Tag Archives: Papyrology

Messages on stones and histories in fragments

Banner Epigrafia 3-D

How can you make the memory of past actions last for later generations? In the Ancient World important matters were often committed in writing on stones. Studying inscriptions is one of the way historians dealing with Classical Antiquity approach their subject. Since the sixteenth century scholars versed in epigraphy, the study of inscriptions, help to gain insights into a vast subject which deals with three continents and roughly two millennia. Only a fraction of possible sources have survived, and thus it is understandable and necessary historians want to make the most out of them. Access to new resources and wider access to existing sources are most helpful in refining and re-adjusting our insights about this period.

Lately a number of online projects has come to my attention which bring ancient inscriptions closer to our century. You can do this in particular by just following the notices about epigraphy at the indispensable blog Ancient World Online of Charles Jones. Old editions have been digitized, new inscriptions are increasingly edited immediately in the digital domain, and some projects literally give us a wider view of these sources. A few years ago I already noted here a project sponsored by a Californian firm to present clay tablets from Mesopotamia in three-dimensional view. A Spanish project, Epigraphia 3D, dealing with Roman inscriptions in 3D-view prompted me to write here again about inscriptions. In some cases I will also look at other ancient sources, in particular papyri, but Roman inscriptions will be the main focus point.

Preserved in stone

Logo Hispania Epigraphica

The project Epigraphia 3D is the result of the combined efforts of the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid) and the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano in Mérida. Even if your Spanish is rather weak navigating the website is easy. Two galleries with three-dimensional images of inscriptions form the heart of the project. The first gallery (Galería 3D MAN) for the archeological museum at Madrid contains 37 images, the second gallery (Galería 3D MNAR) shows nearly 60 images from the collections at Mérida. It is simply great to look at stones with inscriptions and to view them as if you were walking around them. Inscriptions mentioning slaves should remind you about an element of Roman society and law calling for particular attention. The variety of formats is in itself already a lesson widening your horizons. For every object the relevant epigraphical databases referring to them are mentioned. It would be a great service to have for each object direct links to these databases. However, you can at least use the link to its original location at the well-known Pleiades interactive map of the ancient world. For Roman inscriptions in Spain the main online resource is Hispanica Epigraphica (Universidad de Alcalá) with an interface in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Epigraphy as a historical auxiliary discipline has long been dominated by scholars writing in German, French and English, and therefore a Spanish point of reference is actually very welcome. In fact there is even an impressive and extensive online guide (labeled Recursos) introducing you to epigraphy. The section with enlaces (links) will bring you to many of the more traditional online resources. Some of these projects try to cover not just Roman of Greek inscriptions. Trismegistos, a platform created at Cologne and Louvain dealing with papyri and materials restricted to ancient Egypt and the Nile valley, recently started covering also inscriptions from other regions. By the way, the list of the Trismegistos partners and contributors is another fine overview of the main projects for papyri and ancient inscriptions. The mighty Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby (EDCS) features now also a searchable map for Roman inscriptions all over Europe.

Logo Digital Epigraphy and Archaeology

The Digital Epigraphy and Archeology Project led by the University of Florida has as one of its aims creating a toolbox for making three-dimensional inscriptions from squeezes, paper casts of inscriptions. with a nice showcase of 3D images of various ancient and medieval objects. The other projects on this website are a virtual museum of world heritage with 3D-images, seemingly now filled with just one object, and a section on interactive classical theatre. My first impression is that of a pilot project, and in fact it made me search again for projects showing more results. i could fairly quickly find a very relevant example which uses the freeware Sketchfab technology, a 3D-image of the famous Law of Gortyn, a legal text cut into the stones of a city wall on the island of Crete. You can find the Greek text online in the Searching Greek Inscriptions database, and an English translation in Paul Halsall’s Ancient History Sourcebook (Fordham University).

A bird-eye’s view

Logo Europeana Eagle

Reading about maps helping you to trace quickly inscriptions all over Europe – in fact I spotted a number of them found within my own neighbourhood – wets the appetite for more. You would like to be like an eagle finding inscriptions everywhere! The Epigraphia project shows in its bottom banner a number of logo’s, unfortunately not directly clickable, and one of them is to the Europeana Eagle project, a new branch of the Europeana network with magnificent online portals for several major subjects and themes in European history. It is infuriating that Europeana fails to give a quick list to them at its galaxy of sites. I have looked here in two posts especially at Europeana Regia with manuscripts from the libraries of three medieval kings. Currently the Eagle project covers nine online collections, including Hispania Epigraphica, the EDCS and the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg (EDH). The EDH has a clickable map of Europe bringing you to specific regions. Eagle contains now some 300,000 items.

Somehow I must be a bit old-fashioned when I worry about not seeing immediately at Eagle any reference to the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, but surely this has been connected to the main databases for searching Roman inscriptions. For those worrying about a too exclusive view at and use of inscriptions it is reassuring to see among the nine collections harvested at Eagle the Arachne database (Universität Köln) for archaeological objects. In my view Eagle scores with one particular feature, a mobile app for the two main platforms which enables you to view inscriptions in situ and check for their presence within Eagle. The app can even tell you whether Eagle contains similar inscriptions.

