Category Archives: Manuscripts

New ways to medieval city registers

Screenprint Stadtbücher

How do you get the larger picture? Almost with a sigh we often long to see wide vistas, yet at the same time we want to zoom in while looking at a panorama of particular things. In this post I will look both at a repertory of particular sources, medieval and Early Modern city registers, for one country, Germany, and at an attempt to create a similar overview for medieval Europe. Last week I was alerted to the project for Germany, but this week I noticed also the project for a wider overview, and comparing the two projects is the most natural thing to do.

Efforts in Germany

The German project for Deutsche Stadtbücher has a subtitle in Latin, Index Librorum Civitatum. On closer inspection this portal can indeed be viewed in German, English and Latin. As for now the Latin is restricted to the headings of fields and filters. The project is the fruit of cooperation between the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the history department at the Universität Halle-Wittenberg and the Cologne Center for eHumanities (CCEH). The portal offers four main entrances to search: cities, city registers, literature and archives. The word Archives stands here for holding institutions, not only archives, but also libraries. You can also use a free text field search. It is possible to search only for digitized registers, too. An extra is offered in the expert search mode, and you can also use an interactive map. This map can be used with some filters, but it seems a number of them is not yet active. However, you can go to a second interactive map, the DARIAH-Geobrowser which enables you to filter for periods and series of Stadtbücher. The loading of the results takes some time… On the main map you can select other countries as well. The database has for example currently entries for two Dutch cities, Kampen and Groningen. It is great to have bibliographies for many cities.

City registers or municipal registers is a very broad term. The strength of this project is certainly the creation of eleven categories, ten categories with in four categories attention for those registers most dear to legal historians, court registers, statutes and bylaws, council registers, and the classic registers for acts and charters (cartularies). In the eleventh category you will find everything which does not clearly fit into one of the other categories.

In such a vast project, spanning five centuries, you will find inevitably aspects which are either exhaustively or rather sparingly covered. Project leader Christoph Speer explains at his staff web page that for some Bundesländer he could build on the work of Reinhard Kluge in the former DDR for 450 cities with 70,000 registers, and he refers to a number of publications about the project and German city registers.

Getting a larger view

In 2014 wrote here about a number of projects for the digitization of Dutch and Flemish city registers, in particular court registers and council deliberations. I discussed projects for Leuven, Liège, and ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc). I briefly mentioned some maritime registers at Amsterdam and a project for medieval charters in Tilburg. The Leuven project Itinera Nova is supported by the municipal archive and the Universität Köln. Especially when I looked at the map of the Stadtbücher project in which a center of this university is one of the main partners I wondered for a few moments why Leuven is not mentioned, but it is better to look first of all within the limits set for the Stadtbücher project.

Having within your reach a good and consistent repertory for one country is a fine thing, but often we set out to search for a digital version of one particular source, instead of going first to a relevant repertory. In this context it is perhaps a blessing in disguise that until recently I had not found many digitized medieval municipal registers. I had noticed a French project, Le Petit Thalamus de Montpellier, and a Scottish project, Law in the Aberdeen council registers, 1389-1511. In my 2015 post about portals for medieval history I mentioned briefly the section Paris médiéval at Ménestrel with much attention to legal documents. By the way, similar section at Ménestrel for Lissabon is promising, but has not yet reached this level.

However, very recently I encountered the project Registres des déliberations municipales au Moyen-Âge: La voix des assemblées [REGIDEL], a project concerning cities in Southern France led by the Telemme laboratory at Aix-en-Provence. On November 24, 2017 the symposium Enregistrer les conflits. Pratiques délibératives et scripturales des conseils urbains en temps de crise (XIIIe-XVe siècles, Europe méridionale) [To note conflicts. Practices of deliberation and scriptural practice in urban councils in times of crises,13th-15th centuries, in Southern Europe] took place. The project blog contains articles about cities such as Turin, Toulouse, Digne and cities in the Emilia-Romagna, in particular for Bologna.

A companion to the REGIDEL project has got its own acronym, MUAR, for Medieval Urban Assembly Records, nothing less than a projected repertory for urban council records in medieval Europe. Like REGIDEL it is currently a blog at the Hypotheses platform. The website aims at becoming an archival and biographical repertory of municipal registers, with a focus on council registers, covering the period from the late twelfth to the early sixteenth century. The interface is in English, French and Italian. Currently there are sections reserved for France, Italy, the Iberian peninsula, the German empire, Britain and Ireland, the Low Countries and other countries. The striking feature here is the wish to classify cities in one region. For a moment I thought the team behind MUAR had fallen into the trap of placing cities in regions which successively were ruled by different rulers, but they mean current regions, for France even the départements.

When I checked the various headings I found partially the same cities as mentioned above for REGIDEL. For Italy you can find Perugia, San Gimignano, Bologna, Reggio Emilia and L’Aquila. Orvieto is the most recent addition, but it has not yet been included in the section for Italy. Most links in this post are internal references. So far Marseille is the only French town in MUAR. All other sections are under construction. For each town a timeline of important events is provided. I decided to check the page for Bologna, a town which figure here in a number of posts, for examples concerning Italian city statutes and municipal ordinances. In one post I portrayed Bologna also as a center of legal history when discussing two projects in Bologna for the digitization of medieval legal manuscripts. In this post I mentioned for the Archivio di Stato di Bologna the digital version of the Estimi di Bologna di 1296-97, records estimating the properties of Bolognese citizens, and the Liber Paradisus, a register about the liberation of nearly six thousand slaves at Bologna in 1257. The MUAR project does mention the critical edition of the Liber Paradisus by F.S. Gatta and G. Plessi, Liber paradisus. Con le riformagioni e gli statuti connessi (Bologna 1956), but not the digital version. The Estimi do not figure at all, nor the digitized Registro grosso (1116-1380) and the Registro nuovo. It is tempting to say the team at MUAR has not yet realized how daunting their objective is, but we can read the notice telling the team is looking for scholars willing to cooperate with them. In view of the German project it seems wise they change from a blog to an online database to enhance search possibilities.

For Italy one can benefit from the Scrineum project of the universities of Pavia and Verona, and more specifically from the Atlante della documentazione comunale italiana (secoli XII-XIV). This Atlante certainly does not cover all Italian towns, but you can find entries for cities such as Genua, Asti, Vercelli, and in particular for Florence. Scrineum provides you with background essays about notaries and libri iurium, and with essays on types of municipal legislation, with text examples from Genua and Florence. Is it safe to assume that there are various groups of historians dealing with legal documents in medieval Italian towns, and that every group has a particular focus? Instead of taking you with me through all kind of resources I had better translate words of Paolo Cammarosano: “As for municipal libri iurium for which there is now a prospect of the creation of a repertory and successively editions, the analysis to be done must reckon with great complexity, different articulations, mixing of matters and outright disorder (…)”, a quote from his article ‘I libri iurium e la memoria storica delle città comunali’, in: Le scritture del Comune. Amministrazione e memoria nelle città dei secoli XII e XIII (Turin 1998) 95-108, online at Rete Medievali Open Archive. The impression of a quick search for literature on libri iurium in the online bibliography of the Regesta Imperii is that of a wide variety of publications focusing on a fairly restricted number of Italian cities.

