Tag Archives: Legal philosophy

Love and natural law

Homepage Natural law project, Universität ErfurtSometimes a title can be very evocative or curious. When I read about an upcoming conference about Love as the principle of natural law. The natural law of Johann Gottlieb Heineccius and its context at Halle on November 24 to 26, 2016, I simply wanted to know more about this event. What is the connexion between love and law? What is the role of love in or for natural law? In this post I would like to make a foray into the history of natural law, an important movement in the European legal history of the Early Modern period. The event at Halle is organized by the platform Natural Law 1625-1850, an international research project led by scholars at Erfurt, Halle and Bayreuth.

Love is the word

The project Natural Law 1625-1850 aims at studying natural law as a phenomenon which connect law with other disciplines, such as philosophy, political thought, theology and the arts. Natural law as a concept or a set of ideas gained importance not only in Western Europe but also in North and South America. To help achieving this aim the project website will eventually contain digitized sources, a scholarly bibliography and a biographical database, all surrounded by a scholarly network with accompanying events.

Portrait of J.G. Heineccius

Portrait of Heineccius by Christian Fritzsch in his “Opera posthuma” (1744) – Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel / Porträtdatenbank Franckesche Stiftungen, Halle

The conference in Halle has as its objective getting Heineccius out of the shadows cast by his much more famous colleague Christian Wolff (1679-1754). In fact the main venue of the conference, the Christian-Wolff-Haus at Halle, is the very house where Johann Gottlieb Heineccius (1681-1741) lived for some years, too. Heineccius’ major book concerning natural law, his Elementa iuris naturae et gentium (1737) was certainly as influential as any of Wolff’s publications. Before you start arguing that the scope of this conference is rather small, it is good to be aware of a second conference organized by the platform around the theme Sacred Polities, Natural Law and the Law of Nations in the 16th-17th Centuries (Budapest-Olomouc, November 10-12, 2016). Exactly the impact of natural law across the borders of Northern and Southern Europe, continental and common law, and the exchanges between Protestant and Catholic Europe will be discussed at this event.

One of the reasons to focus on Heineccius is the simple fact that although his works both in the field of Roman and natural law are famous enough, his own life and career and the development of his views is still a field to be discovered. Luckily there is at least one modern biography by Patricia Wardemann, Johann Gottlieb Heineccius (1681-1741). Leben und Werk (Frankfurt am Main, 2007). In the first edition of Michael Stolleis’ Juristen. Ein biographisches Lexikon. Von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert (Munich 1995) Klaus Luig did not mention at all in his contribution Heineccius was first trained as a theologian before he started studying philosophy and law. In this respect the concise article by Rolf Lieberwirth for the Neue Deutsche Biographie 8 (1969) 296-297 is better. The online version of this article at the portal Deutsche Biographie has as great assets direct links to various online projects in which persons appear. The conference program has a judicious mixture of contributions focusing on the person of Heineccius on one side, and on the other side papers discussing in particular his impact in various European countries. Alas only the introductory lecture by Knut Haakonsen and Frank Grunert, with Diethelm Klippel founders of the platform, will address directly the theme of love as a principle of natural law. Here Klaus Luig’s short biographic article is helpful with a terse note that Heineccius meant love as a command of God. Natural law tends to be viewed as an attempt to build a legal system without massive reliance on Christian religion or at the best a decidedly Protestant legal order. Luig adds that precisely this religious character made Heineccius’ views also interesting for lawyers in Catholic countries.

Heineccius published his work in Latin whereas Wolff became famous for his use of German in his learned publications. He gained even praise for his excellent grasp of Latin. Interestingly, there is a modern German translation of Heineccius’ Elementa iuris naturae et gentium by Peter Mortzfeld, Grundlagen des Natur- und Völkerrechts, Christoph Bergfeld (ed.) (Frankfurt am Main, 1994). One of the things that merit attention when looking at natural law is the interplay between theology, philosophy and law. Maybe natural law deserves our attention exactly because it forces you to see legal history in a wider context.

Searching for portraits of Heineccius luckily brought me to the English translation by George Turnbull (1741, 1763) of Heineccius’ Elementa iuris naturae et gentium, now available online in the Online Library of Liberty. The modern introduction to this translation offers a welcome sketch in English of Heineccius’ views and the role of love as a guiding principle. It becomes clear he saw love not as an infatuation, an affinity or an Affekt, but as “the desire for good”, working in our relations to God, ourselves and other people.

