Tag Archives: Bibliography

The many sides of Belgium’s legal history

Banner Digithemis

In the ocean of legal websites you encounter very different sites. There are relatively few attempts at creating portals. When I saw the Digithemis portal for Belgian legal history and discovered its qualities it was only a matter of time before I would write about it here. Digithemis has been created by the Centre d’Histoire du Droit et de la Justice, Université Catholique Louvain-la-Neuve. Currently there is no portal site for Dutch legal history, and thus there is every reason, not only for Dutchmen, to look at this website. It might well inspire scholars in other countries, too.

Simple layout and rich contents

Logo CHDJ, Univers't Catholique, Louvain-la-Neuve

One of the powerful aspects of this website is its simple layout, with an implicit promise you will not get lost here. The subtitle Système numérique d’information historique sur la Justice is best translated as “digital system for historical information about justice”. Under the first heading Applications three databases are presented. The first, Belgian Magistrates, is concerned with officials in the Belgian judicial system. The database contains personal information, details about nominations, jurisdictions and institutions. Cubes, the second database, gives you judicial statistics, information about the number of cases and given verdicts in Belgian courts of justice. As a matter of fact I was hunting for websites with historical statistics when I ran into Digithemis. The third section brings us a bibliographical database for Belgium’s legal history. The database is the fruit of cooperation between the CHDJ at Louvain-la-Neuve and the project BeJust 2.0 – Justice et Populations.

In the second section, Ressources documentaires, you will find four subjects: legislation, doctrine, jurisprudence, and surprisingly again judicial statistics. Under Legislation you can find the French versions of the various codes of Belgian law, bulletins of the Ministry of Justice (circulaires), legislation concerning the judicial structure of Belgium, and a similar section for Congo during the colonial period. For doctrine you can look at a number of legal journals, at mercuriales, discourses pronounced at the start of the judicial season by the attorneys general, and there is a bibliographical database for criminology with some 8,500 entries. The corner with jurisprudence seemed at first straightforward: for arrêts of the Cour de cassation between 1832 and 1936 you can consult the Pasicrisie, alas currently not available, and for the period 1937-2011 there is a similar site, but here I can see only verdicts between 2002 and 2015. A very much contested period in Belgium’s history comes up with the online version of La jurisprudence belge depuis le 10 mai 1940The section for judicial statistics is enhanced by a historical overview and a concise bibliography.

The section Expositions virtuelles contains two virtual exhibits. The first, Classified, looks at Belgian military intelligence forces. The second one, Mots de la Justice [Words of Justice] is concerned with images and imagery of law and justice. The accompanying congress in Bruges earlier this year has figured on this blog at the time the bilingual catalogue was published.

The next stop of this tour are the contributions, As for now there are only two scholarly articles. The Lignes de temps interactives show interactive timelines for three subjects, women and legal professions, the Belgian judicial organisation, and the jury d’assises. In particular the timeline for women in the legal profession is telling. Ten short videos with presentations in French and Dutch about recent research are the last element of this section.

Logo BeJust 2.0

Finally the links section of this website confirms its claim to be a portal for legal history. The concise choise of links concerns Belgium, France, digital resources, and some Transatlantic websites and projects. In the right sidebar you can browse for interesting items in a RSS feed. This portal does build on other major projects in Belgium, starting with BeJust 2.0. Other portals often have an events calendar, but it seems Françoise Muller and Xavier Rousseaux wisely have built a compact portal with space for future extensions. The footer of the portal mentions the 2016 prize of the Fonds Wernaers awarded by the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) for the best scientific website.

More statistics

Logo Lokstat

I found the attention to statistics a strong feature of this portal. I could not help noticing that it might be useful to add a more general website for Belgian statistics to this portal. The University Ghent has created the Lokstat project, an abbreviation of Lokale statistieken, local statistics. This project currently offers local statistics taken from the 1900 census in Belgium, with additionally an agricultural census from 1895 and an industry census from 1896, this one accompanied with maps. It would be interesting to combine these data with judicial statistics.

As a Dutchman admiring these efforts of a neighbour country I have not yet found similar Dutch judicial statistics at a special platform. The Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) has made a fine website for Dutch Censuses 1795-1971, accessible in Dutch and English. At CBS Historische Collectie you can consult digitized reports from almost two centuries. For the field of law and justice there are mainly reports from the second half of the twentieth century, for example prison statistics (1950-2000), crimes between 1950 and 1981, juvenile criminality (1974-1981) and crime victims (1980-1984). A quick look at general publications since 1813 in this digital collection shows judicial statistics were part and parcel of the yearly overviews. For four Dutch provinces there are yearbooks since the 1840’s (Provinciale verslagen).

It is not because you find everything at particular websites, but because they help you to look further, to value information, to think about problems you want to study or to contact scholars or read their work, that portals such as Digithemis deserve a warm welcome and attentive followers. Digithemis should serve as an invitation for the creation of similar portals for other countries and regions, too.


Encircled by knowledge: New life for old encyclopedias

Banner Enzyklothek

In happy and carefree moments you can be tempted to think that only the internet made it possible to have all possible kinds of knowledge within you reach. However, for centuries having a compact or massive encyclopedia on the shelves of your personal library seemed already to warrant this vision. Lawyers were no strangers to this opinion as I showed in a post about Early Modern legal encyclopedias. Interestingly there is a movement to recreate the world of old encyclopedias. In this post I want to look at some projects which bring you to online versions of older encyclopedic works. Some of them are still familiar among historians, others will come as a surprise.

On digital and real shelves

Logo Seine Welt Wissen

Among the Early Modern works that you might still turn to is at least one German work. I confess I had not quite realized how voluminous the Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexikon aller Kunste und Wissenschaften by Johann Heinrich Zedler (1706-1751), published in 64 volumes between 1732 and 1750, followed by a supplement in four volumes. In 2006 two German libraries held an exhibition in his honour, Seine Welt Wissen. Enzyklopädien in der Frühen Neuzeit [Knowing your world. Encyclopedias in the Early Modern age]. This year I could use the Zedler in its online version provided by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich to expand scarce information about members of a family in Kleve who served the Brandenburg government of this duchy. The makers of the 2006 exhibition drily note the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences. des arts et métiers by Diderot and D’Alembert has only 17 volumes with 72,000 articles on 23,000 pages, whereas Zedler serves you 290,000 articles on 68,000 pages.

