Fronde in which the policies of cardinal Mazarin were often criticized. The illuminated medieval manuscripts of this library and those of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève can be consulted at the Liber Floridus website. The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève has for the Fonds Général its own digital collection in the Internet Archive. For the Réserve there is a digitization plan for the incunables, and La Nordique, the Scandinavian department, deserves at the very least a mentioning for its 160,000 books. Speaking of manuscripts, the Bibliothèque nationale de France has its own special website for searching manuscripts, which also covers the former Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Your research for manuscripts in Paris can be reinforced by the search functions of the Catalogue collectif de France. Calames, the collective manuscript catalogue of French institutions for higher education, searches for manuscripts in eighteen (!) other Parisian libraries.

Archival records

The French national archives are busy building a third center at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. The importance of these archival collections is beyond question. The ARCHIM database of the Archives nationales contains a wealth of digitized archival records. A few examples will have to suffice, such as the records of the 1307 interrogation concerning the Templars (J 413, no. 18) and registers of the French royal chancellary during the thirteenth and fourteenth century, a small set of key documents concerning the French Revolution and constitutions from 1791 to 1958. You will soon see that many of the sources mentioned for example in the online database guide to the history of slavery and its abolition are to be found at the Archives nationales. The municipal archives of Paris are certainly as interesting. It is not possible to make a short list of the many judicial archives of this city, including the records of several prisons. Among their digitized sources are the pre-1860 cadastral plans of Paris and annexated comunes.

Other research institutions

Approaching the great institutes for historical research means again posing the question of priority: with which institute should you begin? Fortunately legal history, and more specifically institutional history and the auxiliary historical sciences have been at the heart of the École nationale de Chartes (ENC) since its start in 1821. The ENC has been the model for institutes of its kind in Europe. The ENC, too, has an important library, with its own small digital library. Almost embarrassing is the series of websites with digitized sources: the ELEC presents such things as eight digitized cartularies from the Île-de-France, accounts of the consuls of Montferrand, a bibliography of studies on French diplomatics, a formulary book for notaries from the fifteenth century, the Edict of Nantes and earlier pacification edicts, and charters of the royal abbey of Saint-Denis. The digitized version of Ducange’s Glossarium infimae et medii latinitatis rightfully has its own website. Through the TELMA website you can gain access to actes royaux, the Cartulaire de Nesle, to CartulR, an online repertory of medieval cartularies, to editions of charters dating before 1121 in French collections, enquêtes of the last Capetian kings, and to ordinances concerning the Hôtel du Roi. In 1839 the ENC founded one of France’s oldest historical journals, the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes. Old issues of this journal can be consulted online at Persée.

The École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) is home to a large number of équipes of which at least some do touch upon legal history. I would single out GAHOM, the Groupe d’anthropologie historique de l’Occident Médiéval, founded in 1978 by Jacques Le Goff and led by Jean-Claude Schmitt since 1992. Human behavior in historical context is the research subject of this équipe, which has for instance studied medieval exempla for the perspectives these texts offer on exemplary behavior, and more implicitly about do’s and don’ts.

From GAHOM stems GAS, the Groupe d’anthropologie scolastique. A seminar on ecclesiology and politics has just been held, another seminar on concepts of hierarchy runs until April. Two members of this équipe, Charles de Miramon and Maaike van der Lugt edited an essay volume, L’hérédité entre Moyen Âge et Époque moderne. Perspectives historiques (Florence 2008), with contributions on hereditary law and heredity in its widest sense. Building on the pioneer research of Palémon Glorieux this research group has developed a database for searching theological quodlibeta from Paris in the period 1230-1350. After subscribing to Quodlibase you can find not only theological debates, but also some questions about legal problems. Norms and values and their development in time are the central themes of the well known Centre d’études des normes juridiques “Yan Thomas”. This centre regularly invites legal historians. Among the projects for databases and research tools at the Centre des Recherches Historiques of the EHESS one finds a project on the “Ars Mercatoria”, books on commerce and commercial law between 1700 and 1820, and a project on legal books in print from the fifteenth to the eigtheenth century.

