Tag Archives: Legal iconography

Visual traces of legal culture and the legacy of Karl Frölich

Banner MPI Frankfurt am Main

Legal historians created legal iconography as an auxiliary science for dealing with images connected with law, justice and legal culture in the widest possible sense. In a century where for many subjects you can find a great variety of online resources the list of online databases concerning this subject is still short. On my own website Rechtshistorie I mention just a dozen digital projects, with resources in English almost absent. On March 31, 2015 the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main launched a new online database for the collections created by a German scholar, Karl Frölich (1877-1953). What is the value of his collections? Do they help understanding the way law and visual culture are studied within the discipline of legal iconography and in other ways, for example in the framework of law and humanities? In this post I will delve into these and other questions and I will compare this new database with similar online collections.

Nomos-SALUTO-INGThe introduction to the new resource at the website in Frankfurt is brief, even when you add the general notice about the Sammlung Frölich and the introductions to research projects concerning communication and representation of law, including legal iconography, However, a virtual exhibition launched last year at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence provides this information. The Nomos of Law. Manifestations of the Law in Picture Atlases and Photo Archives shows items from the Frölich collection, and from collections in Florence and Munich. This exhibition which can be viewed in German, English and Italian contains also a bibliography. It has been created in cooperation with the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte in Munich, home to the oldest German collection in the field of legal ethnology and legal archaeology created by Karl von Amira (1848-1930).

In this post I will first look at the context of Frölich’s career and research. In the second section I will discuss the contents of the newly digitized collection, and I will compare Frölich’s collection with other online collections for legal iconography. The last section offers a glimpse of current and potential uses of Frölich’s materials.

Decades of research under a shadow

Let’s start with a look at Karl Frölich himself, using the article in the online version of the Neue Deutsche Biographie written by Karl Bruchmann [NDB 5 (1961) 652]. Frölich was born in the village of Oker in the Harz region near Goslar, a city often visited by the German emperors in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He studied law in Jena and Göttingen, Frölich got his Ph.D. degree from Alfred Schultze (1864-1946) in 1910 at Freiburg with a study about medieval legal procedure in Goslar [Die Gerichtsverfassung von Goslar im Mittelalter (Breslau 1910)]. Frölich worked from 1905 onwards in Braunschweig at the ministry for the interior. In 1913 he started to study for a degree in economics, but in 1914 he became a judge (Landgerichtsrat). During the First World War he fought as an officer in the German army. Paul Rehme (Leipzig) guided Frölich’s research for his Habilitationsschrift on Verfassung und Verwaltung der Stadt Goslar im späteren Mittelalter (Goslar 1921). In 1921 he started teaching at the technical university of Braunschweig. From 1923 onwards he worked at the university of Giessen as a professor of German legal history where he founded in 1939 an institute for legal history. From 1935 onwards Rechtliche Volkskunde, “legal ethnology”, became his specialization. During the Second World War Frölich served temporarily again in the army. From 1945 he worked for some time at the universities of Berlin, Marburg and Frankfurt am Main. His scholarly career ended with the edition of sources for the history of Goslar.

Image of Karl Frölich, 1952 - Sammlung Frölich, Frankfurt am Main

Portrait of Karl Frölich, 1952 – image Sammlung Frölich, Frankfurt am Main

The weakness of the biographical article in the Neue Deutsche Biographie is its silence about the period after 1933. How did Frölich react to the powers of the Third Reich? For the field of legal archaeology it was most unfortunate that the Nazi laws pretended to stem from the people, and thus keen on enhancing the position of the field of “legal ethnology”. During the Nazi regime this discipline was not innocent. Frölich is not mentioned in classic studies about German lawyers between 1933 and 1945 such as Ingo Müller, Furchtbare Juristen. Die unbewältigte Vergangenheit unserer Justiz (Munich 1987; 2nd ed., Berlin 2014) and Bernd Rüthers, Entartetes Recht. Rechtslehren und Kronjuristen im Dritten Reich (Munich 1988).

Gerhard Köbler (Innsbruck) contributed a chapter on Frölich for the volume Giessener Gelehrte in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts, Hans Georg Gundel (ed.) (Marburg 1982) 242-250. Recently Lars Esterhaus wrote his dissertation about Frölich [Bild – Volk – Gegenstand : Grundlagen von Karl Frölichs „rechtlicher Volkskunde“ (…) [Image-Nation-Object: Foundations of Karl Frölich’s “legal ethnology”] (diss. Giessen 2012; Marburg 2014)]. On his website Gerhard Koebler has created a succinct overview of law professors at the Unviersity of Giessen between 1607 and 2007, with also basic information about Frölich’s career. At his webpage Wer war wer im Deutschen Recht [Who’s who in German law], a massive overview of German lawyers with also a search interface, Koebler adds some crucial facts. In 1941 Frölich became a Gaugruppenverwalter and Hochschullehrer des Gaues Nassau-Hessen des NS-Rechtswahrerbundes. After a year in this role Frölich did active service again in the German army. The university of Giessen closed in the summer of 1942. In 1945 Frölich resumed teaching legal history. In 1946 his behaviour during the war was subject of a procedure for denazification. In July 1946 this procedure started, and two months later he was said to be unbelastet, “correct”, but the military government nevertheless suspended him in November 1946. Still in 1946 the ministry of the interior invested him again with his office, but took away his status as a state official (Beamtenstatus). On February 1, 1949 his professorship ended, and on April 1, 1950 he became officially a professor emeritus.

In the thirties the Deutscher Rechtshistorikertag, founded in 1927, was still a new phenomenon. During the twelve years of the Third Reich only two Tagungen were held, in Cologne (1934) and Tübingen (1936). In Tübingen at the fifth conference Frölich read a paper about the creation of an atlas for legal ethnology (‘Die Schaffung eines Atlas der rechtlichen Volkskunde für das deutschsprachige Gebiet’). Hans Frank, the German minister of justice, held a speech in which he encouraged scholars to enlist the services of legal history for German contemporary law.

I give you this additional information with only brief comments. There was a wide variety of living as a lawyer under the Nazi regime, from supporting explicitly the new Nazi legal order and its ideology at one side, and outright resistance against the regime at the other end. For many people daily life in the Third Reich must have been a grey and grim zone of finding one’s way in a time and places where angels fear to tread. Even at a distance of two generations scholars living now need to imagine themselves in front of the possible deadly choices facing Germans in that dark period. As for Giessen, allied bombers caused great damage to the city in December 1944. After the war the university was at first closed. Only after a few years the university could start again, and only in 1965 a law faculty began again.

