Tag Archives: Digital humanities

Streams of life and strife: Water as a legal matter in Roman law

Banner Roman Water Law

After six months I should finally fulfill my promise to honor here at least once a year the role of Roman law. You might almost call it the mother of all legal history! Luckily I found a subject in Roman law close to current interests. Water as a vital element of life was not absent in Roman law. Its presence is in fact manifold. The project Roman Water Law at the Freie Universität and the Humboldt Universität in Berlin helps to look at regulations concerning water and its uses according to an interesting scheme. Legal attention to water has a very long history.

A Roman look at water

The project Roman Water Law has found space on the Topoi platform which stands out for its distinctive graphic design. Topoi currently contains nearly twenty research collections and smaller projects on a variety of themes. Actually the website for Roman water law is the fruit of two research programs of the Berlin Exzellenzcluster Topoi held between 2012 and 2017, “Water from a legal perspective” and “Infrastructures from judicial, gromatic and political perspectives”. The core of the virtual collection is a combination of legal sources found in the Corpus Iuris Civilis, three individual leges (laws) and the Codex Theosodianus with texts from Roman authors who touched the subject of water. The results are 572 entries with a Latin text and English translation to which one of ten newly defined categories have been assigned.

Table IX of the Lex Irnitana

Table IX of the Lex Irnitana – Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla – image: Red Digital de Colecciones de Museos de España, http://ceres.mcu.es

The harvest for Roman laws in the technical sense, leges approved by the senate of the Republic, may seem meagre with just three laws. However, one of them, the Lex Flavia Irnitana from AD 91, was only found in 1981. The fragments of six out of originally ten bronze tables are now held at the Museo Arqueológico in Seville {Hispania Epigraphica, no. 5058). This law, dated around 91 BC, is the most complete surviving example of a Lex Flavia, a municipal law. Chapter 82 of the Lex Irnitana deals with drainage and creating and changing roads, paths, canals and sewers, for which only the duumviri, a pair of magistrates elected for one year, are authorized if there is a municipal decret for their actions.

When you look at the overview of the 572 entries you use first of all several filters. Thus you can quickly see that legal texts form the majority of the texts, only 73 items stem from Roman literature. Within the corpus of legal text the Digesta rule supreme with 435 entries. Among the literature are 22 entries from Frontinus. Cicero provides only six entries. Texts found in the Corpus agrimensorum have been cited and translated using the work of Brian Campbell, The writings of the Roman land surveyors. Introduction, translation and commentary (London 2000). It is no surprise to find Okko Behrends as one of the scholars involved with the Topoi project. He edited and translated with Luigi Capogrossi Colognesi for example the volumes on Frontinus and Hyginus in the Corpus agrimensorum romanorum [vol. 4 (1998) and 5 (2000)]. You can also filter by keyword. Some forty Latin terms are given for this purpose. An entry can have multiple keywords. You can choose to open the entries for just one keyword or add entries for other keywords or subjects as well.

The core of the project are the classifications added to each entry. There are ten main types of classes, starting with definitions (44), followed by

Right to use water
Constructions to use water – Process of construction and maintenance
Legal protection of water use
Urban praedial servitudes of water
Regulation of damages and prevention of damage caused by water
Consequences of changes caused by water
Water as a route of transport
Water as a border
Buildings at banks, coasts and beaches

Under the heading Urban praedial servitudes five texts are included concerning stilicidium, the right to discharge eavesdrip (drops of rain) and the legal actions available in case of flooding (flumen). I could not help noticing that seemingly the keyword flumen has been added to the three texts for stilicidium, and that in one of the two texts for flumen the action concerning aqua pluvia is also mentioned, but not entered as a keyword. Adding the right keywords is certainly not straightforward. I looked also at the twelve texts in rubric 7.4, Storms and natural disaster, a subspecies of changes caused by water. The clear distinctions, the crisp style and the concise descriptions of standard situations should provide food for thought for any modern lawyer struggling with legal problems and trying to write about them in a most sensible and understandable way. In Roman eyes the actual situation in a particular legal case had to be faced squarely in order to provide a just solution. Last year someone asked me about Roman law and plumbing.  I can reassure my acquaintance Roman lawyers said some very constructive things about plumbeae fistulae.

It is possible to download the database of Roman Water Law, created in the special Citable format created for digital humanities. It would have been more elegant to indicate the kind of tool to open it. On a tablet I could open it directly, otherwise you can use a simple text or code editor.

The variety at Topoi

Cover Becking, "Water management in ancient civilizations"

The Topoi project does not only bring digital results. Exhibitions are held and publications appear in print, too, for example the volume edited by Jonas Becking on Water management in ancient civilizations (Berlin 2018). An earlier publication touches the theme of Roman land surveying, Cosima Möller and Eberhard Knobloch (eds.), In den Gefilden der römischen Feldmesser. Juristische, wissenschaftsgeschichtliche, historische und sprachliche Aspekte (Berlin-Boston 2013). There is also an e-Topoi Journal for Ancient Studies available in open access. Received wisdom forbids me to create in this post also a nutshell guide to other relevant institutions in Berlin for the field of ancient studies. Just looking at the Topoi repository is a treat. You can look for example at ancient cylinder seals in 3D, astronomical diaries in cuneiform inscriptions from Babylonia, a digital representation of the Pantheon, and the Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae. The Topoi cluster itself has many connections. With the Berliner Antike-Kolleg I mention an institution which has close connections to Topoi.

I leave it to you to explore yourself more texts included at Roman Water Law. Many uses of water come into view on the website and in the database. One of the few things missing are baths, but here we clearly enter the summertime of the northern hemisphere. Roman lawyers did discuss them, too! If you want to pursue such themes in Roman law I would like to point here again to Amanuensis, the application for searching Roman legal texts created by Peter Riedlberger and Günther Rosenbaum, downloadable for both computers and smartphones. In an earlier post I introduced the app. It is good to know more texts have been included in it recently (version 4.0). Thanks to Ingo Maier a number of constitutions from Late Antiquity and the Latin Novellae of Justinian have been added, and thanks to Job Spruit also the Justinian Novellae in Greek. Hopefully the summer holidays give you a chance to relax and reload, and also to learn about and upload the latest version of such tools.

 

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De rebus digitalibus: Doing digital legal history

Logo DH 2019 at UtrechtWhile the virtual world and the real world steadily become interwoven, it can sometimes seem legal history is only at the fringe of the digital turn. On the other hand all kinds of information and resources can be found online today. Using such resources does have an impact on the form and practices of legal history. Some scholarly events aim among other things at creating space for reflection and discussion about the tensions between older forms of doing history and alluring new ways and methods to pursue research goals. This year’s international congress of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO) will be held at Utrecht from July 9 to 12. In this post I will look at its program of DH2019, and also at the call for papers of a conference on digital legal history to be held at Frankfurt am Main on March 19-20, 2020, organized by the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte. It is only logical to compare the program and aims of DH2019 with the call for papers of DLH2020. Even if using the tools and methods of digital humanities may seem Latin to you, the importance of this digital approach will certainly grow, and knowing about them is useful.

Varieties and complexities

The main theme of next month’s conference in Utrecht is complexities. The way complex models are created to represent complex realities is to be addressed, as are the manifold questions about digital scholarship itself on a theoretical, social and cultural level. There is a variety of networks and mazes at work in the field of digital humanities. New generations of scholars arrive, with different perspectives and skills. If this sounds almost too much of a good thing for a four-day conference, you will see that some workshops start already on July 8. For the special focus of this conference, digital humanities in Africa, a workshop for African scholars, DH – the perspective of Africa, will be held from July 1 to 5 at the Lorenz Center of Leiden University. On July 8 there will be a workshop at the Royal Library in The Hague on Libraries as Research Partner in Digital Humanities. The venue of DH2019 is not a university building, a conference center or a large section of an hotel, but the TivoliVredenburg music center where hosting music from many periods and styles in five concert halls has become regular business.

The variety of subjects in the conference programme is truly impressive. Let’s look first of all for subjects in close connection with legal history. Renana Keydar and Yael Netzar will talk about finding out about the perception of threat by the Israelian police force. Georg Vogeler and two of his colleagues will discuss the ways to export charters into TEI P5 (Text Encoding Initiative). Marie Lavorel will talk about ways to preserve the oral histories of survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. The opening address of DH2019 will be held by Francis Nyamnjoh (University of Cape Town). He will make a case for being aware of the complexities, not only as a challenge, but as chances. In her closing keynote Johanna Drucker (UCLA) will speak about ecological sustainability and its impact on the ethics of digital humanities. The use of energy for computers leaves a large footprint on our planet. Tito Orlandi will give the Busa Lecture in which he will discuss the history of digital humanities and the apparent lack of a paradigm for this field. The lecture is named after Roberto Busa (1913-2011), the pioneer of using computers to deal with a textual corpus, the Corpus Thomisticum with the works of Thomas Aquinas. In 1980 his Index Thomisticus was completed.