Formally part of the École Normale Supérieure, but also a research group of the EHESS is the Atelier Simiand. One of its research themes are law and economic history. In the field of history the ENS cooperates with the ENC, and let’s not forget the libraries of the ENS: the Bibliothèque Jourdan-Sciences humaines et sociales and the Bibliothèque Ulm-Lettres et Sciences Humaines are worth noting. As an historian I have to mention the ENS’s Institut d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine. Among the online services is the bibliography of French history to 1958 and a bibliography of scientific works printed in Rome between 1527 and 1720. One of the projects is concerned with an edition of letters from the Archivo Datini in Prato. Seeing among the online exhibitions of the ENS an exhibition from 2006 on the Dreyfus affair, “Savoir et engagement”, reminds me of another very well documented online exhibition concerning Dreyfus – “1906 Dreyfus réhabilité” – created by which can be consulted in English, too.

Some breathing space…

The cornucopia of Paris has more in stock! Let’s notice halfway that I am very much aware that you can find more information in printed guides to resources for historical research in Paris. A quick check tells me most of them restricted themselves to clearly defined areas and periods, for example David Spear’s article ‘Research facilities in Normandy and Paris: a guide for students of medieval Norman history’, Comitatus 12 (1981) 40-53. If you use the World Guide to Libraries you will find perhaps too much, and on a site like Libdex not enough, at least not for Paris. Steering a middle course on the oceans of knowledge calls to mind a lot of famous quotes, including last words, and I had better wait until the end of this post before unveiling my choice.

…and continuing

With the Liber Floridus and TELMA websites we encountered in fact already the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT). The services for medievalists of this institute in Paris and Orleans are manifold. Manuscript studies are not really feasible without the IRHT. The scholars of the IRHT and their online databases support this field of research. For legal historians the Base Budé for the transmission of ancient and medieval texts, the Pinakes database of texts and manuscripts in Greek, and the JONAS database for texts in medieval French and Occitan deserve highlighting. The JONAS database gives for example information about manuscripts and studies on Philippe de Beaumanoir and his Coutumes de Beuavaisis.

For the French Revolution Paris has a special institute, the Institut d’Histoire de la Révolution Française. Anyone working on this epoch will benefit from the resources of this institute. On the website I would like you to enjoy in particular their excellent list of digital image collections. Approaching modern times it warms me to read that the library of the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris was created also with a view to the needs of the GAHOM research group. Even when law and its history is not often the focus of the MSH its research themes do bear upon them, and they offer welcome orientation. The Parisian branches – there is also a MSH Paris Nord – are part of a nation wide network of MSH’s. I was rather surprised by the library of the Cité des Sciences, one of the major late twenthieth century cultural institutions created by presidential order. Among the plethora of collections and activities is Scientifica, an interesting digital library of the Bibliothèque des Sciences et de l’Industrie, with nineteenth century books on themes such as social hygiene, mental health and phrenology, themes which were very much in the minds of lawyers in this period, too.

Au revoir!

Let’s not overdo things and stop the tour of libraries, research institutes and digital collections in Paris. I will not put everything in just one post. No epigraphy or Byzantine law, nothing on Akkadian and Egyptian law, only a few things touching politics and administration, and no museums, I have to face it. Memories of Joyce Pennings’ Wegwijzer middeleeuwse studiën te Rome (Rijswijk 1987), a guide to medieval studies in Rome, came back when writing this nutshell guide on Paris. It is a long way to repeat her achievement. Where to find more? I hope the impromptu set of links collections with which I will end here will function as a kind of preview of more things in Paris to discover and discuss:

I owe you a few of the quotes that have inspired me during the composition of this post: the first is Attempto, “I try”, the motto of the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, and the second a quote from Hugh of Saint-Victor’s Didascalicon, not by chance to be found at the website of GAHOM: Disce omnia, videbis postea nihil superfluum esse. Coartata scientia iucunda non est, “Learn everything, and you will see later that nothing is superfluous. Restricted knowledge is not agreeable”. Not everything is available in Paris: the Bibliographie d’histoire du droit en langue française is maintained by the Centre Lorrain d’Histoire du Droit. In the middle of the great wealth and variety of libraries which adorn Paris it is good to see the ENS library at the rue d’Ulm partners with the university library at Port-au-Prince in Bibliothèques sans Frontières (Libraries without Frontiers) to rebuild Haitian libraries.

