Tag Archives: Heraldry

Images, words and the law

However seducing texts are as sources to gain new knowledge, images do rightfully claim our attention, too, nay stronger, they are even more seducing and intoxicating than texts. Legal iconography is the auxiliary science to history and law which studies the uses and abuses of imagery in law and justice. A few months ago I was attracted to a building with both images and texts in an intriguing combination. Very close to it is a statue of a man who has been responsible as few others before him for introducing images as an educational tool. Here I would like to share with you a few thoughts about this building and about the role of images in teaching and research.

The town hall at Naarden

Map of Naarden by Jacob van DeventerThis summer I visited the town of Naarden, some twenty kilometers to the south-east of Amsterdam. Jacob van Deventer’s map of Naarden, part of the cartographic project for the Spanish king Philip II, shows a town with medieval city walls, no match for the modern weapons of the sixteenth century. During the Dutch Revolt Spanish armed forces attacked Naarden in 1572 with brutal force. The soldiers murdered the inhabitants and destroyed the city almost completely. The Grote of St. Vituskerk with its famous painted wooden vaults survived. Afterwards Naarden became a fortified town, even an archetype of the Dutch fortification system, as you can see when visiting the Vestingmuseum.

The town hall at Naarden

Among the buildings rebuilt in Naarden after 1572 is the town hall in Dutch Renaissance style, completed in 1601, almost thirty years after the tragic events. Whatever form the medieval town hall might have had, its new incarnation still looks splendid. On the facade not just blazons and statues all convey their particular visual message, Three texts have been added to bring yet another message.


On closer inspection two of these texts are really two versions of the same message. The Latin text to the left has been superbly condensed into Early Modern Dutch. The Latin reads: Quidquid erit superanda / omnis fortuna ferendo est, “whatever the event may be, every turn of fortune has to be subdued by bearing it”, a quote from Vergil’s Aeneid (V,710). Surprisingly the Dutch is much more condensed, but succeeds in adding also a significant twist: Ist lyden ist vreucht / Draeght soo’t God vuegt, “be it suffering or joy, bear it when God brings it”. Here classical Antiquity is invoked at the service of the civil authorities, but at the same time subtly christianised.

The pious overtones are much clearer in the inscription below the tympanum above the entrance, Godt regiert al anno 1601, “God governs everything, in the year 1601”. The tympanum is crowned by allegorical statues representing Faith, Hope and Justice, the latter in the middle portrayed in the familiar way of a blindfolded woman with a balance and a sword. On the top of the left part of the facade is an allegorical statue of Love, the right part is crowned by the Dutch lion. The blazons below the first floor windows are those of the county of Holland (a lion rampant), of prince Maurice of Oranje, and West-Friesland. In the tympanum you can see the blazon of the Habsburg emperors, the Austrian Doppeladler, the double eagle, which is also the blazon of the city of Naarden.

Emblems: combining images and text

Combining texts and images is of course not something new, but in a way it is here at least a bit unexpected. At first the brief Latin proverb and its wonderful crisp and concise Dutch rendering led me to speculate about a very particular influence. Justus Lipsius (1547-1606), the great Flemish political theoretician who taught some years at Leiden was also known as an editor of Tacitus. He influenced Pieter Cornelisz. Hooft (1581-1647), a prolific author and for forty years bailiff of Muiden Castle near Naarden. He wrote his Nederlandsche Historiën, a history of the Low Countries in difficult prose, clearly modelled on Tacitus’ works. Hooft published in 1611 Emblemata amatoria, a volume of emblems, symbolic images with a motto and didactic verses. However, we must rule out this argument as a possible source of influence for the decoration of the town hall in Naarden, simply because Hooft was much too young in 1601 to exercise any influence. I was genuinely surprised, too, to find Vergil as the author of the quote, not Tacitus. Instead one could perhaps better look at the early works of Hugo de Groot (1583-1645). A search for possible direct influences at Naarden can be quite long. A quick search for Dutch literature citing Vergil’s words in the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren (DBNL) brought me to Jacob Andriesz. Boelens (1554-1621), a burgomaster of Amsterdam often active on special missions in the early seventeenth century whose motto was Superanda omnis fortuna ferendo. It is a tantalizing hint which needs further corroboration.

The literary genre of emblematic literature was launched by one of the most famous humanist lawyers, Andrea Alciato (1592-1550) with his volume Emblemata (first edition Augsburg: Steyner, 1531). In 1529 he had already published Selecta epigrammata Graeca Latine versa (..) (Basel: Bebel, 1529; online in Göttingen). It is intriguing to look for an emblem which might have influenced the choice of a text at Naarden. Access to early editions of emblem books is much helped by four major online projects, at Glasgow for Italian and French books, at Utrecht for Dutch books, mainly from the seventeenth century, the project Emblematica Online of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Herzog-August-Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, and the Biblioteca Digital de Emblemática Hispánica of the Universidade da Coruña.

