Tag Archives: Roman law

Guillaume Budé, a (legal) humanist

Image folder congress May 2018How did the interest in the history of Roman law start in Early Modern Europe? In the Middle Ages scholars who got access to the famous Codex Florentinus, a sixth-century manuscript with the text of Justinian’s Digest, for centuries hold at Pisa, did notice the Greek elements. We call the scholars who started to study Classical Antiquity and literature in its full depth and width humanists. The Renaissance in Italy spread quickly to other parts of Europe. In France Guillaume Budé (1468-1540) quickly became one of the foremost humanists. From May 3 to 5, 2018 an international congress will be held in Paris with the glorious title Les Noces de Philologie et de Guillaume Budé. L’œuvre de Guillaume Budé au prisme du savoir humaniste cinq siècles et demi après sa naissance. How did philology and Budé come together? In this post I will look at this upcoming scholarly event, and at Budé and his heritage.

A versatile scholar

The sections of the congress in May 2018 will look at different themes. The first section focuses on Budé’s mastery of Greek and his contributions as a Hellenist. In the second section scholars will discuss how Budé read not only works by Classical authors, but also by his contemporaries. Legal humanism and politics are the central theme of the third section. Budé as an author and especially the creator of dictionaries comes into focus in the following section. The fifth section is devoted to a single book, De assethe model monograph of Budé about Roman coins and much more. A section concerning the reception of his works and Budé’s afterlife and reputation will close the congress.

In the section on legal humanism scholars will tackle various subjects and questions. Patrick Arabeyre will discuss to what extent more traditional lawyers in the first half of the sixteenth century were influenced by legal humanists and their books in their own works. In a way this is a paper about the importance of the mos gallicus, the nickname for the new approach to law associated with French humanists. It is good to keep in mind that some Italian lawyers, in particular Andrea Alciato, taught also in France. The Annotationes in XXIV libros Pandectarum and the traces of Budé’s developing views are the subject of a paper by Jean Céard. Decades ago Douglas Osler already fulminated against those scholars who without any reflection took any nearby copy of this work as their only source, see his articles ‘Budeaus and Roman law’, Ius Commune 13 (1985) 195-212, and ‘Turning the title page’, Rechtshistorisches Journal 6 (1987) 173-182. Michel-Dominique Couzinet will look at philosophy and history in the Institution d’un prince, his only work in French. Guillaume Budé and Thomas More’s Utopia are the theme of a paper by Michel Magnien. This section just happens to be the only one with exclusively French speakers.

Portrait of Budé by Jean Clouet

Portrait of Guillaume Budé by Jean Clouet (died 1540) – painting, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – image Wikimedia Commons

A quick look at Budé – or Budaeus, the latinized form of his name – learns you that he was indeed a towering figure. He translated Plutarch from the Greek. His Commentarii linguae Graecae led the foundation for Estienne’s Thesaurus linguae Graecae, the first major Greek dictionary. Budé was a secretary of king Louis XII, and was later close to François I for whom he created a library at Fontainebleau with a collection of Greek manuscripts that would later become the core of the modern Bibliothèque nationale de France. In 1530 he was one of the founders of the Collège de France, first named Collège Royal. As a royal officer Budé was chosen in 1522 to serve a year as prevôt des marchands in Paris, a function in which he had to deal with commerce in Paris and the powerful Parisian merchants. His study of Roman coinage in De Asse was not only a vehicle for showing his skills as a scholar of ancient numismatics, but in this work he wanted to gain and show insight in Roman culture and society. A French summarized translation appeared in 1523 [Sommaire ou epitome du livre de asse (Paris: Galliot du Pré, 1522 (=1523))]. Budé would not have been a true humanist without an extensive correspondence with other humanists from Étienne Dolet and François Rabelais to Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas More.

Budé’s reputation and reception

A society active in France for the promotion of editions and translations of Classical texts has the appropriate name Association Guillaume Budé. You can find its journal, the Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budéonline at the Persée portal, from its start in 1923 up to 2015. The Institute d’Histoire et Recherche des Texts (IRHT) in Paris and Orléans has created a database concerning the transmission of ancient and medieval texts with an acronym, Base Unique de Documentation Encyclopédique, BUDE, which you can access after registration. It is astonishing Budé figures with only two editions of his works, but luckily two 1543 editions of the Annotationes are among the books digitized in Les Bibliothèques Virtuelles des Humanistes (Université de Tours), a project which figured here in 2013.

Banner BP16

Speaking of digital libraries, the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC, University of St. Andrews) will show more than 300 titles of works and editions by Budé. Increasingly the USTC contains links to digitized versions of sixteenth and seventeenth-century books. In the database BP16: Bibliographie des éditions parisiennes du 16e siècle of the BnF, based on the bibliographical work of Philippe Renouard and Brigitte Moreau, Budé figures with 65 works printed in Paris in the sixteenth century, i.e. editions, single publication and works of authors with whom he was associated. Humanists often wrote prologues, poems and recommendations which authors included in their publications.