A postscript

A fairly recent and most interesting guide for historical research in Paris can be consulted online: Aude Argouse and Mona Huerta, ‘Guide du chercheur américaniste: l’Amérique latine dans les bibliothèques et centres d’archives de Paris et d’Île-de-France’, Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos 2009. This journal offers every year a number of similar guides in its section Guía del investigador americanista, for example for Madrid, Amsterdam, the Archivo General de Indias, Berlin, London, Oxford and Philadelphia.

A second postscript

In 2012 I devoted an entire post to one of the libraries mentioned here, the Bibliothèque Mazarine. In this post I focused particular on the mazarinades, seventeenth-century pamphlets concerning the policies of cardinal Mazarin.

Centuries of law in Normandy

The classic French legal historiography makes a wonderful neat and crisp distinction between two kinds of law prevailing in a large part of France. Either the droit écrit, written law in the particular sense of learned medieval law, or the droit coutumier, customary law, dominated one or more regions. Within the pays de droit coutumier the customary law of a particular region could influence other regions as well, and this is the case also for commentaries on and collections of the coutumes of a region. Perhaps the best known example are the Coutumes de Beauvaisis by Phillippe de Beaumanoir, edited by Amédée Salmon (2 vol., Paris 1899-1900; reprint Paris 1970). I noticed an announcement for a conference celebrating the eleventh centenary of the law in Normandy at Cerisy-La-Salle from May 25 to 29, 2011, and the bibliographical information provided there stimulated me to look further into Norman and Anglo-Norman law in medieval and modern times.

In Custodia Legis, the blog of the law librarians of the Library of Congress, published on January 18, 2011 a post by Meredith Shedd-Driskel on ‘Coutumes of France in the Law Library of Congress‘. This post has as its central point a beautifully illuminated manuscript of the Grand Coutumier de Normandie. The seven large historiated initials shown in this post make you longing for more. Seeing only one other page and the book’s cover does not make up for the fact that I had expected more, beginning with a complete digital version of this manuscript. Last year for example the Library of Congress published a substantial digital collection of their old books on piracy and documents about piracy trials, which induced me to write a post about pirates. The Library of Congress kindly informed me that they have not planned to digitize this manuscript. On French coutumes this library has published a book by Jean Caswell and Ivan Sipkov, The coutumes of France in the Library of Congress: an annotated bibliography (Washington, D.C., 1977; reprint Clark, N.J., 2006). Used together with André Gouron and Odile Terrin, Bibliographie des coutumes de France. Éditions antérieures à la Révolution (Geneva 1975) one can start further research.

Medieval manuscripts concerning the law of Normandy

In this post I will try to put the fifteenth century manuscript at Washington, D.C., in the context of other manuscripts and editions of the Grand Coutumier de Normandie as far as they can be consulted online. At least one manuscript has been digitized completely. The manuscript at Harvard University (Harvard Law School, Ms. 91) is written about 1300 and is less lavishly illustrated than the manuscript in Washington. The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, has two manuscripts of the Grand Coutumier de Normandie, HM 1343 in Latin from the first half of the fourteenth century with some illuminated pages, and HM 25862 with the French text from the second half of the fourteenth century. Ernest-Joseph Tardif discussed in his work Coutumiers de Normandie: textes critiques (2 vol. in 3 parts, Rouen-Paris 1881-1903; reprint Geneva 1977) the various versions of the text and edited them. His book is available online at Gallica.

Several manuscripts with the Coutumes de Normandie are illuminated. Most manuscripts are held by libraries, but some are kept at archives, such as the manuscript Rouen, Archives Départementales de Seine-Maritime, ms. 10. The Enluminures website brings you to three illuminated manuscripts held in French municipal libraries (Cherbourg, BM, 13 and 17, and Rouen, BM, 877). How to find more manuscripts in a quick way? Do portals bring you as much as you would like them to do? The Europeana portal brought me to just one manuscript, Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, Duteil 95, of which one can admire four illuminated pages at their website. CERL, the Consortium of European Research Libraries, has created a portal for searching manuscripts and early printed books until 1830; the search for printed books is mainly in a number of national bibliographies. It brings me through Calames to the manuscripts Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, 1743 and 2995. Checking on the Liberfloridus website for the illuminated manuscripts of both this library and the Bibliothèque Mazarine yielded no results. The Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen has two manuscripts, NKS 688 oktav and Thott 1012 kvart. Searching in the REX database of this library eventually ends with a third manuscript, Thott 303 oktav, with the Latin version.

