Tag Archives: Library blogs

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.

A rare edition of Grotius

On November 23, 2010, the Peace Palace Library in The Hague announced the acquisition of a copy of the very rare first Paris 1625 edition of De iure belli ac pacis libri tres by Hugo Grotius. This library has probably the largest and richest collection of Grotius editions in the world. The online exhibition for the centenary in 2004 gives a vivid introduction to the Peace Palace library. The announcement states that until now the only known copy of the Paris 1625 edition was at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Almost a year ago my first blog postings were on Hugo Grotius, and it seemed not bad to look at Grotius again. My aim here is mainly to bring some information together. In 2009 the Yale Law Library held an exhibition on Grotius’ Mare liberum. The Royal Library at The Hague created an online edition of Mare Liberum with both a digital version of the first edition from 1609 and a transcription. Robert Feenstra and Jeroen Vervliet published a new Latin-English edition, Hugo Grotius Mare Liberum 1609-2009 (Leiden 2009). Arthur Eyffinger published a Dutch translation with the Latin text, De vrije zee. Een uiteenzetting over het recht van de Nederlanders om handel te drijven in Oost-Indië (The Hague 2009), and an essay on Grotius and the 1609 truce between the Dutch Republic and Spain, Oorlog, vrede of bestand? 1609 gezien door de ogen van Hugo de Groot (The Hague 2009), with in an appendix translations of several documents.

The Peace Palace Library (PPL) has won a Dutch award for the best digital library of 2010. The PPL uses not only RSS-feeds on its site, but has also a Flickr image collection and a collection of digitized books reachable for subscribers through its own custom developed link system, and these are just a few of the services for library users. As library of the International Court of Justice the PPL participates in The Hague Justice Portal also by virtue of the The Hague Academy of International Law. The PPL presents an online research guide for Grotius, interestingly in the format of a Wikipedia page. In my search for digital libraries with collections on legal history I hoped the PPL would have its own collection of digitized old books, preferably in an open access version, but this is not the case.

No doubt the Digital Library for Dutch Literature (DBNL) has one of the largest online collection of digitized and scanned texts by Hugo Grotius, including the critical edition of De iure belli ac pacis by B.J.A. de Kanter-Hettinga Tromp (Leiden 1939; reprint Aalen 1993). Among the legal texts is the Inleidinge tot de Hollandsche rechts-geleerdheid, Grotius’ introduction to Dutch law and jurisprudence, written between 1619 and 1621 and first published in 1631. The scans are from the 1910 edition by S.J. Fockema Andreae, not from the 1965 edition with the additions and corrections from Grotius’ own copy of the 1636 edition now at Lund. Apart from being a lawyer, philosopher and theologian, Grotius was also a renown poet, a historian and a most active writer of letters. This correspondence can be found here, too. The Huygens Instituut of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW) has created a searchable database for Grotius’ correspondence. The PPL research guide for Grotius mentions a link to a new edition of De iure praedae (The law of booty, 1603) at the KNAW site for datasets, but this dataset has not yet arrived. You can find Grotius’ manuscript with a transcription as work in progress of a colloborative edition at the TextLaboratorium. It is great to have this beside the 2005 translation of De iure praedae by Martine Julia van Ittersum at The Online Library of Liberty. The 1868 edition of the Latin text by H.G. Hamaker is available online thanks to the services of the University of Michigan at the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Is there somewhere on Internet a digital version of an old edition of De iure belli ac pacis? The first port of call is The Philological Museum, the initiative of Dana F. Sutton (University of California at Irvine) for a survey of digital editions of texts in Neo-Latin, lists three digital versions of editions printed in Paris in 1625 of De iure belli ac pacis, one at Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, one at the Posner Memorial Collection of the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries in Pittsburgh, and one at Kyushu University, Fukuoka. In their Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius (The Hague 1950) Jacob ter Meulen and P.J.J. Diermanse listed at no. 565 three different versions of the first edition. The digitized books in Paris, Pittsburgh and Fukuoka are copies of version 565iii. The PPL has acquired a copy of no. 565i. Other digitized Grotius editions can be found for instance using the catalog of the Hathi Trust Digital Library, an initiative of several American scientific libraries, and the OPACplus of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. In particular the Europeana portal points to the rich collections for Grotius at Munich. It surprised me very much one cannot trace these digitized old editions at the Digitale Sammlungen. Clearly some tuning is needed between the two sites at Munich.