Before exploring other works it is fair to look quickly at the great Encyclopédie and its current digital availability. Foremost among its modern incarnations is the searchable version offered by the team of ARTFL in Chicago. Its editors, Robert Morrissey and Glenn Roe, immediately mention the 11 volumes with illustrations that set this encyclopedia apart from all its predecessors and contemporary competitors. These plates and the character and quality of the contributions still command respect and admiration. The editors at ARTFL count 74,000 articles on 18,000 text pages. The information about supplements published after 1772, links to forerunners of the Encyclopédie, a bibliography and other essays enhance the ARTFL version which stands out for the search possibilities of Philologic4.

More traditionally looking at first sight is the ENCCRE online version recently created by the French Académie des Sciences, with modern introductions and search facilities using a corrected Wikisource transcription. The acronym ENCCRE is a French pun on the word encre, ink. The Encyclopedia project for an English translation at the University of Michigan, too, offers more than a strict rendering from French into English. The plates can be quickly searched at Planches. Lexilogos does a great job in offering both the ARTFL and ENCCRE versions, and adding links to the text-only version in the French Wikisource, and last but not least to the digitized original volumes at Mazarinum, the digital library of the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris. This copy is used at ENCCRE, too.

In the limelight

Zedler and the Encyclopédie deserve scholarly attention and quickly accessible modern versions, but other valuable works can readily be found. Let’s look at a few websites which bring you both to other general encyclopedias and to works focusing on specific scientific disciplines. Let’s go straightforward to the heart of this post, a tour of the wonderful German Enzyklothek. A few years ago I had briefly visited this portal, and I put it aside with the impression it does not contain much for legal history. However, this time I became intrigued by its sheer coverage, and I marvelled at its holdings.

Peter Ketsch launched the Enzyklothek Historische Nachslchlagwerke in 2014. He offers access to digital versions or information about printed works in five sections: bibliographies, secondary literature, general encyclopedias, encyclopedias for specific disciplines, and biographic dictionaries. The sixth section for dictionaries is empty, a reminder you cannot expect everything at one portal. First of all it was a surprise for me to find here bibliographies. You will find here a number of entries concerning national bibliographies, but also some items for individual authors. For legal history I found in this corner only Rolf Lieberwirth’s study Christian Thomasius. Sein wissenschaftliches Lebenswerk. Eine Bibliographie (Weimar 1955). Among the bibliographies for specific disciplines Rechts- und Staatswissenschaften (disciplines concerning law, jurisprudence and government) are only announced, but alas no items have yet appeared under this heading. The general section on bibliographies starts with just one work from the late sixteenth century, and to me the choice of works in this section seems rather at random but nevertheless interesting. The section Enzyklopädistik with historical overviews and bibliographies of encyclopedias and specialised dictionaries is much richer.

The section Sekundärliteratur contains a more personal mix of things. In the corner with websites it is good to note the projects at Wolfenbüttel and Braunschweig for a virtual recreation of the Thesaurus eruditionis and similar works, and also Welt und Wissen auf der Bühne, a project about Early Modern works which used the metaphore of the theatre, a project I discussed here, too. For the legal disciplines Ketsch mentions just three titles in this part of his portal, on various subjects, from Zeremonialliteratur, texts written by lawyers about official ceremonies, to economical treatises and their forerunners, the Hausväterliteratur. By the way, here Ketsch indicates titles can appear in more rubrics. At this point the question about using either rubrics or a form of classification using a thesaurus or another form of tagging entries, and a second question is the choice for a database versus single pages. The search function clearly suggests the presence of a database, but the tagging of entries could be more generous. However, you can apply multiple filters for author, title, year, location, publisher and language. For the genre Hausväterliteratur there are now 784 entries. A section such as the one concerning publications about single medieval encyclopedic works contains nearly 4,000 items. As for now there is a total of 21,000 titles in this database. Whatever the quality of the coverage, the quantity of entries commands respect. For many entries Ketsch has added links to translations in other languages, reference works and bibliographies. In some cases you will see a series of incunabula editions of works, this seems too much of a good thing, even for Diogenes Laertius’ Vitae phlosophorum.

We must proceed now to the heart of Ketsch’s website, the general and specialized encyclopedias. For the general encyclopedias there is a division in periods (Antiquity, Middle Ages and Early Modern) and in entries for several modern languages. The presence of works in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian is a most welcome addition. In the section with Dutch encyclopedic works I encountered several books which you do not encounter often. In this respect it is good to see more popular and educational works. For the legal disciplines Ketsch mentions three German Konversationlexikons, in particular Herman Wagener’s Neues Conversations-Lexikon. Staats- und Gesellschafts-Lexikon (23 vol., Berlin, 1859-1867) was a massive project followed by modern successors. Ketsch scores by guiding you also to studies about the genre of the Konversationslexikon. If you want to know more about the Zedler Ketsch gives you some thirty publications.

The biographical section of the Enzyklothek shows national biographies for twenty countries, showing their rich history from printed works to online databases. The subsection with women’ biographies contains some eighty titles, almost exclusively translations of and studies about Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus. I had hoped for a very different content… At this point I must alert to Ketsch’s invitation for anyone interested to help him with his project.

How show one judge the merits of the Enzyklothek? The Swiss project on Enzyklopädien, Allgemeinwissen und Gesellschaft [Encyclopedias, general knowledge and society] stopped adding entries after the launch of Ketsch’s website. The overview of works of the Swiss project, launched in 2001, offers an alphabetical list of authors, a chronological overview and a drop down menu for particular genres. Its strength lies in the descriptions of works and the attention to the context and variety of encyclopedic works.

Logo N-ZyklopThe project N-Zyklop (Universität Trier) which started in 2005 is another attempt at a full-scale database for finding encyclopedias. I checked here for works concerning Law (Recht). At first I was bewildered by the wide choice of works concerning trade and the presence of some biographical dictionaries, but you will find also the Vocabularium jurisprudentiae romanum by Otto Gradenwitz and other German scholars (Berlin 1903-1939). In particular the first edition of Jacob Bes’ Scheepvaarttermen. Handboek voor handel en scheepvaart (Amsterdam 1949) seemed gone astray, but in its multilingual version it became a classic work for maritime law, Chartering and shipping terms (1951). With some 5,000 entries and the possibillity to search for Dewey Decimal Classification codes in the advanced search mode N-Zyklop is certainly worth a visit, even if you have to translate the German terms used for every DDC code.