The ADHO has a number of special interest groups (SIG) which nicely show the sheer width of digital humanities. Apart from libraries and DH currently SIG’s exist for literary stylistics, audiovisual data, global outlook, geospatial software and its uses, and for linked open data. Just looking at these subjects helps you to view digital humanities as a house with many rooms and space for more things to come.

My first impression of the program and the variation in themes and subject is that this conference deals with a number of territories that seem largely uncharted by legal historians. In particular subjects in world history can seem sometimes unconnected to legal history. In the second half of this post we will see how the MPIeR steps in to bridge such gaps.

Digital legal history

In some posts at my blog I have tried to look at the presence of digitized materials for doing legal history outside the Anglo-American and European sphere. Thus I looked for example in 2010 at South Africa and in 2014 at Brazil. In 2017 I discussed here digitized resources for the legal history of Suriname and last year more specifically the digitized slavery registers of Suriname. The death of Fidel Castro prompted me in 2016 to write about Cuban legal history. In yet another post I looked here at HISGIS and legal history. Digital projects are very often here discussed here.

However, digital humanities are not absent around more traditional themes and subjects. A nice combination of studying both the United Kingdom and Australia in the field of criminal law is found within the projects of the Digital Panopticon cluster, concisely presented here. The Exon Domesday, the manuscript with the Domesday register for South-West England held at Exeter Cathedral, is the subject of a project using a number of tools from the field of digital humanities.

Logo Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

It is perhaps wiser to look at the call for papers of DLH2020. The call starts with a summary of the various ways digitization and computers affect the field of legal history. Digital tools are used to gather information, they can assist in the exploration and analysis of information, and they help you to publish and connect research results. Databases offer access to legislation and to case law, in a number of cases for considerable historical periods, too. A second main point is the way digital humanities transcend the borders of disciplines. Apart from the problems inter- and transdiscplinarity pose themselves, adjusting existing digital tools, approaches and methods to meet such problems can have a major impact even when changes seem slight. Such unexpected turns can in the end also prove to be most helpful and literally path-breaking. However, the presence of digital humanities has not yet led to decisive changes in the ordinary practice of legal historians. The MPIeR dedicated in 2016 a part of issue 24 of the journal Rg/Rechtsgeschichte-Legal History to contributions discussing the role of digital humanities for legal history. The Law and History Review, too, published an issue on Digital Law and History [34/4 (2016)] with a focus on Anglo-American practice.

The purpose of the DLH 2020 conference will be first of all to get a more complete and balanced view of digital humanities and legal history, both on the theoretical level and in actual practice. The call of papers contains a fair number of possible questions for papers and posters: What do digital humanities bring that would not have been possible without them? How do they influence your approach and methods? Can we use methods of analysis common to DH also for legal history? What chances are there to use modelling to deal with questions concerning legal history? What about using Big Data or engaging in data-driven research? Which limits confront legal historians? Are there possibilities in DH we clearly can use to our benefit? An important question comes at the end of the call of papers: what resources are lacking until now? Proposals can be submitted before September 15, 2019 to dlh@rg.mpg.de.

The set of questions reminds me very much of the question medievalists asked and ask about other disciplines. You might not be able to use approaches, tools and methods without some modification, but it is by all means interesting and important to know about them. I think that it is wise to be aware with Tito Orlandi that no clear paradigm for DH bhas yet been developed, and this means it is also possible to contribute to the construction of this paradigm or at least to building best practices from many perspectives. Digital humanities will touch almost every field of humanities. Scholars of Classical Antiquity have perhaps taken a lead in using elements of digital humanities, not only for their own benefit, but also for making their set of disciplines – discipline in the singular will not do here! – also accessible to a wider public. Entering the fields of digital humanities can hold its surprising, but it is no longer an uncharted world where angels fear to tread. The conferences in Utrecht and Frankfurt am Main can surely help you to get in contact with those people who have taken the plunge into the world of digital humanities.

 

Legal history at Medieval Digital Resources

Banner Medieval Digital Resources

In the tenth year of my blog I feel the need to look back at some telling contributions. In a number of posts I compared portal for legal history, for medieval history, and even two major national digital libraries. In this post I would like to look at one particular portal for medieval studies, Medieval Digital Resources (MDR) created for the Medieval Academy of America. This portal was developed between 2014 and 2016. The project was launched in December 2018. Somehow I have not noticed the launch of this portal. In view of the efforts behind it and the criteria for inclusion and description it seems most interesting to discuss MDR here in detail, with some particular questions as a focus: What place does legal history hold at this portal? How does its place reflect the many roads of legal history?

Aiming high

Logo MDR

The explicit aim of the portal is ” to provide access to websites that contain content of interest to medievalists and meet the Academy’s scholarly and technical standards of web presentation”. In my view this leads to two goals, selecting resources which are sufficiently interesting for scholars, and at the same time considering the quality of the virtual representation. I see here two questions: Do resources meet scholarly needs and standards? How well is their technical realisation? The Medieval Academy of America thanks a number o people in the acknowledgements, in particular Maryanne Kowalweski for designing the database assisted by Lisa Bitel and Lisa Fagin Davis. A team with six cataloguers and eighteen reviewers helped to give MDR its present shape.

You can approach the resources brought together at MDR in three ways. It is possible to browse for resources in alphabetical ordering, supported by an alphabet and a section Recent additions. A second way is offered by the search interface with multiple fields. You can search here directly for the title and description of resources, the date range and subject, the type of resource, the geopolitical region and the original language. You can also search for the original author or creator, the type of digital resource, the license, the modern language and the project status. A number of fields work with dropdown menus. The third approach is using the search field descriptions. Here you can find lists of descriptors for five search fields: subject, source type, region, original language and type of digital resource. You can look at the notes about the names of medieval authors which tells us catalogers will enter author names only when a sufficient amount of material within a resource stems from a particular author. The page about project status explains the criteria for giving a project included in MDR a particular status. The MDR depends on good input and suggestions from scholars, and thus the suggestion form is an important element of the website, as is the feedback form.

The page about standards explains at its end the reviewing process for new suggestions and the way the team behind MDR will deal with suggestions, but the sets of standards and criteria take up most space. The first set focuses on scholarly quality: meeting normal standards, the need for explicitly stating aims, goals and methods used, including providing collection parameters, and bringing a substantial contribution or innovation. Digitized monographs are excluded.

The second set of standards deals with access and design. The first criterion is meeting prevailing digital standards, with as examples the NISO standard for digital collections, Dublin Core and IIIF (International Image Operabiliity Framework). The second criterion is the need for metadata and consistent maintenance of content, interface and platform. Image quality according to regular standards is a third criterion, and the fourth criterion is wide availability and easy navigation. The fifth criterion calls for clear and correct dealing with publication rights, copy rights and credentials.

The third set of rules of inclusion explains the definitions used for complete, ongoing and pending projects. A pending project is “new and incomplete”, or unstable because the content is minimal, maintenance is absent or irregular, and thirdly “or that are longer publicly available”. Could it be the word “no” is missing the last clause?! The criteria for an ongoing project are consistent monitoring and regular updates over a year, with portals, databases and collections as examples. A complete project is fully realized and maintained, and a curated image or text collection and a thematic bibliography are given as examples.

Whatever you may think of this project in its present state, the explicit use of standards and the explanations about the criteria to be followed are in se very useful. It helps you to ascertain qualities not only subjectively or from impressions.

Selecting in practice

I had firmly convinced myself to look here first of all at sources you can connect with the study of medieval legal history, but it seemed also interesting to look which projects with the status “Complete” have been included so far at MDR. Nearly thirty projects have been assigned the status Complete. The very first result is the website of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano (ASV). Surely the ASV should figure here, but I could not help noticing a number of things about the notice. The term archives has not been used for a searchable field of this description. The modern language of the ASV is only stated as English, but of course you can view this website in Italian. Reading the description of the collections guide, “The downloadable guide lists the over 600 different collections, but not individual manuscripts of their contents.”, offers some food for thought, starting with the fact this guide (PDF) is in Italian. The collections of the ASV are generally archival collections, not manuscript collections as in its neighbour, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. In view of the number of collections at the ASV it is silly to expect for every collection full descriptions in a 96-page PDF. The choice of subjects given for the ASV, just three (diplomatics, manuscript studies and papacy) is fairly restricted, even if the additional description mention the wide variety of subjects, including legal history.