Writing today this posting about Hugo Grotius served for me also as a kind of test case for the use of digital libraries and digital library portals. The portals do not only offer a more or less rough indication of existing materials but present often also important things. When discussing Grotius’ view it matters urgently which old printed version, translation or critical edition one uses. Sometimes Grotius’ opinions were more known in a translated form, as for example Jean de Barbeyrac’s translation of De iure belli ac pacis. The information in the bibliography by Ter Meulen and Diermanse and the succinct guide to the Grotius’ editions at the PPL is therefore very helpful in determining whether to use the first version near at hand in your town or on Internet, or to be more diligent. Even in this posting which offers just a note on Grotius a succinct table of the main texts mentioned and their versions might be useful:

De iure belli ac pacis

  • the third version of the Paris 1625 edition is available online at Gallica and at Pittsburgh
  • several other old editions are available online at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and the Hathi Trust Digital Library
  • the 1939 critical edition is online at the DBNL
  • the Online Library of Liberty presents both the 1814/1901 translation by Arthur Campbell and the translation by Richard Tuck (2005)
  • only the prolegomena and first book have been translated into Dutch, available online at the DBNL

Mare Liberum

  • the 1609 edition has been digitized alongside a modern Dutch translation at the Dutch Royal Library
  • the Leiden 1633 edition is available online at the Hathi Trust Digital Library and also at the SOMNI collection of the Universitat de Valencia
  • the 1916 translation by Magoffin – together with the Latin text – is available online at the Online Library of Liberty, as is Richard Hakluyt’s translation
  • the 1609 edition is available in print with an English translation and a facsimile (Feenstra and Vervliet 2009)
  • the 1609 edition has been translated into Dutch (Eyffinger 2009)

De iure praedae

  • photographs of the manuscript Leiden, University Library, BPL 917, are online at TextLaboratorium with a transcription
  • the 1868 edition by Hamaker is online at the Hathi Trust Digital Library
  • the English translation by Martine Julia van Ittersum is present at the Online Library of Liberty
  • Onno Damsté translated the text into Dutch: Verhandeling over het recht op buit (Leiden 1934)

Inleidinge tot de Hollandsche rechts-geleerdheid

  • the second impression ‘s-Graven-haghe, 1631 is online at the Digital Special Collections of Utrecht University Library
  • the 1910 critical edition is available at the DBNL and the Hathi Trust Digital Library
  • the 1965 critical edition is only available in printed form

The Index Translationum of the UNESCO did not bring me to an English version of the Inleidinge, but it mentions translations into several languages of other works. The guide to the PPL’s Grotius collection mentions several English translations of the Inleidinge.

An addendum: when revisiting the online exhibit on Grotius of the Yale Law Library Rare Book Room I noticed several titles mentioned here, too, with digitized title pages. Yale’s copy of the Mare Liberum edition Leiden 1633 is available in electronic form at Yale’s intranet, as is the copy at Harvard at their intranet. Obviously it is not quite feasible to have library cards or subscriptions to all these fine library services, and therefore I focused here on electronic resources in open access.

A postscript

A digitized copy of an early Dutch translation of Grotius’ Mare Liberum, entitled Vrye zeevaert, ofte bewiis van ‘t recht (..) (Leiden-Amsterdam 1614), can be viewed online in the Digital Special Collections of Utrecht University Library. Selections from De iure belli ac pacis have been translated into Dutch and commented on by Arthur Eyffinger and B.P. Vermeulen, Hugo de Groot, Denken over oorlog en vrede (Baarn 1991; Geschiedenis van de wijsbegeerte in Nederland, vol. 8). The Peace Palace Library has created a slideshow concerning editions of De iure belli ac pacis.