Lists versus databases

While preparing this post I thought I had spotted in the Enzyklothek an entry for the digitized version of the Lexikon für Kirchen- und Staatskirchenrecht, Axel von Campenhausen et alii (eds.) (3 vol., Paderborn, etc., 2000) in the section Digi20 of the Digitale Sammlungen of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, but I looked at the wrong place, and thus I was at first unable to retrace it. Finally I realized I had seen it in the German Wikisource list of online encyclopedias and lexicons. This work brings me to the final section of this contribution for a quick comparison of the specialized encyclopedia websites with the lists of encyclopedias offered at Wikisource. Some of my readers might well ask why I choose not to start with them. The main reason for my choice is the fact the lists at Wikisource and Wikipedia are not always the fruit of systematic and methodic search, but there is a clear degree of control, and thus the information can be most useful. In fact I had expected the name of a very conscious and active contributor to the German Wikisource as the main author or coordinating editor of this splendid list.

The German Wikisource page for encyclopedias has a section on Politik und Recht, politics and law. When you look at the works mentioned on it the Enzyklothek clearly is deficient. Among the notable works is the Deutsches Staats-Wörterbuch by Johann Kaspar Bluntschli and Karl Brater (11 vol., Stuttgart-Leipzig, 1857-1870). Bluntschli’s draft for a civil law code of the Swiss canton Zürich influenced the Schweizerisches Zivilgesetzbuch designed by Eugen Huber (1907). Bluntschli is better known as one of the founders of the Institute for International Law-Institut de Droit International. You will find als the first three editions of the Staatslexikon published by the Görres-Gesellschaft since 1887, with the eight edition now being published. Even today one can benefit from Emil Seckel’s continuation of the Heumanns Handlexikon zu den Quellen des römischen Rechts; the sixth edition (Jena 1929) has been digitized in Sevilla (PDF, 80 MB).

I would have been most happy to report here on the wealth of information in the English and French Wikisource for legal encyclopedias, but alas this is not possible. The English Wikisource bring you to the first edition of a single multivolume work, The laws of Engeland, being a complete statement of the whole law of Engeland (31 vol., London, 1907-1917) by the Earl of Halsbury, an encyclopedia from beginning to the end and nevertheless avoiding this word in its title. The English Wikipedia lists five online legal encyclopedias. For completeness’ sake I note that the similar French and Ukrainian Wikisource pages do not give you any legal encyclopedias, but the Russian Wikisource mentions three legal encyclopedias. It is only logical the German Wikisource has also an interesting page Rechtswissenschaft for digitized old laws and older legal works. Both the various Wikisources and Wikipedias as resources in open access gain everything from the input and efforts of contributors. In my view it is wrong not to take them as serious as other encyclopedias in print or online.

Some conclusions

This rapid tour of legal encyclopedias taught me a few things. Apart from my preference to delve into old books it is simply important to realize the great encyclopedias in print and online of our century have many forerunners, a number of them taking much space on your shelves. The famous ones had their competitors, but there was also a market for abridged versions. It is good to see you can often hardly distinguish between legal encyclopedias and legal dictionaries. Another thing is almost a returning refrain here: do not stay content using just one major resource for any subject. The question of languages is a second thread on my blog. The use of the translation tool in a particular web browser from an omnipresent IT firm helps you to get at least a rough idea of contents, and it teaches you knowing a language inside out does help you in many ways. The books on early economic thought and their focus on running a household is a welcome reminder economics only started in the nineteenth century to claim an existence as a science. Private law has captured more attention from legal historian than public law, and this bias, too, becomes more clear thanks to these projects.

Last but not least the predominance of German resources in this post is indeed due to my familiarity with German research. For German legal historians having the second edition of the Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte in front of you on your computer screen as HRG Digital has been a major qualitative step, although you have to subscribe to it or find a university library with a license for this online resource. It is one of the dictionaries containing much more than you would expect. There is also a printed version of the second edition. It is fitting to end here with the efforts of Gerhard Köbler in Innsbruck, who has not only published a number of historical legal dictionaries, but also maintains a massive portal on German and Austrian law and legal history, including for examples concise biographies of many lawyers. Köbler prefers web pages above a database. As for libraries with collections of Early Modern legal works, and increasingly also digital collections, you will not stop me pointing here regularly to the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main.

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.

Connecting and relating legal history

This week WordPress, the provider of my blog, turned on a new feature, showing for every post related posts. In the current layout you will find them at the end of every contribution. WordPress has created an algorithm based on the labels added to each post – both categories and tags – to come up with results that stand in some relation to a particular posting. Thoughtfully WordPress makes it possible to turn off the new feature.

It is surely tempting for me to invite the readers of one particular post at my blog to read more posts! The new suggestions feature might be helpful to achieve this aim. However, the very crux is of course the quality of the categories and tags added to my posts. Is it not wiser to rely on them? For every post I try to provide sensible labels, either by selecting one or more categories and a fair number of tags. WordPress gives you a number of suggestions for additional tagging immediately after the publication of a post. For a number of scientific disciplines thesauri have been created, classification systems with terms which help you to locate and describe an object, be it a book, an image or any other object, in a systematic way, and to place it in a coherent and ordered way at its right place within such a system. At the Université Paris-Sud, Faculté Jean Monnet, François Jankowiak and Brigitte Basdevant-Gaudemet and other scholars at the Centre Droit et Sociétés Réligieuses maintain GREGORIUS, an online bibliography for medieval canon law where search terms are added to bibliographical records in a systematic way. It is certainly wise to follow their example, but most often it is really difficult to fit posts within any system on this blog where I try to cover many aspects of legal history.

Adding tags does help people to find information on a particular subject in a systematic way. A title of a publication cannot contain all you might be looking for, and this is even more obvious for languages you are unable to read or speak. Tagging can be a cumbersome affair. It is easy to create confusion. Only lately I noticed that I used both Great Britain and United Kingdom as tags, and I changed this in all relevant cases into United Kingdom. On the other hand some posts touching on the field of epigraphy, the study of inscriptions, have both the tag Epigraphy and Inscriptions, and I guess it is wiser to keep using the term Inscriptions as well. If you look for Holland on this blog for legal history with a Dutch view I must inform you that Holland is currently only the name for two provinces. The country of the Dutch people is called the Netherlands. In order not to find yourself reading involuntarily a post on the medieval county of Holland I use the tag Netherlands as often as necessary.

Tag clloud Rechtsgeschiedenis blog, 2013

Instead of coming with more doubts about and objections to prefigured reading suggestions I had better tell you what is already provided here. As categories I use Buildings, Centers, Editions, Exhibitions, General, Landscapes, Manuscripts and Scholars. You will find many tags. In the tag cloud on my blog you can easily deduce which themes figure most often on it. As for now the tag cloud is located near the end of the side bar, almost down under. My tweets with @Rechtshistorie come last. I have done this on purpose in order not to detract your attention from the blogroll with a nice selection of institutional blogs, personal blogs on legal history, a number of blogs created at (law) libraries with great interest for legal historians, in particular in the field of old books and manuscripts, and a selection of e-journals for legal history. To me it seems the blogs of law libraries are often overlooked. They do not deal exclusively with legal history, but it is the very point that they do include it that makes them interesting. In other words, I give you every possible chance to get as quickly as possible to other legal history blogs instead of keeping you confined any longer to the posts I have published since 2009.