Natural law has its attractions as offering a supranational foundation beyond existing legal systems, but in reality either religious influences or Roman law became their actual source. In this respect attempts to create a system for natural law are flawed, but they offer for historians fascinating views as a kind of projection screen for the vision of the lawyers working in this direction. For me it is also the changing character of nature itself that has made me cautious about natural law and its supposed independence of existing forms of law and justice.

A Frisian connection

Banner Franeker Universiteit

Another reason for me to look at Heineccius is the period he spent at the university of Franeker between 1723 and 1727. The university of Franker existed from 1585 to 1811. Heineccius quickly came into contact with for example Cornelis van Bijnkershoek. He wrote a preface to Van Bijnkershoek’s Observationes iuris Romani in the edition Frankfurt and Leipzig: ex officina Krugiana, 1738. In the licensed database of the Corpus Epistolarum Neerlandicarum (Royal Library, The Hague and Picarta) I could find just one letter to Heineccius written by Tiberius Hemsterhuis (Leiden, UB, BPL 3100). Using the search portal for Dutch archives I could find Heineccius as one of the people mentioned in the correspondence now part of the StadhouderlijkerArchief kept at Tresoar, the combined Frisian archive and provincial library at Leeuwarden.

Alas I checked in vain for Heineccius in several online projects dealing with Early Modern correspondence and networks. The project Cultures of Knowledge give you a selection of relevant links. Only the Kalliope Verbund has records for a few letters to and by Heineccius in the holdings of German libraries. The Archivportal Deutschland mentions a portrait of Heineccius and a letter of king Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia from 1737 who did not allow Heineccius to become a professor at Leiden. Just like the university of Harderwijk Franeker was for a considerable number of professors only a stop to go to either Utrecht or Leiden. The letter at the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in Munich [BayHStA, Gesandtschaft Haag 2532] is also traceable through the portal of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, but there is no access to a digitized version of this document. By the way, the Bibliografie van hoogleraren in de rechten aan de Universiteiten van Groningen en Harderwijk tot 1811, B.S. Hempenius-Van Dijk et alii (eds.) (Amsterdam 2013) can be downloaded as a PDF, as is the case, too, with the volume Bibliografie van hoogleraren in de rechten aan de Utrechtse Universiteit tot 1811, edited by Margreet Ahsmann, Robert Feenstra and Corjo Jansen (Amsterdam, etc., 1993). You will spot several professors who climbed from minor universities to the most famous! It has to be said that these volumes do not offer complete bibliographies in the sense librarians and book historians use this term. They should be seen as extensive finding lists with descriptions of copies of the works of these professors found in major libraries around the world. Robert Feenstra wrote an extensive bibliographical article about Heineccius in the Low Countries, ‘Heineccius in den alten Niederlanden : Ein bibliographischer Beitrag’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 72 (2004) 297-326, and Klaus Luig, too, should be mentioned again, now with his article ‘Heineccius, ein deutscher Jurist in Franeker’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 77 (2011) 219-227.

Heineccius in context

If you want to delve into Frisian history the website of Martin Engels contains lots of transcriptions of documents on many subjects, including the history of the university in Franeker. In the corner Iuridica of his colourful website Engels presents things of more general interest for legal historians. He has created a webpage with the contents of the Practisijns woordenboekje by Franciscus Lievens Kersteman (Dordrecht 1785), a concise glossary of Dutch legal terms. There is a page about the Soevereine Raad or Hof van Gelre in Roermond, a court in the province Guelders. For Frisian legal history Engels made extracts for a glossary of Frisian law in the Early Modern period from S.J. Fockema Andreae, Proeve van een woordenlijst der aan Friesland (onder de Republiek) eigene bestuurs- en rechtstermen (Leeuwarden 1967). The very core of his website are pages about the copy at Leeuwarden of a sixteenth-century collection of legal treatises, the Oceanus iuris, meaning the Tractatus universi iuris or Tractatus illustrium (…) iurisconsultorum (Venetiis 1584-1586), originally donated in the early seventeenth century to the university of Franeker. Engels scanned and indexed the lists of authors in the Oceanus iuris. I wrote here about this massive legal collection and its forerunners in an earlier post. When studying publications by lawyers from Franeker it is useful to look at the Bibliografie van hoogleraren in de rechten aan de Franeker universiteit tot 1811, Robert Feenstra, Theo Veen and Margreet Ahsmann (eds.) (Amsterdam 2003). Personal reasons forced Heineccius to return to Germany. The website on the history of the Franeker Universiteit contains concise but interesting information centered around the Museum Martena in the historical buildings of the Martenastins, a stately mansion in Franeker from 1506. I did not spot Heineccius among the selection of portraits of professors on this website. A search in the rich online databases of the Dutch Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in The Hague yielded no results for Heineccius.