More manuscripts in French libraries can be found using a more usual website, the Catalogue collectif de France. I will not list all these manuscripts, but only stress the need to use multiple search terms. When you look for coutumier and Normandie you will find here twelve manuscripts, searching with coutume and Normandie gives you fifty results, including later commentaries and collections of ârrets, the verdicts of the Parlement de Rouen. If you are not aware of the Latin version you would miss it completely. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), Arsenal 804, called Summa de legibus Normannie (sic), and Rouen, BM, 818, Jura et statuta Normannie, are among the few manuscripts with the Latin version.

I could scarcely have made more clear the importance of not only using online catalogues, but also checking the printed versions and the often very detailed indices of manuscript catalogues. In the field of medieval canon and Roman law Gero Dolezalek has put on the website of the Leipzig law faculty alongside his information on medieval legal manuscripts also an extremely rich, fully commented and updated collection of links to online information about medieval manuscripts. The fine list on online resources by Bob Peckham (University of Tennessee at Martin), the impressive list of manuscript links compiled at the Kungliga biblioteket in Stockholm, and the marvellous gateway to manuscript studies of the Senate House Library, University College London, however useful for its purpose, lack such comments. The very least you should do for the manuscripts in Paris is to check also the online manuscript catalogue of the BnF. It is not wise nor really feasible to present in a simple blog post a complete list of medieval – and later – manuscripts with the different versions of the Coutumier de Normandie, including the rhymed versions and collections of maximes. In the bibliography at the University of Heidelberg created for the online version of the Dictionnaire Étymologique de l’Ancien Français you can find in a nutshell a bibliography of the Coutumier de Normandie and other French coutumes, including manuscripts and main editions of the most important versions.

Printed books and the history of the Coutumier de Normandie

Creating such an overview is not just a question of careful using manuscript catalogues, but of research in the existing literature about this text. Let’s turn to digitized books with the Coutume de Normandie or comments on it. The Jacob Burns Law Library of the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., recently acquired a copy of the first edition, an incunable from 1483. In the Spring 2010 issue of their news bulletin A Legal Miscellanea you can find a short, clear and substantial introduction to this and other early editions, besides a good sketch of the importance and role of Norman customary law. Finding this first edition in the online version of the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke (GW) was not easy, because somehow searching for coutumier or coutumes did not work. With the other main search website for incunabula in Germany, the INKA catalogue of the University of Tübingen, it becomes clear this edition is present in the GW with number M43587, where luckily a link is given to a digitized version at Troyes. In the online version of the Gesamtkatalog all editions of municipal and regional statutes, statutes of religious orders and synodal statutes, are filed under the headings Statuta civitatum, Statuta ordinum, Statuta synodalia and Statuta regnorum. Seven incunable editions exist for the Coutumes de Normandie. Legal historians should consult with profit the many digitized versions of incunable editions of medieval statutes indicated in the GW.

Visiting a relatively small number of digital libraries brings you to digitized editions of the Grand Coutumier de Normandie. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich has several editions, to be found using the OPACplus database. Among important editions it is good to remember the first edition of Le grand coutumier de France (Paris 1539) with the gloss of Guillaume Le Rouillé. At the moment of writing the OPACplus is not working completely as it did. In Paris Gallica has for instance digitized Le grand coustumier du pays et duché de Normandie (Rouen 1515), and not only Tardif’s modern edition, but also another edition of the Latin version, Summa de legibus Normanniae in curia laicali ou Coutumier latin de Normandie (Rennes 1896).

The Fontes Historiae Iuris portal at Lille brings together two editions of the Norman customary law, Pierre de Merville’s La coutume de Normandie reduit en maximes (..) (Paris 1707) and L’ancienne coutume de Normandie (Jersey 1881) by William Laurence de Gruchy, recently reprinted and expanded with an English translation  by Judith Ann Everard (Saint Helier 2009). At Lille you find also easily the links to commentaries by Berault (1612), Routier (1748), Le Royer de Tournerie (1778), and also the remarkable Dictionnaire analytique, historique, etymologique, critique et interpretatif de la coutume de Normandie by Daniel Houard (4 vol., Rouen 1780-1782). The Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas at Austin has a small but remarkable online exhibition on the history of legal dictionaries, featuring also Houard. At the Hathi Trust digital library you can find his Traités sur les coutumes anglo-normandes (4 vol., Rouen 1776). In this digital library you find also the edition by A.J. Marnier of the ârrets present in a number of manuscripts, Établissements et coutumes, assises et arrêts de l’échiquier de Normandie, au treiziéme siècle (1207 à 1245) (Paris 1839). Let’s not forget to put the law of Normandy in the perspective of the droit coutumier at large. The Centre Lorrain d’Histoire du Droit has put the four volumes of Charles Bourdot de Richebourg’s Nouveau Coutumier General (…) de France (Paris 1724) online. The center at Nancy, too, maintains the Bibliographie d’histoire du droit en langue française, no laurels needed.