However, the main reason I start to frown when reading this description is the presence of the term Catalog in the list of resource types noted for the website of the ASV. An archive has finding aids and inventories, indexes, repertories and other tools to create access to its holdings. Personally I deeply respect the ASV for its various qualities, but you will not find any online finding aid on its website or on a separate portal. The online overview of archival collections at the ASV in ArchiveGrid is based on the Michigan project (1984-2004). Older printed guides can still be very useful. The most recent guide has been created by Francis Blouin et alii (eds.), An Inventory and Guide to Historical Documents of the Holy See (Oxford 1998) which incidentally goes beyond the ASV. You might want to read also the introduction to the ASV at the website of the Vatican Film Library, St. Louis University. Somehow the MDR notice about the ASV seems not to have been carefully reviewed. I am aware that in American use the word manuscripts can also mean papers of archival records, but its use here is not very lucky.

Looking again at the MDR search interface you will remark the absence of a search field for institutions or type of institution, and thus you will need filter yourself when searching for an archival institution. On the other hand you can filter using the preset combined fields for textual evidence for particular genres of archival records. Let’s have a quick look at some other projects at MDR having the complete status. The medieval manuscripts digitized for Europeana Regia are no longer available at its original URL. It is now available in an IIIF compliant form. The Orbis Latinus dictionary figures in the 1909 version digitized by Columbia University. The updated 1972 version is mentioned, but the notice does not indicate this version, too, has been digitized at Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online. The version of Columbia University is in German, only the introduction and some further links are in English. The notice for the Piccard Watermark collection lacks information about its language (German). The fact this kind of material evidence is also present in printed books and can be used for studying book history should become clearer. In his very early and short review of MDR on December 4, 2018 at Archivalia Klaus Graf suggested another resource concerning watermarks, the Memory of Paper, is more in place.

Using the general term legal in the free text search fields brings you to four projects. It is good to see here Diplomata Belgica, a project which figured here prominently in my recent post about Dutch charters. The three following projects are the Internet Medieval History Sourcebook, the Making of Charlemagne’s Europe – my subject in another post – and RELMIN, a project concerning religious minorities, briefly mentioned here, too. I could not help noticing RELMIN is described as an ongoing project, but in fact it is only maintained, and it provides translation not only in French, but also in English. The description at MDR is bilingual! The description of the Making of Charlemagne’s Europe mentions legal documents explicitly

By all means you might start asking me why I devote space to these defective aspects of the MDR database, as if it has no right to exist in its current form. However, it is only fair to assume that a project with six cataloguers and eighteen reviewers aiming to achieve goals which follow strict, even rigorous standards, should itself show high qualities, too.

Medieval law in focus

Let’s stick with legal history in the following paragraphs. I will look in MDR at projects filed with the subject Law, Law – Civil, Law – Crime and Law – Religious law. I will look also at some key resource types associated with medieval jurisdiction and authority. I will honour the attention of MDR to both textual and material evidence. Charters and legislation offer textual evidence, seals form also material evidence.

Searching for the general subject Law brings you at present 23 items. The alphabetically ordered list with 22 results shows foremost general resources, but starting from Chartes originales antérieures à 1121 conservées en France you are sure law is not far away. The French scholarly journal Cahiers de Fanjeaux devotes issues to matters of religious law, in particular heresy and inquisition. With The Medieval Canon Law Virtual Library and the project for medieval Welsh law you arrive safely in the fields of legal history. The Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) does contain a substantial number of editions of legal texts and sources, and within the French TELMA project charters occupy an important place. The filter for civil law brings you to three results: British History Online, the bibliography of the Feminae project and again the MGH. For religious law as a subject MDR brings you to five results starting with the Digital Scriptorium again to Feminae, the Medieval Canon Law Virtual Library is present again, and you will find the digitized versions of the Patrologia Latina and the Patrologia Graeca. Clearly the subseries MGH Concilia with editions of medieval councils has not been taken into consideration, as are manuscripts with conciliar texts within Europeana Regia or in the Digital Vatican Library, to mention just two MDR resources. For the subject category Law – Crime I saw only British History Online and Feminae.

For charters MDR shows currently four projects, the original French charters from before 1121 at the TELMA portal, the Making of Charlemagne’s Europe, RELMIN and the TELMA portal. Diplomata Belgica has not been tagged with the term Textual evidence – Charters. The subject category Textual evidence – Legislation yields nine results in MDR. A search for seals in MDR brings you only to British Museum Collections Online. A search for courts brings you to British History Online, the French charters of TELMA and the Internet Medieval History Source Book. In the following section I will look at the implications of this situation regarding legal history for a general opinion about the qualities of MDR.

A beta version?

When I first encountered Medieval Digital Resources I had positive expectations about its content and quality. You might think my opinion of MDR has sunk dramatically in view of the way resources for legal history are currently presented, or are present at all.  However, I think it would be foolish to judge this gateway after analyzing only one subject in some detail. Anyone hopes to find something for his or her favorite subject. Alas another thing is perhaps more disturbing. When you search for items linked for a particular modern language, let’s take Danish, it is somewhat mystifying to get more than one hundred results without Danish being explicitly mentioned when you check these results. Of course I checked for Dutch also as an original language, and here it becomes clear that in the entry for the database Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections Middle Dutch has not been entered explicitly as an original language. In due time the database for manuscripts with literary texts in Middle Dutch, the Bibliotheca Manuscripta Neerlandica et Impressa (BNM-i) should be added to MDR, too.

For some subjects the MDR is already very rich, for example for music. For other subjects you would like to see more than one or two scattered references, for example for palaeography. In a general search for the word archives you would expect to see the MDR entry for the online catalog Archives et manuscrits of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, but it does not show up. In early March 2019 the MDR database contained just 136 items. Yet nowhere on the website it is presented as a beta version, and the term “growing collection” is simply too vague. On the contrary, the preparations started in 2014, and the team worked on the database until 2018. Medieval Digital Resources now looks like a pilot for a much grander project.

One of the problems I see in the MDR database is the lack of a good working distinction between literary texts and non-literary textual resources. Another problem is how to deal with resources with a very wide coverage: Do you enter all themes and subjects separately or is there a category “General”? Perhaps more serious is the approach to resources which focus on a particular language, source type, region, theme or subject, and to other resources where these are present at a more secondary level. A thorough control of the current entries and the preset filters might be helpful and is certainly feasible in view of their current number.

The team of MDR faces some very real challenges. How to steer between the justifiable wish to include projects according to strict rules in clear presentation, and the very real need to provide a sensible web guide for medievalists? If you want to get an impression of the sheer width of medieval studies you might want to look at the online Medieval Studies Bibliographies originally created by Charles Wright and now provided by ARC Humanities Press. You could start comparing for example the coverage in its bibliography for medieval Christianity and ecclesiastical sources the sections on the papacy and on canon law and councils. The ordering of sources and scholarly resources is not really clear, and comments are absent or very concise. However, Wright very wisely divides matters over nearly twenty bibliographies, including a general overview for medieval studies. I suppose you will acknowledge the fact that in daily practice we might rely often on some resources which are not absolutely perfect. You need also guidance to use the proper resources, preferably in their most reliable and updated version. The massive Handbook of medieval studies. Terms – methods – trends, Albrecht Classen (ed.) (3 vol., Berlin-New York 2010) has more than 2700 pages.

Despite my reservations and critical remarks I cannot help admiring the idea to provide a commented gateway to resources using review to clear standards. By starting with just 130 resources the MDR exposes itself to criticisms. You cannot hide the fact that a project with eighteen team members from an institution promoting excellence in medieval studies should have started differently after five years of preparation. I had expected to see already a tag IIIF compliant added for projects with digitized medieval manuscripts. Perhaps it is wiser to start enhancing MDR with a focus on countries such as England, France, the Holy Roman Empire and Germany, and to add only gradually additional resources following a plan for particular subjects, languages and resource types. It seems wise to make such things clear right from the start. Technically I found MDR rather slow functioning. Among the projects I encountered at MDR I had not yet used the licensed ACLS Humanities E-Book collection with nearly 300 books in the subject category European 400-1400. The selection contains an electronic version of Anders Winroth’s The making of Gratian’s Decretum (Cambridge, etc., 2000).