Barbara Dölemeyer, responsible for the project to digitize Frölich’s collection, has created a bibliography of Frölich’s publications since 1921. Earlier on she published ‘Karl Frölich und das Institut für Rechtsgeschichte’, in: Rechtswissenschaft im Wandel, Festschrift des Fachbereichs Rechtswissenschaft zum 400-jährigen Gründungsjubiläum der Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Walter Gropp, Martin Lipp and Heinhard Steiger (eds.) (Tübingen 2007) 1–22, and a shorter article, ‘Bilder als Zeichen alten Rechts – Die Sammlung Frölich’ [Images as signs of old law: The Frölich Collection], Rechtsgeschichte 4 (2004) 264-268. Karl Kroeschell (1927) mentioned some of Frölich’s works in his Deutsche Rechtsgeschichte as examples of still valuable research. Kroeschell says this as author of a legal history of Germany in the twentieth century [Rechtsgeschichte Deutschlands im 20. Jahrhundert (Göttingen 1992)]. Hans Planitz and Hermann Baltl wrote necrologies about Frölich for the Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Germanistische Abteilung [ZRG GA 70 (1953) 431-432 and ZRG GA 71 (1954) 545-548], the latter with the explicit title ‘Karl Frölich und die rechtliche Volkskunde’. You can find ten digitized publications of Frölich online in one of the digital libraries of the modern Universität Giessen.

The signa iuris

The commemorations of the end of the Second World War, now seventy years ago, have influenced me in creating the long section about Frölich, especially in order to prevent the idea that I would write about Frölich’s material legacy – now held at Frankfurt am Main, Giessen and Munich – without any preparation and consideration for its background. Is it indeed to some extent a poisoned gift, not to be handled except with the greatest possible care, or is it safe to use the images and accompanying papers in a straightforward way? What does he bring us for the study of the signs of law and justice? SIGNA IVRIS is the aptly chosen name of a German scholarly journal for legal iconography and its neighbouring disciplines. It was founded in 2008, with Gernot Kocher, Heiner Lücke and Clausdieter Schott as its current editors. Lars Esterhaus contributed in Signa Ivris 5 (2010) the article ‘Karl Frölich und die “rechtliche Volkskunde“? Eine werkbiografisch orientierte Anfrage’ .

The scholarly value of Frölich’s own photographs is much enhanced by the fact that he did not just look at Germany or at parts added to the Third Reich, but at other European countries as well. Two pictures show even Rabat in Morocco. In view of this international orientation a search interface in one or more other languages would reflect the variety of countries more correctly. The search interface contains a free search field (Freie Suche), and an advanced search mode with four fields for countries, locations and places; two of them help you to find all items coming from a modern Bundesland or an official smaller region (Landkreis) in Germany. Very important is the presence of two separate search fields for motifs, the first for motifs from a contemporary perspective and the second field for the motifs according to Frölich’s own arrangements. He had planned to publish eventually an atlas with relevant photographs and descriptions for Germany, starting with the region Hessen. The last search field allows you to filter for items and the three present locations of Frölich’s images, papers and other materials. A separate page introduces the subjects and motifs used by Frölich to catalogue and describe his findings, and a more contemporary list of classifications used for the digitized items.

Postcard of the interior of Nijmegen Town Hall, around 1940 - Collection Frölich, SF=G1347_F4124_01a

Postcard of the interior of Nijmegen Town Hall, around 1940 – image Sammlung Frölich

The database at Frankfurt am Main contains nearly ten thousand items, with for the Netherlands 133 items. Among the European countries Belgium is missing at all. For Germany there are some 8,200 items, for Hessen alone nearly 2,300 items. Thus resources for others countries are only a small part of the collection, but nevertheless this is valuable. It quickly becomes clear that there are for my country more digitized letters, postcards and notes than actual photographs or other visual materials. Frölich inquired about cities such as Rotterdam, Middelburg and Nijmegen where the inner cities have been destroyed during the Second World War. Such photographs of buildings before their destruction can be important. W.S. Unger, city archivist at Middelburg, wrote in 1939 he had sent a description of the town hall in a separate letter which does not survive (or still awaits digitization). From Rotterdam came in 1939 two short letters stating objects could not be reached due to the restoration of the Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, and there were no medieval objects at all. In view of the year 1939 it is more probably that this museum was busy packing objects and moving them to a safe hiding place in case of war. It seems Frölich definitely restricted his research to medieval objects and artefacts, because other Dutch letters contained the same answer. From Nijmegen came only a postcard with a picture of the schepenbank, the seats of the municipal court within the town hall in Dutch Renaissance style. Frölich’s letter in 1942 concerning Nijmegen mentions specifically his objective to collect information also outside Germany.

“Gericht” at Schleeke near Goslar – image Sammlung Frölich

Back to Germany! Frölich’s collection contains in its present state some 70 items for his beloved Goslar. Goslar’s fate during the Third Reich was in a way determined in 1934 when the Reichsnährstand, the Nazi food organization, was founded in this town. In 1936 Goslar got the title Reichsbauernstadt, the capital of farmers in Hitler’s Reich. All his life Frölich dedicated his efforts in studies of Goslar’s history to its later medieval period, after the days of the frequent visits of the German emperors. He studied in particular the beginnings and working of the city council, the city’s economy and the role of the nearby mines at Rammelsberg exploited since the tenth century.

In his Harzreise (1826) Heinrich Heine had used harsh words for Goslar, a city where the medieval cathedral had been demolished in 1820, leaving just one part of it standing. Is it just a guess that the very presence of Goslar’s remaining historic buildings and locations helped Frölich to become aware of the need for their systematic study in connection with legal history? Perhaps other German legal historians in the first half of the twentieth century had simply not yet done much in the territories covered by Frölich, the spaces and buildings where law and justice got their form. Surely Karl von Amira (1848-1930), the founder of legal archaeology and legal iconography, had collected relevant objects for these fields. He had indeed thought about creating an atlas for both subjects. Eberhard von Künßberg (1881-1941) looked more at legal gestures, no doubt inspired by the materials he encountered in directing the creation of the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch. Claudius Freiherr von Schwerin (1880-1944) even published from Von Amira’s papers an Einführung in die Rechtsarchäologie (1943). Von Schwerin had become deeply involved with the Nazi’s soon after 1933. The Swiss scholar Hans Fehr (1874-1961) who had studied in Germany, focused on the representation of law in the arts.

How does Frölich’s collection compare with other image collections in the field of legal iconography? The images in Von Amira’s collection in Munich most often show objects, not actual locations and buildings. The image database at Graz puts images somewhat arbitrarily into legal categories, but you can also use the free text search, and anyhow this collection is much smaller. The database RechtsAlterTümer – online of the Austrian Academy of Sciences does cover both objects and locations, but it is geographically restricted to Austria. Today I could not reach the database at Zürich due to some vague technical error. I leave it to you to check and compare all twelve collections, but only after looking at least briefly in the Dutch database at the Memory of the Netherlands where the postcard from Nijmegen in Frölich’s collection is not to be found. The Dutch collection does show for Nijmegen much more than only the court room of the old town hall. In particular the bibliographical references are very useful. Frölich’s research notes, however succinct sometimes, are an asset missing in other collections.

In the country where during the nineteenth century history was refashioned into an academic discipline there are more resources with images and photographs of historical buildings and objects. On my own page for digital image collections – where you can find the twelve online databases for legal iconography as well – I list a dozen online resources for Germany. The Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur, one of the services at the Bildarchiv Foto Marburg, is a search portal for several million images from major German cultural institutions, including for instance photographs from the holding of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. You can get some impressions of the sheer scale of the photo collection of this museum when you search for a pillory (Pranger) and receive more than 600 results. The Bildarchiv of the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin and the Deutsche Fotothek (Sächsiche Landes- und Univesritätsbibliothek, Dresden) are other major German nationwide resources. In my view it is not only possible and feasible, but necessary to use images and information from other resources to supplement and check whatever you find in the Frölich collection.