For scholars and everybody

Banner Ancient Lives

Greek and Latin can be formidable barriers to understand the classical world, yet the attraction of Classical Antiquity remains strong as ever. Precisely the inventive use of digital technologies has opened the world of classical studies to a much wider public. Interestingly the inverse connection, too, has started. Recently I encountered the crowdsourcing project Ancient Lives, a partnership between the Classics Faculty of the University of Oxford and the Zooniverse initiative. It is most remarkable that the Oxyrhynchus papyri collection (P. Oxy), almost the Holy Grail of papyri from ancient Egypt, should figure in a collaboration of classicists and the general public. Asking people to get involved in transcribing papyri is audacious indeed, even if you can see the appeal of this treasure to scholars worldwide. The Oxyrhynchus papyri is also one of the largest papyri collections. Nearly 80 volumes have been published for their critical edition. In view of the many aspects of creating this edition it becomes understandable to call upon people outside Oxford to help with one phase of the editorial process, creating reliable transcriptions which of course have to be checked and fortified by a critical apparatus. Imaging Papyri is the main project dealing with the Oxyrhynchus papyri.

On purpose I mention this project for papyri at Oxford, even if it seems to be a turn away from inscriptions. Exactly this effect can be viewed, too, at Oxford. There are at least two other epigraphical projects at Oxford I would like to include here. A focus on Egyptian papyri might almost blend out another project for sources from Egypt, the Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions for the study of some 550 inscriptions and monuments with inscriptions. It is important to notice here the use of EpiDoc, an international initiative to develop a tailor-made version of TEI XML for publishing inscriptions online. With the Vindolanda Tablets from Northern England in the first and second centuries CE we encounter a resource particular close to daily life in a Roman province. The Vindolanda fort was situated south of Hadrian’s Wall. A concise virtual exhibition accompanies the online edition. The tablets contain not only complete documents and letters, but also drafts and school exercises. The presentation with at the left an image of a tablet, in the middle a transcription and at the right a translation is readily usable, and the search functions are most helpful. These tablets help you to look at Roman law in the context of daily life. They show encounters between the Latin culture and the peoples newly brought into the Roman empire or living at its borders.

A number of the websites highlighted here contain lists of links to other epigraphical projects, and thus you can easily expand my post to look beyond my personal interests. To round off my tour of projects I would like to look briefly at two other British projects dealing with inscriptions in regions where their very survival has become a matter of grave concern. King’s College London has created websites for the Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (IRT) and for the Inscriptions of Roman Cyrenaica (IRCyr), regions in modern Libya, a nation with currently almost no functioning state, where ancient monuments a prey to rivalling armed groups.

Histories in fragments

Lately I looked at the project portal Fragmentary Texts which aims at bringing together research concerning lost texts from Antiquity and their afterlife in fragments. The links section of this portal gives you a nice overview of various projects dealing with the fragments of ancient authors. One of the reasons this project resonates for me is the fact that the study of legal history in ancient times also very often deals with fragments. Complete texts are actually exceptional. We might forget that for example the Twelve Tables, the praetorian edict and the texts of classical lawyers are mainly known from reconstructions. The textual transmission of Justinian’s Digest is nearly complete, but in its turn it contains enough elements of elder texts to allow scholars to reconstruct such texts which no longer exist independently. Only since two centuries we have a complete text of Gaius’ Institutiones when a palimpsest manuscript was finally discovered in Verona.

Inscriptions can help completing ancient texts or show a different textual transmission. Graffiti in Pompei sometimes help scholars to find the right wordings of famous quotes from literary texts. When you study Justinian’s Digest and Code you will note the inscriptiones, the preliminary references giving the names of consuls or the reference to the work of a classical lawyer. The very word inscriptio might remind you to look beyond manuscript sources, and to study law also in relation to its role in society. Reading for instance about the special inheritance rights of Roman legionnaires who had served many years with the Roman army, something linked with the concept of the peculium castrense, comes much more into life when you can look at military diplomas and inscriptions bearing witness to their lives and activities. Instead of only admiring such objects in a museum or knowing about editions of the texts engraved on them it is now possible to connect your own research and interests with them on many levels.

Let’s end here with pointing to three blogs. Two blogs of the Hypotheses network deal with ancient epigraphy, the French blog Épigraphie en réseau of the EpiDoc project, worth reading even if not updated seriously since 2012, and the Spanish blog e-pigraphia: Epigrafia en Internet, very much kicking and alive. Current Epigraphy is another blog that you might want to consult to keep up with developments in an old but vital part of Classical Studies. Studying inscriptions from other periods is of course also a most interesting theme, but here I prefer to remain close to Classical Antiquity.

A postscript

Both for those who think my post was too short and those who think it was (again!) too long follow here for your benefit and quick reference some of the newest additions about epigraphy at Ancient World Online: the Claros database (Madrid) with a concordance for Greek inscriptions, Axon; Silloge di Iscrizioni Storiche Greche (Università Ca’Foscari, Venice) the projects at Berlin for the Inscriptiones Graecae (IG) and Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae (ICG) with Christian inscriptions in Greece and Asia Minor, the Inscriptions of Israel / Palestine (Brown University) and even some of the latest issues of the Année Epigraphique in open access. All of them would perfectly suit another post on epigraphy. I should have pointed also to the digital library of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), New York, home to the AWOL blog, and at at the very least I can give here a link to the digitized publications about ancient law and inscriptions.