 In the wake of earlier projects

One of the questions to ask for both the German and the French-Italian project is the presence and use of earlier printed repertories and related projects. For the Stadtbücher the team could rely on a project for the Bundesländer in the former DDR as a substantial point of depart. On a European scale fifty years ago a team with a great role at the start for two Dutch scholars, J.F. Niermeyer and C. van de Kieft, edited the first volume of the Elenchus fontium historiae urbanae (Leiden 1967), a project for sources before 1250. The first volume deals with Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. The other volumes cover France and Luxemburg (vol. II.1, 1996), Great Britain and Ireland (vol. II.2, 1988), Austria (vol. III.1, 1992) and Hungary (vol. III.2, 1997). On the website of the Commission Internationale pour l’Histoire des villes (CIHV) you can find PDF’s with the preface and overview of the contents of the volumes I and II.2. The Elenchus contains selected texts for the early history of medieval towns. The CHIV also stimulated the creation of country bibliographies.

For Germany it is easy to mention recent and earlier works. Ulrich-Dieter Oppitz published the massive repertory Deutsche Rechtsbücher des Mittelalters (3 vol. in 4 parts, Cologne 1990-1992), in itself a successor to the earlier work by Carl Gustav Homeyer, Die deutsche Rechtsbücher des Mittelalters und ihre handschriften (Berlin 1856; online, Hathi Trust Digital Library; text only, German Wikisource) and his earlier Verzeichnis from 1836 (online, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich). Both works deal with legal treatises such as the Sachsenspiegel and Schwabenspiegel, but they look also at the laws of individual cities. A number of Rechtsbücher, influential municipal laws, and Schoffensprüche (decisions of aldermen) figure in the online version of the Repertorium Geschichtsquellen des deutschen Mittelalters under the heading Stadtrecht. I invite you to check also for example at Archivportal-D and the Archives Portal Europe for all kinds of city registers, for they can offer a quick way to relevant registers, too.

Many Dutch rechtsboeken have been edited by member of the Society for Old Dutch Law. Some of the nineteenth-century editions in the first series of editions will not quite stand the proof of modern textual criticism, but at least a large number of them has been digitized at Heidelberg for the Textarchiv accompanying the online version of the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch. It would be a good thing to create an overview of these texts, the original sources and whenever possible their current digital presence.

To conclude this contribution, proposing the creation of either a national or an European overview of city registers in their various forms is one thing, creating them in a sensible and feasible way implies thorough reflection on many matters before even starting such a project. Overviews of one particular source genre can be most useful, but you cannot lift a source or a genre out of their context completely without impairing in the end historical understanding. This consideration works certainly as a factor which makes scholars rightfully hesitant to cooperate in such projects. The fact that you work with partners from other countries will surely help to widen your horizon and question your assumptions. Let´s wish all courageous scholars who nevertheless join these projects wisdom, good luck and stamina!

A postscript

My view of the German project Stadtbücher is rather positive, but it is right to add at least one comment from Klaus Graf at Archivalia who criticizes the working of the filters and the absence of information for some German regions, in particular Baden-Würrtemberg. In my opinion the north of Germany is covered massively, for other regions you can clearly wish for more. For Saxony you can benefit from the Gerichtsbücher database for some 22,000 registers concerning voluntary jurisdiction, for example property sales, mortgages, custody and wills.

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The long years of the Council of Konstanz

Once upon a time the history of church councils seemed a matter of Christian theology slowly but inevitably reaching new levels of dogmatic intricacy, either led by wise popes or marred by popes who thought more of themselves than of the Catholic church. Things get more interesting when you look at the proceedings not as a distraction to theological matters at stake but as historical events just as important as the canons and decrees finally proclaimed. One of the longest councils was the Council of Konstanz (1414-1418). Recently I was alerted to a modern representation of a chronicle showing the daily business of this medieval council. The virtual presence of this council is worth the attention of legal historians, too. In this post you will find a tour of some of the most important resources. As in my earlier post about the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) I will look also at images of this international meeting in fifteenth-century Germany, close to the modern border with Switzerland.

Five long years

Logo Konstanz Konzilstadt

Probably the most famous event of the Council of Konstanz was the trial of Jan Hus. In order to avoid too much coverage of modern memorial years I decided not to write about him here. One reason for writing here about this church council was my amusement about the tweets of Ulrich Richental, a modern incarnation of the fifteenth-century author of a chronicle about the Council of Konstanz. The tweets tell you on a day-to-day basis about events during the council, and they are directly linked to the multilingual website Konstanz Konzilstadt.

King Sigismund of the Holy Roman Empire succeeded in conveying a church council at Konstanz in a time when Western Europe had to face the presence of three popes, three because one of them, John XXIII, was a so-called antipope who resided in Bologna. Gregory II was pope in Rome and Benedict XIII reigned from Avignon. One of the problems for this council was the division between those in favour of full power over the church in the hands of a council (conciliarists), and those sticking to papal and curial power (curialists). Imagine the international crowd of ecclesiastical dignitaries and the courtiers of king Sigismund all together in a small town on the lovely Lake Constance, and you get the picture.

Cover facsimile edition of Richtental's chronicle

We can form our own picture of this council in a very literal and pictorial way thanks to the illustrated chronicle of Ulrich Richental (around 1360-1437). The famous illustrated manuscript at the Rosgartenmuseum in Konstanz is available in a modern facsimile edition [Chronik des Konzils zu Konstanz 1414–1418. Die Konstanzer Handschrift der Konzilschronik des Ulrich Richental, Jürgen Klöckler (ed.) (2nd ed., Darmstadt 2015)]. Interestingly, the list of manuscripts given in the German Wikipedia article on Ulrich Richental contains more items than the online database of the Handschriftencensus which omits two manuscripts that went missing. Some manuscripts have been digitized. This chronicle is the well from which the modern successor of Ulrich gets the information for his tweets. The tweets started only in 2016. It is safe to assume the idea for daily tweets was inspired by similar Twitter accounts and blogs for the commemoration of the First World War.

As for scholarly literature concerning the Council of Konstanz I was surprised that the online bibliography of the Regesta Imperii (accessible in German and English) for some reason lists only literature published before 2010 when you use the thesaurus search. You will have to check many titles using the various translations of the city name Konstanz to find relevant publications.

Acts and decrees

A second reason to write here about the Council of Konstanz brings us safely back to the sources legal historians will want foremost to consult, the manuscripts and archival records, and when available critical editions of the sources. Finding out about such editions for medieval councils can be daunting. On my legal history website the first section of the page concerning relevant editions for canon law deals with councils. For sound foundations I could rely here on an article by Joseph Avril, ‘Les décisions des conciles et synodes’, in: Jacques Berlioz et alii (eds.), Identifier sources et citations (Turnhout 1994) 177-189. Lately I checked for the online availability of a number of Early Modern editions of conciliar decrees and decisions, but some modern editions, too, have been digitized, too. The edition of the Acta concilii Constantientis by Heinrich Finke (ed.) (4 vols., Münster 1896-1928) has been digitized at the Internet Archive. Finke gives in the first volume materials from the preparatory phase of the council (1410-1413). It was harder to find a complete set with a single point of reference for other modern editions. The Monumenta conciliorum generalium saeculi decimi quinti, F. Palacky et alii (eds.) (4 vols., Vienna 1857-1935), with sources for the Council of Basel can be found conveniently online in Gallica. The second major edition for the Council of Basel, Concilium Basiliense. Studien und Quellen zur Geschichte des Konzils von Basel, J. Haller (ed.) (8 vols., Basel 1896-1936) has been digitized in its entirety at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich. In the case of Basel having easy access to the editions is only the start of finding your way in a myriad of documents.