A facsimile of the French translation of De iure belli ac pacis by Jean Barbeyrac (Amsterdam 1724) has been published recently: Hugo Grotius, Le droit de la guerre et de la paix (2 vol., Caen 2011).

Centers of legal history: the Munich IMCL

Deciding to post a series on centers for legal history was an easy decision, and choosing the first centers to write on was not difficult, too. In 1997-1998 I worked at the Stephan-Kuttner-Institute of Medieval Canon Law in Munich. The center is named after its founder, Stephan Kuttner (1907-1996). Kuttner started his institute in 1955 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. When he moved to Yale University in 1964 and again to Berkeley in 1970, the institute followed. The institute houses a great variety of materials: some 3,000 books on medieval canon law and legal history, hundreds of microfilms of medieval manuscripts, a dazzling correspondence with scholars from all over the world, and thousands of offprints of articles sent to him by scholars as a sign of his position in the scientific world. The library catalogue can be consulted online, and also the database for the papal decretals of the twelfth century. And how could one forget the series of text editions, the quadrennial congresses, and the Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law? When you realize that you find on a walking distance apart from the IMCL, now affiliated to the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte, also the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and the Grabmann-Institut for the history of medieval theology, one can imagine the possibilities at Munich for doing research for medieval history and law.

The IMCL is supported by ICMAC, the Iuris Canonici Medii Aevi Consociatio or International Society of Medieval Canon Law has since February 2010 its own website at the University of Toronto.  Among the information presented you will find the digital version of the news bulletin Novellae. The design of the new website is graced by an image taken from the Utrecht Psalter.

A postscript

In 2013 the library of the IMCL has returned to the United States. Its new home is the Lillian Goldman Law Library of Yale University in New Haven, CT. The institute will move to Yale in 2015.

Centers of legal history: the Frankfurt MPI

Sooner or later you will notice in the field of legal history the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte at Frankfurt am Main. The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft is for most scientists and scholars a German institution known for institutes devoted to fields like molecular biology, but there exists MPI’s – the common abbreviation – for art history, the history of science, and for European legal history, too. The Frankfurt MPI is the home of a very well equipped library for its field. Its digital library offers many things, apart from the very detailed catalogue which yields more details than your average library catalogue. The Virtual Reading Room contains German books on civil law from the nineteenth century, a most important period for German law, and scores of law journals from this period. Many thousand old dissertations from the German Reich have been digitized. Of its own publications one can consult and download all issues of Ius Commune (1967-2001), and this is not the only journal published at Frankfurt: Rg-Rechtsgeschichte is the newest. Add to all riches (for example, the microfilms of manuscripts for both medieval and Byzantine law) of course a well organized and very useful link selection, and you will either visit often their web site or consider visiting Frankfurt.

In my post Revisiting Frankfurt am Main (September 2012) you will find a much more detailed and uptodate portrait of this institute.

Grotius’ Mare Liberum online

Collecting, cataloguing and preserving important old books is one thing, presenting their contents online is another job. The Dutch Royal Library at The Hague, has created a digital version of the first edition of Grotius’ Mare liberum to celebrate the new translation into Dutch by Arthur Eyffinger. You can choose to view the Latin original or the new translation. On the special website Mare Liberum 1609-2009 (in either English or Dutch) you can find more information on the celebrations in the Netherlands around this epoch making work. The Peace Palace Library of The Hague, too, devoted a blog item to the festivities commemorating Grotius: Robert Feenstra and Jeroen Vervliet, the director of the Peace Place Library, have published a new translation in English (Hugo Grotius, Mare Liberum 1609-2009 (Leyden 2009)).

A salute to Hugo Grotius from Yale

Today I visited the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog. Their online exhibition on the Dutch lawyer Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)  and his famous book Mare Liberum triggered me to finally create this new blog. Four hundred years ago, in 1609, the first edition of this book on international law was published at Leyden. You can see the impressive selection of books that all show the huge influence of his book at the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog. Well worth looking at, both at the blog and as a visitor to the Lilian Goldman Law Library in New Haven, Connecticut.