On March 10, 2016, Sarah E. Bond published Epigraphy Enchiridion, a post on her blog about online handbooks and guides for Greek and Latin Epigraphy.

Journeys to journals on Classical Antiquity


At the end of each year it is difficult to avoid the great range of lists of all kinds of bests, and I hardly dare to even mention them here. In 2014 the Archaeological Institute of America gave an 2015 AIA Award for Outstanding Work in Digital archaeology to Charles E. Jones and his blog The Ancient World Online (AWOL) to honour his “work on open access material relation to the ancient world, serving archaeological information to more than 1.1 million unique visitors to the site since its inception in 2009”. AWOL needs no laurels, but this praise is certainly justified. One of the latest messages at AWOL in 2015 concerns scholarly journals in open access dealing with ancient law. On December 29, 2015 Charles Jones listed eighteen online journals which specifically deal with some field of legal history in classical Antiquity, and he challenges readers to find and report more journals. A number of these journals figure here in my blog roll, and thus I was immediately interested in checking this list. At AWOL is a list with now nearly 1,600 scholarly journals available in open access for the vast territories of the ancient world. Is this selection of journals touching legal history indeed complete? This post will look at some answers to this question. Indeed I was so eager to publish it that I somehow had posted it with a wrong date, a year ahead.

The power of a list

Lists can have uncanny powers. They might seem to offer everything available or they bring the best possible selection. A good list can enhance the authority of its author, and users of such lists feel comfortable with the knowledge of such lists. Thus it can feel awkward to question a list at all for its qualities, but in my view there is just one way to find about both the positive and negative sides of a list, and that it is by checking each item. This simple approach proved to be rewarding and revealing.

The international character of the list is remarkable. In most fields within Classical Studies the number of journals with English titles is impressive, but they do not outnumber journals in other languages. However, for legal history you will find in this list just two journals with an English title, Roman Legal Tradition, published online since its start in 2002 and edited at Glasgow, and The Journal of Juristic Papyrology, published since 1946 at Warsaw. I did wonder about the presence of other relevant journals with English titles, and thus I quickly checked among the titles of the main list of journals at AWOL. Two titles seemed worthy of inclusion, the Ancient Greek Law eJournal and the Ancient Roman Law eJournal, but they turned out to be something else, a quick reference point for recent research published at SSRN, the Social Sciences Research Network. Both e-journals bring together papers to be published or already published on either Greek or Roman law in other legal journals. The two selections show how both fields currently can appear outside the province of legal history: nine publications for ancient Greek law, and five for Roman law, mainly in American law journals. A third title does not refer to a scholarly journal, but to the reports of the Hellenic Society for Law and Archaeology, where the laws in question are obviously laws touching upon cultural heritage. I cannot figure why PoLAR: The Political and Legal Anthropology Review figures at all at AWOL, in particular because only few issues are available in open access. Anyway, for good reasons these three journals were not deemed fit for inclusion in the new list of journals dealing with ancient legal history.

Logo MPI Frankfurt am Main

Two German titles in the list made me very curious because they did not seem to be current journals anymore. The Jahrbücher für historische und dogmatische Bearbeitung des römischen Rechts appeared three times between 1841 and 1844. The brothers Wilhelm and Karl Sell launched their journal from Zürich and Bonn. The second journal, Themis. Zeitschrift für Doctrin und Praxis des römischen Rechts, appeared in two short series between 1828 and 1848, the first series in 1828 and 1830, the second from 1838 until 1848. This journal was the idea of Christian Friedrich Elvers from Rostock. The subtitle of the first series was Zeitschrift für praktische Rechtswissenschaft, only the second series mentioned Roman law. Elvers filled the pages of his journal in particular in the second series mainly with his own contributions. In 1841 Elvers had become a judge at Kassel, and this move probably influenced his activities for the journal. Both journals have been digitized at the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main. In my view it is one of the characteristics of the study of Roman law in nineteenth-century Germany that articles and book reviews appeared not just in the journals devoted to legal history, but also in the profusion of general law journals. Such statements can be checked readily thanks to the massive digitization at Frankfurt am Main of relevant journals published between 1800 and 1918. Just for the record, I did look also at the sister project for eighteenth-century journals (Zeitschriften 1703-1830), but in this set Roman law was not used in any title. In 2011 I wrote here about digitization projects for old legal journals and also about projects for creating online access to current journals in the field of legal history.

At this point we still have sixteen journals correctly included in Jones’ list, and an implicit conclusion from the last paragraph should help me proceeding here. In a list with open access journals you expect to find journals currently appearing, and only on second thought also retrodigitized journals. Curiously, the list does include not only the Romanistische Abteilung of the Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte der Savigny-Stiftung, but also the Kanonistische Abteilung, a branched launched in 1910. The online issues of these journals have been digitized at Frankfurt, too, but this is a case of digitizing old issues, as for now up to 1919. Some journals in the list at AWOL do not offer exclusively articles concerning ancient law. Forum Historiae Iuris is one of the oldest online journals for legal history. Iura Orientalia does not only cover the field of ancient Oriental law, but also modern Oriental law, in particular ecclesiastical law. In fact the section on Byzantine law of this journal reminded me of two journals published in Groningen, the Subseciva Groningana (1984-), published only in print, and the Groninger Opmerkingen en Mededelingen, a journal for which only a number of individual contributions are available online in open access.