Banner IZEA, Halle

In the team of scholars leading the project on the history of natural law between 1625 and 1850 Frank Grunert (Halle) is clearly the one closest to the German luminaries of the eighteenth century. At the Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für die Erforschung der Europäischen Aufklärung of the Universität Halle he leads the projects for the modern critical edition of selected works of Christian Thomasius (1655-1728) and his correspondence. Eventually the volumes of the edituion of Thomasius’ letters will be put online. The website of the IZEA can be visited in German, English and French. There is also a digitized version of a current bibliography for Thomasius [Bibliographie der Thomasius-Literatur 1945-2008 (Halle 2009); PDF], and you might also want to use Gerhard Biller, Wolff nach Kant. Eine Bibliographie (2nd edition, Halle 2009). Among the recent publications of the IZEA the Handbuch Europäische Aufklärung: Begriffe, Konzepte, Wirkung, Heinz Thoma (ed.) (Stuttgart 2015) stands out, a volume with fifty contributions about central concepts, ideas and the impact of the Enlightenment.

The IZEA is located in the former Rote Schule, the building of the girls school on the grounds of the famous Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle, the institution which supported the influential pietist movement started by August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), becoming eventually a major phenomenon in German culture. Its buildings survived the DDR period, but it is still chilling to see the highway above street level directly opposite the beautiful grounds and buildings. The Franckesche Stiftungen have created a fine portrait database in which you can find images of many German people. In the digital library of the Franckesche Stiftungen I did notice the Epistolar Franckes, a project for digitizing Francke’s correspondence, but currently there is no trace of Heineccius. Let’s not forget to mention that the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt in Halle is one of the libraries participating in the project VD18, the overview of eighteenth-century German imprints. Its digital library contains a number of Heineccius’ works. The Repertorium Alba Amicorum contains records for the entries in 1719 of Heineccius, Wolff and Francke himself in the album of Immanuel Petrus Geier [Halle, Frankesche Stiftungen, Archiv: AFSt/H D 133].

Within the project Natural Law 1625-1850 four scholars look at German universities (Frank Grunert, Diethelm Klippel, Heiner Lück and Gerhard Lingelbach); Wilhelm Brauneder will focus on universities in Austria. For other countries individual scholars come into action. I would have expected more information on the project website in the very month two scholarly events take place, but perhaps the energy of the organizers was focused for good reasons on these events! Hopefully the attention to the European context of the great figures in the history of natural law and their interest in and connections with other disciplines will lead to interesting results.


Creating convincing arguments in court

Banner image of two muses, Themis and ClioLately I was gently pressed to add a particular blog to my blogroll. I argued that it does not deal primarily with legal history, although it is in many respects a most valuable blog. Even after a second plea, accompanied with a nice variant on Ceterum censeo… I still stick with my argument, but in fact this blog had already been included in my blogroll…  On closer inspection of the links now present I also looked at the growing number of online journals in open access dealing with legal history. The latest issue of Clio@Themis [8 (2014)] deals with the history of legal argumentation, a theme which has had my interest since many years. I also spotted the announcement of an upcoming scholarly event in May on this subject. Nomôdos, the blog of Clio@Themis, is most useful in tracing new publications and announcements concerning legal history in France. Thus it is a source for my congress calendar, and of course it is listed in my blogroll. These two subjects give me enough materials for this post.

Arguments in courts

Clio@Themis is a French scientific journal with most of its articles in French, with abstracts in English added to them. The journal has a tradition of including as a bonus a French version of classic legal articles. Its latest issue called L’argumentation au cœur du processus judiciaire skips this feature. Seven articles deal with legal argumentation in court proceedings. Two other contributions are only loosely connected with the general subject of this issue.