The mirror of manuscripts: on searching facsimile editions

Readers of my blog have undoubtedly noted my predilection for original sources. Whenever possible I intend to supply the exact title and location of sources or to give indications about critical editions. Instead of pointing to reliable translations I prefer giving information about a text in its original version. Thus my post in 2011 about modern translations of the Corpus Iuris Civilis was in a way exceptional. Digital libraries can give you online access to both original sources and text editions. However, there is another form in which you may encounter a particular text. For a substantial number of remarkable manuscripts, books and archival records facsimile editions have been published. When you visit a department of manuscripts and old books at a national or university library you have often a marvellous collection of printed facsimile editions at hand. Many years ago I spent an afternoon with a facsimile edition in black and white (!) of the Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht, University Library, ms. 32). 1 By the way, this library prepares a new online version of this famous manuscript which will be launched this autumn.

Students, scholars and teachers all have reasons to use facsimile editions, be it for research or for educational purposes. What resources can one use to find facsimile editions quickly? What is the quality of some online inventories? What help do they offer when you look for a text or resource in connection with legal history? In this post I try to provide some answers to these questions. Due to the very scope of a blog post the result can only be a guide in a nutshell, but nevertheless it might help anyone looking for a very particular and valuable resource. The title of this post reflects not only the history of book titles such as the Speculum iudiciale by Guillelmus Duranti (around 1230-1296), but also for example the Digital Mirror of the National Library of Wales, the entrance to its digital collections.

In a postscript I briefly look at other search strategies and online resources. The combination of printed guides and bibliographies, online catalogues and meta-catalogues with the special databases discussed here gives the best chances to find both facsimiles and reliable information about them.

Hunting for precious manuscripts

The exceptional value of a manuscript or book is determined by several factors. The age of the manuscript or book. the state of its preservation, its unique role as a text carrier, especially when it is a rare or even the only textual witness, and often also the illumination or illustrations play a role in selecting as the object of a facsimile edition. Some manuscripts are considered very special indeed. Simple mortals are not allowed to see them, and even scholars must have very good reasons to convince a holding institution of the urgent need to consult the original. The Codex Florentinus of the Digest held at Florence is a good example of this class of manuscripts. Sometimes legal historians have in front of them a list of earlier visitors who consulted a manuscript, and it takes considerable courage to add your name after Theodor Mommsen and other giants.

Logo UB Graz

Last year I wrote about legal history in the Austrian city Graz. One of the websites maintained at the university library of Graz is an online bibliography of manuscripts in facsimile editions. In 1976 Hans Zotter published the first edition of the Bibliographie faksimilierter Handschriften (Graz 1976) with 637 titles, and in 1995 Hans and Heidi Zotter came with a second edition for titles published until 1992, this time on disc. To the search interface of the current website are added a list of relevant literature, an overview of series by major publishers and a list of abbreviations. You can search this online database either using the location of holding institutions and with any search term (Volltextsuche). As an example I use a famous German legal text, the Sachsenspiegel, “The Mirror of Saxony” by Eike von Repgow. At four German libraries so-called codices picturati are held, wonderfully illustrated manuscripts which long have been revered as the primary example of sources for legal iconography. The database in Graz provides you systematically with basic information about a manuscript and bibliographical information about the facsimile edition. For the Codex Florentinus a search for “Firenze” yields not only the two facsimile editions (1900 and 1988), which happen to come into view at the top, but also all other facsimile editions of manuscripts kept in Florence. With Ungenannter Ort, “location not indicated”, you get those editions of manuscripts where the location of the – often private – library is not indicated. The free text search brings you also to the register of editors.

It would be a miracle if the database at Graz was flawless, but it took me some time to find an example of a missing edition. The University of Arizona in Tucson has a created an online exhibit of Mixtec, Mayan and Aztec codices, with an extended list of relevant facsimile editions. With a few exceptions I found every edition mentioned in this exhibit in the Austrian database. These manuscripts give me a chance to mention the beautiful online exhibit at the Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas at Austin on Aztec and Maya Law: An Online Exhibit and Bibliography, based on an exhibition created by Mike Widener and his colleagues at this library in 1992. The web version has been revised and updated in 2010.

A more general approach?

At this point it is only sensible to ask for a royal road to facsimile editions. Can you tune one of the major online meta-catalogues to search specifically for these kind of editions? I tried the advanced search interface of WorldCat, but even though the dropdown list of materials to be specified is most impressive facsimile editions are conspicuously absent. At the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (KVK) one can use the search term “facsimile” in the free search field and add additional search terms in any field, which however works only for a restricted number of catalogues connected to the KVK. As a matter of fact you will find bibliographies which mention facsimile editions or even contain a specific facsimile, but apart from Zotter’s book and disc I did not yet find a modern bibliography of facsimile editions of manuscripts. For some subjects specialized bibliographies of facsimiles exist, for example botany and cartography.

It did cross my mind to search at Archivalia, the blog maintained by Klaus Graf which functions as a treasure trove for all matters concerning libraries and archives, but apart from one of the sites discussed here below I mainly found links to specific projects and websites. Let two examples mentioned at Archivalia suffice: sometimes I wonder why libraries use the term facsimile for digital versions, as for example for this nifty preset search action for digitized manuscripts at Leiden University Library, The second example is rather special, a list at Manuscripta Mediaevalia of digitized versions (!) of facsimile editions on microfiche of medieval manuscripts with mainly German texts in the series Codices Illuminati Medii Aevi (CIMA).

One site to find them all…

Logo Facsimile Finder

For testing the two remaining websites to be discussed here I will use as search examples apart from the Sachsenspiegel and the CIMA series also the Codice Florentino manuscript of Bernardino de Sahagún (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, ms. Palat. 218-220), a veritable encyclopedia of the Aztec civilization.2 In fact the first site for finding facsimiles which prompted me into writing this post is called Facsimile Finder. Its subtitle “The complete database of illuminated manuscripts” at once invites you to check its quality. At the same time a restriction to illuminated manuscripts is clearly stated at the outset.