What more should be said here about the remaining journals of the list? It is good to see two online journals for the history of Greek law, the Rivista di Diritto Hellenico, alas possibly damaged by malware at the moment of writing, and Dike. Rivista di Storia del Diritto Greco ed Hellenistico (1998-). When I saw the title of The Journal of Juristic Papyrology I could not help thinking of the ZPE, the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. You can check online for the titles of all articles since 1967, and this journal surely does contain contribution about ancient legal history. The issues 73 (1988) to 133 (2000) of the ZPE are now available in open access. I bumped into an article by Sir Ronald Syme, ‘Journeys to Hadrian’, ZPE 73 (1988) 159-170, My title is a tribute to a scholar who impressed me as a student with his compact style. I will try to follow his example here more than in previous years! The journal from Warsaw is available online at a special platform for Polish scholarly journals in the humanities, Czasopisma humanistyczne.

The Rivista di Diritto Romano does offer space for articles on diritti antichi, other ancient legal systems, too. In fact the website of this journal is almost a portal to Roman law and its afterlife with sections on the palingenesis of Roman law texts, the Basilica, a list of journals, and online versions of numerous Roman law texts. However, a major drawback is the navigation at its website where you can find only the latest issue online. The Russian journal Ius Antiquum is a further witness to the international character of Classical Studies. I leave it to you to have a look at the other journals of a list which if not exhaustive surely proved to be interesting

Cover RIDA 61 (2014)

However, one journal must not be left out here. A few months ago I had already spotted the surprising online appearance of the third series of the very high regarded Revue internationale des droits de l’antiquité (RIDA). This journal, published by scholars at the Université de Liège, has digitized the issues XXVI (1979) to LIX (2012). The decision to publish such recent issues of a well-known. peer-reviewed international learned journal might well be a spur for other publishers to make moves in the direction of open access. The RIDA is even present at Facebook. The image of the new cover shows the new publisher, the Presses Universitaires de Liège, but on the RIDA website you can still subscribe to volumes published at Paris.

The changing world of scholarly journals


As for the 1,700 journal titles in the major overview at AWOL I am afraid a number of them is not in its entirety available in open access. One example: Brepols Online publishes the Revue d’Histoire des Textes, but only issues between 2006 and 2009 are to seen freely. Making a comparison with journals registered within the Directory of Open Journals is not as easy as one would expect today. You can search either by entering keywords in a search field for titles, forcing you to look for specific matters in a number of languages, or use the far too general subject filters. Even history or culture have not yet been deemed worthy independent subjects. At the start of a new year there are many days in which this sorry state of affairs can be changed, but anyway it will be useful to follow the posts labelled Law at AWOL – The Ancient World Online!

Democracy in ancient Athens

These weeks one of the books I am reading discusses the first democracy. Last year Antoon van Hooff, a scholar who taught at Nijmegen, published Athene. Het leven van de eerste democratie [Athens. The life of the first democracy] (Amsterdam 2011; third impression 2012). Although aimed at a Dutch public, Van Hooff shows not only British scholars know how to write about Classical Antiquity for the largest possible audience. Reading his study I realized it would be interesting to look at new sources and publications on ancient democracy. In this post I am happy to benefit from the riches offered at The Ancient World Online – abbreviated as AWOL – by Charles Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (New York University), a blog offering a wealth of information on new projects and publications in this vast field. Here I take the liberty of choosing rather at random postings in 2012 at this veritable treasure trove.

Pioneering democracy

Dēmos: Classical Greek Democracy is a project led by Christopher W. Blackwell which figured at AWOL in March 2012. Van Hooff mentions it in his book, too. This project aims at creating an online encyclopedia about the Athenian democracy. The project website is part of the Stoa Consortium. Among the features are translations of ancient Greeks texts, and notably a series of lectures given at the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University on “Athenian Law in its Democratic Context”. Michael de Brauw contributes a glossary of Athenian legal terms.

In July 2012 Jones published a notice about another project led by Blackwell for a new edition of the papyrus with the so-called Constitution of the Athenians of Aristotle (London, British Museum, Pap. 131). Images of this papyrus can be viewed at a website of the Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. The accompanying website brings you much more, including the classic commentary by J.E. Sandy and word lists.

Ostrakon with the name of Cimon

Ostrakon with the name of Cimon, 486 or 461 BC – Athens, Ancient Agora Museum

In the ostracism, the procedure to ban people whose power the Athenians wanted to curb, ostraca were used, potsherds with the names of politicians to be banned. These potsherds are among the most visually speaking objects concerning the Athenian democracy. Van Hooff does not fail to tell again the touching story of Aristeides – reported by Plutarch – who helped an opponent to write his name on a ostrakon. In January 2012 AWOL reported briefly on the new Berliner Papyrusdatenbank where you will also find ostraca from the collections of the Staatliche Museen Berlin. In June 2012 Jones wrote about a project of the universities of Halle, Jena and Leipzig for cataloguing and digitizing their papyri and ostraca. Ostraca are found elsewhere, too, not only in Athens. Roger S. Bagnall and Giovanni Raffall have published ostraca from Trimithis, an Egyptian village. At AWOL I found an announcement of the digital version of the edition by Hélène Cuvigny of ostraka found at Didymoi in Egypte.