If Medieval Digital Resources will become worth visiting and using in the future, some quick measures are necessary. Hopefully scholars are willing to suggest new resources for inclusion. However excellent it will eventually become, I am sure maintaining standards and doing ordinary maintenance will be core matters for the team working to make MDR successful.

 

Syria’s cultural heritage online, a case for open access

Logo Open Access WeekFrom October 22 to 28 the yearly Open Access Week will be held. Around the world there are initiatives to create open access in various forms. Institutions can choose for degrees of openness for their digital collections. The debate about open access to major scholarly journals is very important for the future of science and its presence in society. In some cases open access is most helpful in tracing, monitoring and preserving cultural heritage. For Syria this is even absolutely vital. In this post I would like to look at some projects aiming to preserve Syria’s cultural heritage. The war in Syria has taken the lives of too many people. Invaluable objects from its long history have been destroyed, and the same fate threatens today.

Syria’s cultural heritage

The Blues Shield logo

The UNESCO has created the Observatory of Syrian Cultural Heritage. Its name sounds like The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. This UNESCO observatory looks at buildings, movable heritage and intangible heritage, and it launches initiatives for their protection. You can find also information about the actions of UNESCO partners such as ICOM. The ICOM is home to the Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods and the Intangible Cultural Heritage & Museums Project, and ICOM has created other portals as well. ICOM works together with The Blue Shield, an organization which helps the coordination for saving and protecting cultural heritage in emergency situations. The UNESCO lists also other initiatives which aim specifically at Syria, some of the well-known, for example The Aleppo Project and the Damascus History Foundation. I could not help noticing Scanning for Syria, an international project led by Leiden University for scanning archaeological objects at Tell Sabi Abyad in the field and creating virtual reconstructions. You can find publications resulting from the excavations in open access in the Leiden University scholarly repository.

An important resource for finding such initiatives for Syria is the Syriac Reference Portal, but today I could not reach this website. Luckily I bookmarked a number of websites. The Syrian Heritage Archive Project has been created by the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Some of the results can be seen in the iDAi Gazetteer, an interactive map system which is connected with other georeferenced resources. The information for objects in Syria can be approached in several ways, in particular using iDAI objects.

Logo Syri-Ac

The Open Access Week mentions at its website many groups and events, but the very word Syria is sadly missing. It makes me more eager to proceed here to initiatives which offer more substantial contributions for Syria. Syri-Ac is a portal to resources for the Syrian language, literature and culture. There is a generous links section and a scholarly bibliography. Among the valuable sections the overview of digitized Syriac manuscripts stands out. You can use a sortable or a faceted version. The sortable version shows concise descriptions of the contents, and you can perform keyword searches. The faceted version allows you to filter quickly for languages, holding institutions, authors and genres.

The E-ktobe: manuscrits syriaques catalogue created at the IRHT/CNRS (Paris-Orleans) gives currently detailed descriptions of a restricted number of Syriac manuscripts. No doubt this resource will grow in strength. One of the largest online collections with Syriac manuscripts with manuscripts actually held in Syria is presented in the Virtual Hill Monastic Museum and Library, better known under its acronym vHMML. You can view manuscripts after registration. No registration is needed for the palaeographical introduction to Syriac scripts in the online School of the HMML. A perhaps unexpected number of digitized manuscripts and fragments containing items in Syriac can be found at the portal of the International Dunhuang Project, but thanks to Syri-Ac you are alerted to nearly 650 fragments. The Dunhuang project deals mainly with Tibetan texts and manuscripts found in the Chinese town Dunhuang.

Epigraphy is a scholarly field with a tradition for researching a part of Syria’s cultural heritage. Searchable Greek Inscriptions has an overview of online resources for Greater Syria and the East. In particular but not exclusively Palmyra is mentioned among the resources. The Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice has created The Ebla Digital Archives for royal inscriptions from the third millennium BCE found in Ebla/Tell Mardikh. The closeness of Syria to ancient and modern empires comes into view at the Hethitologie Portal Mainz which deals with cuneiform inscriptions found in modern Turkey and northern Syria. The Khalili Research Centre of Oxford University is responsible for OCIANA, the Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient Northern Arabia, an area which covered at least a part of southern Syria.

One of the general resources for Latin inscriptions is the Photographic Database within the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg. You can also search for images of inscriptions at the EAGLE portal. With the EAGLE mobile app you can take photos of inscriptions in situ and compare them with the database.

Finding more

Starts screen Monuments of Syria, Ross Burns

This post could be much longer, but maybe it is important to realize projects can easily be overlooked. Initiatives do not come from just one country. Some countries have institutes in the Middle East which watch developments in Syria carefully, others follow the Middle East since decades both on location and from the outside. The American School of Oriental Research (ASOR) in Alexandria, Virginia, has created the platform ASOR-Syrian Heritage with reports on damage inflicted to cultural heritage. The ASOR has a digital archive for its rich history in archaeological excavations. The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, has an extensive digital collection with photographs from the library of the American Geographical Society and also the Wisconsin Palmyrean Aramaic Inscription Project. Damage to archaeological sites in Syria is discussed in particular by the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology. Monuments of Syria preserves literally images of the situation in 2011 and gives links to a number of resources. These are just a few of the websites you, too, can find using the ever-active Ancient World Online blog maintained by Charles Jones. Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources is an online journal which helps you to find just what it promises

Just as we cannot take open access as granted, we cannot afford to think every project concerning Syria can be traced easily. Online maps such as the one concerning the civil war in Syria or a similar map at Edmaps are ready at hand, but you need to search for other resources. It is a lucky situation the results of research in the filed of Classical Antiquity can almost always be found in open access. In Europe many people can benefit from an autumn holiday week. For those who like to sit behind a computer screen or surf with a tablet there is every chance to discover next week lots of resources in open access about a country which goes through a dark period in its long history. For me it would suffice if this post invites you to find out more yourself.

A twin approach to the inquisition in the medieval Languedoc

Startscreen project Doat 21-24, University of YorkWhen you mention medieval law some themes will inevitably come up, such as the ordeal and torture. A third theme, the inquisition, is only with great difficulty lifted from its eternal shadow of contempt and utter rejection. One form of inquisition has attracted attention from both scholars and the general public, the medieval inquisition in Southern France, more precisely in the Languedoc. On previous occasions I discussed here a seventeenth-century edition of a medieval manuscript held at the British Library and a medieval register held at Toulouse which can now both be consulted online. In this post yet another representation of this manuscript will come into view, and I will look in particular at a project in York which focuses on a number of seventeenth-century transcriptions of medieval manuscripts and archival records.

Manuscripts, registers and editions

Inquisition register, 1245 - Toulouse, BM, 209, f. 2r (detail)

Inquisition register, 1245 – Toulouse, BM, 209, f. 2r (detail) – image: BVMM (IRHT/CNRS), https://bvmm.irht.cnrs.fr

The project The Genesis of Inquisition Procedures and the Truth-Claims of Inquisition Records: The Inquisition Registers of Languedoc, 1235-1244 in York led by Peter Biller started in 2014 and will run until 2019. Dealing with the medieval inquisition in the Languedoc is a vast territory, but the focus on a single decade is surprising, no doubt dictated by the resources the team at York wants to use. The manuscript at the center of an earlier post, Toulouse, Bibliothèque Municipale, ms. 609, contains depositions from two years, 1245-1246. Jean Duvernoy provides a complete transcription of Touluse BM 209 at his website. In my 2011 post I had to report severe shortcomings in the quality of the digital version provided by this library, but in its appearance within the Bibliothèque virtuelles des manuscrits médiévaux (IRHT) the register is now displayed in full glory. You can enlarge the images which show perfectly sharp photographs, waiting to be deciphered by anyone. My second post was a report on my search for a digital version of the edition of the famous inquisitorial register kept by Bernard Gui published by Phillippus van Limborch in his Historia inquisitionis (Amsterdam 1692). Van Limborch edited the texts in a manuscript now held at the British Library, Add. 4697, edited by Annette Pales-Gobilliard in Le livre des sentences de l’inquisiteur Bernard Gui, 1308-1323 (2 vol., Paris 2002). In this post I tried also to provide a starting point for online research concerning the inquisition in the medieval Languedoc.