Among the participants at Konstanz were French dignitaries with more than a basic knowledge of canon law, among them cardinal Pierre D’Ailly (1350-1420), Jean Gerson (1363-1429), and cardinal Guillaume Filastre (1348-1428). Finke published a journal held by Filastre in his Forschungen und Quellen zur Geschichte des Konstanzer Konzils (Paderborn 1889; online, Internet Archive). With Francesco de Zabarella (1360-1417) we meet a great canon lawyer. In 1410 he became archbishop of Florence and year later he was created cardinal, hence his nickname Cardinalis. Zabarella died in Konstanz on September 26, 1417. Studies by Dieter Girgensohn and Thomas Morrissey have considerably enlarged our knowledge about him and his views. As a papal legate he was involved with the Council of Konstanz from the moment he was sent in 1413 as a papal legate to king Sigismund to discuss the chances for a church council.

Another canon lawyer wrote a dedicatory letter in the first printed edition of the acts of the Council of Konstanz, the Acta scitu dignissima docteque concinnata Constantiensis concilii celebratissimi (Hagenau: Gran 1500) by Hieronymus de Croaria (ca. 1460/63-1527). The Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke (GW 07287) and the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC 00800000) habitually summarize titles of works stemming from institutions and authorities. Searching in the ISTC for Concilium Constantiense yields four results. The GW has a separate page for the incunabula editions of conciliar decrees. Both the GW and the ISTC point to digitized copies of incunabula. Konrad Summenhart (1460-1502) studied in Paris and Heidelberg before becoming a professor of theology and even chancellor of the university of Tübingen. In his work Opus septipartitum de contractibus he looked both at contractual law as administered in courts as on the impact on the forum conscientiae, the personal conscience. He wrote about subjects as usury and tithes. Hieronymus de Croaria had been his colleague in Tübingen as a professor of canon law before he went to Ingolstadt. Later on he worked also as a judge.

Heinrich Finke guided the research of Joseph Riegel who defended a thesis on the wildly varying numbers of participants at the Council of Konstanz [Die Teilnehmerlisten des Konstanzer Konzils. Ein Beitrag zur mittelalterlichen Statistik (Freiburg im Breisgau 1916; online, Internet Archive)], a thing already debated by contemporaries.The Council of Konstanz became during five years a focus of European politics and church reform, a place where many influential people met. The sheer number of participants, their background and views, and the impact on church life merit and warrant a good chance at finding always new perspectives, not to mention resources, to make it worthwhile to look again this event, not in the least with an eye to legal history.

A postscript

In this post I tried to be as concise as possible, but I think it is right to point here also to another old edition concerning the Council of Konstanz, the seven volumes of the edition edited by Hermann von der Hardt, Magnum Oecumenicum Constantiense Concilium (…) (Frankfurt am Main 1697-1700), digitized by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf. I had preferred to give you the exact link to a completely digitised set, but searching in this digital library brings you quickly to the volumes. I found the reference to the digitised set at Düsseldorf in a 2015 blog post by Klaus Graf at Archivalia where he dealt with the entrance for this council in the Historisches Lexikon Bayerns. However, Graf mentioned only two volumes of Hardt’s edition.

 

Between French and Roman law: Li livres de jostice et de plet

Image of the Livres de jostice de plet - image source: ENC / BNFA few days after the celebrations of Quatorze Juillet, the French national day, I looked in the digital library with editions of the École nationale de Chartes, one of the French grands établissements, the famous school for the training of archivists and palaeographers. Not only can you find here a heading Édition de textes juridiques, but the text edited here anew and online since November 2016, Li livres de jostice et de plet, belongs to the classic legal texts of medieval France. The edition appeared online in 2016. Interestingly this text survives in its entirety only in a single manuscript at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ms. fr. 2844). The text shows clear influences of Roman law, a fact sometimes used to frown upon. How sensible is it to judge the value of its text depending on the presence or absence of influences? It seems useful to look at it here in some detail, also because the new edition curated by Graziella Pastore comes into its own thanks to an accompanying website with more information, a combination that could serve as a model.

Between two laws

Li livres de jostice de plet is a treatise written in Old French and composed in the mid-thirteenth century in the Orléanais, the region around Orleans. Its twenty chapters follow the divisions of the Digesta Iustiniani: The chapters 1 to 10 follow the Digestum Vetus (D. 1 to D. 24.2), chapters 11 and 12 correspond with the Infortiatum (D. 24.3-D. 38), and the remaining chapters 13 to 20 with the Digestum Novum (D. 38-D. 50). The university of Orleans was famous for its law faculty, a fact which came into new light only since the twentieth century in research conducted at Leiden. I will refer to both universities later on.

In the edition published in 1850 by P.N. Rapetti – online in the Internet Archive – the parts of the chapters which contained translations of the Justinian Digest had been skipped. The manuscript Paris, BnF, ms. français 2844 has been digitized (Gallica). Some rather prominent notes written in later centuries show up on the cover and the first pages of the black-and-white digitized microfilm. The description of the edition explains that two other manuscripts have been adduced to complete textual lacunae in the part corresponding to the Infortiatum.The manuscript Bordeaux BM, 354 can be consulted online in the Selène digital library of the Bibliothèque Municipale in Bordeaux, but I could not find an online version of the other manuscript, Rouen BM 794. The use of these manuscript reminded met about my post last year about medieval laws in translation where I did not mention the Livres de jostice et de plet. In the online Catalogue collectif de France you can restrict your search to manuscripts and archives, and you will find in it information about both manuscripts, although this often leads you only to the nineteenth-century Catalogue général. On the other hand, the information about the manuscript BnF, ms. fr. 2844 given in the online edition is also very general. In the new edition all paragraphs with direct translations from the Digest are given in blue print.

In my earlier post I referred to the online bibliography of the Dictionnaire étymologique de l’ancien français (DEAF), and this time I was much more aware how succinct the information it gives is. Interestingly there are two articles for the Livres de jostice et de plet, the first for the old edition without the Digest fragments, the second for those parts taken over from Roman law edited by Pastore. The entry in the DEAF points even to some mistakes in her edition.

Another rather elemental thing jumped into my face: How should one translate the title of this treatise, and where do we find online information about Old French? Jostice is clearly to be associated with justice, but plet is not a quite transparent word. Luckily a number of French dictionaries can be consulted online, including those for medieval French. The ATILF platform leads you to research projects, digital text corpora and dictionaries such as the Dictionnaire du Moyen Français for medieval French between 1300 and 1500, and the bibliography for the Godefroy, the nickname of the Dictionnaire de l’ancienne langue française et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe siècle edited by Frédéric Godefroy (10 vol., Paris 1880-1905), digitized in the Gallica digital library of the BnF. It is also very nifty accessible at Lexilogos with an option to switch dictionaries. Godefroy brings you to the word plait, with as its primary meaning “accord, convention, traité”, but also “procès, querelle, jugement, discussion”, to mention only the most relevant meanings. The compact dictionary edited by the famous linguist A. Greimas, Dictionnaire de l’ancien français jusqu’au milieu du XIVe siècle (Paris 1968) gives for plait seven main meanings with brief examples.

The etymology of plait is revealing: Plait stems from placitum, explained in the lemma plaid as being conform to the will. In Italian legal history the placita are charters with verdicts which contain in a number of cases formulaic references to Justinian’s Digest. Only in the eleventh century such references clearly point to actual use of the Digest. The online version of the DEAF with a preliminary version of the letters G to K gives a very elaborate lemma for justice and its various spellings. It is seducing to translate the title of the treatise with an alliteration, The Book of Justice and Judgment, but “The Book of Justice and Procedure” seems a reasonable translation.