Greek inscriptions can be found also online in the digital version of the Inscriptiones Graecae and other source editions, a project of the Packhard Humanities Institute. You can find the Inscriptiones Graecae also separately in a digital version provided by the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Ostraca are in particular present in the section Kerameikos III, Inschriften, Ostraka, Fluchtafeln, from the edition by Werner Peek (Berlin 1941; reprint 1974). The website of the Center for the Study of Ancient Documents at Oxford offers an extensive selection of online resources concerning classical epigraphy. At Duke University you will find an online list of editions of papyri, ostraca and tablets. In the section on ostraca and tablets you will find a great variety of texts. I did not immediately spot an edition of ostraka from Athens. Among the editions and studies are Mitteilungen aus dem Kerameikos. I. Ostraka, Alfred Brückner (ed.) (Athens 1915), Ostraka, Mabel L. Lang (ed.) (Princeton N.J., 1990; The Athenian Agora, 25), Stefan Brenne’s study Ostrakismos und Prominenz in Athen: attische Bürger des 5. Jahrhunderts. v. Chr. auf den Ostraka (Vienna 2001), and Ostrakismos-Testimonien, I: Die Zeugnisse antiker Autoren, der Inschriften und Ostraka über das athenische Scherbengericht aus vorhellenistischer Zeit, 487-322 v. Chr., Peter Siewert et alii (eds.) (Stuttgart 2002). Van Hooff remarks that ostracism was exercised in Athens only fifteen times between 487 and 417.

Imagining ancient Athens is made easier by a new virtual tour of the Acropolis, a website announced at AWOL on November 1, 2012. In his announcement Jones point also to the information about the geography of ancient Athens gathered at Pleaides, a website of his own institute and the Ancient World Mapping Center (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

Digital Antiquity

A lot of websites and blogs cover current research in the field of Classical Antiquity. The Digital Classicist is one of these blogs, which will lead you to several partner projects. For the congress calender of this blog I can find information for ancient history at websites such as Ius Civile and Compitum. In fact the versatile use of information technology in many forms should gain your admiration for the perseverance and great creativity of scholars studying ancient societies. Those scholars devoting also time to creating attention for such inventive projects on their blogs merit our gratitude for their efforts! In this short post I have only shown a few examples of much more which you can discover and enjoy for yourself and others. Even finding your road and choosing the means of transportation in Classical Antiquity is not forgotten. The ORBIS website of Stanford University will help you gaining insight into aspects of daily life which have relevance for legal history, too.

As for reading about the Athenian democracy, Van Hooff rightly reminds his readers that exactly this particular form of democracy has not always inspired modern Western democracies. One of the merits of revisiting familiar stamping grounds is to get more conscious of the different possible approaches to the Classics during the centuries. The twentieth century saw a number of shifts in attention and perspectives. Two decades ago appeared Christian Meier’s Athen. Ein Neubeginn der Weltgeschichte [Athens. A new start of the world’s history] (Berlin 1993). Classical Antiquity still has the power to be a mirror for contemporary society, and this is surely not restricted to works by British or American scholars.

For your eyes only? Legal history and some new digital libraries

This year I have published a number of posts about digital libraries. In my latest contribution on Dutch digital libraries I expressed my wish to write here more often about archival records and museums. It goes against the grain to write again about some digital libraries. However, by sheer coincidence three digital libraries have been launched in a short time span which all deal with materials in Dutch libraries. The Dutch Royal Library in The Hague has partnered with ProQuest in their project Early European Books: Printed Sources to 1700, and this library is also present in Brill’s Early Modern Pamphlets Online. Pamphlets held at Groningen University Library, are present, too, in this project, as are the German pamphlets microfilmed earlier on in the series Flugschriften des 16. Jahrhunderts. Last month the University Library at Groningen launched a new subdomain for their digital collections. Each of these three digital collections contain materials relevant to legal historians. Bringing them together in one post seemed a sensible thing to do.

There is a significant difference and an equally important similarity between each of the projects of the Dutch Royal Library and the digitized collections at Groningen. The University of Groningen presents one set of collections in open access, but this library has just as the Royal Library decided also to start a partnership with a firm which allows only restricted access to the collections they have digitized. Only at subscribing libraries or as holder of a library card of the Dutch Royal Library you can view this digitized pamphlets collection. When I checked this collection today using my Royal Library card I could not find at first the digital pamphlet collection in the overview of online databases at the homepage of the Royal Library. In fact it was thanks to the marvellous page on book history that I noticed the project for the digitization of these pamphlets. The books of the Royal Library digitized for Early European Books can be viewed freely within the Netherlands, but not elsewhere.