The Facsimile Finder, a website run by two Italian scholars who also are the owners of the publishing house Codices illustres, easily presents the four illuminated manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel, and shows them with an image of the manuscript and the facsimile edition. The site gives for each manuscript the main elements of a codicological description, and also information about the background of the text and illuminations. On the page for the Oldenburger manuscript (Oldenburg, Landesbibliothek, Hs. CIM I 410) it reads rather curiously that the manuscript is held at the Niedersächsische Staatsbibliothek in Hannover. When I looked for the exact title at Facsimile Finder of the facsimile edition by the Austrian publisher Adeva the title turned out be left out at both websites. Adeva states as the holding institution the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung in Hannover. However, this institution certainly bought the manuscript in 1991, but placed it immediately as an extended loan at the Landesbibliothek in Oldenburg. A classic bibliographical search for the exact title yielded as a result that Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand edited the commentary to the edition “im Auftrag der Niedersächsischen Sparkassenstiftung Hannover”, by order of the Lower Saxon Savings Bank Foundation.3 Obviously it is possible not only to miss the clear indication of the location of a manuscript, but also to mix up a foundation and a library. Do you need any comments about the presentation both at this search site and by the very publisher of the facsimile? For the three other codices picturati of the Sachsenspiegel the indication of the holding library and the manuscript’s signature is correct, but here, too, as for all entries at Facsimile Finder, no title is given among further details such as the publisher, the editor, year of publication and current price of a facsimile edition. To put the record straight, on its own website Adeva equally leaves out the exact titles of their editions.

It is only fair to applaud the colourful presentation at Facsimile Finder, and in particular the search facilities which help you to focus on a particular period, language, style, type, theme or country. The theme option couples “Law” with “History” and “Chronicles”. When you realize this website contains just a meagre five hundred items, the practical restrictions for users becomes rather clear. The multiple section “Chronicles/History/Laws” brings you to 76 manuscripts. Whatever the rationale might be behind this selection, a number of them does concern legal history and is certainly very interesting, as the following examples show:

– privileges of emperor Charles V (Sevilla, Archivo Municipal, I-5-99)
– the 972 charter for the marriage of the Byzantine princess Theophanu (Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, 6 Urk. 11)
– the Goldene Bulle (1400) of king Wenceslas IV of Bohemia (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek [ÖNB], Cod. 2292)
– the Schwazer Bergbuch (Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. 10852), a text on mining and mining law written between 1556 and 1561
– the Ostarrichi charter (996) (Munich, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Kaiserselekt 859)
– a tenth-century manuscript of the Leges Salicae (Modena, Archivio Capitulare, ms. O.I.2)
– the Tordesillas Treaties (1494) from the copies at Lisboa, Arquivo Nacional da Torro do Tombo and Sevilla, Archivo General de Indias
– the Leyes de Burgos (1512) from the Archivo General de Simancas, Registro General del Sello XII-1512.

I was genuinely surprised by the facsimiles of the charter with the oath of the Spanish king Philipp II on his investiture for Sicily in 1555 (Città del Vaticano, Archivio Segreto Vaticano, A.A., Arm. I-XVIII, 522), the credential given by George Washington to William Short as ambassador in Spain (1794) (Madrid, Archivo Naciónal de España, 1794, junio 5 Filadelfia Estado Leg. 3890-14) – with unaccountably attached an image of the 1555 oath by king Philipp II – and the Furs (Valencia, Arxiu Municipal), royal legislation from 1461. The Arxiu Municipal of Valencia is also mentioned for its manuscript from 1407 of the Libro del Consolato del Mar. A quick search for this legal text learns me that apart from the facsimile published in 1977 facsimiles appeared in 1947, 1979, 2004 and 2006, none of them mentioned here. To conclude for the sake of completeness, the CIMA series is not mentioned at all, nor the manuscript of Bernardino de Sahagún.

Now you might quarrel with me that I cannot hide my irony about the website just discussed, but it is ironical that the second website I want to discuss is also called Facsimile Finder. At a German website called Faksimile Finder the subtitle is “Facsimile Finder – Bibliotheca Alexandriae”. This website in English lets you choose search fields from a dropdown list, the preferred language, and you can narrow your search by indicating the period between particular years. The database contains more than 2600 entries. Browsing lists of locations and subject groups is another possibility; “Jura”, German for “laws” , is one of the subject groups. You can choose several ways, too, to sort the results. This website brings you to online versions of manuscripts, not to facsimile editions in printed form. At the bottom of the search interface you can follow the links to a number of websites concerning medieval manuscripts, early printed books and sources for Classical Antiquity, Japanese and Chinese Buddhist studies.

Let’s quickly go through the results of my queries: for the Sachsenspiegel only the online versions at Heidelberg and Wolfenbüttel appear, the Codice Florentino on Aztec history is not included nor manuscripts from the CIMA series. For those curious about the exact signatures of the illuminated Sachsenspiegel manuscripts I have put them in a footnote together with links to the digitized versions.4 The subject group “Jura” contains just one item, the Wolfenbüttler manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel. The omission of the other Sachsenspiegel manuscript is strange. To all appearances it seems the creator of this database certainly put a lot of work in creating a subject index, but the actual results are for this particular subject distinctly meagre.

A mirror of illusions

Should we end lamenting the sad state of affairs of these three databases concerning facsimilised or digitized manuscripts? What did we see in the mirror? The database at Graz is wonderful, its bibliographical accuracy is high, but an update is most welcome. The Italian Facsimile Finder looks splendid, but its range is restricted to illuminated manuscripts and the actual number of editions, too, could be larger. The omission of titles and some factual mistakes do not work in favour of this website. When I asked information about this website Giovanni Scorcioni kindly informed me he is working on a new enhanced version with more facsimiles. A sneak preview is indeed promising. The problem with the exact titles is mainly caused by relying on the data and images given by publishers, and the information about the Oldenburger Sachsenspiegel will be corrected. The German Faksimile Finder covers a wide range of subjects, contains a substantial number of manuscripts and books, but focuses effectively on online versions of manuscripts and rare books. Its subtitle points to the ideal of the classic library at Alexandria which aimed at being a bibliotheca bibliothecarum. Its modern successor,, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina hosts a mirror site of the Internet Archive. Other major universal digital initiatives have mirror sites, too, especially the Universal Digital Library of the Carnegie-Mellon-University Pittsburgh, with in this case even three mirror sites, two in China and one in India.