Emblem no. 34 from Alciato's Emblemata in the edition 1546

Et toleranda homini tristis fortuna ferendo est, Et nimium felix saepe timenda fuit. Sustine (Epictetus dicebat) et abstine. Oportet Multa pati, illicitis absque tenere manus. Sic ducis imperium vinctus fert poplite taurus In dextro: sic se continet a gravidis.

The online collections at Glasgow has a separate section for Alciato. The first line Et toleranda homini tristis fortuna ferendo est of an emblem appearing in the section Fortitudo of Alciato’s collection comes closest to the quote from Vergil. In the edition Venice 1546 you will find this as no. 34, the emblem Anechou kai apechou / Sustine et abstine, at fol. 29v. In later editions this emblem has either no number or it appears with a different number, and thus it is really necessary to indicate exactly which edition you happen to use. For our emblem you would find it for example in the Paris 1550 edition on page 41. The image shows a farmer who keeps bulls away from cows. The Glasgow project has a useful list of the mottos and their occurrences in the main editions of Alciato’s text, and the Alciato website by William Barker is also most helpful in tracking emblems, mottos and verses; you can even find an English version of this emblem. However, this is only a possible indirect source or inspiration behind the choice for a verse with an admittedly more pointed and direct meaning, The emblems in the section Fortuna might be the first spur for searching a text, in particular the emblem Semper praesto esse infortunia.

Teaching by images

Statue of Comenius in Naarden

Why do I refer here at length to Alciato’s work and the role of images in connection with the town hall in Naarden? Across the street with the town hall of Naarden is the Grote or St. Vituskerk, and between the church and the town hall is a statue commemorating the Czech theologian, philosopher and pedagogue Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670). From 1656 onwards he had found a refuge at Amsterdam. Comenius had contacts in Naarden, and he was buried in a church at Naarden. The Comeniusmuseum keeps his memory alive. Among his works are books such as the Ianua linguarum reserata [The open entrance of languages] (1631) which developed a new model for teaching Latin and other languages, and the Didactica magna (1633-1638), his opus magnum with a new comprehensive view of children’s education. The possible connection between Comenius and legal iconography is offered in particular by his Orbis sensualium pictus [The world of senses in images] (1658), the first book recommending and exemplifying the systematic educational use of images. In this work he uses for example pictures to help children learning the alphabet. In the space of this posting I can at least point you to the Bibliothek für Bildungsgeschichtliche Forschung in Berlin. Its digital library contains among other things early illustrations from pedagogical works.

More than a century before Comenius Alciato and others had introduced first a learned public and later also a wider public to a very successful combination of images and texts. The taste for this genre was at least sometimes mirrored by architecture. Alciato brought to the new emblematic literature his own legal background which made it a potential useful resource for anyone looking for outspoken combinations of images, concise proverbial sayings and often exquisite poetry. Somehow the presence of this literary genre makes it far more conceivable that lines from classical poetry can embellish buildings. As for which specific emblems collection provided Dutch people the clue for their choice I suppose you will need to look at many different collections, not just the Latin collections, but also those in Dutch and French, and even collections published in Spain.

Promises of more…

Sofar we have only looked at the facade of the town hall in Naarden. It would be really interesting to look also inside the town hall at the interior where you can find for example two seventeenth-century paintings in the city court room. I am sure you cannot separate them completely from the intriguing facade. The digital portal Memory of the Netherlands offers you a very quick entrance to images of both inside and outside the stadhuis at Naarden. Some photographs are already a bit older and reflect to some extent earlier scholarly approaches. For further research you will no doubt benefit from the resources at the municipal and regional archives in the Gooi- en Vechtstreek, located in Naarden and Hilversum.

This week I saw the 2013 online exhibition The Nomos of Images. Manifestations of the law in picture atlases and photo archives created by the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. Some images in this virtual exhibition come from the Sammlung Karl Frölich at the Max-Plank-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main, a collection with photographs taken between 1930 and 1950 which eventually will be digitized. In my view it can be most helpful to use both older resources and new materials to help research in the field of legal iconography. This post gives only some indications of directions you might choose for further investigations, but hopefully it helps you to get a taste of them.

A postscript

At the blog Interfaces/Livres anciens de l’Université de Lyon appeared on November 24, 2014 a very interesting contribution about Comenius, ‘Comenius, un pédagogue de l’avant-garde’. This year the digitization of the Sammlung Karl Frölich has been completed. In 2015 I have published a post about this collection.

Antonio Agustín, a pioneer of the history of medieval canon law

During the sixteenth century European humanists developed their interest in the history of texts. Instead of just printing texts from old manuscripts they started comparing different versions of texts. Thus they stood at the cradle of philology and modern philological methods. The majority of these humanists devoted themselves to texts from Classical Antiquity, few of them set feet on the field of textual criticism for the Bible, and even less looked to legal texts other than the sources of Roman law. Antonio Agustín (1517-1586) was the first scholar to deal with the text of the Decretum Gratiani, the most important medieval collection of texts concerning canon law that held a central place in the study of canon law until 1917. In this post I will give an overview of his works, their accessibility online, and I will point to modern studies on his work and life.