Some questions about access

Why keeping a number of digital collections within control of the holding library, and putting other collections on a kind of island which remains at the horizon, within sight but out of reach, a treasure room to be unlocked only for those who pay or have access to it at subscribing libraries? I realize quite well the Dutch Royal Library holds a rather large pamphlet collection (34,000), Groningen has some 2,800 pamphlets. I am equally aware that I am not the first to point out this difference which can look almost incomprehensible at a distance. The sheer number of items to digitized has not deterred Groningen University from creating an extensive digital repository with for legal historians interesting things like dissertations defended at the Law Faculty of Groningen and on another server a growing number of historical maps. Issues starting from 1999 of the legal history journal Groninger Opmerkingen en Mededelingen are freely accessible online, too. On the new website for digital collections at Groningen you can find 127 fragments of papyri. You can read – in Dutch – about some of them also on De wereld aan boeken (The world in books), the book blog of the Department of Special collections of Groningen University Library. By the way, Bifolium is the digital version of the news bulletin on manuscripts and rare books edited at Groningen. Updates are rather infrequent since the death of Jos M.M. Hermans, but the contributions of the new editorial team are certainly worth checking.

No doubt questions of budget, of digitizing more quickly by partnering with a publisher, and growing experience with digital collections and their maintenance play a significant role in the choices made by the two libraries in question to choose different ways for some of their collections. Still one can ask why not putting the famous Knuttel pamphlet collection of the Dutch Royal Library at Europeana, to mention just one of the projects in which this library plays a large and even eminent role? A quick search at Europeana yields at least 28 pamphlets held at The Hague, and they can be searched also using the Memory of the Netherlands portal. Pamphlets of national libraries form a part, too, of the digital collections accessible at the European Library, yet another possibility for virtual presentation of the Dutch pamphlets. for libraries it is perhaps also a question of playing several cards: in the past a number of digitization projects has had only a limited success or has simply failed. It was probably a successful example that helped guiding the decisions taken at The Hague and Groningen. Between 2002 and 2009 19th Century British Pamphlets Online realized the cataloguing and digitizing of some 23,000 items from seven British institutions. The project website provides you with a pamphlets catalogue, but the pamphlets themselves are only fully accessible through JSTOR.

Pamphlets and legal history

Pamphlets is the bibliographical term for short unbound treatises on any subject which is currently under discussion or cries out for comment or protest. I paraphrase here one of the most used modern definitions. The UNESCO definition of a pamphlet contains the additional criterion of a maximum length of 48 pages: “A pamphlet is a non-periodical printed publication of at least 5 but not more than 48 pages, exclusive of the cover pages, published in a particular country and made available to the public”. On my blog broadsides, one-page pamphlets, featured in the summer post on legal history in lyrics.

After my remarks about free and restricted access it is time to have a closer look at the projects under discussion. Early European Books comes with a multilingual user interface in English, Dutch, Danish and Italian. The bibliographical information on books is reinforced by using information on printers and printing history from the CERL Thesaurus and OCLC references which are used for WorldCat. You can view books either as web pages or download them in the PDF format. Interestingly you will find among the few digitized books concerning law and justice from the Royal Library almost exclusively pamphlets, and not just Dutch pamphlets. There is a French arrêt from the Parlement of Paris (Paris 1598; Pflt. 1012), a Dutch version (Middelburg 1584; Pflt. 715) of The execution of Iustice in England for maintenancee of publique and Christian peace by William Cecil Lord Burghley, two sentences by the scabini of Leiden (Leiden 1598; Pflt. 1035 and 1037), a confession of an attempt to assassinate Maurice of Orange (Utrecht 1594; Pflt. 918), a pamphlet demonstrating the rights of the States of Holland (Rotterdam 1587; Pflt. 791).

In Early Modern Pamphlets Online you will find already nearly 400 Dutch pamphlets when you search with the subject ‘Law’. Research for Dutch legal history for the period of the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire can benefit greatly from this source collection. One of the few quibbles are the lack of an advanced search interface and the black and white instead of color. Both collections contain all kind of pamphlets, many of them with contemporary illustrations, which makes them more than just textual sources.

The 127 Papyri Groninganae are really the only sources of primary interest for legal history at the new website for digital collections at the library of the University of Groningen, but everyone studying Dutch political developments or the advancement of science in the eighteenth century should look at the digitized letters of philosopher François Hemsterhuis (1721-1790). The papyri at Groningen cover a wide range of subjects, including legal matters. You can browse collections, choose the form of presentation of the items, build your own advanced search by adding search fields at will, and view almost everything in full color, as is the case for Early European Books, too.

More pamphlets for legal history

When writing this post I found I had overlooked some free accessible digital pamphlet collections for the page on Dutch legal history of my blog. To prevent complaints about not being able to see any Dutch pamphlets because of the restricted access policy I will say something more about these Dutch collections. From the pages of my website I have created a list of digitized pamphlets collections worldwide, not without adding some recent findings, thus saving you some time to bring them together.

Within the digital collections of Utrecht University Library a whole section is devoted to pamphlets. Until now nearly 800 pamphlets have been digitized. Under the modest title Utrechtse pamfletten you will find also publications from outside Utrecht and the Low Countries. The collection is accompanied by a short essay in Dutch on the definition of a pamphlet with ample reference to George Orwell’s views which led to the commonly excepted modern definition.

At Nijmegen the Center for Catholic Documentation has digitized a collection of 99 pamphlets from 1853 with protests against the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands. After the definitive coming of the Reformation from 1580 onwards the Northern Netherlands had been an apostolic vicariate. As the Dutch government confirmed the erection of new dioceses in 1853 a national movement of distressed protestants grew quickly, but this protest by many members of the Dutch elite was in vain.