Balancing questions and materials

At the end of my post it might seem that the background of the Frölich collection got too much attention instead of its own scope and value. Including a paragraph about Dutch towns and thus making this post still longer was certainly a personal choice. I will end here with some remarks about the way to use Frölich’s publications and images for modern research in the field of German history and geography. The Landesgeschichtliches Informationssystem Hessen (LAGIS), created by the Hessisches Landesamt für geschichtliche Landeskunde and the Universität Marburg, is a very substantial portal to the history, cultural heritage and geography of the Bundesland Hessen. At this portal you can use maps, search for digitized resources, thematic dictionaries, use a bibliography and a web repertory, and last but not least search for images and books concerning many themes, among them for example the topography of the national socialism.

In the section Gerichtsstätte in Hessen [Places of justice in Hessen] Wilhelm Eckhardt has created a database with both a simple search mode and a very detailed advanced search mode. In more than hundred cases the references include works by Frölich, or they show photographs he published. The digitized images of the Frölich collection and his notes are no doubt a valuable addition to the materials at this portal. I did look for similar online portals for other German regions, but until now Hessen seems the only example to include material remains of legal history. Here, too, I would adduce information from other image collections to get a more complete picture, but in itself the database for Hessen is a valuable new research tool.

The twentieth century was an age of extremes (Eric Hobsbawm), and legal historians did not escape from its threats, terrors and destruction. The twelve years of the Nazi regime had a great impact on German lawyers and historians, on the ways they looked at Germany’s history, and in some cases abused and stained it. This image of utter darkness has sometimes helped in keeping scholars away from legal ethnology and legal iconography.  With knowledge of the background of Frölich’s work you can start new research following his steps. Diligent and discerning research can benefit from a number of his works and the example of his sustained efforts to study the visual powers of law and justice. Using the wide variety of German image databases and for Hessen its exemplary database for regional history and geography, and at many turns benefiting from the resources and research of the Max-Planck-Institut for European Legal History at Frankfurt am Main, you can gain new insights for research in a fascinating scholarly discipline which enriches our understanding of the impact of law and justice.

A theatre of knowledge: Law and justice on show in old book titles

Logo Theatra - Welt und Wissen auf der BühneTheatrical representations of a trial can enthrall an audience. Even when you know actual proceedings were different you are lured into understanding matters in the way they are played in the theatre. Authors and publishers were not slow to realize the attraction of the theatre for book titles. In a German research project several books with the word “theatre” in their title printed between 1500 and 1800 have been brought together. Among them is a considerable number of books concerning law and justice. The project was finished a few years ago, but I think it is worth looking at here.

The right title

Logo HAB

The project at the heart of this post has been supported by the Herzog August Bibliothek (HAB) in Wolfenbüttel. Earlier on I had not really noticed this project at the website of this research library with a focus on Early Modern and baroque literature. However, in the end this notice did awake my curiosity. Scholars from the Universität Kassel worked together with the staff of the HAB to create the project Welt und Wissen auf der Bühne – Theatrum-Literatur der frühen Neuzeit. “World and Knowledge on Stage – Theatrum-Literature of the Early Modern Period”.

The metaphor of the theatre helped to create a visual image for multiple purpose, not just constructing a setting but also the disposition and communication of knowledge. Apart from “Theater” and “Theatrum” authors and publishers used words such as Schau-Bühne and Schauplatz, and of course other languages used their own versions of these words, for example théâtre, teatro, schouwtoneel and schouwplaats. Apart from works in German, French and English Dutch, Spanish and Italian works were within the orbit of the project, The project at Wolfenbüttel aimed at creating a portal with bibliographical information and direct access to some 200 titles. Despite this multilingual starting point the project website is only accessible in German, in clear contrast with the HAB’s website which can be viewed in German, English and some pages even in Latin. At the project website you can go directly to each of the digitized works, execute a full text search in all titles or in a particular work, or visit first the repertory and benefit from the information about the works brought together here.

Title page There is no shorter way to view the qualities of the project than starting to look at a particular work. I have chosen a work by Peter Dahlmann, his Historischer Schauplatz Vornehmer und berühmter Staats- und Rechts-Gelehrten (2 vol., Frankfurt and Berlin, 1710-1715), and I selected it because it was the first work in the list with the word Recht (law) in its title. This biographical dictionary appeared anonymously, but Dahlmann published a similar more general work in 1710 which made his authorship plausible. The description of this work with twenty-seven biographies is most useful, in particular for the overview of the content, information about the context and background, and bibliographical information.

When I looked at the list of extant copies of Dahlmann’s book I somehow became wary. A quick search in the Karlsruher Virtual Library shows indeed more copies than indicated here. The copy of the first volume at the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main, too, has been digitized, as announced on the project page at Wolfenbüttel, but I was really surprised to find this title in Frankfurt within the collection of German legal journals from the period 1703 to 1830. Anyway, this title is certainly not widely available in German libraries: VD18, the bibliographical project for eighteenth-century German imprints, has not yet included any copy from the five participating libraries, but the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich do have a copy of the rare second volume, which has been digitized at Munich. Checking the information about surviving copies seems advisable.

Law on stage

Let’s look which other legal works and books touching the subject of law, jurisprudence and justice have been included at Welt und Wissen auf der Bühne:

– anon., Schauplatz der Betrieger (Hamburg-Frankfurt 1687) – a book about impostors and forgers – description
– anon., Hamburgisches Mordt-Theatrum (s.l., 1687) – a book describing the trial for the murder of a merchant from Hamburg – description
– anon., Theatro politico del honor y manifiesto legal de la santa iglesia Catedral de Zamora (s.l. [Zamora], 2 vol., 1730-1732) – a treatise about the jurisdiction and rights of a Spanish cathedral
– [Christoph Peller], Theatrum Pacis, Hoc Est: Tractatuum Atque Instrumentorum Praecipuorum (2 vol., Neurenberg 1683-1685) – a collection of peace treaties
– Johann Abelinus and Matthaeus Merian, Theatrum Europaeum (21 vol., Frankfurt 1633-1738) – a chronicle of near contemporary European history, often supported with legal documents – description
– Giovanni Battista Argiro, Theatrum universi juris (2 vol., Rome 1729-1734) – a legal bibliographical repertory guiding to commentaries for Roman and canon law
– Lorenzo Arrazola et alii, Enciclopedia española de derecho y administracion, ó Nuevo teatro universal de la legislacion de España è Indias (13 vol., Madrid 1848-1872) – an encyclopedia for Spanish law and government, including colonial law
– Angelo Auda, Theatrum regularium, in quo brevi methodo, variae decisiones, tam apostolicae quam Ordinis Minorum de observantia […] exarantur (Rome 1664) – ecclesiastical law concerning the Franciscan order
– Giovanni Battista Carmen Fattolillo, Theatrum immunitatis, et libertatis ecclesiasticae tam theorice, quam practice fideliter excerptum juxta Gregorianam bulla (2 vol., Rom 1714) – a work concerning immunity in canon law
– Giovanni Battista de Luca, Theatrum veritatis et iustitiae (18 vol., Cologne 1688) – De Luca’s famous often reprinted encyclopedic overview of all fields of law
– Camillo della Ratta, Theatrum feudale (2 vol., Naples 1637) – a work on feudal law – online, volume 1 and 2, Madrid, Universidad Complutense (at the Hathi Trust Digital Library)
– Jacob Döpler, Theatrum poenarum (2 vol., Sondershausen-Leipzig 1693) – a work on penal law – description
– Anton Wilhelm Ertl, Neu-eröffnete Schau-Bühne, Von dem Fürsten-Recht (Neurenberg 1702) – a book about princes and the law
– idem, Neu-Eröffneter Schau-Platz der Lands-Fürstlichen Ober-Bottmässigkeit (Neurenberg 1694)
– idem, Theatrum Superioritatis Territorialis Noviter Extructum (Augsburg 1684) – these two titles are clearly the Latin original and the German translation of a book on the territorial power of princes
– Adam Joseph Greneck, Theatrum Jurisdictionis Austriacae (Vienna 1752) – an encyclopedia on jurisdiction within Austria
– Georg Philipp Härsdorffer, Der Grosse Schauplatz Jämerlicher Mordgeschichte (8 vol., Hamburg 1649-1652) – a collection of murder stories and trials – description
– Carl Johnson / Joachim Meier (transl.), Schauplatz der englischen See-Räuber (A general history of the robberies and murders of the most notorious pyrates) (Goslar 1728) – a book about pirates and piracy
– Milettus Hedrusius, Neu-eröffnete Mord- und Trauer-Bühne (Schwabach 1708) – murder stories
– Johannes Franciscus Löw, Theatrum Medico-Juridicum (Neurenberg 1725) – a collection of treatises on forensic law
– Johann Christian Lünig, Theatrum Ceremoniale Historico-Politicum (3 vol., Leipzig 1719-1720) – a pioneer work about elections and political ceremonies – description
– Karl Philipp Mentzel, Neuestes Teutsches Reichs-Tags-Theatrum (Neurenberg 1733) – a book about the German Reichstag from 1662 onwards
– Johann Joachim Müller, Des Heiligen Römischen Reichs, Teutscher Nation, Reichs Tags Theatrum (2 vol., Jena 1713) – the German Reichstag between 1440 and 1493
– Melchior Adam Pastorius, Theatrum Electionis Et Coronationis Romano-Caesareae (Frankfurt am Main 1657) – not only about the election of German emperors, but with an overview of emperors since Roman antiquity
– Antonio Javier Pérez y Lopez, Teatro de la legislacion universal de España é Indias (28 vol., Madrid 1791-1798) – legislation in Spain and its colonial empire
– Johannes Friederich Reiger, Theatrum juridicum theoretico-practicum (Neurenberg 1724 and 1740) – a German translation of Justinian’s Digest
– Johan van den Sande, Theatrum practicantium hoc est decisiones aureae sive rerum in supremo Frisiorum curia judicatarum (Cologne 1663) – a collection of cases before the Frisian supreme court in Leeuwarden
– Johann Salomon Schülin, Theatrum Conscientiosum Criminale, (2 vol., Frankfurt / Leipzig 1732-1733) – a handbook for procedures in criminal law
– Christoph Heinirch Schweser, Theatrum Servitutum oder Schau-Platz Der Dienstbarkeiten (Neurenberg 1709) – a handbook on legal servitudes and service contracts
– Carlo Spadazza, Theatrum viduile, seu De viduis, ac priuilegiis viduilibus Tractatus absolutissimus, tum legalis, tum moralis, in quo tota viduilis materia elaborata methodo explanatur (Ferrara 1672) – a treatise about widows with attention to relevant law – online, Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (at Internet Culturale)
– Mattheus Surrentinus [Matteo Sorrentino], Theatrum et examen omnium decisionum regni Napolitani (Naples 1700) – a collection with jurisprudence from the ingdom of Naples
– Trobat, Juan Bautista: Tractatus de effectibus immemorialis praescriptionis et consuetudinis. Pars secunda, cum miscelanea casuum, et decisionum in Iurisprudentiae Theatrum (Valencia 1700) – a treatise on customary law
– Nicolás Bas y Galcerán, Theatrum jurisprudentiae forensis Valentinae romanorum iuri (2 vol., Valencia 1742-1762) – a book about legal practice and jurisprudence in Valencia
– [Zacharias Zwanzig], Theatrum Praecedentiae (Berlin 1705) – a treatise touching on international law and ceremonial law – description

With some 35 works in a selection of 200 books law and jurisprudence seem well represented. It is a pity that in view of a total of some 180 descriptions you find here for just seven legal works a specially created description. However impressive this list, it does lack at least one noted legal work, the Amphitheatrum legale of Agostino Fontana (4 vol., Parma 1688 – online, Hathi Trust Digital Library). On the other hand Jean Bodin’s Universae Naturae Theatrum (1596) has been included with a useful introduction. Sadly the list does not have for each work a description or a link to a digital version either from the collections of the Herzog August Bibliothek or elsewhere, and I have tried to supply such additional information here. On the other hand, in the case of the Theatrum Europaeum one is duly guided to a digital version of a later edition (21 vol., Frankfurt am Main 1646-1738; online at Augsburg).

In mentioning the Theatrum Europaeum we arrive at a central problem in dealing with this project. If the scholars creating the project had already difficulties in dealing with legal texts, how can a general user determine the nature of a particular work? In my view there is only one road to answer this question, to take the time to get hold of a work or to view a digital version, and to look beyond the title page. In this respect it would also have been helpful to have a translation of the book titles in Polish. In an earlier post I wrote about the Theatrum Europaeum as a useful source for the text of peace treaties. I am sure I have missed some works with legal contents in this list, but I have also excluded on purpose in my selection works on geography which surely do contain information about legal matters in a particular region or country.

Behind the scenes

How representative is the selection of works at Welt und Wissen auf der Bühne? It did cross my mind to look at the digital projects for baroque literature at the Universität Mannheim. The CAMENA project created a network of digitized works from the early Modern period, with for law a number of works in the section Historica & Politica. The Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC, University of St. Andrews) has as its aim bringing together sixteenth-century books. I invite you to check the digitized works at the Heinsius Collection of Neo-Latin works published in the Dutch Republic (Universiteit Leiden), to visit the website for Nordic Neo-Latin literature (Universitetet i Bergen), or to walk through the alphabetically ordered Philological Museum (Dana Sutton, University of Birmingham). The German project does include only three titles for music, and the USTC, too, gives a very restricted number of similar titles. In its present state it does already offer a fairly complete overview of literature with some form of theatre in its title published during this period.