A prince of scholarsAntonio Agustín

Antonio Agustín – portrait early seventeenth century

Antonio Agustín y Albanell was born in 1517 in the Spanish town Zaragoza. His father was the vice-chancellor of Aragon. Already in 1526 Agustín went for his studies to university, first at Alcalá de Henares, two years later at Salamanca. In 1535 he started to study law at the university of Bologna, where he met Andrea Alciato (1492-1550), one of the foremost humanistic lawyers. In 1537 he went to Padua to study Greek. In 1541 Agustín received at Bologna the degree of doctor utriusque iuris, for both Roman and canon law. In the field of the history of Roman law Agustín made himself immediately known with his first published work. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century a small number of scholars examined the Codex Florentinus, the manuscript of Justinian’s Digest, since 1406 kept as a treasure in Florence. In 1543 Agustín published a study in which he argued that this manuscript is closer to the original text from the sixth century than the vulgate version of the Digest found in countless manuscripts since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and reprinted in many editions since the late fifteenth century. The Emendationum et opinionum libri quattuor were first published in Venice, and soon reprinted in Basel (1544) and Lyons. Using the Hathi Trust Digital Library it is possible to consult online two copies of the first edition held at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The edition Basel 1544 can be consulted online (Digitale Sammlungen, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich), and also the editions Lyons 1559, Lyons 1574 and Heidelberg 1594, all present at Munich.

Agustín’s career can be summarised fairly quickly, but this does not do justice to his scholarly activities. In 1544 Agustin became an auditor, judge, of the Rota Romana, one of the highest courts of the Catholic Church. Charles Lefebvre edited an unpublished text by Agustín on the practices of the Rota Romana in the volume Antonii Augustini Praxis Rotae. Jacobi Emerix Tractatus seu Notitiae S. Rotae Romanae : deux traités inédits sur la procédure de la S. Rote Romaine (Tournai, s.d. (1961)). The popes sent him on several diplomatic missions. In 1562 and 1563 he attended sessions of the Council of Trent. He became bishop of Alife in the Kingdom of Naples in 1556. In 1561 Agustín was called to the see of Lérida in Spain, and in 1576 he became archbishop of Tarragona, where he died in 1586. In the sixteenth century leading scholars wrote many letters to keep in touch with each other. Cándido Flores Sellés edited an Epistolario de Antonio Agustín (Salamanca 1980). Letters by Agustín are included in the Correspondance de Lelio Torelli avec Antonio Agustín et Jean Matal (1542-1553), Jean-Louis Ferrary (ed.) (Como 1992). Juan E. Alcina Rovira and Joan Salvadó Recasens have recently studied Agustín’s library, La biblioteca de Antonio Agustín. Los impresos de un humanista de la Contrarreforma (Alcañiz 2007). Many of his books and a number of manuscripts with Greek texts stemming from Agustin’s library found their way to the library of the Escorial.

In this post I will not discuss Agustín as a scholar of Roman law, even though he kept working in this field, too. In 1567 he even published two text editions in one volume, the Constitutiones Graecarum Codicis Justiniani imperatoris collectio et interpretatio, with the Greek constitutions in the Codex Justinianus, and Novellarum Juliani antecessoris Epitome, cum notis et constitutionibus, graece (Lérida 1567), with the Epitome Juliani. Pietro Fiorelli and Anna Maria Bartoletti Colombo edited the volume Iuliani epitome latina Novellarum Justiniani, secondo l’edizione di Gustavo Haenel e col glossario d’Antonio Agustín (Florence 1996) which uses Agustín’s work. Agustín edited also texts by Marcus Terentius Varro, Sextus Pomponius Festus and Marcus Verrius Flaccus, and he wrote about Roman antiquities and inscriptions. On Roman law he published further in particular De nominibus propriis tou Pandektou Florentini (Tarragona 1579; online in the Hathi Trust Digital Library) and De legibus et senatus consultis (Rome 1583; online at the Hathi Trust, at Granada and at Munich). For brevity’s sake I have skipped later editions of these works. In the eighteenth century appeared the collection Antonii Augustini Archiepiscopi Tarraconensis Opera omnia (8 vol., Lucca 1765-1774; online, Hathi Trust) which contains also a number of his letters.

Agustín and medieval canon law

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) had addressed many aspects of church life, but not canon law. Ecclesiastical law came under review during the pontificate of pope Pius V. He decided in 1566 that an official edition of the various sources within the Corpus Iuris Canonici should be made. The correctores Romani, a team of scholars, was charged with this task. Originally the commission would have been led by Antonio Agustín, but he declined this position. He kept in touch with the scholarly team. In 1580 pope Gregory XIII could finally promulgate the new edition, published in three volumes (Rome 1582), consultable online at the library of the University of California at Los Angeles. Recently Mary Sommar has published a study about the project for this edition, The Correctores Romani: Gratian’s Decretum and the counter-reformation humanists (Berlin 2009).