The second website

Banner "Li livres de jostice et de plet"

On purpose I wrote the first part of my post without using the accompanying website, in the hope it will correct some of my findings and anyway tell us much more than I can do here. However, I cannot hide some mixed feelings in my first impressions. The second website is to a large extent a kind of pilot project for the proper use of meta-data. In fact in the introduction Pastore states this clearly. With just twenty titles in the bibliography and five persons discussed in the biographical section this seems too much of a good thing, especially when you see the wide range of possible output forms and the thoughtful addition of preset links to a host of websites, catalogues and digital libraries. Pastore mentions at the second site only the 1918 offprint of an article by Henri Stein, ‘Conjectures sur l’auteur du Livre de jostice et de plet’, Nouvelle revue historique de droit français et étranger 41 (1917) 346-382, but it figures correct in the bibliographical section of her introduction to the online edition. Stein’s contribution is not included at all in the online Bibliographie d’histoire du droit en langue française (Université de Lorraine, Nancy). The bibliography at the second website consists of printed and online editions of archival resources and texts, but the critical studies do not figure in it. The DEAF bibliography refers to a short article by Jaana Seppänen, ‘”Livre de jostice et de plet” – un texte à rééditer?’, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 91 (1990) 153-156. The references in Stein’s article were used as materials to give some bones to this prototype website.

The section Le manuscrit brings you to an embedded version of the digitized microfilm of the manuscript, and to a link for the description of it in the Jonas database of the IRHT at Paris-Orléans. This database with a repertory of medieval manuscripts with texts in medieval French and Occitan gives a short description of the manuscript in the BnF – essentially: written on parchment, 200 folia, dimensions: 350 x 270 mm; language: French (langue d’oil); datation: 1260-1275; origin: Orléanais-Île de France, and the incipit of the main text – and refers for more details to an upcoming article by Graziella Pastore and [Frédéric] Duval, ‘La tradition française de l’Infortiat et le Livre de jostice et de plet’ in the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes, one of the oldest European history journals; it appeared in 2017 in BEC 121 (2013) 199-226. The issues from 1840 to 2012 can be consulted online at Persée. The entry in the Jonas database does not give the first name of Duval. You might want to check in the online bibliography of the Regesta Imperii how many medievalists share the name Duval! At Academia you can look at a poster created by Pastore concerning the matters to be discussed in the promised article, and even better, you can view online a registration of her lecture about Li livres de jostice et de plet given at the École nationale de Chartes on November 29, 2016 for the presentation of the online edition. The results she announces in her lecture make you impatient to read the full story. I will not give a complete spoiler here, but one of the elements which comes into focus is the role of medieval canon law.

The Jonas database does not indicate the presence at the start of the BnF manuscript of a royal ordinance from 1254 (fol. 1r-3r) and some chapters of the Établissements de Saint Louis at fol. 3r-4r, things duly noted by Rapetti. His introduction is certainly still worth reading. For further study of this second legal text the translation by F.R.P. Akehurst, The Etablissements de Saint Louis. Thirteenth-century legal texts from Tours, Orléans and Paris (Philadelphia, 1996) offers itself as a starting point. Of course Pastore should get credits for giving some information about five historical figures around the Livres de jostice et de plet, but you would want to have not only references to old editions or to Stein’s article. These persons were mainly officers with a royal charge, for example baillif (bailli), and their presence is suggestive. A recent essay by Bernard Ribémont, ‘Compiling and writing a legal treatise in France: the Livre de Jostice et de Plet’, in: News from the Raven: Essays from Sam Houston State University on Medieval and Renaissance Thought, Darci N. Hill (ed.) (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2014) 133-142, gives you an idea of paths to pursue. Ribémont does look in particular at the role of medieval canon law and the way canon law texts were translated and adapted in the Livres de jostice et de plet.

Between Paris and Orleans

In my view there is another fruitful way to approach these legal treatises, by paying attention to the university of Orleans. Only last year the online legal history journal Clio@Themis published a special dedicated to the theme La forge du droit. Naissance des identités juridiques en Europe (IVe-XIIIe siècles), “The forge of law. The birth of legal identities in Europe (4th-13th centuries)”, with an article by Kees Bezemer (Leiden), ‘Jacques de Revigny (d. 1296): Roman law as a means to shape French law’. His footnotes refer to a number of his own publications, including ‘French customs in the commentaries of Jacques de Revigny’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 62 (1994) 81-112. Bezemer devoted a book to Revigny, What Jacques saw. Thirteenth-century France through the eyes of Jacques de Revigny, professor of law at Orleans (Frankfurt am Main, 1997). Custom law in the eyes of De Revigny is the subject of the thesis of Laurent Waelkens (Universiteit Leuven) defended thirty years ago at Leiden, La théorie de la coutume chez Jacques de Révigny: édition et analyse de sa répétition sur la loi De quibus (D. 1, 3, 32) (Leiden, 1984). Sadly the online bibliography at Nancy does not contain this study of Waelkens, and for Bezemer only one publication has been entered. Bezemer and Waelkens follow the lead of the late Robert Feenstra who had entered the paths first walked by Eduard Maurits Meijers (1880-1954).

We will probably have to look also at an earlier generation of professors at Orleans, to the predecessors of Jacques de Revigny and Pierre de Belleperche, such as Guido de Cumis and Jean de Monchy. In this respect and for a good balance I have to mention a study by Marie Bassano, “Dominus domini mei dixit. . . “; Enseignement du droit et construction d’une identité des juristes et de la science juridique. Le studium d’Orléans (c. 1230-c. 1320) (Ph.D. thesis, Université Paris-2, 2008).

There is a clear need to look past the blinkers! From my point of view there seems to be a gap between an outdated belief on one side that any influence of Roman law in French medieval legal history is harmful, perhaps because this legal system contributed to the power of the French kings, and on the other side the fact Roman law offered itself as a normative system with the possibility to give legal customs a proper place. The French kings had indeed strong ambitions to become as powerful as their English counterpart and the German emperor, and they, too, enlisted everything and everyone that seemed useful for that purpose, with or without explicit use of Roman law. The online edition of Graziella Pastore should indeed offer yet another stimulus to look again at France in the thirteenth century in an open way. Using the French translations of Meijers’ articles concerning Orléans and French law provided by Robert Feenstra and H.FW.D. Fischer [Études d’histoire du droit (4 vol., Leiden 1956-1973)], and the studies of Bezemer and Waelkens, often accessible in French, give us the critical mass to do this. Let’s hope Pastore quickly puts things in order at the second website and brings us the promised new article in the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes which should do justice to the almost two centuries long tradition of the École nationale des Chartes.

A postscript

On September 22, 2017 Kees Bezemer will retire from Leiden University after 42 years. A meeting in his honour will be held at the Law Faculty.

Graziella Pastore kindly provided me with complete information about her article which finally has been published. The second website is indeed a prototype she built around Stein’s article. Pastore pointed me also to the description of the manuscript at the BnF in the Miroir des classiques project of Frédéric Duval at the École nationale des Chartes.

Slavery depicted and described

The cover of the rare books catalogue on slavery

Image from Marcus Rainsford, “St. Domingo, of het land der zwarten in Hayti en deszelfs omwenteling (…)” (2 vol., Amsterdam: Allart, 1806), used on the cover of the catalogue

Sometimes I find a new subject for a blog post by looking in my list with possible themes, sources and legal systems, but every now and then a subject appears without any prior notice. This week I found in my mailbox an announcement about a new catalogue of a rare books seller on the subject of slavery. One of the major changes in world history is surely the way slavery became the object of massive criticism and protests after many centuries of more or less accepted existence. Legal history should provide space not only for the study of the history of legal doctrine, its teaching and legal institutions, but also for the impact of both elements on society. Slavery was kept in place and force by laws and customs. Anyway, slavery is a major subject pointing to the grim consequences of plain injustice and enchained human liberty, but such views, too, have their history. The catalogue (PDF, 3,8 MB) contains items from many countries and periods, and you will find here only a selection to make you curious for more. Many items have beautiful illustrations.