The project of Jean Colbert and Jean de Doat

The project at York focuses on four manuscripts in the Doat collection held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Jean de Doat (around 1600-1683) served as the president of the chambre des comptes in Navarre. In 1663 the French minister Jean Colbert charged Doat with an expedition to create transcriptions of historical records in southern France. A century ago Henri Omont published an article with an edition of some documents about Doat’s project which made him travel for five years in southern France to numerous archives, monasteries and other locations [‘La collection Doat à la Bibliothèque nationale. Documents sur les recherches de Doat dans les archives du sud-ouest de la France de 1663 à 1670’, Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes 77 (1916) 286-336; online, Persée]. The clerks transcribing the archival reocrds wrote in a large fluent and very legible script. Tables of contents help those wanting to use the transcriptions. During the French Revolution many archives and libraries in Southern France were destroyed or suffered heavy losses, thus making Doat’s results more important. The scale of Doat’s project may seem large, but in comparison to the contemporary work of the Benedictine congregation of St. Maur his expedition it seems definitely smaller. Some 200 manuscripts of the Mauristes held at the BnF have been digitized.

You will find descriptions of the 258 surviving Doat manuscripts concerning the Languedoc in the online database Archives et manuscrits of the BnF. At the website Catharisme you can download a useful compilation of the pages concerning these manuscripts (PDF) taken from the manuscript catalogue. Alas the title page of the early twentieth-century publication has not been included, and a page with bibliographical references (p. xiiii) has also been omitted. It took me some time to find Doat’s manuscripts are located under Département des manuscrits, Provinces françaises, Languedoc Doat. The notices have been taken from Philippe Lauer, Bibliothèque nationale. Collections manuscrits sur l’histoire des province de France. Inventaire, vol. I: Bourgogne-Lorraine (Paris 1905; online, Gallica), with descriptions of Doat’s manucripts on pp. 156-192. A modern article about the Collection Doat is Laurent Albaret, ‘La collection Doat, une collection moderne, témoignage de l’histoire religieuse méridionale des XIIIe et XIVe siècles’, in: Historiens modernes et Moyen Âge méridional (Toulouse 2014; Cahiers de Fanjeaux, 49) 57-93.

Doat 24, f. 7v-8r

Paris, BnF, Languedoc Doat 24, f. 7v-8r – image: Gallica

By now you will have noticed the fact that the project at York deals with manuscripts containing transcriptions of registers, in themselves archival records. Doat’s transcriptions were originally destinated for the library of Colbert which entered the French royal library in 1732. Biller and his team have chosen as resources the manuscripts BnF, Languedoc Doat, nos. 21 to 24 (Lauer I, p. 160). The online manuscript catalogue of the BnF takes you not only to digital versions of these manuscripts in Gallica – alas only for Doat 21 and Doat 24 of the four registers in the York project – but also to digitized bibliographical fiches concerning them. Jean Duvernoy has made transcriptions of (parts of) several Doat manuscripts, for example for Doat 22 (f. 1-106, Bernard de Caux, 1243-1246). A number of Duvernoy’s transcriptions can be downloaded as PDF’s. On the Catharisme website you can find transcriptions and French translations of Doat 23 by Ruben Sartori. Biller introduces the core of the registers Doat 21-24, the work of a Dominican friar called Ferrier about whom there is not much information, apart from his functions and his Catalan origin. Duvernoy notes the exact folios (Doat 22, f. 108-296, Doat 23, and Doat 24, f. 1-257). The preponderance of depositions by aristocratic people is most remarkable and leads to the hypothesis of a missing register with other depositions, maybe some 700 complementing the 85 depositions present in Doat 21 to 24. Ferrier has been credited with writing a manual for inquisitors, edited long ago by Adolphe Tardif, ‘Document pour l’histoire du processus per inquisitionem et de l’ínquisitio heretice pravitatis‘, Nouvelle revue historique du droit français et étranger 7 (1883) 669-678, available online at Gallica, taken from a manuscript referred to as Barcelona, Bibliothèque de l’université, no. 53.

The team at York will first of all prepare an edition of the four Doat registers with English translations, but other questions will be addressed, too. There is a tendency in modern scholarship to see medieval heresy to a substantial extent as a construction of people in the medieval Catholic church. In this view the depositions are the very point where medieval people and views on heresy and church come together. The role of inquisitors, their background and the historical context need to be studied in all necessary detail to test this powerful hypothesis about the creation of heresy as a concept aimed at prosecution. In view of the lack of modern editions of texts and archival records concerning medieval law in general, and more particular for resources concerning medieval canon law and forms of medieval inquisition, it is understandable to work first on critical editions. Among the features of the project website is the Literary Supplement with announcements of new publications, in the texts section translations of some legal consultations and a number of interrogations from Toulouse BM 209, and a bibliography, mainly of translations in English and French. Biller mentions the role of seventeenth-century historiography in religious history, not only for the mainstream Church but also for other possibly dissenting movements.

Peter Biller is one of the contributors to the volume Cathars in question, Antonio Sennis (ed.) (York 2016). In fact Biller wrote the final contribution, ‘Goodbye to Catharism?’ (pp. 274-312). In this volume Mark Gregory Pegg makes a case to dismiss the phenomenon of Cathars and Catharism as a misguided concept propelled by the field of Religionsgeschichte [‘The paradigm of Catharism, or the historian’s illusion’, pp. 21-52]. I alluded already to the work of R.I. (Bob) Moore who views the combats of the Church against heresy in a very different light than those tracing the history of the Cathars. Cultural anthropology, the histoire des mentalités and church historians have worked in certain directions which have not always been fruitful. It is far from me to pronounce here quickly any judgment on an ongoing discussion, but I would certainly point to medieval canon law as one of the matters to be taken seriously by medievalists and other historians wanting to study the Languedoc between 1000 and 1350.

Those waiting for the edition of Doat 21-24 by Peter Biller and his team can get an idea of the work to be done by looking at the two volumes L’herètica pravitat a la Corona d’Aragó: documents sobre càtars, valdesos i altres heretges (1155-1324) edited for the Fundació Noguera by Sergi Grau Torras, Eduard Bega Salomó and Stefano M. Cingolani (2 vol., Barcelona 2015), accessible online as PDF’s (vol. I and II). The book gives a succinct introduction to the sources edited. The team edits a number of items preserved in the Doat registers. The editors provided also a useful basic bibliography. The Fundació Noguera has created PDF versions of a lot of its recent publications which include editions of medieval sources, for example in the series Diplomatarios. A turn in the direction of the Iberian peninsula in a period during which the influence of the kingdom of Aragon was a major factor in southern France is not amiss.

Long awaited

Banner "The Great Inquisition"

I was happy to discover not only the project at York and the splendid new digital version of the register at Toulouse, but also a database created by Jean-Paul Rehr with his edition of some depositions in the register. Rehr’s pilot edition is the result of a student project for the international project Digital Editing of Medieval Manuscripts (DEMM). Rehr uses the possibility to navigate easily to particular places and people. When unexpectedly visiting the site of this project I looked immediately for editions touching upon legal history. A second project at DEMM related to the medieval inquisition concerns an edition of a fifteenth-century treatise Signa hereticorum from Bohemia, edited by Teresa Kolmacková. A third project by Hugo Fradin looks at the Judicium Veritatis, an allegorical representation of virtues searching truth and a theatrical play, both set around pope Clemens VII. The use of digital tools and various ways of representations with source images and an edition are the core of the DEMM project. Digital tools have not appeared until now in the York Doat 21-24 project.

BAV, ms. Vat. lat. 4030, f. 1r

Città del Vaticano, BAV, ms. Vat. lat. 4030, f. 1r – image: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, http://digi.vatlib.it

While finishing this post I could not help thinking of yet another famous source for the history of the medieval inquisition, the register compiled by bishop Jacques Fournier, Bernard Gui and others concerning the interrogations of Cathars in the Foix region between 1318 and 1325. Jean Duvernoy’s edition in three volumes (1965) and his 1978 translation have been used by many scholars, but there were some justifiable doubts about the quality of his edition, most outspoken by A. Dondaine [‘Le registre d’Inquisition de Jacques Fournier. A propos d’une édition récente’, Revue de l’Histoire des Religions 178/1 (1970) 49-56; online, Persée]. As a part of the digitization project at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana the manuscript Vat. lat. 4030 has been accessible online since February 2017.  Jean-Baptiste Piggin mentioned it on his blog in a post in his famous series on newly digitized manuscripts in the Vatican Library as an item reproduced in low quality. However, in 2018 there is a colour version, with a thin and at some points irritating watermark. Maybe the British Library will one day create a digital version of Add. 4697, and add it to its wonderful collection of digitized manuscripts!