More incisive is the question how important these legal works were and are: do we have here a parade of the great and influential works? It is safe to say that at least De Luca’s work was most influential. Of some authors we have here less well-known works: Lünig (1662-1740) is better known for his massive Das Teutsche Reichsarchiv (24 vol., Leipzig 1710-1722; digitized at Augsburg) and his Corpus iuris militaris (2 vol., Leipzig, 1723). However, his book on ceremonial law is indeed a landmark, and its importance has been highlighted in a book by Miloš Vec, Zeremonialwissenschaft im Fürstenstaat. Studien zur juristischen und politischen Theorie absolutistischer Herrschaftsrepräsentation (Frankfurt am Main 1998). The selection of lawyers in Dahlmann’s Historischer Schauplatz is definitely not what you would expect nowadays of a book with juridical biographies, but this helps in fact to become aware of our own predefined ideas and conventions. One of the strengths of the project at Wolfenbüttel and Kassel are the references to relevant literature, even if this is often restricted to literature in German. A number of these modern scholarly texts can be read online.

The project title World and Knowledge on Stage itself immediately remembered me of proverbial lines by Joost van den Vondel, a seventeenth-century Dutch author: De wereld is een speeltoneel, elk speelt zijn rol en krijgt zijn deel, ‘the world is a theatre, everyone plays his role and gets his part”. These words were composed for the opening of the municipal theatre of Amsterdam in 1637 and put above its entrance. Maybe this echoes a thought expressed by Erasmus in his Praise of Folly (ch. 29)A second proverbial saying of Vondel brings us closer to law: “De wetten zwijgen stil voor wapens en trompetten” [The laws are silent in front of weapons and trumpets]. The metaphor of the theatre helps us to look for the roles people played and the subjects brought to the limelight or left in the wings. It struck me how many titles in the German project refer to wars and conflicts. Any title with the word theatre invites you to enter a different world. You might encounter unfamiliar laws or meet a kind of justice that functions differently than you had imagined before.

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. In his emblem collection the first line Et toleranda homini tristis fortuna ferendo est of an emblem appearing in the section Fortitudo 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 port 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.

The dog, the cat and the mouse: animals and legal history

Monkeys playing slaves - sculpture in wood - source: Kommissio für das Deutsche Rechtswörterbuch, Heidelberg

Man and animals live together since the domestication of a number of animals many thousand years ago. Through the ages they often got along quite well, but sometimes man needed the law to deal with the unexpected behaviour of animals. The company and companionship between women, men and animals is not completely harmless or effortless. Relationships ranged and range today from animal worship and sometimes almost human care for pets at one end to harsh treatment as mere objects and outright systematic cruelty, serving mankind in the end as food, provider of skins, cruel entertainment and other goals.

In a conference on Das Tier in der Rechtsgeschichte [Animals in legal history] at Heidelberg from April 2 to 4, 2014, legal historians and other scholars will discuss several aspects of animal and human life and the interaction between them. The program of the conference at Heidelberg has been created in cooperation with the commission for the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch. In this post I will look at some aspects of the interaction between animal history and legal history. This is an occasion, too, to look at the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch, one of the typical German dictionary projects.

Of man and beasts

Animals are no aliens in legal history. Especially in German legal history animals come into view already early. I invite you to look for example at images from medieval bestiaries in Bestiaire du Moyen Âge, a virtual exhibition of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (interface French, English and Spanish), They are portrayed in various ways in the famous illuminated manuscripts of Eike von Repgow’s Sachsenspiegel. In April Dietlinde Munzel-Everling will discuss the animals in the Sachsenspiegel. Jacob Grimm, one of the pioneers of German academic legal history did not only study and publish versions of the medieval animal epic about the fox Renard in his Reinhart Fuchs (Berlin 1834). In an earlier post here I looked in more depth at the various versions of this much liked medieval story. His explanation of German words in his Deutsche Grammatik (first edition Göttingen 1819) often included historical explanations. The word vogelfrei, meaning literally and originally “free as a bird”, was in the context of exiled people and victims of execution who were denied a funeral narrowed to “delivered to the birds”. No doubt Grimm will figure in the contribution of Michael Frosser-Schell on animals in his edition of the Weisthümer (6 vol., Göttingen 1840-1878).

At the conference in Heidelberg a physician and a theologian will help looking at animals and legal history from different academic disciplines. Wolfgang Eckhart will look at relations between humans and animals from a cultural and medieval perspective. Martin Jung will look at animals in early French protestant theology. Apart from a section on animals in some selected legal sources the conference has sections on animals in public and private law, both in towns and rural areas, animals and their roles in criminal law, animals and law in art and language, and finally a section looking at animals in Spanish law (Marita Giménes-Candela) and animals in the German and French Enlightenment (Ulrich Kronauer). In this last contribution the change in views about the maltreatment of animals will be discussed.

Legal procedure is a subject in the contribution of Inge Kroppenberg about the damnatio ad bestias in Roman law. Peter Dinzelbacher, too, will look at Tierprozesse, criminal procedures against animals. The hanging of dogs is the theme of Stephan Meder’s contribution. Hopefully they pay due respect to the classic study The criminal prosecution and capital punishment of animals by Edward Payson Evans (London 1906; reprint London 1987), but follow also the example of historians such as Esther Cohen to look beyond cases to their context and to patterns of argumentation. For studies about animal behavior and views about animals it is worth looking at the Animal Studies Bibliography created at Michigan State University. The College of Law at this university is home to the Animal Legal & Historical Center where you can conveniently search for specific historical cases and subjects, broader themes and jurisdictions.

Animals, law, history and the German language

Logo Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch

In the second part of this post the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch (DRW) takes pride of place. German scholars have a fine tradition of creating and editing dictionaries, with without any doubt the Deutsches Wörterbuch started by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm as one of its major feats. The long time it takes to create such dictionaries is almost proverbial for the tenacity of German scholarship. A second association with these enterprises are the efforts of the various German learned academies. Not only academies with a budget for these projects, but also scholarly teams have the courage to start them, for example the team of 400 scholars behind the second edition of the Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte (HRG). The online version of the HRG gives you free access to the list of entries and keywords, some examples and to excerpts of the other articles. Paid subscription is necessary for full access to the complete online version, but you can buy PDF’s of separate articles.

The project for the DRW was started in 1897 by the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Since 1959 the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften leads and finances the project. This academy supports also the Dictionnaire Étymologique de l’Ancien Français. The idea for a dictionary of the German legal language comes from the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. On the website of the DRW you can view the original printed version, a digital version and a summary of each article. The DRW has now reached the word Schulbuch. The website of the DRW contains an introduction in English and French to facilitate its use. For the DRW a great number of sources from Germany and elsewhere for example from the Netherlands, has been digitized on a separate website, where you can search in specific sources; you can check this overview with a list of the digitized titles. A list with externally digitized relevant sources counts some 1,300 titles. The DRW has a special text archive for full text searches. Thanks to scholars such as Grimm the scope of the DRW is not just the legal language of Germany, the former Holy Roman Empire. Grimm wanted it to cover all languages of the Western Germanic language family. Thus Old English, Anglo-Saxon, Old and Middle Dutch, Old Frisian and even Lombardic, and the several medieval phases of the German language are included.