At the portal for the Memory of the Netherlands you can search for some 1,000 digitized pamphlets from the Second World War and a few hundred pamphlets written by Multatuli, the pseudonym of the Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker (1820-1887), famous for Max Havelaar, his graphic novel from 1860 about the Dutch exploitation of the Indonesian archipelago and his inflammatory writings about many other subjects, including the Dutch political and legal system. Multatuli lost the case about the copyright on his novel, recently studied by Ika Sorgdrager, Dik van der Meulen and Jan Bank, ‘Ik heb u den Havelaar niet verkocht’. Multatuli contra Van Lennep [“I did not sell you the Havelaar”. Multatuli against Van Lennep] (Amsterdam 2010).

And to conclude this post a list of digitized pamphlet collections – in alphabetical order by country – with particular interest for legal historians, all of them freely accessible:

The last digital collection reminds me of repeating my promise to write about major phenomena and events which cannot be left out of legal histories. My posts on piracy were meant as the first contribution to a new series. If you agree with me that the list of digitized pamphlets should be enlarged you might try searching for pamphlets at Intute, a thing to do as long as that website is still running. The History Guide of the Göttingen State and University Library can lead you to many pamphlet collections, as do Clio Online and for example this page of the Virtual Library Labour History at the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam.

A postcript

At Archivalia Klaus Graf points to the fact that the German bibliographical projects VD16VD17 and VD18 do contain large numbers of pamphlets. This source genre is increasingly being digitized, too. The QuickSearch of the catalogue of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna can be tuned to restrict your search to particular source types; for historical pamphlets you can select Einblattdrucke.

A second postscript

Roeland Harms, a scholar at Utrecht University, has written Pamfletten en publieke opinie. Massamedia in de zeventiende eeuw [Pamphlets and public opinion. Mass media in the seventeenth century] (Amsterdam 2011). You can download here his 2010 Ph.D. thesis (in Dutch with an English summary) from which his new book stems.

A third postscript

For the Society for Old Dutch Law I have written a concise guide to Dutch pamphlets and legal history at Rechtsgeschiedenis.org.

An overview of digitized pamphlet collections

At my website I have created in May 2013 an overview of digital pamphlet collectiions. In this overview collections are presented  in alphabetical order by country, with short descriptions of the contents and focus.


Paul Krüger’s legacy at the Library of Congress

On August 15, 2011 In Custodia Legis, the blog of the law librarians of the Library of Congress, published a post by John Hessler who works in the Geography and Map Division of this library. Recently Hessler had been doing research on land ownership in Roman law when rare book curator Meredith Shedd-Driskell showed him a notebook by Paul Krüger (1840-1926), one of the most important German scholars in the field of the study of Roman law in the nineteenth century. He published editions of the Codex Iustinianus, the Institutiones Iustiniani and with Theodor Mommsen the editio maior of the Digestae, editions still in use today. His edition of the Codex Theodosianus remained unfinished. This notebook turned out to be not the only item written by Krüger present in Washington, D.C. A whole wall contains the private library of Paul Krüger which was acquired by the Library of Congress in 1930. The post contains a link to the PDF version of an article in the Library of Congress’s Law Library Journal by Hessler on his findings. He promises another article in the Revue d’Histoire des Textes. My immediate reaction was this post from Washington does merit more attention.

When reading this really interesting post I somehow could not help asking myself whether Hessler and Shedd-Driskell were really the first to detect the notes of Paul Krüger? As it turned out to be I could get an answer to this question in an almost too quick way. In 2005 appeared Library of Congress Law Library: An Illustrated Guide (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2005) edited by Jolande E. Goldberg and Natalie Gawdiak. This book has been digitized by the firm with the seemingly unavoidable internet search website, and thus checking it is really easy. On page 72 of this book the collection is concisely described. The Library of Congress acquired Paul Krüger’s private library in 1930. The library consists not only of notes on his edition projects. There are also some manuscripts and manuscript fragments, transcriptions from manuscripts, manuscript collations, facsimiles of papyri, and much more. In 1934 the Library of Congress made a list of all the items which Goldberg and Nawdiak judged to be preliminary. It seems clear Hessler is the first to study materials in the Krüger collection since its acquisition and summary description.

Habent sua fata libelli! And the memory of scholars, even those as deservedly known among the scholars of Roman law, can have its fate, too. In the small but useful Historikerlexikon. Von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert, Rüdiger vom Bruch and Rainer A. Müller (eds.) (Munich 1991) the name of Paul Krüger is not mentioned. The articles in the volume Juristen. Ein biographes Lexikon. Von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert, edited by Michael Stolleis (Munich 1995) do not mention him either. Gerd Kleinheyer and Jan Schröder, the editors of Deutsche und Europäische Juristen aus neun Jahrhunderten (4th edition, Heidelberg 1996), do mention only Krüger’s praise for the edition by Johann Göschen of the Institutiones Gaii. In 1884 Paul Krüger and Wilhelm Studemund published an edition of this text. I did not find an article on Krüger in the main German biographical dictionaries, which you can search quickly at the German Biographie-Portal.