The legacy of Normandy’s law

The medieval customary law of Normandy is still living law on the Channel Islands, especially on Jersey. Willem Zwalve wrote about the use of the old Norman customary law in a case at Jersey from 2001, ‘Snell vs. Beadle. The Privy Council on Roman law, Norman customary law and the ius commune‘, in: “Viva vox iuris romani”: Essays in honour of Johannes Emil Spruit, L. de Ligt (ed.) (Amsterdam 2002) 379-386, available online at the digital repository of the University of Leiden. For Jersey the study by Charles Sydney Le Gros, Traité du droit coutumier de l’île de Jersey (Jersey 1943; reprint Saint Helier 2007) has a position somewhat akin to that of works stemming from the Romano-Dutch tradition in South-Africa. At Guernsey lawyers do look for time to time to the Coutumes des bailliage, duché et prévôté d’Orléans et ressort d’iceux by Robert Joseph Pothier (Paris 1740 and later editions). The edition Paris 1780 has been digitized at Gallica. His Traité des obligations (1761) and other treatises were destined to influence the creation of the Code civil, and it is remarkable that this earlier work, too, still has its area of influence.

Large parts of the digitized French cultural heritage can be found using the Patrimoine numérique website. I looked at institutions in Normandy. Normannia is Normandy’s digital library. The Patrimoine site mentions it, but the URL of the website is lacking. As for now I could find for the field of legal history just a few things. Using the rather limited search functionality – just lists ordered by date, author and title – I did only find a small book from 1786 called Recherches historiques sur les droits de la province de Normandie and some Caen guild statutes from 1679, both OCR scanned. The Bibliothèque municipale of Caen has digitized books, but these can only be consulted on spot, and I could not reach the website. A list at Bibliopedia offers you a handy selection of French digital libraries. The municipal library of Rouen has a database with selected images, also from manuscripts. For searching literature on Normandy the Catalogue Collectif Normand can help you, as does the earlier Bibliographie Normande in the journal Annales de Normandie. Les Normands, peuples d’Europe is a portal at Caen. Dipouest is a database at the Université Rennes-2  for searching articles on the history of Ouest-France in scientific journals.

Of course I am aware that much more can be said. Just one example: the libraries of Yale and Harvard, too, have rich holdings for the history of French customary law. It has been a tour d’horizon of Normandy. If you really want to look further into French legal history you might as well have a look at the recent guide to histoire du droit en ligne created for the Jurisguide website of the Université Paris-I by Isabelle Fructus of the Bibliothèque Cujas. At the website of this library you can still visit the online exhibit on the bicentenary of the Code civil (1804-2004) which has a generous section on earlier French law, including the various coutumes.

A postscript

In November 2011 Harvard Law School announced the acquisition and digitalization of a newly found medieval manuscript of the Summa de legibus Normannie. Charles Donahue Jr. comments on the manuscript with the sigle HLS MS 220.

A guide to researching coutumes

Only belatedly I noticed the short guide to the official redaction and reform in the sixteenth century of French coutumes provided in 2009 by Isabelle Brancourt, a scholar blogging about her research on the Parlement de Paris in the eigtheenth century. She notes the bibliography by Martine Grinbert on this process of redaction, Ecrire les coutumes. Les droits seigneuriaux en France (Paris 2006).

Bibliographical information and links

Even though this is another late addition, mentioning the website of the journal Tabularia edited at the Université de Caen is useful. You will find not only digitized issues of this journal, but also a yearly bibliographical chronicle and more relevant links for the history of Normandy. The Université de Rouen has started the project Bibliothèque David Hoüard: bibliothèque numérique de droit normand with digitized works from the sixteenth century onwards on customary law in Normandy. At the website of the Université de Caen linguists have created under the title Français légal ancien de Normandie digital versions of a number of old legal texts from Normandy.