When we look in the mirror after this long virtual excursion we should realize that we can profit at least from received wisdom by using the information about facsimile editions of manuscripts in reliable guides. The database at Graz should be wider known. It is duly noted for example on the fine page of the German Virtual Library-History guiding you to codicology, but alas this page is no longer updated, and though Zotter is mentioned no working link is given for the database at Graz. The great online RBMS bibliographical guide for rare materials mentions only Zotter’s catalogue of incunabula at Graz. The MGH does mention it on a webpage for manuscripts, but with the old web address, as does the online version of Leonard Boyle’s bibliography of palaeography.5

Yet another possible gateway to medieval manuscripts in facsimile came into view for this contribution. I did notice references to Charles D. Wright (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and his online bibliography Medieval Manuscripts in Facsimile and Microform, for example in the very useful guide to medieval manuscript catalogues, microforms and microfilms of UPenn Libraries, but alas the link does not function. The guide to medieval manuscripts at UIUC gives a different URL for Wright’s bibliography, but this, too, is currently not working. Only after a long search I found a reference at Umiltà to a third version from 2008 and last published in 2010 which does not exist any more, too, but luckily was archived at the Internet Archive. It turns out to be a list with examples of facsimiles of illustrated medieval manuscripts organized by subject in alphabetical order, with for “law books” just two entries. This list simply does not fit in a comparison of databases. The page for facsimiles at Umiltà is just a list of some publishing houses and their websites with a few images attached.

Logo Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries, Unicversity of Notre Dame, Ind.

At least one library has its own special database for finding microfilms and facsimiles of medieval manuscripts. The Medieval Institute Library at the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame, Ind., shows in its database information about some 9,000 microfilms and 600 facsimile editions in its holdings. Apart from a nice array of search filters you will find also information about online versions of particular manuscripts. I could not help sighing for sheer relief when seeing and testing this great resource, and even more when you can easily track at least fourteen legal texts. In my view it is a model to follow for a project which would cover editions for other periods and subjects. In my opinion it is not by chance that you can find at the Hesburgh Libraries also an excellent online exhibition on the medieval inquisition, and an online catalogue of some 200 facsimiles of medieval seals. Combining the database of the Hesburgh Libraries with for example its smaller counterpart at Fordham University is one of the search options that scholars can follow. It is easy nowadays to find the major online projects concerning medieval manuscripts for particular regions, languages and subjects, and anyway this post has at this point already grown too long to include any of them. If you insist you might have a look at my own page on medieval manuscripts.

If we had been looking for facsimiles of medieval charters, things would be very different. At the French portal for medieval studies Ménestrel you could go for example to the very detailed list of editions created at the École Nationale des Chartes in Paris. It scarcely needs a reminder that for digitized medieval manuscripts, too, we do not have – and most probably will not have for some time – a portal that really covers the growing number of manuscripts accessible online. Using websites as the Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts at UCLA, other sites as listed for example at Ménestrel, the great links page for legal manuscripts made by Gero Dolezalek, to which I can only add the digital manuscript index DMS at Stanford, still in its infancy but promising, the portal Manuscripts Online: Written Culture 1000 to 1500, and Europeana Regia, a project which I discussed here in 2011 and 2012. The website at UCLA was created by two courageous scholars, but in 2013 they decided to stop the project which did present three thousand manuscripts. For Old English manuscripts John Herrington created already in 1998 a website with a downloadable Excelsheet which perfectly serves as a guide to facsimiles. I am sure some of the more specialized databases for medieval manuscripts do contain information about the presence of facsimile editions. Adding when possible information about such editions to the Manuscripta Juridica database at Frankfurt am Main, the online version of the 1972 repertory of manuscripts with Roman law texts created by Gero Dolezalek and Hans van de Wouw, is certainly desirable.

Creating and maintaining a database for finding facsimile editions that would fulfill the most exacting scholarly demands would be quite a feat. The major demand here is the creation of a full bibliographical record for a facsimile, which has to contain both data on the edition in itself and on the object published in facsimile. Meanwhile hopefully the combination of resources I discussed here can help you to find what you need, or at least inform what you can expect from these resources. In my view it is only by cooperation, team work and a clear long-term view that such large and ambitious projects can succeed. As for how and when this will happen, these biblical words seem most apt, “for now we see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13,12).


1. Ernest T. DeWald (ed.), The illustrations of the Utrecht Psalter (Princeton, NJ-London-Leipzig, 1932).
2. The facsimile edition is [Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España] : manuscrito 218 – 20 de la Colección Palatina de la Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana ; codice florentino para mayor conocimiento de la historia del pueblo de Mexico (3 vol., Florence-México 1979).
3. Der Oldenburger Sachsenspiegel: vollständige Faksimile-Ausgabe im Originalformat des Codex picturatus Oldenburgensis CIM I 410 der Landesbibliothek Oldenburg / Textband [und Kommentarband] herausgegeben von Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand im Auftrag der Niedersächsischen Sparkassenstiftung Hannover (2 vol., Graz 1995-1996). The format of the edition Graz-Darmstadt 2006) is slightly reduced and it does not constitute a normal facsimile.
4. Dresden, Sächsische Landes- und Universitätbibliothek, ms. 32, digital version; Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. Germ. 164, digital version; Oldenburg, Landesbibliothek, CIM I 410, digital version; Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 3.1 fol., digital version.
5. Leonard Boyle, Medieval Latin Palaeography: a bibliographical introduction (third edition, Toronto 1995). The updated Italian version: Paleografia latina medievale (Rome 1999).

A postscript

My discussion focused on a number of specialized databases. In passing I referred to using the bibliographical information in library catalogues and meta-catalogues. I was kindly alerted to look again at the possibilities of WorldCat to retrieve facsimile editions. On closer inspection I do admit that I dismissed WorldCat too quickly, but you do face the fact of depending very much on the quality of the bibliographical records harvested by WorldCat, or at any other meta-catalogue. In particular a search at WorldCat for medieval law texts in facsimile with among the results a facsimile edition of the Westphalian Peace (1648) fueled my mistrust.

Years ago I created my own list of major libraries and their online catalogues. It is perfectly sensible to use them, too, for finding facsimile editions. Combining the information in printed bibliographies, some specialized databases and a number of (meta-)catalogues at major libraries is the way to find facsimile editions. Some printed bibliographies are accessible online. I want to single out the vast work edited for the Library of Congress by Guadalupe Jiménez Codinach, The Hispanic world, 1492-1898 : a guide to photoreproduced manuscripts from Spain in the collections of the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico / El mundo hispánico, 1492-1898 : guía de copias fotográficas de manuscritos españoles existentes en los Estados Unidos de América, Guam y Puerto Rico (Washington, D.C., 1994), which serves not only as a directory to American collections, but informs you also about a multitude of works which have appeared in facsimile editions. The guide can be consulted online at Purdue University. I tracked this guide using the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Only a very small number of books presenting facsimiles of legal works can be consulted in full view through the services of this major enterprise.