The sheer width of Agustín’s activity comes into sight when you realize he did not forget his episcopal duties. As bishop of Lérida he personally supervised the making of the Sacerdotale (…) Ilerdense (Lérida 1567), nowadays a rare work. The Institut d’Estudis Ilerdenc in Lérida has digitized its copy. As an archbishop he helped starting a printing firm at Tarragona. Agustín was responsible for the Constitutionum prouincialium Tarraconensium libri quinque (Tarragona 1580; online, Hathi Trust) and Constitutionum synodalium Tarraconensium partes quinque (Tarragona 1581; online, Hathi Trust). In the third volume of the Italian Opera omnia you can find a reprint of these constitutions, and also the synodal constitutions for this archdiocese. At Lérida appeared in 1576 the first edition of the Compilationes antiquae, with four of the five decretal collections before the Decretalium liber Gregorii IX – more commonly called the Liber Extra – was promulgated in 1234. Using the Hispana portal the Antiquae collectiones decretalium (Lérida 1576) can be found in digitized form at several Spanish libraries. They offer this work in the PDF format. At Munich you can consult a page by page version of this edition.

Agustín’s edition has been reprinted in source editions by scholars ever since, but no new edition of the Compilationes antiquae has appeared until now, for Emil Friedberg presented in his Quinque compilationes antiquae (…) (Leipzig 1882; reprint Graz 1956) only the incipits of the papal decretals included in these collections. Stephan Kuttner discussed Agustín’s edition in ‘Antonio Agustín’s edition of the Compilationes antiquae’, Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law, New Series 7 (1977) 1-14. For the history of medieval canon law Agustín’s De emendatione Gratiani dialogorum libri duo (Tarragona 1587) is no doubt his most important work. I could find an online version of the first edition, again at the Hathi Trust Digital Library, but initially not for the important reprint edited by Étienne Baluze [Antonii Augustini archiepiscopi Tarraconensis dialogorum libri duo de emendatione Gratiani (Paris 1672) – online, Universitätsbibliothek Paderborn]. Agustín discusses matters such as the original title of Gratian’s work, the problem of misleading inscriptions of various canones, the sources used by Gratian and their supposed or real origin, in particular for canons stemming from church councils. He did notice at many turns erroneous attributions of canons. In particular canons from the collection ascribed to Isidorus Mercator got his attention, but even though Agustin expressed grave doubt about the quality of this collection he did not proceed here or elsewhere to a full examination of the complex of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals. In the so-called Magdeburg Centuries (Historia ecclesiastica (…) (13 volumes, Basle, 1559-1574)) protestant historians had unmasked this collection as a massive falsification. For Catholic writers in the sixteenth century it was difficult to support this view. As few others Agustín was certainly equipped to deal with this problem.

The Epitome iuris pontificii veteris is the companion work to De emendatione Gratiani, and indeed without this compendium of canon law the latter would not have appeared at all. The first part of this Epitome was published at Tarragona in 1587; a digital version (PDF) has been created by the Universidad de Granada. In the first volume with the subtitle De personis Agustín deals with ecclesiastical functions, with laity and heretics, and at the end briefly with the position of Jews and pagans. The second and third volume were published posthumously for the first time as Iuris pontificii veteris epitome (…) at Rome between 1611 and 1614. The second volume deals with de rebus, matters, the third with de iudiciis, verdicts. At Ghent only the first and second volume of the 1611 edition have been digitized. In the second part Agustín starts with an overview of the history of conciliar collections before Gratian with the title De quibusdam veteribus canonum ecclesiasticorum collectoribus iudicium, et censura.

In the volume Canones paenitentiales (…) (Venice 1584; online, Hathi Trust) Agustín edited six texts concerning penance, including a Poenitentiale Romanum. He gives an introduction to the history of penance, penitential canones and in particular the early medieval libri paenitentiales. One of the reasons he adduces in his preface for taking interest in these sources is the fact that the Decretum Gratiani has not the same authority as papal decretals and conciliar canons, and therefore it is necessary to look at the original sources. The first edition of this edition appeared again in Tarragona in 1582. In an Epistola decretalis Innocentii III. Summi Pontificii (…) (Paris 1609; online, University Library, Ghent) the text of the famous decretal Per venerabilem (X. 4.7.13) of pope Innocent III from 1202 is given, a letter first included in the Compilatio Tertia (3 Comp. 4.12.2). The text of the decretal is taken from Agustín’s 1576 edition of the Compilationes quinque – at f. 209r-210r -, but the source of the following commentary is not clear. The core of the short introductory text is a defense of the prerogatives of the French king and the traditional independent ecclesiastical position of France.