Of course editors have to make tough choices when selecting names for inclusion in a small or large biographical project. Just how tough is graphically shown by the rare appearances of Paul Krüger. At the Portal Rheinische Geschichte I did at last find an online article in German with more details on this scholar who teached at Marburg, Innsbruck, Königsberg and Bonn. The post at In Custodia Legis helps to bring Krüger back into light. I am sure further research in the materials at the Library of Congress will yield important fruits for the historiography of Roman law.

A postscript

John Hessler has posted here some lecture notes and a number of photos from materials in the private library of Paul Krüger. The university library at Bonn has other papers from and adressed to Paul Krüger for which you can serach an online finding aid at the Kalliope portal.

Switched off?

Did you make your list of good intentions for 2011? I surely had one particular intention for my blog, to follow a much-needed list of subjects I want to write about. In January I succeeded not only in creating a number of these posts, but to my own surprise other subjects, objects and themes came to my attention. These days bring us many events and developments, and it seemed strange none of these would eventually influence me. The past and the present do touch each other. It was a matter of time before even I would find space here to present some of the connections between them. Let’s not longer write about serendipity, particular circumstances or alertness, but just present a few things that seem to stand in a particular constellation.

On January 23, 2011 the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an article about the opening of an exhibition at Teylers Museum in Haarlem around their copy of the famous Description de l’Égypte (23 volumes, Paris 1809-1829). Teylers Museum is the oldest public museum of The Netherlands. It will show this encyclopedic work on Egypt’s ancient history until May 8, 2011. In the same newspaper I read about the decision of the Al-Azhar University to freeze contacts with the Vatican. The Egyptian government decided this week to cut off the internet in order to stop growing resistance against it. Which online sources within Egypt about Egypt’s reality now and in the past can still be used? As a visitor of many digital libraries my thoughts went to the Digital Assets Repository, the digital library of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria. Can we reach it or not? Luckily this digital library and the library’s website still function. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has not only created a special website for the digitized version of the Description de l’Égypte, but also a website called Memory of Modern Egypt. Unlike the other websites, however, the user interface is only in Arabic. I could not reach a third website, Eternal Egypt, on objects from Egypt’s long history. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has got its own Internet Archive, but storage of Eternal Egypt goes only back to 2007, and worse, it could not be reached when writing this post.

The Description de l’Égypte is a monument to the efforts of French scholars from the Napoleonic era. One of its drawbacks is obviously that hieroglyphs had not yet been fully deciphered at the time of the expedition in Egypt and during the years of publication. In 1822 Champollion succeeded in breaking the secrets of this script when he succeeded in reading the trilingual inscriptions on the Stone of Rosetta. Too late for the first edition, and not yet included in the second 36-volume edition (Paris 1820-1830), and thus no wonder law is scarcely touched upon in this imposing work. By the way, the book title Description de l’Égypte had already been used in 1735 by Jean Baptiste le Mascrier. His book can be seen at the Gallica digital library.

Back to legal history! Some types of sources from Egypt containing information on Egyptian, Greek and Roman law can safely be consulted online. Papyrology, the study of papyri, is not only an auxiliary discipline for historians, but a discipline which brings much for the field of ancient law. It is really remarkable how papyrologists have taken large steps for digital initiatives which enable scholars – and thanks to a growing number of accompanying translations also others – to take good notice of texts preserved partially or only by papyri. Gregg Schwendner and his indispensable blog What’s New in Papyrology help you to stay informed about this field and its scholars. The number of interesting papyrological websites is substantial and I had better not present them all in just one blog post, so I will restrict myself firmly to a few examples. Almost every website has a generous links selection.

The Papyrological Navigator (New York University) is perhaps the most sophisticated search site available now bringing together information on papyri from other databases as well. The Trismegistos portal (Leuven and Cologne) has probably the most assets and the widest range, for it aims at presenting papyri and inscriptions from Egypt and the Nile Valley between 800 BC and 800. You can find here texts, collections, archives, downloads, special fonts for your computer and a bibliography. The texts section of Trismegistos brings you to other databases covering the field of papyrology such as the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden Ägyptens (HGV) and the database with Coptic documentary texts (BCD) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Probably the most famous collection of papyri are the Oxyrhynchus Papyri at Oxford. The Giessener Papyri- und Ostrakadatenbank brings you also Greek ostraka. Giessen has even a digital library for publications about their papyri. Apart from texts –  in connection with the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University –  you can also find photographs of papyri in American holdings using the Advanced Papyrological Information System of Columbia University. I cannot leave out Leiden and its papyrological institute and show at least its links collection.

Those who think studying the ancient history of Egypt is harmless or disconnected from the present should surf to the website about the history of medieval Nubia. This site aims at bringing together many resources. It has been the target of several internet attacks during the last week of this month. I found this site in a link collection for the classic period of papyri. There are also papyri with Arabic texts. The university of Zürich, host to the International Society for Arabic Papyrology, has started a project for an online Arabic Papyrology School.

The university of Heidelberg is working on the digitization of old Egyptological literature, including the Description de l’Égypte. Therefore even if the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and its digital library would be cut off from the web, you can still look online at the mighty volumes of this enterprise. The Dutch newspaper presenting the exhibition in Haarlem headed the article with the words ‘Battle lost, knowledge gained’ (Slag verloren, kennis gewonnen). Switching off the internet is a battle lost.