Seven days

How long is a week when you are trying to repair as soon as possible your website after a breakdown? The seven days since last week’s disastrous attempt at upgrading felt awkward indeed. And not having any experience with such a prolonged period of virtual absence made these days feel really long. If you have tried several times to visit you might have guessed that other tasks confronted me last week, too. I could not have chosen a much worse moment for my maintenance activities. My humble apologies for this major interruption of service.

Perhaps you will notice a few small changes. There are minor issues with which I will deal later. One of the things I noticed during my attempts at solving the problems was that some links need updating, surely the most common work on any website. I would like to mention the new web address of the website of the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main, . You will like to change the main bookmark, and you can add to the bookmarks the new Virtueller Raum Reichsrecht, a collection of digitized sources concerning the law governing the central institutions of the Holy Roman Empire, with its own Wikipedia companion site on technical matters behind this project.

As for my website, back-ups have been made, its structure is now fully documented, and the pros and contras of upgrading have been compared. Back to normal life!

Centers of legal history: Leiden

A fortnight ago I wrote about Ferdinand Grapperhaus, the deceased Leiden specialist of the history of taxation. At the very moment that I would like to write about Leiden as a center of legal history another scholar from its university has died, Pieter Willem Pestman. Today Gregg Schwendner, the creator of the blog What’s New in Papyrology, notes the obituary and bibliography on the website of the Leids Papyrologisch Instituut. No doubt this obituary will be translated into English.

Teaching and research at the Leiden department for legal history has three general focuses, the history of Roman law, European private law and European public law. However, some more specific themes are forever associated with research by scholars from Leiden. Eduard Maurits Meijers (1880-1954) is famous as the scholar who almost single handed started modern research into the legal doctrines developed at the medieval university of Orleans. His personal library included many early printed books and manuscripts. For many years the department was housed at the Gravensteen, the former county and city prison. Meijers’ books were kept separately in a special room. Nowadays these books and his collection of manuscripts are kept at Leiden University Library. Mentioning medieval legal manuscripts and Leiden must include the yearly Friday privatissimum, the special seminar in which palaeographers and legal historians decipher and study together medieval manuscripts with juridical texts.

The Gravensteen, Leiden

Not just medieval law is studied at Leiden. Hugo Grotius gets deservedly attention as one of the most distinguished scholars of the Dutch Golden Age, and not just from the viewpoint of Dutch legal history. A juridical court, the Great Council of Malines, has been the focus of a project which touched both learned law and institutional history. Many sources for Dutch legal history have been studied and edited by scholars from Leiden. And how can one write about legal history at Leiden without due reference to the ongoing research into the history and the influence of Roman law? You do not have to agree with the idea that Roman law can immediately contribute to the creation of modern European supranational law in a kind of renewal of the 19th century Pandektistik, but you cannot ignore Roman law if you study for instance the new Dutch Burgerlijk Wetboek which shows more influence from Roman law than Meijers, initially charged with the drawing of this new code of civil law, had in mind.

It is difficult for me not to expand all this information or just to mention more legal historians, for example those who studied at Leiden and now work elsewhere. One should of course refer to the Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis. Today one has to remember those scholars no longer with us. However, let me at least thank legal historians working or trained at Leiden for all encouragements, constructive criticism and kind help given since many years to me and many others.

See for an interview with Pieter Willem Pestman the article by Boudewijn Sirks and Bernard Stolte, ‘ Piet Pestman: interview met een papyroloog tussen mens en recht in het oude Egypte’, in: Prominenten kijken om. Achttien rechtsgeleerden uit de Lage Landen over leven, werk en recht, Theo Veen et alii (edd.) (Hilversum 2004 (= Pro Memorie 6 (2004)) 347-359. Leiden University has published a bibliography of Pestman’s publications (PDF).