As with any dictionary created over a long time span the early parts of the DRW are not as rich as later volumes. The first volume appeared in 1914. The presence of digitized resources helps you to extend the examples adduced for early and later articles of the DRW. Let’s look for example at the cat (Katze) (DRW VII, col. 563-564). The cat figures gruesomely in a punishment dating from the Early Modern period in which someone was to be put into a sack with some living animals, among them a cat. The Katze was also the nickname of a punishment or a prison. The DRW links directly to other general German dictionaries, and indicated further textual sources, where you can even exclude certain word forms. Interestingly the ten additional textual examples from digitized sources for the cat stem all from Old Frisian law, mainly from the Westerlauwersches Recht, W.J. Buma (ed.) (Góttingen 1977). Here the cat is one of the animals which when they cause damages oblige their owner to pay only a part of the normal sum of money to be paid as a fine. The cat gave its name also to a number of following entries in the DRW which you might look up yourself.

I owe you here information about the other animals figuring in the title of my post. The mouse (Maus) is only very rarely mentioned in a legal context (DRW IX, col. 380). In fact the evidence from a trial according to canon law Tirol around 1520 given by the DRW has already been printed by Evans (p. 259-260) in Appendix A of his study from a German almanac for 1843. As a Dutchman I can dream of a case of mice invading a room with Dutch cheese! Combining cats and dogs in the title of this post was seducing, but I could have guessed easily that a dog (Hund) would only for its literal sense take very much space in the DRW (VII, col. 53-61). However, the hunting dog (Jagdhund) has an entry for itself (DRW VI, col. 356-357), with additional entries for such subjects as the servant dealing with hunting dogs. I could not help smiling at the wonderful long compound German word for the very brief separate entry concerning the costs of the care for a hunting dog, Jagdhundverpflegungskosten.

Mistaking the scope of dictionaries

Even if you can detect limits to the range and quality of the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch you should remember that most languages do not have any kind of legal-historical dictionary worthy of a comparison with the DRW. Many people in my country complain about the largest dictionary – nicknamed the Dikke Van Dale [The Fat Dictionary] – it does not explain everything like an encyclopedia. They would be baffled by the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT) which looks very much like an encyclopedia of the Dutch language from 1500 to roughly 1925. Its sheer size makes it the largest existing dictionary of any language. You will forgive me this paragraph when I tell you on this website you can even find words from the Lex Salica using the combined search mode of the WNT with dictionaries for Old Dutch and Middle Dutch. A dictionary of the Frisian language is also present on this website. Verily the DRW is not an encyclopedia, and also not a lexicon of juridical constructions and concepts, for which you can turn to the HRG.

I would have liked to comment on the image with the chained apes, presumably a wooden sculpture somewhere in Germany, but I have not yet found more information about it. At the end of this post I would like to turn from history to the present, For a dictionary of current legal German you can consult online for example the Rechtswörterbuch, which brings you also to current German laws and legal study books. Animals in contemporary German law are the subject on the website of the foundation Tier im Recht. When I looked at this website with a poodle staring at you Germans will remember Goethe’s words in Faust about the heart of the matter, des Pudels Kern. In my opinion the various ways we looked and look at, dealt and deal with animals can say much about our attitude towards people, life and nature. The story of animals and animal law is not to be detached from human history, because it tells us about both the bright and darker sides of human life, our views of culture and society, its order and limits.


An early detective? Jan van Scorel and a supposed papal murder case

PopeAdrian VI - painting by Jan van Scorel, 1523 - Utrecht, Centraal Museum

Pope Adrian VI – painting by Jan van Scorel, 1523 – Utrecht, Centraal Museum

If you had told me in 2013 I would one day write about legal history and graphic novels I would have severely doubted the truth of such a statement, but suddenly this combination became a reality when I heard about an exposition at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, my home town. The focuses of the exhibition are a sixteenth-century Dutch painter, Jan van Scorel (1495-1562), and contemporary artist Paul Teng. Together with writer Jan Paul Schutten Teng has created a graphic novel on Van Scorel and his investigation of a mysterious death in Rome. Pope Adrian VI, the only Dutch pope, reigned the Catholic Church for only one year. His death on September 14, 1523, came rather suddenly. Jan Paul Schutten and Paul Teng created a story using historical facts to create a fictional account of a murder investigation started by Van Scorel who suspected that his compatriot might have been murdered. Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523 is the title of both the graphic novel and the exhibition. The 80 page book has also appeared in an English version.

The entrance to the exhibition at the Centraal Museum

In this post I would like to look at the creative process of two contemporary artists working with historical facts and their own imagination. Rumours that Adrian VI’s death was caused by poison have never been conclusively confirmed nor rejected as utter fantasy. The pope died after an illness of a month. An anecdote states that the Roman people thanked the physician who had taken care of the ailing pope. For the preparation of the graphic novel Teng and Schutten used historical sources. They looked carefully at the history of art in the early sixteenth century, helped by the collections of the Centraal Museum with several paintings by Van Scorel.

Setting the scene

Paul Teng took much care to make the historical surroundings of his novel as realistic and reliable as possible. He used early sixteenth-century paintings, drawings and engravings to ensure that locations in Rome and elsewhere are depicted faithfully. This means for instance that the basilica of St. Peter’s and the Vatican itself are shown as building sites. In the gallery with some photographs I took at the exhibition you can see other aspects of the creative process as well. From a story board with dialogues written by Schutten Teng took his lead to make sketches of the story. The exhibition shows the full sequence of the book in black and white. Some scenes are shown in their final coloured version. People are invited to draw themselves a page of a graphic novel on a chosen theme,

Accumulating functions and wealth


Pope Adrian VI (1459-1523) was born at Utrecht as Adriaen Floriszoon Boeyens. He studied theology at the university of Louvain, and he became a professor of theology at this university in 1489. In 1507 the Habsburg emperor Maximilian asked him to become one of the teachers of the future emperor Charles V. In 1516 he became the bishop of Tortosa in Spain. A year later he was created a cardinal. Charles V made him 1518 inquisitor-general of Castile and Aragón. Adrian became even the regent of Spain. During the minority of Charles V he had already been co-regent of Spain together with cardinal Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros.

Statue of Christ Saviour in the facade of Paushuize, Utrecht

Until 1522 Adrian got a large part of his income from prebends at several collegiate churches in the Low Countries and Spain. The very number of prebends pope Julius II allowed him to have in 1512 was restricted to four. Adrian finally became a canon of four churches in Utrecht: he was a canon at St. Peter’s and at Utrecht Cathedral (St. Martin’s) , treasurer of St. Mary’s and provost of St. Salvator’s (Oudmunster). However, the actual number of prebends he held was larger, and two prebends were shrewdly changed into annuities. His canonry at St. Peter’s in Utrecht enabled him to designate premises within the immunity of St. Peter’s as the site of a large house, a palace really, where he would have liked to live in Utrecht in good time. Adrian never saw the palace still called Paushuize, “The Pope’s House”. Interestingly, a statue in the facade shows Christ Saviour as a reminder he was the provost of the Salvator collegiate church. R.R. Post unravelled the history of these prebends in a fine article published in 1961 [‘Studiën over Adriaan VI. De beneficies van Adriaan VI’, Archief voor de Geschiedenis van de Katholieke Kerk in Nederland 3 (1961) 341-351; online at the Trajecta portal for the ecclesiastical history of the Low Countries, with digital versions of five scientific journals in this field].