Ciover of H.E. Troje's "Crisis digestorum"

As for Budé and his work on the Justinian Digest I would not dare to say here anything without first at least mentioning the last study of the late Hans Erich Troje, “Crisis digestorum”. Studien zur historia pandectarum (Frankfurt am Main 2011). Troje died on October 11, 2017. Since his 1971 book Graeca leguntur Troje patiently studied the way humanist scholars looked at the sources of Roman law. The ways the Digest was viewed and studied developed in an intricate interplay of preparations for new editions of the text in the Codex Florentinus, a most complex manuscript, and reading and valuing both published editions and commentaries by leading humanists. Access to the venerable manuscript in Florence and to Angelo Poliziano’s notes about it proved crucial. A few years ago I was happy to summarize here the excellent introduction to the Pandette manuscript and its history by Davide Baldi who shows you nicely the difficulties facing you when you want approach and understand this precious manuscript.

It would go beyond the scope of this post to look systematically at recent publications about Budé, but I cannot resist mentioning here an edition of some of his letters in La correspondance de Guillaume Budé et Juan Luis Vives, Gilbert Tournoy (ed.) (Leuven 2015). Marie-Madeleine de La Garanderie and Luigi-Alberto Sanchi published a volume with articles under the title Guillaume Budé, philosophe de la culture (Paris 2010). The title and contents show nicely the many ways one can view Budé and the high esteem he still enjoys. The Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé is a sure port of call to find new studies, notes about sources and reviews of recent publications. In many cases you will Budé encounter anyway when you study the spread of humanism and its very particular offspring, legal humanism. His broad interests, the depth of his learning and the size of his network are probably too daunting for scholars to embark on a full biography of this remarkable figure. If anyone nowadays is able to take up this challenge you will soon think of Anthony Grafton. He showed more than a passing interest for Budé in his study Commerce with the ClassicsAncient Books and Renaissance Readers (Ann Arbor, MI, 1997). After his books on Scaliger and Casaubon Budé would seem an obvious choice for a sequel. Hopefully the conference in Paris will bring new and interesting views, and perhaps the spur for a much needed monograph on Budaeus.


A true professor: Knut Wolfgang Nörr, legal historian and lawyer

Knut Wolfgang NörrIn the midst of all kind of things, not only preparing new posts for this blog, I read news which made me pause for thought, and more than that. It is truly sad to hear that Knut Wolfgang Nörr passed away on January 15, 2018. Last week Thomas Duve, one of the directors of the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main, wrote a brief message about Nörr’s death on the institute’s website. At the university of Tübingen his colleague Jan Schröder wrote a somewhat longer but still very concise in memoriam with however a very full treatment. In fact it is hard to believe you can tell anything about him with so few words. When you look at the enlarged version of the portrait photo it is even more striking how he looked almost unchanged over the years. Here I would like to share a few of my memories of meeting Professor Nörr many years ago, and I will briefly look at his work in the field of medieval canon law. I am sure they show sides of him which are equally telling about his person, his life and achievements as a scholar as more profound obituaries which he truly deserves.

A true professor

Jan Schröder succeeds wonderfully in creating a most lively image of Knut Wolfgang Nörr (1935-2018), a man of many gifts. Legal historians tend to see him as a major specialist in the field of medieval canon law, but he made also important contributions to the study of contemporary German law. It was Stephan Kuttner who guided his first research in the field of medieval ecclesiastical law, resulting in his first book around a theme connected with the Council of Basel, Kirche und Konzil bei Nicolaus de Tudeschis (Panormitanus) (diss. Munich 1960; Cologne 1964). Nörr used here the person of the Sicilian canonist Niccolò de Tedeschi (1386-1445) as a focus for a study of views on the balance between church and councils. His versatility became soon visible in his Habilitationsschrift on the position of judges within Early Modern legal procedure, Zur Stellung des Richters im gelehrten Prozess der Frühzeit: Judex secundum allegata non secundum conscientiam judicat (Munich 1967). Nörr became in 1966 a professor at Bonn, and went in 1971 to Tübingen where he would stay despite several alluring calls from other universities.

Combining the history of legal procedure and medieval canon law became a hallmark of his work, but he was equally equipped to study the history of German law, for example with a pioneering study of private law during the Weimar Republic, Zwischen den Mühlsteinen : eine Privatrechtsgeschichte der Weimarer Republik (Tübingen 1988), and crowned with a study on the history of economic law in post-war Germany, Die Republik der Wirtschaft : Recht, Wirtschaft und Staat in der Geschichte Westdeutschlands (2 vol., Tübingen 1990-2007). The results of his research were published also in a steadily flow of articles, a number of those concerning civil procedure were republished in the volume Judicium est actus trium personarum : Beiträge zur Geschichte des Zivilprozessrechts in Europa (Goldbach 1993).