Yet another reason to look at this catalogue is the firm behind it. Thirty years ago the rare books firm publishing this catalogue had its seat at the lovely Oudegracht, the main medieval canal in the old city of Utrecht, but it has retreated to a more rural setting in the hamlet ‘t Goy, now part of the garden city Houten to the south-east of Utrecht. In fact this firm was probably the first antiquarian book firm which I dared to visit as a student. At its present pretty location in a renovated old farm you will find a second antiquarian bookseller who works with the other firm in association. This legal figure is rather interesting, because you will want to be sure who is the seller of valuable items. I will briefly look at this legal aspect, too.

From highlight to highlight

In order to present here a somewhat coherent choice I had better start with the book figuring on the cover of the catalogue shown above. No. 24 in the catalogue with 28 items is the Dutch translation of a work by Marcus Rainsford. Rainsford came to Haiti in 1799 and became an admirer of Toiussaint l’Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian slave rebellion. No. 5 is a French translation of a work by Willem Bosman, Voyage de Guinée (…) (Utrecht: Schouten, 1705), according to the catalogue one of the earliest descriptions in print of West-Africa and the slave trade in this region.

Among the most important items is no. 3, an official transcript of the will of a slave owner on Jamaica, the merchant Joseph Barnes († 1829). It is good to note the attached probate form of the court of Doctors’ Commons, and a seal of the prerogative court of the archbishop of Canterbury. Rather special is also a book by Philip Howard, Slave-catching in the Indian ocean (…) (London 1873) who wrote about the Asian slave trade (no. 7). Very rare is the book of Bartholomeus Georgiewitz (Bartol Djurdjevic), Voyage de la saincte cité de Hierusalemme (…) (Liège: Streel/De la Coste, 1600), a book written by a former slave who spent 13 years in Ottoman captivity after the battle of Mohács in Hungary (1526) (no. 9).

The catalogue is really a jigsaw puzzle of items stemming from many countries. In a number of cases we find translations, for instance a French translation of Alexander Grailhe’s plea in the case of the will of the philantropist John McDonogh (1779-1850) (no. 12) who bequeathed a fabulous amount of money for the foundation of public schools in New Orleans and Baltimore with free access for both white and black children. Texas figures in no. 26 with an edition of Ordinances and decrees of the consultation, provisional government of Texas (Houston: National Banner Office, 1838).

North Africa is the region in a book ascribed to Jean-Baptiste de La Faye, Voyage pour la redemption des captifs aux royaumes d’Alger et Tunis (…) (Paris: Sevestre and Giffart, 1721) (no. 18). The story told here concerns three members of the Ordre de la Sainte Trinité who tried to free Christian slaves. East Africa is the subject in no. 11, with two French reports about languages in East and Equatorial Africa and slavery, the first published in Mauritius in 1846 , the second in Paris in 1850, with a letter by the ethnographer Eugène de Froberville. A Dutch translation of William George Browne, Nieuwe reize naar de binnenste gedeelten van Afrika, door Egypte, Syrie en Le Dar-four (…) (2 vol., Amsterdam: Allart, 1800), an account of travels in Egypt, Syria and Sudan figures as no. 6.

Dutch historians will note the works of two rather famous brothers, the politician Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp with a volume of letters about the end of the Dutch East India Company [Brieven aan een participant in den Oost-Indischen Compagnie (3 parts, Amsterdam: weduwe Doll, 1802-1803); no. 14], and a rare copy of a novel by his brother Willem van Hogendorp [Kraskoepol (…) (Rotterdam: Arrenberg, 1780) ; no. 15] about the dangers of harsh treatment of slaves. At the time of writing he was an official in the East India Company. A different slant on Dutch Caribbean history comes into view with no. 19, the illustrated album amicorum of Henry van Landsberge, governor of Suriname between 1859 and 1867, the period of the abolition of slavery in this Dutch colony (1863). British matters are at stake in two major reports about slavery for the House of Commons printed in 1848 and 1849 (no. 16).

Some reflections

In the paragraph above I have deliberately put some items together which might have been placed in a regional order in the catalogue, too, but the catalogue shows the random nature of the subjects covered in the books and manuscripts offered for sale.

Portrait of P.A. Tiele

The wide geographical range of subjects is daunting for most scholars and cataloguers. Each description follows the time-honoured practice of a concise bibliographical description, followed by the price, a summary of the contents and information about the author, the publisher and when necessary the rarity of an item. The descriptions end with a string of abbreviated titles and numbers, references to specialized bibliographies, national bibliographies and sometimes also collective library catalogues. In a number of cases I can determine to which publication or website a reference points, but at many turns I can only assume there is specialized scholarly literature with which I am not familiar. For me this catalogue would benefit from full references, but others will no doubt see familiar landmarks. I fail to understand why the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (KVK) has not been used everywhere, be it even only to state “not in KVK”. The references to NCC stand for the Nederlandse Centrale Catalogus, a licensed online meta-catalogue for Dutch university libraries maintained at the Royal Library, The Hague. “Tiele” can stand for a variety of publications by Pieter Anton Tiele (1834-1889), librarian of Utrecht University Library. Tiele published major catalogues of pamphlets in Dutch holdings, a catalogue of the manuscripts in Utrecht UL, a catalogue of Frederik Muller’s collections of travel accounts, and the catalogue of the Bibliotheca Thysiana in Leiden, to mention just his most important contributions. The French and English Wikipedia have short articles about him. For Dutchies there is the website of the Dr. P.A. Tielestichting which promotes research into book history. In one case I could easily identify an abbreviation of a library. JCB stands for the John Carter Brown Library of Brown University, Providence, RI, renown for its rich holdings for American and Caribbean history and culture.

The things that strike me every time when I see announcements and catalogues of the two associated rare book firms Forum Rare Books and Asher Rare Books are the shared phone and fax numbers. Antiquariaat Forum started in 1970 and acquired Asher Rare Books in 2010. Forum Rare Books is active on Twitter for both firms (@ForumRareBooks). To complicate things, there is a third firm at the Tuurdijk 16 in ‘t Goy, Forum Islamic World. The terms of sale of the three firms follow normal book selling practice governed under Dutch law and the rules of the international antiquarian book world, but I cannot help musing about the liability of the seller when things go wrong, and pure humanly who represents a firm on a particular moment. Luckily, Forum is a member of the two major Dutch book selling associations and of ILAB, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. I cannot detect the required registration number of the closest Chamber of Commerce, but surely you will find it on the invoice. On the other hand new buyers have to provide their credentials. Bas Hesselink of Forum Rare Books is known in my country also for the way he speaks about old books and prints in the Dutch television program Tussen Kunst & Kitsch (“Between Art and Kitch”) in which the general public brings objects for appraisal by art experts in the setting of museums.

My concern in writing about this catalogue comes also from my curiosity where these items will eventually be found. Some of them form a substantial enrichment of our knowledge of painful aspects of Early Modern history, and hopefully we will find most of them in the custody of public institutions.