Logo CHJ Université-Lille 2

Catherine Denys and Naoko Seriu introduce the theme of this number and elucidate briefly the subjects of the seven articles which originated at three days of scholarly encounters around this theme in 2012 at the Centre d’Histoire Judiciaire (Université Lille-2). They describe a shift from viewing legal argumentation solely as part of legal doctrine to an approach akin to the way philosophers, sociologists and linguists deal with speech acts. The history of the judiciary and legal practice is here the primary field of investigation. The use of arguments is seen here as a part of a strategy to get favorable results in court.

The focus of all articles is on three European countries during the Early Modern period, with the exception of two articles dealing with subjects from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the first two articles the sixteenth century comes into light. Alain Wijffels discusses procedures claiming revisions of earlier trials at the Grand Conseil de Malines, the highest court of the Habsburgian Low Countries. The appeals for revision should be allowed in cases of factual errors (error facti) and in principle not for any legal error (error iuris), but in actual practice both kinds or error could be redeemed. The interesting thing is how lawyers at Malines argued about this state of affairs.

Marco Cavina deals in his contribution – in Italian – with the views of Carlo Ruini and Andrea Alciato concerning the different types of legal counseling in consilia. Alciato sketched a model with different approaches used by lawyers. Some went for subtle reasonings (subtilitates), others for the archetypical Renaissance – but essential medieval – abundance (copia) of allegations from Roman and canon law, and a third group imitated the brevitas of the classical Roman lawyers and their compact way of expressing opinions. Alciato frowned upon publishing consilia for several reasons, but his own contributions to this genre, too, were posthumously printed.

Isabelle Arnal-Corthier looks at materials sometimes presented to the Parlement de Toulouse in criminal appeal cases between 1670 and 1700. Instead of just a hearing of the accused for an appeal in criminal cases as punctuated in the royal ordinance of 1670 barristers often brought also a lettre de cassation to this court. The defense adduced in these cases mainly arguments about the competence of lower courts, insufficient evidence or irregularities during judicial procedures.

Yet another French court, the Parlement de Tournai and its third chamber in the late seventeenth century, figures in an article by Jacques Lorgnier who deals with cases concerning property rights and conflicts about the cost of church repairs. This foray into actual argumentation leads him to the hypothesis that the justiciables, the people going to court and their legal representatives, trusted the workings of rational arguments in the face of solid proofs within the framework of legal procedure.

Logo ADN

At this point I would like to mention the great resource created by legal historians at Lille for doing research into the history of the Parlement de Flandre. In the database ParleFlandre you can find more than 30,000 dossiers from the série 8B1 at the Archives Départementales du Nord (ADN) in Lille. Lorgnier uses cases from another series of dossiers at the ADN, the série 8B2. For the history of the Low Countries the archival collections at the ADN contain many important documents. At Fontes Historiae Iuris, the virtual portal at Lille to digitized resources concerning French legal history, is a section with further resources for the Parlement de Flandre.

Naoko Seriu looks at a scarcely known crime at the end of the Ancien Régime, the illegal sale of military goods by deserters, in particular uniforms. Records of trials survive in which individuals were charged with buying these illegal uniforms or the vendors themselves were charged with this crime. Seriu compares the verbal strategies used and the particular differences in approach to exculpate themselves. I could not help noticing that the examples of cases stem mainly from Brittany, in fact from just one modern département, Ille-et-Vilaine. A comparison with other regions might be useful. At the EHESS in Paris Seriu studied with Arlette Farge, a French historian who has devoted much attention to the way stories are told in historical sources, recently in Condamnés au XVIIIe siècle (Lormont 2013).

Forays into the twentieth century

Bruno Debaenst (Ghent) brings us from France to Belgium and much closer to the twentieth-first century. In his contribution (in English) he has studied trials concerning accidents during work in around Mons between 1870 and 1914. Using dangerous machinery, imperfectly prepared surroundings, shortcomings in labor organization, and workmanship not up to demands were among the arguments heard around these cases. In these years the Belgian code of civil law still was a virtually unchanged version of the French Code civil, with scarcely attention to actual circumstances in an industrial society. Debaenst describes also the use of reports by experts, criminal investigations and testimonies. In the face of inadequate means to deal conclusively with liability defendants had much opportunity to evade responsibility for what happened in their firms, thus reaffirming the gap between workers and patrons.