Centers of legal history: the Robbins Collection

First of all an apology: I have been just too busy this month with other activities and duties, including work on my new website, to publish new posts on this blog. Today’s post might offer you some solace…

The Robbins Collection

Perhaps you know already about the Robbins Collection at Boalt Hall, the library for legal history of the University of California at Berkeley. This library started in 1952. In 1970 Stephan Kuttner, the founder of the Institute of Medieval Canon Law, now in Munich, became its director. The Robbins Collection with over 300,000 volumes is not just one collection, it brings together collections on civil law, religious law and comparative law. One of its strengths is the collection of European law books from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. In the field of religious law you will find not only works on canon law, the law system of the Catholic church, but also on Jewish and Islamic law. The Robbins Collection offered from 1970 a fitting surrounding for David Daube, the most versatile scholar of legal history of his generation. For Daube no boundaries existed between research on history, law systems and religions: the essays in the commemorative issue from 2004 of the online journal Roman Legal Tradition will give you some idea of the sheer width of Daube’s research. The Robbins Collection has its own publication series in which the collected articles of Daube have been published. On the website of the library you get an impression of some of the books in the rich collections: there are online exhibitions on The Medieval Law School and The Roman-Dutch Legal Tradition; you can also consult the manuscript and incunables catalogue online. Manuscripts from the collections can be seen on the Digital Scriptorium, a website originally at Berkeley but recently moved to Columbia University, New York. The Robbins Collection organizes regularly conferences and lectures on legal history.

An addendum: thanks to Mike Widener (Yale University) I was alerted to another online exhibition at the website of the Robbins Collection, called Milestones in Legal Culture and Traditions which offers a general introduction to the various collections at Boalt Hall. It seems now I had simply overlooked the general link to the exhibits on the Robbins Collection website. A fourth exhibit from 2008 was held on Famous Trials and their Legacies. A fifth exhibit from 2012 presents California’s Legal Heritage, with links to digitized books.

After a period in which these exhibits seemed to have disappeared they resurfaced again in 2018. The manuscripts catalogue is now available as a searchable database.

Centers of legal history: the Munich IMCL

Deciding to post a series on centers for legal history was an easy decision, and choosing the first centers to write on was not difficult, too. In 1997-1998 I worked at the Stephan-Kuttner-Institute of Medieval Canon Law in Munich. The center is named after its founder, Stephan Kuttner (1907-1996). Kuttner started his institute in 1955 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. When he moved to Yale University in 1964 and again to Berkeley in 1970, the institute followed. The institute houses a great variety of materials: some 3,000 books on medieval canon law and legal history, hundreds of microfilms of medieval manuscripts, a dazzling correspondence with scholars from all over the world, and thousands of offprints of articles sent to him by scholars as a sign of his position in the scientific world. The library catalogue can be consulted online, and also the database for the papal decretals of the twelfth century. And how could one forget the series of text editions, the quadrennial congresses, and the Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law? When you realize that you find on a walking distance apart from the IMCL, now affiliated to the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte, also the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and the Grabmann-Institut for the history of medieval theology, one can imagine the possibilities at Munich for doing research for medieval history and law.

The IMCL is supported by ICMAC, the Iuris Canonici Medii Aevi Consociatio or International Society of Medieval Canon Law has since February 2010 its own website at the University of Toronto.  Among the information presented you will find the digital version of the news bulletin Novellae. The design of the new website is graced by an image taken from the Utrecht Psalter.

A postscript

In 2013 the library of the IMCL has returned to the United States. Its new home is the Lillian Goldman Law Library of Yale University in New Haven, CT. The institute will move to Yale in 2015.

Centers of legal history: the Frankfurt MPI

Sooner or later you will notice in the field of legal history the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte at Frankfurt am Main. The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft is for most scientists and scholars a German institution known for institutes devoted to fields like molecular biology, but there exists MPI’s – the common abbreviation – for art history, the history of science, and for European legal history, too. The Frankfurt MPI is the home of a very well equipped library for its field. Its digital library offers many things, apart from the very detailed catalogue which yields more details than your average library catalogue. The Virtual Reading Room contains German books on civil law from the nineteenth century, a most important period for German law, and scores of law journals from this period. Many thousand old dissertations from the German Reich have been digitized. Of its own publications one can consult and download all issues of Ius Commune (1967-2001), and this is not the only journal published at Frankfurt: Rg-Rechtsgeschichte is the newest. Add to all riches (for example, the microfilms of manuscripts for both medieval and Byzantine law) of course a well organized and very useful link selection, and you will either visit often their web site or consider visiting Frankfurt.

In my post Revisiting Frankfurt am Main (September 2012) you will find a much more detailed and uptodate portrait of this institute.