Forum Rare Books and Asher Rare Books, catalogue 2017 Slavery – ‘t Goy (Houten), Netherlands

Editing medieval royal laws from Spain

The start screen of 7 Partidas Digital

Last month I wanted to refresh my blogroll. Among the additions one blog stands out because its name does not start with a letter, but with a number, and it appears now as the very first item of the blogroll, reason enough for further exploration. It is a project for a new edition of laws created by a king with perhaps the best reputation of all medieval kings, at least in modern perception. Alfonso el Sabio, or Alfonso X of Castile, king Alphonso the Wise, wrote the songs of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, and he created a famous law collection, the Siete Partidas (Seven Parts). For a new critical edition of this collection the Spanish team of editors have created the blog 7 Partidas Digital: Edición critica de las Siete Partidas, hosted by the Hypotheses network. In this post I will look at this project and I will try to provide some context for it.

Studying medieval laws

Royal legislation in the Middle Ages is not easy to bring under one common denominator. Scholars such as Sten Gagnér (1921-2000) have helped us much to see legislation in new light, in particular in his Studien zur Ideengeschichte der Gesetzgebung (Stockholm, etc., 1960). Armin Wolf focuses in his research on medieval legislation, in particular in Gesetzgebung in Europa 1100–1500: Zur Entstehung der Territorialstaaten (2nd edition, Munich 1996), and like Gagnér he has written about a great variety of laws and lawgivers, including Alfonso el Sabio (1221-1284). In 2002 the Max-Planck-Institut for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main could acquire the vast library of Gagnér. Michael Stolleis, for many years the director of this institute and a scholar trained by Gagnér, wrote a moving and most instructive tribute to Gagnér [‘Sten Gagnér (1921-2000), ein großer Lehrer der europäischen Rechtsgeschichte’, Quaderni Fiorentini 29 (2000) 560-569; PDF]. For many years Wolf, too, worked for and at this institute. His fundamental book about medieval legislation first appeared in a volume of Helmut Coing’s Handbuch der europäischen Privatrechtsgeschichte. It is by all means wise to benefit here, too, from the rich resources of this Max-Planck-Institut, starting perhaps with the online catalogue of its library.

Let’s start a tour of the blog 7Partidas Digital, a project at the Universidad de Valladolid. There have been two major adaptations of this legal collection, in the incunabula edition of 1491 (Alonso Díaz de Montalvo) and the edition published in 1555 (Gregorio López), and a semi-official edition in 1807 by the Real Academia de la Historia, but not yet a critical edition. The aim of the project is to bring together all textual sources and present them online, to create an online critical edition and to provide a up-to-date bibliography of relevant scholarship in a Zotero group. The bibliography takes as its starting point the study of Jerry Craddock, The legislative work of Alfonso X. A critical bibliography (London 1986; 2nd edition, 2011). You can consult the 1986-1990 update of Craddock’s bibliography online (eScholarship, University of California). Already the fact that Craddock could adduce manuscripts not earlier included and comment on them should make you aware of the complicated textual tradition of the Siete Partidas and other Alphonsine laws. By the way, Robert Burns added an introduction to the reprint of the English translation of the Siete Partidas by S.P. Scott (first edition 1931; reprint 5 vol., Philadelphia, 2001, 2012).

Logo 7PartidasDigital

The core of the project is the online edition hosted at GitHub which is being created using XML / TEI. TEI stands for Text Encoding Initiative, one of the major metadata standards in creating digital text editions. As for now the project has resulted in editions of some textual witnesses kept at Valladolid. The Siete Partidas is a rather large legal code. The section Léxico explains the incunabula edition in 1491 contains 772,000 words. The first part (Primera partida a.k.a. Libro de los leyes) in one particular manuscript (London, British Library, Add. 20787, sigle LBL) good for more than 165,000 words. The image of a kind of Spanish armada, a fleet with an outsize flagship and many minor vessels around it, is probably a fair description. The project will create a special dictionary for the Siete Partidas, of which the letter Z, the only one already publishedgives you an idea.

The section Testimonios gives you a general overview of relevant manuscripts and their contents, mainly as noted in the Philobiblon project for Iberian medieval manuscripts (Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley), and for a number of them – including LBL mentioned above – extensive descriptions. One of the scholars helping to track down manuscripts with laws issued by Alfonso el Sabio was the late Antonio García y García. A further asset on this web page is an interactive map showing where institutions have relevant manuscripts within their collections. An essential element in this project are the Normas de codificación, the rules for the encoding of the text and the critical apparatus in the XML / TEI pages, and additional guidelines for the transcription of the legal texts.

Access to Alfonso’s laws

Banner BDH

By now you might think all this information does not yet bring you directly to the texts associated with king Alfonso el Sabio, but you could as well admit that some preparation is needed indeed to approach them. I had expected to find here both images of manuscripts and an edition on your computer screen, and therefore I would like to provide you at least with some information about the most important printed editions. A text of the Sieta Partidas was printed twice in 1491 [Las siete partidas de Alfonso X el Sabio, con las adiciones de Alfonso Díaz de Montalvo (Seville: Meinardus Ungut and Stanislaus Polonus, 25 October 1491; GW M42026, online for example in the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica)], and two months later again with the same title [(Seville: Compañeros alemanes, 24 December 1491) GW M42028, online in the Biblioteca Virtual del Patrimonio Bibliográfico (BVPB)]. The Gesamtkatolog der Wiegendrucke (GW) (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin) and the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (British Library and CERL) show you concise bibliographical information and lists with extant copies worldwide, for both editions rather short lists. The edition by Gregorio de López de Tovar appeared in 1555 and can be viewed online in the BVPB [Las Siete Partidas del Sabio Rey don Alonso el nono (…) (Salamanca: Andrea de Portonariis, 1555)].

The Biblioteca Digital Hispánica brings you not only a number of old reprints, some of them enhanced with useful registers, but also a number of digitized manuscripts. It contains also a digital version of the edition published by the Real Academia de la Historia (Las Siete Partidas del Rey Don Alfonso el Sabio cotejada con varios códices antiguos (…) (Madrid 1807)]. The Hispanic Seminary provides you in its Digital Library of Old Spanish texts in the section for Spanish legal texts with a transcription of the Primera Partida in the 1491 edition. You can find more editions and books about the Siete Partidas in the Catálogo Colectivo del Patrimonio Bibliográfico Español, and for example in the Bibliografía Española en Línea, a service of the Biblioteca Nacional de España, and more specifically in the Repertorio del Medievalismo Hispánico (Institución Milà y Fontanals, Barcelona).

In the midst of all these elements I would almost forget to mention the blog posts of Siete Partidas Digital, to be found under Entradas. The most recent contribution in this second is a full-scale article by José Domingues (Porto) about the Portuguese version of the Siete Partidas and its manuscript tradition (A Tradição Medieval das Sete Partidas em Portugal). The first blog post alerts to the 2015 revised online version of Dwayne E. Carpenter, Alfonso X and the Jews: An Edition of and Commentary on Siete Partidas 7.24 «De los judios» (thesis, University of California, 1986), and to new textual witnesses found in the Archivo de la Real Chancillería de Valladolid, referred to in the edition with the sigle VA4, but alas the links to the finding aid with these archival records and to the article describing them are broken. However, here the project in Valladolid scores with its section on text bearers: The page on VA4 gives you full information, but here, too, you have to reckon with links to Spanish archival records which stem from expired web sessions. You will have to repeat yourself each consecutive step of the search at the rich but cumbersome navigable PARES portal, the digital home to both online inventories and many digitized archival records in Spanish state archives. You will find a quick introduction to Alfonso el Sabio and the texts concerning the legal status of religious minorities in the Siete Partidas in the database of the RELMIN project around the position of these minorities in the medieval Mediterranean, with also some references to basic modern literature, and for each of the relevant texts a translation, an analysis and references to further studies. RELMIN provides you with sometimes both English and French translations.