Mentioning the Library of Congress should ring a bell for the LC Subject Headings. Using them for your searches in relevant catalogues does indeed help to narrow your results. However, the problem remains of bibliographical records with either lacking subject information or at the other end almost too much details, in particular chains of LC Subject Headings which can be in my opinion far too specific. As for finding books related to law, some universities and institutions have the luxury of both general and specific law library catalogues, for example Yale University with both the general Orbis catalogue and the Morris catalogue for Yale Law School.

For the Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht, UB, ms. 32) there is a new digital presence with accompanying information, you can also go straight for the digitized manuscript itself in the Special Collections of Utrecht University Library.

Weighing the witches at Oudewater

Heksenwaag, Oudewater

The Heksenwaag, Oudewater – image Geschiedkundige Vereniging Oudewater, http://www.geschiedkundigeverenigingoudewater.nl/

This month the walking historian marches again! In July I visited the tiny town of Oudewater, a city in the southwest corner of the province Utrecht. In the beautiful old city of Oudewater the historic Heksenwaag, the Witches Weigh-House is not to be missed. However, in fact I did almost overlook it due to the fact that in my memory the building was much larger. As a kid I had visited the Heksenwaag, and I even received the certificate stating my weight was normal. Coming back to this town things seemed different, but the degree of change was really surprisingly low. Afterwards I could not help questioning what I had seen and doubting my assumptions and conclusions. Moreover, the Heksenwaag is not just a building which any tourist has to visit, but it is a veritable Dutch lieu de mémoire. It links directly to the history of European witchcraft and the ways law and justice dealt with this phenomenon. The results are interesting enough to include in this post which has as its second focus the perception of Oudewater’s history.

Hard facts and shallow assumptions

The scales in the Heksenwaag, Oudewater

In De canon van Nederland, “The canon of Dutch history”, the Heksenwaag at Oudewater is connected to emperor Charles V. He is said to have granted Oudewater in 1545 a privilege to weigh persons suspected of witchcraft and to issue certificates of normal weight. The vogue for historic canons in the Netherland has led to several regional canons. In the canon for the southwest corner of Utrecht the story of the Heksenwaag is strongly qualified. Legend had preserved a tale of Charles V doubting in 1545 a witch trial at Polsbroek where a woman had been weighed and found too light. He ordered a second weighing at Oudewater, showing her to have a weight of 100 pounds, which saved her, As a sign of gratitude for the correctness of the staff at the weigh-house he granted the privilege. However, there was no weigh-house at all in the village of Polsbroek. The scene of the false weighing could have been the town of IJsselstein. There is no trace of any privilege from 1545 for Oudewater.

Where do we find sources on the medieval and Early Modern history of Oudewater? This very question does bring you quickly to sources touching upon legal history. Joost Cox published in 2005 for the Foundation for the History of Old Dutch Law a repertory of Dutch medieval city charters with grants of specific rights, bylaws and ordinances, the Repertorium van de stadsrechten in Nederland (The Hague 2005). At the accompanying website you will find only lists of cities and dates. With some caution Cox traces such a charter for Oudewater said to be given in 1257 by Hendrik I of Vianden, bishop of Utrecht from 1249 to 1267 (Cox, p. 190). The Institute for Dutch History has recently digitized the major modern editions of medieval charters for the county of Holland and the diocese of Utrecht. The Oorkondenboek van het Sticht Utrecht tot 1301, S.Muller Fz. et alii (eds.) (5 vol., Utrecht 1920-‘s-Gravenhage 1959) does contain an item for this charter (OSU III, 1428) which shows a short reference in a chronicle as the ultimate source of all later information. The chronicle places the gift of a city charter in 1257. Some later authors misread the chronicle and placed it in the year 1265. Nevertheless the city of Oudewater prepares the celebration of 750 years Oudewater in 2015. A celebration in 2007 would have been equally justifiable…

Map of Oudewater by Jacob van Deventer, around 1557

Map of Oudewater by Jacob van Deventer, around 1557

The remarkable insistence on some presumed historical facts in the history of Oudewater comes in a different perspective when looking at a number of events that most certainly determined its history. During a war between the bishop of Utrecht and the count of Holland Oudewater was severely damaged during a siege in 1349 (see for example the Divisiekroniek of Cornelius Aurelius (Leiden 1517) fol. 212 recto). Oudewater held a strategic position a the junction of the rivers Linschoten and Hollandse IJssel. In 1281 the bishop of Utrecht pledged Oudewater and some other possessions for 6000 livres tournois to the counts of Holland (OHZ IV, 1938 (1281 January 24)). The bishops of Utrecht never were able to repay this sum, and thus Oudewater remained until 1970 a town in Holland. On June 19, 1572, Oudewater was captured by Adriaen van Zwieten, and it became one of the earliest cities in Holland to side with William of Orange. On July 19, 1572 Oudewater participated with sixteen other cities in the first independent session of the States of Holland at Dordrecht, a landmark in the long struggle of the Low Countries with Spain, the Eighty Years War that lasted until the Westphalian Peace (1648).

Oudewater 1575

Engraving by Frans Hogenberg of the atrocities in Oudewater, 1575 – Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, collectie Historieplaten Frederik Muller – see http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl/

The change of sides in June 1572 and the presence of Oudewater at the historic session in Dordrecht a month later had undoubtedly been noted by the Spanish authorities in the Low Countries. The locations of Dutch cities had been chartered quite recently by Jacob van Deventer, the cartographer charged by the Spanish king Philipp II with a large-scale cartographical project. The surviving maps have been digitized in the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. When Spanish forces approached Oudewater in August 1575, an ultimatum was sent urging the city council to surrender. By sheer misfortune this ultimatum was not properly understood. On August 7, 1575 the city was set to fire and many citizens were ruthlessly murdered. Only the church of St. Michael’s and a monastery did escape the devastations. These events clearly affected also the survival of historical records. With much support from nearby cities such as Gouda Oudewater was quickly rebuilt. The results of this building campaign are still visible in the center of the city which looks indeed rather unified if you look closely enough. The destruction of the original buildings, and presumably also of many historic records, explains the tendency to stick to some acclaimed stories and events. Archival records concerning Oudewater can in particular be found at the Regionaal Historisch Centrum Rijnstreek in Woerden and at Het Utrechts Archief in Utrecht. The survival of written records plays a role, too, in the project of Sophie Oosterwijk and Charlotte Dikken on the floor slabs of St. Michael’s at Oudewater.