Studying Antonio Agustín

Up to the twentieth century only a small group of scholars endeavoured on the paths first walked by Agustín. I mentioned already Étienne Baluze. Praise for Agustín came directly after his death in a work by Andreas Schott, a Flemish scholar, in his Laudatio funebris. V.Cl. Antonii Augustini (…) (Antwerp 1586). About this text José C. Miralles Maldonado recently wrote an article which can be consulted online, ‘Andreas Schott y su laudatio funebris en memoria del humanista aragonés Antonio Agustín’Myrtia 23 (2008) 315-342. Gregorio Mayáns y Siscár (1699-1781) published a Vida de D. Antonio Agustín arzobispo de Tarragona (Madrid 1734), online in Munich. This work helped in the long run resuscitating interest in this sixteenth-century scholar. It led to the publication of his Opera omnia at Lucca between 1765 and 1774, and to several editions of his letters from manuscripts scattered around Europe. You can find online more interesting articles about Agustín and his correspondance, for example Jean-Louis Ferrary, ‘Les travaux d’Antonio Agustín à travers la lumière de lettres inédites à Lelio Torelli,’ Faventia (1992) 60-83, and Joan Carbonell Manils, ‘La relación epistolar inédita entro Antonio Agustín y el papa Gregorio XIII’Faventia 22 (2000) 121-138. To these online articles one should add in particular an article by Cándido Flores Selles, ‘Respuestas ineditas de Antonio Agustín a consultas de amigos’, Revista de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid 73 (1987-1988) 111-185. Francis M. de Zulueta devoted his 1939 David Murray Lecture to Don Antonio Agustín (Glasgow 1939), an eminently useful starting point if you would like to start with or stick to literature in English. M.H. Crawford edited a volume of essays on Agustín, Antonio Agustín between Renaissance and Counter-Reform (London 1993). Crawford wrote the article on Agustín for the Encyclopedia of the Renaissance, Paul F. Grendler (ed.) (6 vol. New York 1999), in volume I, pp. 26-27. For sources about Agustíns library, his life and correspondence Marc Mayer’s article, ‘Towards a History of the Library of Antonio Agustín’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 60 (1997) 262-272, is well worth reading.

Agustín deserves his position among the pioneers of the history of Roman and canon law in particular for his unflagging interest in both fields. His interests in legal history were accompanied by studies on Classical Antiquity in the widest sense, including for example inscriptions. He wrote also about medals and even about heraldry. His Dialogos de las armas, i linages de la nobleza de España was published by Mayáns y Siscár (Madrid 1734), of which a facsimile edition appeared recently (Valencia 2005). It is again in the Digitale Sammlungen at Munich that you can find an online version of the 1734 edition, and for example also at Santiago de Compostela. Using the search functionalities at the Hispana portal you can find in Spain more digital versions of his works, and also some library catalogues with manuscripts of his works. Mentioning this work should not diminish the fact that Agustín was a scholar with a mind to work in major legal disciplines and the auxiliary historical sciences. He did not devote himself exclusively to one field, something which scholars nowadays all too often simply have to do. I hope this post shows you something of Agustíns versatility and his lasting importance for those who are working in the field of medieval canon law.

A postscript

In 2017 the university of Barcelona created a small but interesting virtual exhibit in memory of Agustín.

Legal history and heraldic manuscripts

Recently I noted in a post three digitized manuscripts at Brussels with texts concerning or relating to law, in order to include the digitized armorial Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, ms. IV 1249, written in the first quarter of the fifteenth century. An armorial is a book showing the heraldic arms or blazons of a particular knightly order, for a particular occasion or region. Since I also noted the digitized version of the Grand Armorial de l’Ordre de la Toison d’Or at Paris (Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. Arsenal 4790) it crossed my mind to look for more digitized medieval manuscripts with armorials, and to connect them with medieval law. The Order of the Golden Fleece will serve here as the main example.

The Dutch Royal Library has digitized the Wapenboek Beyeren (The Hague, KB, ms. 79 K 21) written in 1405. You can find images and description of more armorials kept at The Hague at the manuscript website of the Dutch Royal Library. 128 E 20 is an armorial for France and the Southern Low Countries, and 76 E 4 is another armorial, from 1601, for the Order of the Golden Fleece. At the Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum in The Hague is ms. 10 F 7, an Armorial des Chevaliers de la Table Ronde, on which the museum’s manuscript catalogue gives further information, but you can view it at the Royal Library’s manuscript site.

On Gallica you will find only a number of digitized manuscripts with early modern armorials at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, but it is more sensible to use the Mandragore database for its illuminated medieval manuscripts. A first search for armorials yields 18 results. To put these results in a perspective, so far the British Library has not yet made accessible any medieval armorial among its digitized manuscripts. Using the advanced search interface I found three armorials, an armorial for members of the Order of the Garter from 1588 (Harley 1864), an armorial with also statutes for the Chevaliers de la Table Ronde de Bourges, written between 1486 and 1533 (Harley 5301), and Harley 6199, Statuts de l’Ordre de la Toison d’Or, written in Bruges between 1481 and 1486. For each manuscript the British Library shows a number of images.