In the last article of this special Frédéric Chavaud brings us to familiar scenes from modern crime series on television. He looks at the use of emotions between 1880 and 1940 as arguments at the Cour des Assises, the highest criminal court in French departments. Tears, laughter and fear were not only used by barristers and defendants, but also by others in court. Studying the history of emotions is not without its pitfalls, and Chavaud rightfully points to some pivotal studies. He uses mainly contemporary public reports about trials, and not the actual dossiers of the cases. These reports do convey a vivid image or proceedings, but one can suspect that their authors also follow well-known tracks to please the expectations of their readers. Of course it is exactly important to notice such bias and detect changes in them. Emotions can and could break rational arguments and reasonings, specially when directed at juries. Chavaud clearly focuses on the contemporary perception of emotions, and he rightly mentions studies about emotions in court published between 1920 and 1940.

The range in time of this special is pleasing, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, and we read about both civil and criminal law. The geographic focus, however, is on France, even when admittedly you get a most varied view of French legal history. Luckily the Low Countries, Belgium and Italy add a European dimension. Lorgnier is the only author to mention the use of topical argumentation. I am afraid it is not quite possible to expand here very much on any of the articles presented here. You can always wish for more, and therefore I invite you now to the second section of this post about a congress where you might pursue this aim very soon.

Studying legal controversies

Banner Rennes 2015

La controverse. Études de l’histoire d’argumentation juridique [Controversy. Studies on the history of legal argumentation] is the title of the coming Journées internationales, the yearly congress organized by the Société d’Histoire du Droit. This year’s congress will be held at Rennes from May 28 to 31, 2015 with the Centre d’Histoire du Droit of the Université de Rennes-1 acting as its hosts. You might want to have a good look at the generous links section of their website and at its own digital library. Rennes is the capital of the département Ille-et-Vilaine mentioned above, and participants might want to visit the Archives départementales. The call for papers is still active. Proposals should be sent before March 10, 2015, and this is the closing date, too, for registration (mail: shd.rennes@gmail.com). Rennes is well worth visiting, in particular for the building of the old Parlement de Bretagne. Saint-Malo and the Mont-Saint-Michel are not far away.

Young scholars, too, get a chance at Rennes. There will be a atélier doctoral organized in cooperation with the Association française des jeunes historiens du droit, a society of young legal historians founded in 2013. You can send your proposals until March 30, 2015 (mail: assofjhd@gmail.com).

The congress wants to approach controversies both as a phenomenon within the territories of law, be it the judiciary, legislation or doctrine, and as historical cases of conflicts about a plethora of possible subjects. What was the impact of certain schools of thought? Which impact had other disciplines on legal theory and practice? It is perhaps necessary to keep in thought that the international dimension of the Journées was and is traditional that of the French-speaking world at large, the francophonie. The blog like website at Rennes nicely mentions the exceptional use of English for any communication. In a region with many British and Dutch visitors one might expect the start of a change to that tradition.

This post with a French flavor should also remind readers from the Anglophone world that those speaking and writing English are not the only possible center of the world of science. It can be truly useful and illuminating to know about different approaches in other countries, to practice them yourself or to use your approach on foreign ground in order to see how universal it really is. Anyway, I have tried to convey something of my joy in discovering this special of an online legal history journal, and I might well do this here again. In my blogroll or for example at Nomôdos or the blog of the European Society for Comparative Legal History you can choose from many online journals in the fields of legal history.

Reconstructing Bentham’s legacy

Among the events mentioned for February 2011 in the congress calendar of this blog was a two-day conference at the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon on Psychiatrie et prison: le question de soin aux personnes détenues (Psychiatry and the prison: the question of care for persons in detention). The main hall of the ENS could not contain all those who wanted to attend this conference on February 3 and 4, so videos have been made of this event which can be viewed now online. The service of making available these videos is very welcome. Before I knew that the Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de Lyon would do this, I had pointed to Interfaces, the blog of their Rare Books Department, where you can find for instance a post on the French version from 1791 of John Howard’s The state of prisons. Lately this blog has presented a series of posts on legal medicine in the nineteenth century, Le médecin-legiste à la Belle-Epoque. Penal law has not yet figured on my blog, and I will try here to make up a bit for my silence on the subject.

Transcribing Bentham

Logo Transcribe Bentham

Somehow Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) came to my attention. For some reason I do not know very much about him, and the few things I knew are very obvious, his idea of the panopticon – realized in at least three Dutch prisons, at Arnhem, Breda and Haarlem – and his support for utilitarianism. Sometimes I could not quite understand what makes Bentham an important thinker. Reading about the Bentham Papers project of University College London (UCL) made it clear that in fact only parts of his written legacy are accessible in print, and perhaps this, too, explains part of my unfamiliarity with him. Lately this project has had major coverage in the media, including an article in the New York Times, but perhaps it is not bad for legal historians to bring some aspects of it together.