Of witches, historians and tourists…

Perhaps I had start here better with stating my relative unfamiliarity with the history of witchcraft. As a historian I have kept this subject on purpose on a safe distance, but in the end there is no escape from it, in particular because the subject of persecution and trials is not far away from the main territories of legal historians.

Debunking some part of history is nothing special, nor is it my aim to expose any mystification. Others have done this thoroughly for the Witches Weigh-House. Under the pseudonym Casimir K. Visser the exiled German journalist and historian Kurt Baschwitz (1886-1968) published the study Van de heksenwaag te Oudewater en andere te weinig bekende zaken (Lochem, [1941]; online at the Dutch Royal Library). Baschwitz pointed to an inspection in 1547 of the weights used at the weigh-house, a fact adduced by earlier historians, but actually a normal procedure which says nothing about any special use. He notes the careful avoidance in the certificates of any reference to a belief in witches, witchcraft, sorcery and similar things. Baschwitz referred to Johannes Wier (around 1515-1588), the famous Dutch physician who fought against superstitions, Wier did not mention Oudewater at all in his 1563 treatise De praestigiis daemonum nor in his De lamiis (1577). Both books were often reprinted and appeared in translations. Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698), too, did not credit Oudewater with any special role in his famous book De betoverde weereld (1691). Baschwitz published in 1963 his great study Hexen und Hexenprozesse. Die Geschichte eines Massenwahns und seiner Bekämpfung (Munich 1963)Hans de Waardt reviewed the historiography concerning Oudewater and witches in his article ‘Oudewater. Ein Hexenwaage wird gewogen – oder: Die Zerstörung einer historischen Mythe’, Westfälische Zeitschrift 144 (1994) 249-263 (online (PDF) at the Internet Portal Westfälische Geschichte). De Waardt wrote his Ph.D. thesis on sorcery and society in the province of Holland, Toverij en samenleving in Holland, 1500-1800 (diss. Rotterdam; The Hague 1991).

For the study of Johannes Wier Dutch readers can benefit from the marvellous recent study by Vera Hoorens, Een ketterse arts voor de heksen : Jan Wier (1515-1588) [A heretic physician for the witches, Jan Wier (1515-1588)] (Amsterdam 2011). On Balthasar Bekker Johanna Maria Nooijen published in 2009 “Unserm grossen Bekker ein Denkmal”? : Balthasar Bekkers ‘Betoverde Weereld’ in den deutschen Landen zwischen Orthodoxie und Aufklärung (Münster 2009).

It might be useful to mention the special website of the main Dutch historical journal Bijdragen en Mededelingen betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden / Low Countries Historical Review where you can search online in the issues from 1970 to 2012. As for searching literature for European history you will no doubt gain information and insights at the portal European Historical Bibliographies maintained by the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. A number of current historical bibliographies presented at this portal can be consulted online. For the history of the city and province of Utrecht you can use the online bibliography at SABINE which in a number of cases provides also links to digital versions of articles and books.

Researching the history of witchcraft

When it comes to studying the history of witches and witchcraft I must confess to start at almost zero. It is years ago that I read a monographic study on witchcraft, and this particular study, Lène Dresen-Coenders, Het verbond van heks en duivel : een waandenkbeeld aan het begin van de moderne tijd als symptoom van een veranderende situatie van de vrouw en als middel tot hervorming der zeden [The pact of witch and devil: an Early Modern fallacy as a symptom of a changing situation for women and as a means to reform morals] (diss. Nijmegen; Baarn 1983) did not convince me at all. Perhaps I was simply wrong in choosing to read this book with its overlong title and its hypotheses which still seem to me farfetched. In fact I kept away from a whole group of Dutch historians doing maatschappijgeschiedenis, “history of society” who favored studies of minorities to detect changes in mentality. Any exclusive focus still makes me frown, but the history of mentalities and cultural history in general is of course fascinating and most valuable.

If I was to start nowadays doing research on this theme I would look first at such fine guides as the section on Hexenforschung at the German history portal Historicum.net. Klaus Graf is the moderator of a useful mailing list on witchcraft research. You can also point to a succinct thematic bibliography provided in Dresden, the Dresdener Auswahlbibliographie zum Hexenforschung, which unfortunately has not been updated since 2004. In Tübingen the Arbeitskreis interdisziplinärer Hexenforschung sets an example of bringing several disciplines together. Unfortunately Jonathan Durrants’ online Witchcraft Bibliography was not available when writing this post. Older literature up to the end of the twentieth century can be found for example in a bibliography preserved at a website of the University of Texas. For Flanders Jos Monballyu (Kortrijk) has created a fine online bibliography and a selection of relevant sources concerning witch trials. He has written many studies about witches and traced many criminal sentences concerning them in Flemish archives. The Cornell University Witchcraft Collection is most useful with its bibliography and digital library.

In American history the Salem Witch Trials (1692) offer a fascinating window on early American society. You can find many documents online, in particular at the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project (University of Virginia), at Douglas Linder’s Famous Trials website and at a portal dedicated to the events in 1692 with a digital collection of books and archival records. The perceptions of behavior and the attempts at dealing with such behavior in courts of justice, not to forget the changing perceptions of justice, are among the elements which make the persecution of witches, witchcraft and sorcery interesting for legal historians.

Of course these examples can be multiplied, but this would far exceed the boundaries of a blog post. Here I have sketched only the outlines of things worth exploring further. I called Oudewater a Dutch lieu de mémoire. In the book series Plaatsen van herinnering sofar five volumes have appeared since 2005 which follow for my country – albeit somewhat belated – the example of Pierre Nora’s seminal Les lieux de mémoire (3 vol., Paris 1984-1992). This interest in historical places and the ways events are remembered at particular places help us to remember history and legal history, too, happened to people in particular times and places, and not just somewhere as a part of a supposed or real historical process. Even a small building in a dreamlike preserved old town can relate to larger events. The scenic old streets of Oudewater was the scene of some very real events, but they are the background, too, for a very stubborn tradition of perceived history. The living memory and the construction or even invention of (parts of) history related to a particular place tell us the fascinating history of the uses of history, changes in perceptions and the construction of identity in time and space.

One of the things that make me uneasy in writing about witchcraft is the sheer proliferation of literature on this subject. Many scientific disciplines occupy themselves with sorcery and witchcraft and its history. It is very easy to miss a whole range of interpretations stemming from a particular corner or country. The road of using bibliographies is long. Sometimes it seems attractive to take a shortcut which in the long run does not bring you much further. Legal history should pay due attention to colored perceptions and distortions of historical facts and events in order to keep an open eye for its own pitfalls, shortcomings and blind corners.