Finding a manuscript with the title Statutes in a search for armorials made me of course wonder whether this manuscript in fact does qualify as an armorial, and it brings me to a subject a bit closer to legal history, the statutes of knightly orders. According to the catalogue record Harley 6199 is the oldest known manuscript with the statutes of the prestigious Order of the Golden Fleece founded in 1430 by duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. I tried to find more about Harley 6199 with the various search options of the manuscript catalogue, but the manuscript did not show at all. The description of Harley 6199 in the BL’s illuminated manuscript catalogue mentions the term armorial only in the description of its binding (!) and in the title of an article concerning this manuscript. The description of the content tells you not exactly where the statutes start and end, only that from fol. 59 onwards of the 77 leaves the arms of the members of the Order are depicted. Luckily the description goes with solid references to publications about the manuscript.

The status of Harley 6199 as an illuminated armorial is confirmed in the database Luxury Bound of Hanno Wijsman (Leiden). In his project on illuminated manuscripts from the Netherlands between 1400 and 1550 Wijsman found some 3,700 manuscripts. Thanks to his database you can quickly find more armorials of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and you will find which armorials contain also the statutes of this chivalric order, apart from Harley 6199 also Aylesbury, Waddesdon Manor, James A. de Rothschild Collection 17, The Hague, Royal Library, 76 E 10, and Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 2606. You can check here, too, for the earliest copy of the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The British Library probably has in mind the earliest illuminated copy, but anyway in Luxury Bound the manuscripts Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, Chifflet 91, written between 1473 and 1480, once owned by Lodewijk van Gruuthuse, and The Hague, KB, 76 E 10, written between 1473 and 1478, are earlier than Harley 6199.

Besancon, BM, ms. Chifflet 91, f. 2r

The “Statuts de l’Ordre de la Toison d’Or” – Besançon, Bibliothèque Municipale, ms. Chifflet 91, fol. 2r –  © photo Enluminures (IRHT/CNRS)

For a really early manuscript with the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece a manuscript such as The Hague, KB, 76 E 14, found in the database Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections. written between 1431 and 1446, comes a lot closer to the claim of being the first surviving textual witness. The French website Enluminures will bring you to further illuminated manuscripts with these statutes, apart from the Besançon manuscript also Valenciennes, Bibliothèque Municipale, 803. More information on the manuscripts of the earliest statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece and a modern edition of them is to be found in Sonja Dünnebeil (ed.), Die Protokollbücher des Ordens vom goldenen Vlies,1 : Herzog Philipp der Gute 1430-1467 (…) (Stuttgart 2002). The statutes of the Ordre de Saint-Michel are the subject of a fine blog post by Jean-Luc Deuffic.

Much more armorials are to be found in Munich. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has digitized in the project BSB-Codicon Online some 150 armorials and other illustrated heraldic manuscripts in the Codices iconographici collection. This collection starts with the late Middle Ages and contains manuscripts up to the late nineteenth century. Karen Larsdatter has published on her website a page with a very generous selection of digitized medieval rolls of arms, armorials written on parchment rolls, and she mentions some of these Munich manuscripts. At Zurich yet another roll of arms has recently been digitized, like other rolls at Zurich called the Zürcher Wappenrolle. This roll is kept at the Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum, sigature AG 2760 (around 1330-1345).

Heraldry and legal history

At this point it is appropriate to answer the question what heraldry has to do with legal history. What character had chivalric orders such as the Order of the Garter, of the Star and the Golden Fleece? In his acclaimed study Chivalry (New Haven, Conn.-London 1984) Maurice Keen did not fail to find an explicit link between heraldry and medieval law. He mentions several times the treatise De insigniis et armis of Bartolo da Sassoferrato (1313-1357) which has been edited, translated and studied in the volume A grammar of signs. Bartolo da Sassoferrato and his tract on insignia and coats of arms, Osvaldo Cavallar, Susanne [Lepsius-] Degenring and Julius Kirshner (eds.) (Berkeley, Ca., 1994). The authors show that Bartolus wrote only the first part of this tract. The second part which focuses on heraldic colors and uses was probably added by Nicola Alessandri, Bartolus’ son-in-law, who edited in 1358 more incomplete and unpublished treatises shortly after Bartolus had died. The edition of Bartolus’ treatise here is based on some 23 manuscripts, but the editors indicate clearly that much more manuscripts can be found. In a review in 2001 of another edition of the text Cavallar and Kirshner said they had checked twelve manuscripts since 1994.1

Some manuscripts with the texts of Bartolus’ treatise have been digitized. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 167 Helmst., fol. 159r-162r (sigle Wa in the 1994 edition) can be read online. This manuscript was written around 1420. Tübingen, Universitätsbibliothek, Mc 58, fol. 131v-137v, is another example, written between 1461 and 1463. Of the manuscript Greifswald, Geistliches Ministerium Greifswald, ms. 10.B.V., fol. 259r-262v, written between 1474 and 1476, you can see photographs in black and white at the German website Manuscripta Medievalia, and this permalink brings you quickly to them.