There is a clear paradox between Adrian VI’s reputation as a pope who wanted the Church to live humbly, without unnecessary adornments and wealth, and his personal history in which he combined a large number of offices and accompanying revenues. In one of the scenes in which Teng depicts a meeting between pope Adrian and Jan van Scorel they discuss the plan to select art treasures from the Vatican’s holdings in order to sell them off to get money for the empty papal treasury.

The graphic novel opens with a scene showing a ritual which was long said to exist, the formal test done by the camerlengo to ascertain a pope’s death, by calling out thrice his baptismal name, “Adriane, dormisne” (Adrian, are you sleeping?), and giving a slight blow on his head with a special hammer. It is hard to find any real evidence for this custom, which if it really existed at all already ceased to happen in the seventeenth century. Today the camerlengo still has the task to certify the death of a pope. However, it is certainly followed by the immediate destruction of the papal ring, an element Teng and Schutten correctly added immediate after the scene with the probing camerlengo.

Here I will not spoil the joy of anyone wanting to enjoy and read the book by Teng and Schutten by giving away the plot or pronouncing verdicts on the historical veracity or plausibility of the facts they describe. They admit to have added some minor figures to ensure the story can run as it does. Giving Van Scorel a servant is just a time-honoured homage to the practice of detective novels with an investigator and his faithful assistant. The story told by Teng and Schutten can serve as an invitation to look anew at the stories historians like to tell. They can learn from the skillful way Teng shows a sequence of scenes, using for example close-ups to focus on details or general scenes to set the background of events. The funeral of pope Adrian VI in the basilica of St. Peter’s which for a large part still lacked a roof, is shown in true detail.

Adrian’s burial at St. Peter’s was followed by a translatio of his body in 1533 to the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome. By the way, this church started its life as a hospice for pilgrims founded in 1350 by Jan Peters, a rich baker from Dordrecht. The German project REQUIEM on the tombs and monuments of opes and cardinals in Rome between 1500 and 1800 has an extended entry on this monument. At his tomb in St. Peter’s the inscription said Adrian had considered his duty to reign as the most unhappy part of his life. The inscription on his large-scale monument within the Santa Maria dell’Anima reads in translation: “O how much does the time matter in which the virtue of even the best man happens”. These words seem to have inspired the title of the latest biography of pope Adrian VI by Michiel Verweij, Adrianus VI (1459-1523) : de tragische paus uit de Nederlanden (Utrecht 2011). At Deutsche Inschriften Online you will find the book by Eberhard J. Nikitsch on the inscriptions of this church, Die Inschriften der “Deutschen Nationalkirche” Santa Maria dell’Anima, I: Vom Mittelalter bis 1559 (Rome 2012). The essays in the exhibition catalogue De paus uit de Lage Landen Adrianus VI, 1459-1523 (Louvain 2009) help to put Adrian’s life into perspective.

Jan van Scorel came back to the Low Countries imbued with Renaissance ideas which he promptly used in his paintings. The great German art historian Max Friedländer once said Van Scorel had a role for Dutch painting in the sixteenth century similar to that of Peter Paul Rubens for Flemish painting in the next century. In particular his group portraits were an important innovation. In 1528 Van Scorel got a canonry at St. Mary’s in Utrecht, thus giving him a part of the financial background which had helped Adriaen Boeyens during his long ecclesiastical career. Last year I wrote a post about the project Medieval Memoria Online. Jan van Scorel is connected to several memorial objects. A part of the floor slab of his grave from the collegiate church of St. Mary’s  is now kept at the Museum Het Catharijneconvent in Utrecht (MeMo no. 3006). His group portraits of members of the Jerusalem confraternities in Haarlem and Utrecht are also described in the MeMo database (MeMo nos. 669, 671, 672, 716 and 746).

History, historians and images

Let’s close this post with a number of questions: can historians still create stories mainly using words? Is it not necessary nowadays to be at least very much aware of the imagery created by visual media? The creators of blogs are familiar with these questions and try to provide their own answers. Especially when a story does not unfold itself in the standard way movies and televisions series like to show them it is important to be aware of the (visual) expectations of your public. If people ask you for telling images, they are absolutely right to ask this from you! It will be your duty to come with reliable images or to tell what illusions, allusions and deviations images might contain. Professional pictorial research is most certainly one of the historian’s duties. You will need both your imagination and sound knowledge, helped by historical images, to create images in the mind of your readers which help both you and them to get to the core of historical events and persons. Misgivings about historical inaccuracies that occur in the choice or the use of images should not be the final aim of any criticism, but an outright challenge to produce yourself history which benefits substantially from the proper use of images and imagery.

Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523 – exhibition Utrecht, Centraal Museum, October 19, 2013 – January 19, 2014
Jan van Scorel, Sede Vacante 1523, drawings by Paul Teng, scenario by Jan Paul Schutten, colours Dina Kathelyn Tourneur (Eindhoven: Lecturis, 2013; 80 p.; ISBN 978-94-6226020-7)

Legal texts in digitized manuscripts at the British Library

Logo British Library - image http://pressandpolicy.bl.uk/Last week I spotted somewhere on the web an announcement about the digitization of a particularly lavishly illuminated medieval manuscript with a legal text, the Decretales Gregorii IX, the major collection of papal decretals issued in 1234 by command of pope Gregory IX. The manuscript from the fourteenth century which prompted me to write this post is commonly called the Smithfield Decretals (Royal 10 E IV). At the British Library in London the digitization of manuscripts is a project on a vast scale, first of all in view of its rich and manifold collections concerning many themes, periods and countries. A blog dedicated to news on digitized medieval manuscripts at the BL helps you to stay informed about the progress of digitization for manuscripts from a particular period. The BL even advertises a smart phone application for the Royal manuscripts, but this app will no longer be supported.

In this post I will look at legal manuscripts digitized by the British Library. Even if the absolute number of relevant manuscripts is really small, an overview of them might be useful. The variety of periods and legal systems merits attention. To redress the balance I will take into account here also illuminated manuscripts with legal texts for which the BL has digitized at least a number of pages or illustrations. A comparison of the search functions of both catalogues is included, too. At the end of this post it might perhaps be possible to conclude which legal text could be scheduled as a new addition to the eBook Treasures of the British Library.

Searching for digitized legal texts at the BL

Some people will like to know as quickly as possible about the things that make a search interface more effectively or hamper its working. For once I agree in starting with a negative remark: the detailed view with the description – and most often a detailed bibliography – of a digitized manuscript at the BL seemed at first to lack a permanent web address. When you save the URL of this view – without noticing the tiny notice “Show link URL” – and you try to reopen it in a new tab or window you cannot access it anymore. A redirection notice appears, and you have to enter your search again. Thus the link I provided in the first paragraph to the Smithfield Decretals is not the link to the detailed view, but to the first page of the digitized manuscript Royal 10 E IV itself. I will give below the correct links to the full descriptions. In the manuscript view you will find a summary of the content placed at the top of the screen. You can search for manuscripts either using a quick search with two fields, keywords and manuscript numbers, or using the advanced search interface with search fields for keywords, manuscript number, title, author/scribe, provenance and acquisition, and bibliography.