Claire Warwick, director of Digital Humanities at UCL, blogs about the activities of this center. UCL has decided to propel the efforts of the team editing the Bentham Papers by calling in the help of the general public. Transcribe Bentham invites people to make transcriptions of papers from one of the 174 boxes at UCL with Bentham’s legacy. You can register to volunteer for the transcription of a document – wisely always chosen from a restricted set of boxes to ensure continuity – and after registration you get digitized images of the documents. The transcriptions are created online using XML encoding and will be checked by members of the editorial team. Crowd-sourcing is the apt term for this way of making people participate in a project. UCL has a central website on Bentham, and next to the website for the transcribing project is the website for the Bentham Papers database where you can search for texts by Bentham and his correspondents. My imagination is fired by the way people are invited to support historical research, to decipher and read historical documents and to take a part of the burden faced by the editors of any texts. Giving Bentham back to the people is the kind of slogan that involuntarily comes on your lips.

Bentham started his career as a lawyer. As a philosopher the workings of the law were not alien to him, and even where he does not touch upon law, criminal justice or jurisprudence it is clear that he did not overlook them in his appeals for social reform and his theoretical works on society. Bentham is only one of the major European thinkers of the nineteenth century. For many of them institutes exists which dedicate their efforts to the study and publication of scholarly editions of their published works and papers. Maybe legal historians will not directly benefit from the efforts brought together for Bentham’s legacy, but surely some ideas of the UCL project merit attention. The idea of invoking the help of the public or creating working committees is not completely new, but digital media can give cooperation an extent hitherto not thought possible. Claire Warwick stresses the great value of creating wider support for digital humanities, not only by starting this transcription project, but also by making visible the sheer width of humanities and by discovering the possibilities of social media.

Medieval punishments

Bentham was a reformer. Penal law was one of his targets. Medieval penal law is one of the most vivid subjects – and targets –  in popular historical  imagination. The medieval history of punishments is the subject of the latest issue of Madoc 24/4 (2010), a Dutch journal for medieval studies. On March 4, 2011 this volume with the title Straffen in de Middeleeuwen was presented at the Dutch national museum for criminal justice, Museum De Gevangenpoort in The Hague. For reasons unknown to me the museum’s website does not mention the presentation on the eve of the twenty-fifth anniversary of this journal based at Utrecht. Neither did I or the Dutch legal history portal Rechtsgeschiedenis make any references to it. I will make up for this omission by making your curious about this issue. Han Nijdam writes about punishments in medieval Frisia, Guy Geltner brings you to Le Stinche, a prison in Florence, and Jos Koldewij looks at costumes conveying shame. Jan van Herwaarden revisits pilgrimages inflicted on people, Adriaan Gaastra writes about the penitential practice in the early medieval libri paenitentiales, and Clara Strijbosch has studied the punishments of the afterlife shown in the Navigatio Sancti Brendani, both in the Latin and the vernacular versions. Some of the authors see parallels with today’s ideas about criminal justice. The authors of this number of Madoc maintain this journal’s happy tradition of bringing the results of recent research in a very readable, attractive and yet scholarly way.

More on transcribing online

Some knowledge of scribing conventions old and modern is needed to read any manuscript. The auxiliary discipline of palaeography deals with this problem. The UCL project Transcribe Bentham takes due notice of these matters. On March 7, 2011 Eric Hennekam alerted the visitors to his forum for archives to the MONK project at the University of Groningen. MONK aims at building a system for transcribing and searching text in digitized handwritten records. The blog Archive 2.0 has a post on this project. Archive 2.0 is an interesting blog of a group of Dutch archivists discussing new developments in the archival world. The blog post is in Dutch, but the interface of the Monk demo website is in English. Among the texts are accounts from the county of Guelders (1425), a document in Latin  from Louvain (1421), and late nineteenth documents from Groningen. What if MONK would be used to transcribe Bentham?

Crowd-sourcing is one of the themes on another Dutch archivist’s blog, De Digitale Archivaris, and you will find there a post on the Bentham project from September 29, 2010, with a reaction of UCL’s Bentham team.