At the Digital Scriptorium, this month still accessible at Columbia University, but soon coming back to Berkeley at the original web address to be maintained by the Bancroft Library, you will find the manuscript Berkeley, Ca., The Robbins Collection, ms. 225, fol. 205v-208r, with images. At fol. 208r another treatise by Bartolus starts, his De tyranno, which ends on the verso folio at the fourth image, and this information is not included in the description. The first half of the manuscript catalogue (ms. 1-120) of The Robbins Collection can be consulted online. Incidentally the study by Cavallar, Kirshner and Lepsius was published by this library. The two manuscripts with Bartolus’ text in the holding of The Robbins Collection, ms. 225 and ms. 148, f. 257r-262r – also described at the Digital Scriptorium – are not mentioned in their study. Ms. 225 was only acquired by the library in 1994. In view of the massive amount of manuscripts and books digitized at Munich it is no surprise to find at least one digitized manuscript with Bartolus’ treatise, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14134, fol. 156r-158v (images 317 to 322). The images seem to stem from a microfilm of this manuscript.

The manuscript tradition of De insigniis et armis is rather extensive. In his article on Bartolus de Saxoferrato from 1964 for the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Francesco Calasso listed already some seventy manuscripts. Some of them merit closer inspection. The description of ms. O.2.35, fol. 97r-103r, by M.R. James in his catalogue of manuscripts at Cambridge, Trinity College – available online – says that fol. 97r is decorated with a shield “or a chevron gu. between three martlets sable“. It is a nice heraldic exercise to establish the exact form of these arms, gold with a red (gueules) chevron between three black (sable) martlets, stylized birds. No doubt someone more versed in heraldry can tell to whom these arms belonged.

Many manuscripts with this treatise first published in 1358 stem only from the fifteenth century. It is rare to find earlier manuscripts. Nuremberg, Stadtbibliothek, Cent. IV 54, fol. 442r-447r – sigle Na in the 1994 edition – was written in Pistoia in 1384. Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, C II 15, fol. 60r-6rv was written between 1376 and 1381, and Klosterneuburg, Stiftsbibliothek, 194, fol. 135va-140r, was written at this Austrian monastery between 1395 and 1399. The manuscript London, British Library, Add. 8719, has a flyleaf from the fourteenth century with a fragment of Bartolus’ text. In the Verzeichnis der Handschriften zum römischen Recht bis 1600 (4 vol., Frankfurt am Main 1972) Gero Dolezalek and Hans van de Wouw listed more than hundred manuscripts which according to manuscript catalogues contain this text of Bartolus. Some of these manuscripts have been lost by fire or cannot be found anymore after the Second World War, or the attribution is doubtful. Susanne Lepsius studied and edited another treatise by Bartolus, the Tractatus testimoniorum, in Der Richter und die Zeugen [The judge and the witnesses] (Frankfurt am Main 2003). She noted that Bartolus’ treatise is easily the most widespread of his treatises, and that it is probably the most often copied medieval legal treatise. For me the very low number of fourteenth-century manuscripts is puzzling.

Much more can be said about the relevant manuscripts. I have created a list on which figure now nearly 140 manuscripts with De insigniis et armis. At least a few of them merit more attention in connection with heraldry. London, British Library, Stowe 668, has on fol. 45-52v, a French translation of Bartolus’ text, but this manuscript contains among the other heraldic texts also the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece and those of the Order of the Garter. This manuscript was once owned by Robert Glover, Somerset Herald. Oxford, Bodleian Library, ms. Rawlinson B. 120, was written by William Smith Rouge Dragon, a fellow of the College of Arms. It has Bartolus’ text from fol. 23 onwards in an English translation. Apart from the modern English translation by Cavallar, Kirshner and Lepsius – which you can find partially online on the Heraldica website of François Velde – and the older translation in the edition of E.J. Jones, Medieval heraldry. Some fourteenth century works (Cardiff 1943) a translation in Slovakian exists in the volume Bartolus de Saxoferrato, Tractatus de insigniis et armis / Traktát o znameniach a erboch, edited by Ladislav Vrtel and Mária Munková (Bratislava 1999), based on a manuscript in the archdiocesan archives of Kosice. The edition by Mario Cignoni (Florence 1998) contains a translation in Italian. The edition by Felix Hauptmann (Bonn 1883) is accompanied by a German translation. A few years earlier Gustav A. Seyler had already provided a German translation.2 A fifteenth-century Spanish translation with the title Tratado sobre las insignias y escudos de armas, is available, too, in a modern edition of the text in the manuscript Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Res. 125.3