Among the things to note in this post is first of all the role of earlier scholars starting already in the seventeenth century. I wanted to underline also the coexistence today of access to classical editions, old and modern transcriptions, and archival and manuscript resources, often accessible online. We could see here registers which classify clearly as archival records nevertheless already for centuries in the holdings of libraries. Another thing to note is how seemingly new views might be not so new after all, but only not yet received in particular circles, schools of thought and even speakers of a different language. A world in itself is at stake in the records concerning the inquisitions. In this case they stem from a particular region in a restricted period, which should not make us jump to quick generalisations about medieval Europe. The interrogations by inquisitors give us stories, but even with growing knowledge about their questions the words remain to be interpreted with utmost care and attention, and with a command of skills which in many cases only teams and scholars from several disciplines can bring together.

A postscript

jean-Paul Rehr kindly alerted me to the new website De heresi which will eventually present the content of Doat 21-24 with a focus on persons and places. At the start of 2019 he announced the inclusion of the more than 700 depositions in Toulouse BM 609, both in Latin and in an English translation.

Deciphering texts and Dutch legal history

Historians sometimes dream just as much as anyone else of immediate and intimate contact with the past. Museums nowadays create exhibitions and permanent rooms where often the experience of artefacts and objects is as important as the objects themselves. Historical documents can work as a time capsule, in particular when you have letters or diaries in front of you. Within several projects around the Prize Papers of the High Court of Admiralty held at the National Archives, Kew, letters take pride of place. Digitization projects have helped to approach them more directly than ever before. However, scholars sometimes sigh in front of historic Dutch handwriting. Is there any help in English for those wanting to decipher and study Dutch materials from the medieval or Early Modern period? In this post I would like to look at a number of online tutorials and guides, in order to compare their qualities, and to address also some of the difficulties you encounter. Two online projects prompted me to look here at Dutch palaeography and to search for online assistance in English.

The challenge of Dutch handwriting

A number of posts at my blog deal with old Dutch documents. I have looked here both at the Dutch letters surviving the centuries within the Prize Papers, and at projects dealing with other series within the archive of the High Court of Admiralty. In 2017 I looked at the 1623 Amboyna conspiracy trial with several archival records in Dutch with transcriptions and translations into English. Faithful readers might remember my summer posting about the colonial records of New Netherland in New York. Part of the success to edit and digitized these records was the labor of several archivists and historians to transcribe these records. Some of these transcriptions proved to be crucial when a fire in 1911 hit the building of the State Library of New York destroying a substantial number of these Early Modern archival materials.

In 2017 the department of Dutch Studies at Berkeley finished a project to publish transcribed Dutch colonial records in the Sluiter Collection of the Bancroft Library. Engel Sluiter donated his transcriptions made in Europe of Dutch archival records in 1996 to this library. You can download a PDF (3 MB) with a list of these materials prepared by Julie van der Horst. Seven boxes contain materials dealing with the New Netherland implantation. In this case the typed transcriptions were OCR-ed and checked by Julie van der Horst who is fluent in Dutch. Knowledge of Dutch was in this case more important than palaeographical skills.

The only tutorial for Dutch palaeography in English will be launched soon at the Script Tutorial of the Brigham Young University. It will appear in an English and Dutch version. The second project shows not only original documents in Dutch, but also transcriptions and for a number of them English translations. The transcriptions of a key document are shown line for line below snippets of the original record, thus approaching the qualities of a palaeographical tutorial. In fact I encountered the website because of the main resource, the journal of Hendrick Hamel (1630-1692). Hamel sailed in 1653 with the Dutch vessel De Sperwer from Batavia (Djakarta) on Java with the Dutch settlement at Deshima in Japan as final destination, but he ended in Korea after a shipwreck. He was arrested and lived for thirteen years as a prisoner in Korea. In 1666 he could escape with seven shipmates to Japan. Back in Java he wrote his report, which was first published in 1668 and quickly translated.

Hamel’s report is not a ship journal kept by the captain. For two centuries it was almost the only European eyewitness account of Korea. The contemporary translations contained numerous mistakes which were taken over at face value, without much inclination to go back to the original texts. Henny Savenije, a Dutchman living in South Korea, wrote with Jet Quadekker a book about Hendrick Hamel with a new edition of the Dutch text, Het journaal van Hendrick Hamel : de verbazingwekkende lotgevallen van Hendrick Hamel en andere schipbreukelingen van het VOC-schip de Sperwer in Korea (1653-1666) (Rotterdam 2003). On his website he presents a set of materials surrounding Hamel’s journal, with images of archival records, transcriptions in Dutch and English translations. For clarity’s sake you can find here an English translation of Hamel’s report about Korea which is actually quite brief.

Hamel's journal in the 1920 edition

Hamel’s journal in the 1920 edition by B. Hoetink – image The Memory of The Netherlands

I would like to focus here on the archival records at Savenije’s website and their treatment. The presentation, transcriptions and translation of Hamel’s report are the core of this website. The report is mainly written in a very fluent hand using a large script taking 51 pages of a register, referred to as “Nationaal Archief, nr. 1265”. If you look at the line-by-line transcription – here fol. 1155r – you can see for yourself the accessibility of this script. However fluent its look-and-feel, it nevertheless poses a challenge when you are used to English handwriting. In the modern edition of the Dutch text by B. Hoetink an image of the first page of the journal is included [Verhaal van het vergaan van het jacht De Sperwer (…) (The Hague 1920; Werken uitgegeven door de Linschoten-Vereeniging, 16)]. Hoetink’s edition is available online at The Memory of The Netherlands and in the Digitale Bibliotheek der Nederlandse Letteren (text-only).

Title page of Hamel's journal, Rotterdam 1668

Title page of Hamel’s report in the edition Rotterdam 1668 – copy Oxford University

I had intended to go quickly to the other Dutch records at Savenije’s website, but unfortunately navigating this site is not straightforward. It took me some time to retrace the page with images. The central page where you can choose other records is presented as an appendix (bijlagen) in spite of its central function. However, you must applaud the presence of both English and Dutch versions, but you become acutely aware of the difference between using the original or depending on translations with all their qualities or deficiencies. Savenije gives a list of seventeenth century Dutch editions and translations, and also modern editions. It is strange he does not recognize the Linschoten Vereeniging as the Dutch pendant to the Hakluyt Society, both societies which promote modern editions of Early Modern travel accounts.

A second matter which deserves attention is the incomplete reference to the source. The Dutch National Archives at The Hague are home to 100 kilometer of archival records. For the Dutch East India Company, the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), you can use finding aid 1.04.02. No. 1265 is described as “1668 FFFF. Vierde boek: Batavia’s ingekomen brievenboek, deel II 1668”, a register of incoming letters at Batavia for 1668. Alas there are no digital scans of this register. You will recognize the need for a proper reference when you see the wealth of archival collections worldwide in the overview of relevant collections for the VOC at the TANAP portal. If you search for Sperwer in the TANAP database of VOC records you will get three results. Two of them refer to the register no. 1265, entered both for 1653 and 1666, as “Journael gericht aenden Ed. heer gouverneur generael Joan Maetsuijcker en d’Ed. heeren raaden van Nederlants India vant geene de overgebleven officieren ende matroosen vant jacht de Sperwer ‘t zedert 16 Augustij anno 1653 dat tselve jacht aan ‘t Quelpaerts Eijland hebben verlooren tot den 14 September anno 1666 dat met haer 8 ontvlught ende tot Nangasackij in Japan aangecomen zijn; int selve rijck van Coree is wedervaren mitsgaders den ommeganck van die natie ende gelegentheijt van ‘t land”, a report written for governor Joan Maetsuijcker and the council of the Dutch Indies by the remaining officers and men of the yacht Sperwer, how they were shipwrecked and escaped to Japan, and their notes on the kingdom of Korea, to be found on the pages – in fact folia! – 1155-1179. You can guess I would like to have precise references for any document for which Savenije has created a page with the Dutch text and an English translation, for example a notice from 1666 in the daily register of the Dutch settlement Deshima, an island in the harbor of Nagasaki. During two centuries it was virtually the only point of direct contact between Japan and Europe. Incidentally Savenije’s large pictures of the 1668 register are not sharp enough to be usable, but luckily those smaller selections you will see with the transcription are most readable.

The thing to note here for legal historians is the way Hamel was treated in Korea, his position with the Dutch in Deshima, and the procedures of his superiors who interrogated him about his adventures and prolonged absence. In the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands you search for the various editions until 1800 of Hamel’s report in the Dutch version.

Other roads to quick insight

By now you might conclude I am all in favor of good tutorials with proper references, transcriptions and translations, and I will mention some of them later on. I feel even tempted to ponder creating a tutorial myself, but I had better send you first to two portals with a lot of Early Modern documents in Dutch and a substantial presence of legal documents. Surprisingly art history comes here to help my needs.