Normally I would feel rather exhausted, or to be honest definitely feel irritated, to say the least, about such a sorry state of affairs, the combination of a broken link and arduous recovering information using the PARES portal, but this time I can appreciate very much one of the things Sten Gagnér taught his students, not only in his lectures and seminars, but foremost by his own example. At the end of this post I really want to mention something Michael Stolleis made crystal clear in his tribute to Gagnér. He wanted his students to see things for himself in sources, to trace back and check the steps others had set, be they the pioneers and leaders in the various fields of legal history or more average scholars, to see the very words in the sources they found, to assess the meaning and context of words anew. Studying legislation in past and present in all its forms should be an exercise in good thinking, not a slipshod affair, as if you only have to dip your spoon in an ocean of sources. No school, department or faculty can provide you completely with his kind of training, because here your own intellectual honesty and drive to become and be a true historian should work for all you are worth, for all things and people you value most.

A postscript

After the things I said about the PARES portal I must do justice to the riches of this portal by referring to the wonderful online guide by Scott Cave and Ashleigh Dean, aptly called Taming PARES. Their guide really unlocks this treasure trove!

The Casa Velasquez in Madrid will host from November 2 to 4, 2017 the conference Las Siete Partidas: une codification nomrative pour un nouveau monde.

Telling tales: Chaucer and the law

Illuminated page wit the Summoner - Chaucer, Catnetrbury Tales - Ellesmere Chaucer

The Summoner, illustration in the Ellesmere Chaucer, early 15th century – San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. EL 26 C 9, fol. 81r (detail), source: http://hdl.huntington.org

Medieval literature sometimes touches law and justice, and thus it can be useful to look sometimes beyond the usual range of sources and materials legal historians prefer to study. The Biennial London Chaucer Conference will devote this year’s conference on June 30 and July 1, 2017 to Chaucer and the Law. At least three stories in the Canterbury Tales have lawyers or other persons associated with the law in its title, the sergeant-at-law in the tale of The Man of Law, the manciple and the summoner. Legal professions come into view in some of the other tales, too. The summoner had been attacked in The Friar’s Tale, to mention just one example. This post looks briefly at the upcoming conference, but I will not hesitate to add some personal remarks, too. A few months ago I came across a blog post by Candace Barrington, ‘Beyond the Anglophone Inner Circle of Chaucer Studies’ at In the Medieval Middle, and I could only agree with her about the importance of Chaucer to wider circles. The programme of the upcoming conference seems a major step in bringing him in a different context. Here I try to come closer to the field of literature than I do here usually.

The conference in London is organized at Senate House by the Institute of English Studies at the School for Advanced Studies, in cooperation with the New Chaucer Society and the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature. Senate House is home to the Senate House Library.

A web of tales

If you come more or less from the outside to Chaucer it can really seem you enter a kind of parallel universe. When you spot at the website of the New Chaucer Society the link to the Chaucer Bibliography Online (Mark Allen, University of Texas at San Antonio) the sheer mass of studies about a plethora of subjects is awe-inspiring. With only the search term law you will retrieve more than 400 results. Chaucer definitely is treated as a part of world literature, but Barrington makes it clear it that only lately studying Chaucer has become a worldwide activity which can break though the lines of approach practised in the Anglophone world. Barrington is one of the founders of Global Chaucers, created as the “Online archive and community for post-1945, non-Anglophone Chauceriana”. The resources page of this blog shows you the wide impact of Chaucer and leads you also to a list of modern translations.

Visualizing Chaucer, Robbins Library, University Of Rochester, NY

The social media, too, have a role in creating a wider circle of people delving into Chaucer’s work. Many years ago the House of Fame, a blog maintained by a modern incarnation of Chaucer, was launched. Meanwhile this modern Chaucer has become a master of funny Middle English tweets by Le VostreGC. For Chaucer and the Law there is the Twitter account Chaucer_Law. I will not give a here a complete guide to Chaucer studies, but some websites can help you very much. Among the short introductions to Chaucer the online exhibit The World of Chaucer. Medieval Books and Manuscripts (Special Collections, Glasgow University Library) is helpful. The University of Sheffield has created a portal for critical editions of the Canterbury Tales where you can easily compare some of the main manuscripts containing this work, including the Hengwrt and Ellesmere manuscripts. eChaucer: Chaucer in the Twenty-First Century (University of Maine at Machias) is a portal with both the original texts and translations, and a concise web guide. Candace Barrington contributes also to an open access companion to the Canterbury Tales. Siân Echard (University of British Columbia) provides a great service with his web pages on Chaucer: Manuscripts and Books on the Web, but for the image of the Ellesmere manuscript shown here I preferred to visit the website of the Huntington Library. Visualizing Chaucer (University of Rochester, NY) is your online port of call for more images of and around Chaucer. If you hesitate about the importance of images you might want to look at The Robin Hood Project of the Robbins Library of the University of Rochester.

The programme of the two-day conference in London shows a wide variety of sessions. With a sigh of relief I saw the first section is dedicated to A Preface for Chaucerians: Chaucer for Historians, a promise that Chaucer will not be only the subject of literary views. Anthony Musson will discuss the sergeant-at-law, the teller of the Man of Law’s Tale, and Nigel Ramsay will speak about the manciple and his tale. A quick view of the programme shows also that the Canterbury Tales are not the exclusive source linking all contributions. Chaucer’s other works figure here as well. It is about time to confess I, too, look at Chaucer from a foreign perspective. My knowledge of English legal history, too, is refreshed and even extended here., and anyway it is simply necessary to tell something more about the three main figures associated with the law in the Canterbury Tales. The sergeants-at-law were for centuries barristers with the exclusive right to argue cases in the Court of Common Pleas. A manciple was a purveyor of goods for a court or college, sometimes a caterer of food. The summoner was an official in ecclesiastical courts who delivered charges to people compelling to appear in court. Peter Guy Brown will discuss this official in his paper.

Let’s not forget to look briefly at Chaucer himself. Geoffrey Chaucer (around 1343-1400) was a public servant with functions such as a valet de chambre to king Edward III, customs official for the port of London and deputy forester in Somerset. He acted as a royal envoy in France and Italy. In 1386 he became a Member of Parliament. As a poet-diplomat he must have met all kinds of people, and these meetings are in a way mirrored in the figures portrayed in the Canterbury Tales and in his other works. He is a master at playing with reputations and stereotypes.

Of course it will not do to plod here through all papers of the upcoming conference in London, you will find here a personal choice. Some papers refer to other kinds of law as well. Samantha Katz Seal will look at laws of lineage in Chaucer’s work. Julie Chamberlin will discuss legal networks in The Franklin’s Tale. Chaucer’s Complaint unto Pity is the subject of Jonathan Forbes’ paper in which the complaint will be compared to a legal plea. Claire Fennell will discuss a Middle English statute book in the manuscript Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson MS B 520. The first day ends with a plenary lecture by Emily Steiner on medieval literature and the limits of law.

The second day will start with a contribution from Groningen. Sebastian Sobecki will give a plenary lecture about Chaucer’s lawyers. Sobecki prepares with Barrington The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Law and Literature. Recently he published Unwritten Verities. The Making of England’s Vernacular Legal Culture, 1463–1549 (Notre Dame, IN, 2015). Arvind Thomas will speak about literature and legal maxims. Euan C. Roger will look at Chaucer’s career in royal service by looking at the plea rolls. Among other themes to be addressed are sumptuary laws, the role of conscience, freedom of speech, treason and mercy.