A long search for digitized manuscripts with legal texts yielded as a result a rather short list with only some twenty manuscripts. For each manuscript I give the call number, a summary view of the contents, its date and a link to the full description:

The papyrus with the complete text of the Athenian Constitution is the subject of a recent post at the BL’s manuscripts blog. What strikes me most while searching for these manuscripts is the lack of concise categories added to the description of a manuscript. Of course I realize the difficulty in adding systematic descriptors when dealing with composite manuscripts and convolutes. The sheer number of manuscripts in the British Library has as one of its consequences that some manuscript descriptions can be rather outdated, but newer descriptions are often very detailed.

Some legal texts surfaced really by chance. I looked for the exchequer when I found Harley 1498, an agreement concerning the royal burial chapel at Westminster. This indenture is not a chirograph, a charter split into two or more parts, but a book with indentures. A second part of it is kept at the National Archives, E 33/1. The coronation book of the French king Charles V (Cotton Tiberius B VIII) can serve as a reminder that a coronation is a ritual with legal elements in it. The texts of French coronation ordines have been edited anew by Richard A. Jackson (ed.) , Ordines Coronationis Franciae: Texts and Ordines for the Coronation of Frankish and French Kings and Queens in the Middle Ages (2 vols., Philadelphia, 2001).

After repeated searches with a substantial number of very different search terms with a clear meaning for legal history I still have not found more than this tiny sample from the immensely varied and large manuscript collections of the British Library. I hesitate to include here a fragment of farming memoranda of Ely Abbey from the first quarter of the eleventh century (Add. 61735). The New Minster Liber Vitae from Winchester (Stowe 944) does contain the text of some charters and the will of King Ælfred, but these legal texts are not the core of this manuscript.

For some manuscripts guidance can be found online in repertories, and sometimes even at a specialised blog. Greek manuscripts clearly get special attention in London. The Zonaras blog for the history of Eastern Christian canon law is a very useful guide to this field, and I am happy to point to it for more information about authors such as John Zonaras and Theodoros Balsamon. Manuscripts with text concerning Byzantine law are the subject of two German repertories which are available online at the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main. You can download PDF’s of both the Repertorium der Handschriften des byzantinischen Rechts, Teil I: Die Handschriften des weltlichen Rechts (Nr. 1-327), Ludwig Burgmann, Marie-Theres Fögen, Andreas Schminck and Dieter Simon (eds.) (Frankfurt am Main, 1995), and the Repertorium der Handschriften des byzantinischen Rechts, Teil II: Die Handschriften des kirchlichen Rechts I (Nr. 328-427), Andreas Schminck and Dorotei Getov (eds.) (Frankfurt am Main 2011). Both books were published in the series Forschungen zum Byzantinischen Rechts; more PDF’s of some publications in this series can be found at a special subdomain of the website of the Frankfurt institute. English legal manuscripts are being catalogued by the untiring efforts of Sir John Hamilton Baker. He did this also for the Taussig collection with many English manuscripts now at the Lillian Goldman Law Library of Yale University [John H. Baker and Anthony Taussig (eds.), A catalogue of the legal manuscripts of Anthony Taussig (London 2007)].

Light on illuminated legal manuscripts

The Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library does quickly dispel any misgiving about the percentage of legal texts among the various manuscript collections. Let’s not overdo things here, and first go to the origin of this post, manuscripts with decretals or commentaries on papal decretals. Here, too, you can choose between a quick general search and an advanced search mode.

Prisoner seeking sanctuary, bas-de-page scene from the Smithfield Decretals

Prisoner seeking sanctuary – Smithfield Decretals, British Library, ms. Royal 10 E IV, fol. 206 verso – image British Library

A search for illuminated manuscripts with decretals yields 35 records. For each manuscript you can go to a page with thumbnail images and summary descriptions of the illuminations. Often you will find more detailed images, too. Thus choosing a scene using this overview from the bas-de-page illustrations of the Smithfield Decretals is even easier than using the complete digital version of this manuscript. The illustrations in the lower margins present often consecutive scenes and tales. In August 2012 Alixe Bovey (University of Kent) contributed a very interesting post on the decorations of this manuscript to the BL’s manuscripts blog, ‘Finishing the Smithfield Decretals’. Some books have only penwork flourishes at the beginning of chapters. Among these illuminated manuscripts with decretals I would like to single out Harley 2349, a manuscript written between 1340 and 1450 with papal decretals and statutes of England. The manuscript Royal 10 C IV with the Abbreviatio Decreti Gratiani by Omnibonus, written between 1198 and 1202 has penwork initials and some additional drawings in the margins. Omnibonus’s name made me remember the Omne Bonum, the illustrated encyclopedia by James le Palmer, a clerk of the Exchequer (four volumes, Royal 6 E VI and 6 E VII, written around 1360-1375).

A lawyer addressing an assembly

A lawyer addressing an assembly – British Library, ms. Harley 947, fol. 107r – image British Library (size reduced)

As for other legal texts in illuminated manuscripts you will have to pick your choice from a wide variety of manuscripts, from books with only one decorated initial to manuscripts with lavish almost full-page illustrations in historiated initials. Let one example suffice, the Statuta Angliae. This text and other statutes can be found in nearly sixty illuminated manuscripts. Hargrave 274 (written around 1488) contains the Nova Statuta and is probably the most elaborately illustrated example. Harley 947 (first half fourteenth century) with both the Statuta Angliae and the text of the Magna Carta deserves mentioning for its picture of a lawyer speaking to an assembly.

The Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts is truly a treasure trove, even if the manuscripts of the Cotton collection have not yet been included. When searching for an image with some relevance for legal history you find yourself here with a mer à boire. Legal iconography will not come back empty-handed from searches at this website or in the Online Gallery of the British Library. It is surely possible to include the BL in a comparison of online image resources of major research libraries, something that might be really interesting. In particular the use of taxonomies such as Iconclass might come into view when comparing different databases. A comparison with a portal such as Manuscripts Online: Written Culture from 1000 to 1500 would be equally valuable. In this post, however, I wanted to give due attention to the world’s second largest library and its manuscript holdings. I invite you to use its resources for yourself and to choose a manuscript that deserves digitization, or even inclusion among the showcases. The British Library has much more to offer, and I am sure this library will be present again in future posts.

A postscript

A very substantial number of digitized manuscripts with legal texts held in the British Library is accessible online thanks to the recent edition project Early English Laws which aims at creating new editions of English laws issued before 1215. Among the 81 manuscripts selected within this project nearly forty are at the British Library. However, here only these pages are shown which contain relevant legal texts. Hopefully it will be possible to include them in their entirety as a part of the BL’s Digitized Manuscripts program.

The mirror of manuscripts: on searching facsimile editions

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

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

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

Hunting for precious manuscripts

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

Logo UB Graz

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

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

A more general approach?

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

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

One site to find them all…

Logo Facsimile Finder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mirror of illusions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A postscript

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

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

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

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