Header Remdoc - KNAW/RU

At the portal Remdoc, a project fo the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences and the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, you can consult many documents about or related to Rembrandt van Rijn. It is the companion to The Rembrandt Database with information about his paintings, drawings and etchings. At Remdoc you can easily choose among 100 court records, 182 municipal records and 316 notarial acts. You can filter for holding institutions and even for the kind of document you would like to see. The Dutch terms are translated in English. Depositions, tax rolls, affidavits, fines, securities, inventories of insolvency, probate inventories, marriage announcements, two pleadings, due bills, you name it and you can get them. In many cases you will find images of the documents.

Document of a loan, 1653

Obligation to Rembrandt, 1653 – Amsterdam, Stadsarchief, Notarieel Archief, no. 1029B, p. 913 – image Remdoc and Stadsarchief Amsterdam

I picked a document for a loan Rembrandt got from Christoffel Thijsz. in 1649 to buy a house. It is the small inserted document at the right. The Remdoc project gives you a zoomable image, exact references about the source and relevant literature, a transcription of the seventeenth-century Dutch and a translation in English. This document tells you Rembrandt had failed to repay this loan for the purchase of his house, the very Rembrandthuis in de Sint-Anthoniebreesteeg – now the Jodenbreestraat – worth 7000 guilders in 1649, and that Christoffel Thijsz. claimed this sum with three years interest and additional costs, a total of 8470 guilders. The comments on the page of the portal explain the context of this document.

The due bill, 1653

Sometimes there is no other road to a destination than going the long road, and in my view it is not a punishment to learn about Rembrandt, by all accounts no stranger to human failure. His greatness is the way he conveyed his insight into human nature with consummate artistry. In Rembrandt’s work you have the uncanny sensation of knowing intimately the people facing you. It makes his series of self portraits into a touching voyage through his life.

The city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc), the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences and again the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, have created a similar project for Jeroen Bosch called BoschDoc. On the project website you can use either the Dutch, English or Spanish interface. Here, too, you will find a wide variety of sources and often images of original documents, but always at least a transcription, a translation, comments and further references. Art historians are familiar with the Montias database of 17th century art inventories of the Frick Collection in New York, but the Montias database does not include images of archival records. Dutch probate inventories have been transcribed for a database of the Meertens Instituut for Dutch ethnology, Amsterdam. The website of Joseph Byrne (Belmont University) will guide you to literature about ancient, medieval and Early Modern wills and probate inventories. I would almost forget the website of the Amboyna Conspiracy Trail where you can find a number of Dutch records, transcriptions and English translations side by side.

Learning by doing

In the current absence of an English online manual for Dutch palaeography it is sensible to search for a collection with online images of documents, transcriptions and translations in order to guide your first steps in a language that might sound strange to you and certainly differs from modern Dutch, and in a script that might look baffling. If I had to deal with similar documents from another country I would perhaps also start searching for a project presenting documents around a famous person. For example a search for Early Modern letters at Early Modern Letters Online (Bodleian Libraries, Oxford) would certainly bring you to a helpful project. Such documents offer a great training ground. In my view the only way to maintain your skills in deciphering old scripts is by regular exercise, but you will need initial training. At many universities and archives you can join groups to acquire palaeographical skills. Online tutorials can surely help you to overcome unnecessary fear, but they can also make you aware of real difficulties.

Since a year I have been collecting online resources for palaeography at a new page of my legal history portal Rechtshistorie. Until now I have found ten tutorials for Dutch palaeography. Since 2016 three archives in North Brabant and the Utrecht archives offer at Wat Staat Daer [“What’s That?”] a tutorial, and at an online forum people can upload images with their questions. In a few cases people from Canada came with Dutch documents they considered illegible or in other respects too difficult for them.

Banner Haagse Handschriften

The only tutorial from Belgium, Iter-digitalicum from Leuven, scores points with a poster in English with core information, something missing elsewhere. Apart from many texts in Dutch you can view in the gallery with nearly 700 manuscripts also manuscripts written in Arabic, Armenian and Coptic, and for example humanist letters to and by François Cranevelt. It would mean writing another post if I would give here a full comparison of these tutorials, but not the least among them is Haagse handschriften [Manuscripts from The Hague], a website of the municipal archive, focusing on sixteenth-century criminal law, a register of criminal jurisdiction for the years 1575-1579 called Quaetclap [literally “Slander”] (HGA, Oud Rechterlijk Archief, no. 1) with facing images of the register and transcriptions. The other strength of this tutorial is the rich section with references for general documentation, covering not only other auxiliary sciences, but also for example guidelines for transcriptions and editions and legal dictionaries, often with links to digitized versions. Information for both last subjects you cannot easily find together online elsewhere. The tutorial offers a similar reference page on the history of The Hague.

Surmounting supposed and real difficulties is sometimes a personal matter. Often it is motivating to delve into a subject that seems at the surface difficult. Once your interest in a particular thing is kindled, you will start to enjoy finding out more about it, and thus familiarizing yourself will not feel heavy or boring. As a historian I personally like to visualize behind documents real people and their lives. Medieval farmers did not plough through registers, someone famously said! Reading the original documents about early New York, Rembrandt or Bosch should make you happy and curious about people. Being able to read old scripts will also set you free from complete reliance on transcriptions and translations. Guidance and commentaries can be helpful and even necessary to some extent, but in the end you are studying the past and its traces, and you will learn how to interpret and use sources yourself in a reliable way.

A postscript

From December 7, 2018 untill April 7, 2019 the municipal archives in Amsterdam will present the exhibit Rembrandt Privé [Rembrandt Privately]. The exhibit will show the use of augmented reality for studying archival records. Some documents damaged by a fire in 1762 have now been digitized. At the educational resource Geschiedenislokaal Amsterdam [History Class Amsterdam] you can find a number of digitized documents concerning Rembrandt from the rich holdings of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam.

A German gateway to applied Early Modern sciences

Start screen Fachtexte (detail)There is a great difference between articles and monographs presenting the latest thought and results of new experiments on one end of the scientific world, and at the other end popularised science in cheap books and leaflets. A blog offers both the possibility to publish early results of new research or to bring synthesized contributions aiming at a wide public. Legal historians can feel the seduction to look only at the developments which in our eyes brought decisive changes, but discontinuity and continuities are all parts of one world. Faithful readers will no doubt know about my interest in digitized pamphlets. Legal pocket books have appeared here, too. In this post I will look at a genre which in my view stands nicely between both poles of attraction. The German portal Fachtexte offers scientific text books from the Early Modern period which aimed at presenting practical knowledge for several disciplines. The project is an offspring of the Kallimachos portal for digital humanities of the department for German linguistics at the university of Würzburg. Legal works are included in this project. The very word Fachtexte cries out for an English equivalent, yet another reason besides the linguistic approach to look at this initiative from Würzburg.

For anyone wondering how I encountered this project I must give you a very simple answer. It is not the first time that I found a notice about an interesting project at the Archivalia blog of Klaus Graf (RWTH, Aachen). On many occasions Graf adds some remarks about a project, often concerning open access, easy or cumbersome navigation and durability of links. Sometimes guest posts appear, too, but the majority of posts stems from this most active archivist.

The attraction of variety

Wordle at FachtexteThere is a third factor making a tour of the Fachtexte project interesting. On the start screen of the German website you will find at the right a wordle with the disciplines represented in the digital collection. The dimensions of a discipline are equal to its numeric presence. Law and jurisprudence loom large here, but they are accompanied by other disciplines. A second thing to note immediately is that this project does not primarily or only touch technical matters, dictionaries and handbooks.

In order to establish a correct English translation of the concept Fachtexte we might as well look at some of the other disciplines. Rhetorik und Formularbücher remind us of the role of rhetorics and formularies in law. With Bergbau und Metallurgie you will encounter mining law. Wirtschaft und Handel, economy and trade are not far away from legal theory and legal business. In the title of this blog I opt for applied sciences as a valid way to render faithfully the scientific discipline behind the texts under discussion. In German and Dutch you have the words Fachliteratur and vakliteratuur, literature for a particular discipline. Only the Dutch German and Lithuanian version of Wikipedia have an entry about this genre.