Searching medieval legal manuscripts

Instead of creating a much longer post with too much manuscripts it is just as useful to give more indications of the road to them. Hanno Wijsman’s database Luxury Bound guides you to illuminated manuscripts from the Burgundian Low Countries, and the Verzeichnis by Dolezalek and Van de Wouw is indispensable in finding medieval legal manuscripts. For Bartolus manuscripts in Spanish and Italian libraries have been tracked down and described by Emanuele Casamassima and Antonio García y García in Codices operum Bartoli a Saxoferrato recensiti, part I, Iter Italicum, and part II, Iter Hispanicum (2 vol., Florence 1971-1973). Thomas Izbicki and Patrick Lally have followed their footsteps in ‘Texts attributed to Bartolus de Saxoferrato in North American manuscript collections’, Manuscripta 35 (1991) 146-155. More repertories of medieval legal manuscripts do exist, for example in the field of medieval Roman law the Repertorium manuscriptorum veterum Codicis Justiniani, Gero Dolezalek and Laurent Mayali (eds.) (2 vol., Frankfurt am Main 1985), for German customary law Deutsche Rechtsbücher des Mittelalters, Ulrich-Dieter Oppitz (ed.) (3 vol., Cologne 1990-1992), and for medieval canon law in particular A catalogue of canon and Roman law manuscripts in the Vatican Library, of which sofar two volumes have appeared, edited by Stephan Kuttner and Reinhard Elze (Città del Vaticano 1986-1987). It is certainly possible to expand this paragraph, but these studies cover much.

You can find online information on manuscripts with texts concerning medieval canon law in the lists created by Gero Dolezalek and Giovanna Murano. Brendan McManus, too, provides useful additional information in his manuscript lists. Among the links provided by Dolezalek is the database of microfilms and CD-ROM kept at the Sezione di Storia del Diritto medievale e moderno in Milan. Microfilms of medieval legal manuscripts can also be consulted at Munich and Frankfurt am Main.

A wider view

Those wanting to pursue the history of heraldry will benefit from the Bibliographie héraldique internationale compiled by Michel Popoff. The analysis by Cavallar, Kirshner and Lepsius makes it crystal clear how Bartolus’ approach did not focus only on heraldic arms, but on any sign or mark people might use. Thus he could include a discussion of the trade marks used by artisans and merchants. Bartolus did not only look at knights and noble people, but looked first and foremost on city life in Tuscan towns which had and have connections with towns all over Europe. The three authors rightly warn us not look at medieval legal treatises in isolation. In the case of Bartolus it is far more interesting to relate his views on particular subjects to his main commentaries, and to make comparisons between his treatises, a path masterfully shown by Diego Quaglioni in his study Politica e diritto nel Trecento italiano (Florence 1983) with editions of three treatises on political themes by Bartolus. In this post you find just some aspects of larger issues which deserve further study. I am happy to share here some fragments from a virtual workbench, and to point you to the works of some leading scholars in the field of late medieval law.

A postscript

At his blog Archivalia Klaus Graf alerts to the online version of the study by Sonja Dünnebeil at Prosopographica Burgundica, a site with a digital library for the history of the Burgundian court, a database on the personnel of this court as indicated in the ordonnances d’hôtel, and also a database on Burgundian heralds. Graf points to a very recent study by Torsten Hiltmann, Spätmittelalterliche Heroldskompendien. Referenzen adliger Wissenschaft im Zeitalter gesellschaftlichen Wandels (Munich 2011). Hiltmann has built Prosopographica Burgundica, an initiative of Werner Paravacini and the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Paris. If you want to look at websites about medieval heraldry you will find the selection and comments at the relevant pages of the Virtual Library Historische Hilfswissenschaften in Munich most useful. This Virtual Library for the historical auxiliary sciences  – in German or English  – is a classic website for medievalists. Since July 2012 you can search the Verzeichnis of Dolezalek and Van de Wouw online at the website of the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main.

A final addition: news about research on medieval heraldry can be conveniently found at the Heraldica Nova blog maintained by Torsten Hiltmann (Münster), with an overview of digitized armorials from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, with for example Kassel, UB, 4 Ms. Hist. 4, another manuscript with the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece.. For an overview of medieval armorials and available editions you should visit the website of Steen Clemmensen.


 1. Osvaldo Cavallar and Julius Kirshner, ‘”Ne ultra scarpas”. Un cultore d’araldica fuorilegge”, Ius Commune 27 (2001) 297-311 – this review of the edition by Mario Cignoni (Florence 1998) is available online.
2. Gustav A. Seyler, ‘Domini Bartoli de Saxoferrato Legum doctoris Tractatus de insigniis et armis’, Viertelsjahrschrift für Heraldik, Sphragistik und Genealogie 7 (1879) 268-283.
3. Jesús D. Rodriguez Velasco, ‘El “Tractatus de insigniis et armis” de Bartolo y su influencia in Europa (con la edición de un traducción in castelllana cuatrocentista)’, Emblemata. Revista aragonesa de emblemática 2 (1996) 35-70.

Europeana Regia and the royal road to medieval manuscripts

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

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

Logo Europeana Regia

The five libraries in Europeana Regia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Searching and presenting medieval manuscripts: a comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europeana Regia and the Europeana portal

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

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

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

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

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

The royal road

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

A postscript

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


Centers of legal history: Edinburgh

Centre for Legal History, Edinburgh

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

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

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

Law and history in Edinburgh

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

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

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

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

The series Centers of legal history