Part of the attraction of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is his skill in picturing people by their conscious or unconscious use of particular language. In many tales he succeeds in disguising the origin of a story. The fragmentary tradition and the signs alluding to a possibly different ordering and sequence of the tales provide space to use widely different perspectives to gain insights. Every tale in the Canterbury Tales forms a kind of microcosmos with a multitude of aspects, and on the other hand they are part of a network of tales. Being aware of the very variety of medieval life, culture and society is not a bad thing when studying medieval law and justice, and Chaucer offers a focus for looking at the fourteenth century.

A personal touch: Chasing autograph manuscripts of medieval lawyers

The Middle Ages span a millennium, and the very term has long darkened our understanding of this period in European history. Somehow the image of the Dark Age keeps to some extent its force for children, the general public and scholars alike. Seemingly out of the dark come the persons whose names we know, and romantic phantasy has often been very active to make them as colourful as possible. Clovis, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror and Saint Louis, the holy French king pronouncing the law, are among the people for whom we can find out more than only battles, deeds and orders, but we hear seldom the voice of more ordinary people. Thus the counsels of Dhuoda to her son, the visions and songs of abbess and composer Hildegard von Bingen, and Christine de Pisan, a passionate writer and defender of women, stand out even stronger, because they shed light on the history of women, too. In the field of medieval art there has been a hunt to find traces of individual artists. Some works of art still bear their names, but others remain anonymous.

Cover Autographa I.2

Medieval law, too, can seem not only a very masculine, but also a very impersonal affair. However, juridical glosses from the twelfth century in the manuscripts with the main texts of Roman and canon law are sometimes signed with an abbreviated form of the names of lawyers such as Azo, Jacobus Bassianus, Rogerius and Pillius. In the last decades another hunt has brought some astonishing results. Scholars have been able to identify autograph manuscripts of a surprising number of medieval lawyers. Individual scholars succeeded in connecting one or more manuscripts directly to the author of a particular juridical text. Surprisingly this is indeed possible for medieval lawyers, for many scholars not the group in medieval society you would immediately pinpoint.

On February 8, 2017 the second volume of a series of studies about medieval autograph manuscripts will be presented at the École française de Rome. This post is a small tribute to the scholars contributing to these volumes, and especially to Giovanna Murano, the courageous editor who has set an example herself in approaching legal manuscripts with new questions and sharing her wisdom and results with others. The blog Storia del Diritto medievale e moderno alerted me to the presentation of the new volume, and apart from translating the main information of their message in French I will try to provide some context for this important publication.

The hands of the masters

During the thirteenth century a system for the reproduction of medieval texts used at universities came into existence. Book shops were given controlled master copies, exemplars of these texts. Students could hire quire after quire for scribes to make copies. The pecia system – literally “piece” – was first described for theological manuscripts by Jean Destrez. Last year Frank Soetermeer died, the Dutch scholar who did research about the use of the pecia system for legal texts in Italy and France. Giovanna Murano, too published a book about the pecia system, Opere diffuse per exemplar e pecia (Turnhout 2005). Since a few decades it becomes clear that the chances for survival of original author manuscripts were relatively high. In the sixteenth century, however, printers often discarded the very manuscript(s) they had used to produce printed versions of texts.

Recognizing the handwriting of a specific author can be easy, but first you have to connect an inimitable script with him or her. The almost illegible script of Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274) got nicknamed littera inintelligibilis by his contemporaries, and the mirror writing of Leonardo da Vinci in the fifteenth century is rightly famous. Medieval lawyers signed in particular charters, acts written on parchment, or added some confirming lines in their own hand to consilia, legal consultations. The cover of the new volume shows a consilium with some of such closing lines and signatures. The interest in these consilia has helped very much to make the identification of the handwriting of medieval lawyers possible.

Perhaps the single most important step was the identification of a set of autograph manuscripts in the Vatican Library written by or produced under the direction of Baldo degli Ubaldi (1327-1400), first signalled by Giancarlo Vallone, ‘La raccolta Barberini dei “consilia” originali di Baldo’, Rivista di Storia del Diritto Italiano 62 (1989) 75-135. You can read online (PDF, 9 MB) an article by Vincenzo Colli, ‘Collezioni d’autore di Baldo degli Ubaldi nel MS Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Barb. lat. 1398’, Ius Commune 25 (1998) 323-346. Twenty years ago Colli identified more autographs and other manuscripts close to their author for other medieval lawyers as well, for example for Guillelmus Duranti (around 1237-1296), the author of the Speculum iudiciale, a massive legal encyclopaedia, ‘L’apografo dello Speculum iudiciale di Guillaume Durand’, Ius Commune 23 (1996) 271-280 (online, PDF, 3 MB), and together with Giovanna Murano ‘Un codice d’autore con autografi di Giovanni d’Andrea (ms. Cesena, Biblioteca Malatestiana, S.II. 3)’, Ius Commune 24 (1997) 1-23 (online, PDF, 9 MB).

In the second volume of the series on medieval autograph manuscripts [Autographa I.2: Giuristi, giudici e notai (sec. XII-XV)Giovanna Murano (ed.) (Imola 2016)] you will find some eighty images of medieval manuscripts, and very often you will see a medieval consilium and a manuscript of a particular work as evidence for the identification of an author’s hand. Apart from lawyers who published legal works the team looks also at medieval judges (giudici) and notaries (notai). For the second volume twelve scholars have identified 49 authors and consulted more than one thousand manuscripts in more than two hundred libraries. The new volumes contains eighty photographs.

Giovanna Murano contributed an article about the autograph of Antonio de Roselli’s Monarchia for the second volume of the Festschrift for Mario Ascheri, Honos alit artes. Studi per il settantesimo compleanno di Mario AscheriPaola Maffei and Gian Maria Varanini (eds.) (4 vol., 2014), a publication briefly mentioned here, too, available in print and online. In the first volume a whole section is dedicated to articles concerning medieval legal consilia. Murano provides a must-read on this genre with her article ‘I consilia giuridici dalla tradizione manoscritta alla stampa’, Reti medievali. Rivista 15/1 (2014) 1-37. She offers an uptodate illustrated introduction to this medieval genre. It gives you an example of her rigorous thinking and dense argumentation. At every turn Murano makes you think and reconsider matters you had not thought about for a long time or simply not carefully enough. In a similar article she gives a status questionum for the study of the Decretum Gratiani, the great treatise for medieval canon law from the early twelfth century [‘Graziano e il Decretum nel secolo XII’, Rivista Internazionale di Diritto Comune 26 (2015) 61-139; online].

The first volume of the series Autographa appeared in 2012. In my view both volumes can serve also as a palaeographical atlas for anyone studying the learned law, i.e. the medieval – and Early Modern – use of Roman and canon law. Instead of hunting digitized manuscripts on your computer screen or tablet you might want to sit down and study the variety of handwriting offered by Murano and her international team. The books can be used indeed as a fine guide to medieval legal manuscripts. However, maybe it is simple the urge to come as closely as possible to the hands of the great magistri of Italian and French medieval universities that makes you want to have these books within your reach. The names of medieval lawyers change here from glorious but inevitable dead names into living persons, not just as law professors producing a theoretical frameworks for judges, advisors and officials all over Europe, but at work themselves, counseling parties or pronouncing judgment on cases which show law in action. These manuscripts and archival records offer a splendid window to medieval life and society. My warmest congratulations to Giovanna Murano and the scholars participating in this great project! It deserves your attention by all means.