Legal books for daily business

Logo Fachtexte, Würzburg

Let’s not wait too longer before proceeding to legal books! You can click on Jurisprudenz in the wordle or choose this subject in a more regular list of the Sachbereiche. In this list of subject fields law and jurisprudence are the fifth discipline with 363 digitized items. Medicine scores almost one thousand items, nearly a quarter of the 4,200 digitized items. Apart from the general search field on top of the screen there is also a search page Werke (works) where you can browse alphabetically or in chronological order for works. On a similar page for authors you can search for them, and search also author biographies. The page Datenbankabfrage (database search) gives you a number of search fields and clickable preset filters. You can perform here quickly searches for digitized items from a particular century, printing location or providing institution. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich and the Staats- und Landesbibliothek Dresden provide respectively 883 and 824 items, a third part of all items. The project in Würzburg offers no items from its own university library. Using this search mask you get not only particular results, but also a nice visual representation of related information.

For the sixteenth century you will find nearly 1,100 items and for the seventeenth century 2,900 items. I wondered a bit about the presence of medieval items, but the Fachtexte project does indeed also include some digitized manuscripts. In two cases you will be directed to a text-only version of a text in the colorful and multilingual Bibliotheca Augustana of Ulrich Harsch in Augsburg. In other cases the German Wikisource provides online versions of texts.

The earliest legal text in the Fachtexte project is perhaps surprisingly the Sachsenspiegel (“Mirror of Saxony”), the thirteenth-century treatise about Saxon law by Eike von Repgow. My surprise is the fact this text certainly contains more a description of law than legislation or doctrine, yet it received the honor of several (!) series of glosses. The Monumenta Germaniae Historica in Munich published in recent years editions by Frank-Michael Kaufmann of the “Buch’se Glosse”, the gloss created by Johann von Buch, for the Landrecht (2002) and the Lehnrecht (2006), and also the Kürzere Glosse (2009) and the Längere Glosse (2013). There is even an accompanying glossary [Glossar zum Buch’sen Glosse (3 vol., 2015)]. In 2014 appeared Maike Huneke’s book on Iurisprudentia romana-saxonica. Die Glosse zum Sachsenspiegel-Lehnrecht und die Anfänge deutscher Rechtswissenschaft (Wiesbaden 2014; MGH Schriften, 68). Huneke argued this gloss is the first scientific product of lawyers of Saxony concerning the law of their own region. Earlier Bernd Kannowski had already underlined in his study Die Umgestaltung des Sachsenspiegelrechts durch die Buch‘sche Glosse (Wiesbaden 2007; MGH Schriften, 56) the way the glosses change the nature of this work radically. It seems the team at Würzburg finds the closeness to regional law of the Sachsenspiegel – and also of the Schwabenspiegel for Swabia – a sign of closeness to legal practice. The Schwabenspiegel has been fitted into several categories.

For the Fachtexte portal other late medieval Landrechte, regional law books, and Stadtrechte, municipal law books, have also been included in the legal section. For the fifteenth century there is for example a German version of the infamous Malleus maleficarum, the seminal work about supposed witches, Von den Unholden oder hexen (1489), and an imperial ordinance on the quality of wines (Ordnung unnd satzung über weynne, 1498). When you click on the link for the latter text you will see indeed two categories in the meta-data for this incunabula edition. The last incunabula edition of a legal text is most interesting, a book by Johannes Sleidanus about Plato’s view of (city) government, Eine kurtze summa oder Jnhalt der Platonischen Lere (1500).

Among the legal books from the sixteenth century is a great diversity of ordinances, books on feudal law and other treatises. it might be worthwhile to look here at some books that fit into more than one category. There is a Rhetorik vnd Teutsch Formular In allen Gerichts Händlen by Ludwig Fruck from 1530 dealing with rhetorical devices and legal formulas for all kind of actions in courts. An earlier edition of this book with the title Teütsch Formular, wie mann in Gerichts-Sachen Brieffe unnd Instrument stellen mag (1529) definitively should have been listed also under jurisprudence. Having easy access at Fachtexte to a list with works on rhetoric makes it possible to check for such matters. With Johann Haselberg’s Der Vrspruncg gemeynner Berckrecht (1535) we encounter a very early treatise on mining law.

Comparing categories of Fachtexte is a fruitful exercise. It leads also to some results which need further investigation or seem open to criticism. The group of legal books shows for 1552 a Kirchenordnung (ecclesiastical ordinance) by duke Johann Albrecht I of Mecklenburg tagged for both law and theology. A quick check in the theological corner shows a 1543 edition of a work by Andreas Osiander, Kirchenordnung. Wie es mit der Christlichen Lehre, heyligen Sakramenten und allerley andern Ceremonien (…). I will refrain from delving here into major publications by leading theologians in the German Reformation, but I am sure that Osiander’s work, first published in 1533, was adopted by the princes of several German regions. In a number of cases official publications such as city law books are listed at Fachtexte as works without an author, but an indication they were issued by on behalf of a particular authority is no luxury.

Legal practice in Early Modern Germany

With a book by Heinrich Knaust with a very particular title, Fewrzeugk gerichtlicher Hendel und Ordnung (Erfurt 1558) we finally see the kind of book I would expect here, a treatise aiming to distill information from medieval works by authors such as Henricus de Segusio (Hostiensis) (around 1200-1271), Johannes Andreae (around 1270-1348) and Nicolaus de Tudeschis (Panormitanus) (1386-1445) which he mentions in the long title of his work. The very first word of the title, Fewrzeugk or Fewerzeugk is intriguing. At the German dictionary portal Wörterbuchnetz it is explained under Feuerzeug, meaning a flintstone. In a recent study by Piotr Witmann, «Der da sein Practic auß Teutschen Tractaten will lernen». Rechtspraktiker in deutschsprachiger Praktikerliteratur des 16. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt am Main, etc., 2015; Rechtshistorische Reihe, 458) Knaust and other sixteenth-century authors of practical legal works are discussed. Knaust appears in this section with more works aimed at legal practicioners. I could not help spotting that the digitized copy at Munich is part of the collection with the abbreviated siglum J. pract., “Jus practicum”.

Titlepage Kriehsbuch by Leonhard Frosnsperger, 1571 - image BSB, Munich

A different combination of categories is found in a work by Leonhard Fronsberger, his Kriegßbuch, present at Fachtexte with editions from 1571m 1573, 1578. Only the last edition is apart from the label Militär und Kampfkunst [Military and martial arts] labeled as a legal work. If you browse the edition 1571 you will see for yourself that the title starts emphatically with Vom kayserlichem Kriegsrechten. The first part of his work is concerned with legal matters, the organization of fighting units, military law and the authority of officers. I will not trouble you here with the question of correct labelling, but it is a matter of some concern indeed. Among the best known books for legal practitioners are the manuals for inquisitors and witch hunters. You will find here a number of them here, and also a translation of Jean Bodin’s De la demonomanie des sorciers (first edition, Paris 1580) into German by Johann Fischart, published in 1581 as De Daemonomania magorum : Vom Außgelassnen Wütigen Teuffelsheer der BesessenenHere it has been overlooked that this 1581 edition already mentions Fischart as translator, and not only in the 1591 edition. It seems that some basic matters have not always been correctly recorded. However, the inclusion of multiple editions helps to correct such infelicities.

It is tempting to show your more interesting books, but I would like you to find them yourself. I could not resist mentioning the Newe Bauordnung des Fürstenthumbs Würtemberg, a building ordinance issued in 1587 by the duke of Württemberg. It contains a number of articles you would expect in late nineteenth-century legislation to control building companies. The famous Reinheitsgebot, a Bavarian ordinance from 1516 on beer brewing, is not included in the section Weinbau und Bierbrauerei. However, you will encounter ordinances for apothecaries, for architects, forest ordinances, a treatise discussing the legal or illegal nature of alchemy, ordinances for millers and much more. I leave it to you to discover here works from the seventeenth century, where you will surely find results as interesting as those selected here from the sixteenth century.

Some conclusions

It is brave to attempt select works for more than thirty different disciplines, be they close to the medieval artes mechanicae or to modern occupational manuals, or closer to popular versions of standard works for fields such as law, medicine, theology and mathematics. One of the strengths of the Fachtexte portal is the combination of categories which helps you to look beyond the normal borders of a particular discipline. Widening your horizons is not a bad quality for any project!

Fachtexte is part of a far more encompassing project in Würzburg, Kallimachos, which takes its name from one of the librarians of the ancient library of Alexandria. It brings together a number of linguistic projects, but also for example a project to study school plates, Schulwandbilder. It will be interesting to look into that project for legal iconography. However, I am happy to present here this project concerning applied sciences, because mirabile dictu you cannot find the Fachtexte project with the search function at the Kallimachos platform. One of the lessons in this post is the need to accept – once again, with relief or more neutral! – the fact you cannot find everything yourself. We should be thankful to those people who surf the oceans of online knowledge and share their discoveries as regularly as Klaus Graf!