In the field of medieval canon law he looked in particular at the way the papacy used law, not only in papal decretals, letters with decisions by papal delegates, usual bishops or abbots, but also at the courts of the papal curia in Rome. Looking at the titles of his articles and their sequence it shines through how he delved new roads to look at the relevant sources. The importance of his work on medieval procedure is perhaps most visible in the creation of the series Der Einfluss der Kanonistik auf die europäische Rechtskultur, Orazio Condorelli et alii (edd.) (4 vol., Cologne-Weimar-Vienna 2009-2014) in which three volumes deal with legal procedure. Thanks to Knut Wolfgang Nörr the very substantial role of canon law in legal procedure is taken into account in any study of the history of legal procedure, an achievement very much also following his teacher Stephan Kuttner who stressed the role of medieval canon law for criminal law.

Some personal notes

I had promised you not to look only at the publications of Knut Wolfgang Nörr, but seeing this overview helps you to understand what a towering figure he was, certainly in the eyes of a young graduate student. In summer 1991 I came to Tübingen for a period of research for my Ph.D. thesis. My second supervisor, Alain Wijffels (Leiden and Louvain-la-Neuve) had helped me to get support from the university of Tübingen. I had made an appointment at the law faculty, but I was not quite prepared for what happened next. Nörr welcomed me friendly, assuming I would defend my thesis at Leiden University, quod non, but after telling him about my purpose and study plan he did something else, too. He gave me the name of a student assistant whom I could contact for practical matters, and he walked me to the university library. In a seemingly old-fashioned but very effective way he introduced me to the staff of the department for rare books and manuscripts. Twenty-five years ago the electronic library catalogue at Tübingen was still in an early phase, and not all old works had yet been entered. Therefore he handed me the old hand written catalogue of legal books, and urged me to look it through completely before starting with reading specific medieval and Early Modern works.

To illustrate the riches of Tübingen’s university library for legal history Nörr told me a story about another visitor. On a certain occasion he had taken Domenico Maffei, a connaisseur of old legal books, to the library stacks, and left him with the old legal books. After half an hour Nörr looked for Maffei, and found him still between the stacks, murmuring again and again: “Scandalo, scandalo!”. “What is the scandal?”, Nörr asked him, and Maffei answered the scandal was not the stunning presence of many rare books, surprisingly often with more than one copy, but the fact this collection had survived the ages and now was only seldom used.

The Bonatzbau (1912) of Tübingen University - image Wikimedia Commons

I spent part of the following summer again in Tübingen to benefit from the rich holdings of the university library. For at least one particular genre of Early Modern legal books it would be impossible to write its history without taking the collections at Tübingen into consideration, but it is closer to the truth to say that only the Universitätsbibliothek Tübingen made me thinking about this genre. I hope to follow and complete my investigations. Most of all, I cherish the foundations I could lay for such research thanks to the gentle support of Professor Nörr and the efforts of the library staff.

A second loss

While musing about my fond memories I remembered another thing. Knut Wolfgang Nörr belonged to a family with three of Germany’s best lawyers, a Dreigestern (three-star). Last year Dieter Nörr (1931-2017), too, passed away. In my Munich years I worked at the Abteilung B for German and Bavarian legal history of the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte, but luckily I was also in touch with the department for the legal history of Classical Antiquity in its fullest extent. Dieter Nörr, his colleagues and the marvellous library for ancient law ensure that yearly many young scholars come to Munich. For me it was striking to see during the famous Roman law seminar the similarities between the two brothers, in particular his humility and humour in admitting something was too difficult for him to solve. The In Memoriam on the institute’s website says infinitely more about him.

A true professor inspires not only by his research, teaching and publications, but with his whole person, his behaviour and way of living. Knut Wolfgang Nörr set an example of questioning existent views, immersing himself in the matters at stake and charting new territories, and perhaps above all, taking interest in people and sharing his curiosity and wisdom. Even in the few times I met him these qualities were visible. The community of legal historians has lost again one of its giants. Let’s keep alive the sparkle that lived so strong in Knut Wolfgang and Dieter Nörr!

On studying the Theodosian Code

Banner Cedant- Il codice Teodsoiano

It is a good tradition to start here every year with a post about Roman law. Sometimes a new resource deserves attention, but this year I want to look at a text, the Theodosian Code, because it will be at the heart of a three-week course at Pavia with the title The Theodosian Code: Complilation, Transmission, Reception. The week is hosted by the center CEDANT (Centro di studi e ricerche sui Diritti Antichi) from January 8 to 26, 2018 at the Collegio Ghislieri. The course will be led by Detlev Liebs (Universität Freiburg) and Dario Mantovani (Università degli Studi di Pavia). In particular the partial tradition of the Codex Theodosianus has been the subject of investigation. Only a part of its text has survived the centuries in its original form, and a critical tradition arrived only belatedly. The edition in 1905 by Theodor Mommsen and Paul Meyer did not solve all riddles. The participants of the course in Pavia have the chance to hear about the latest developments in scholarly research from the very scholars who delve into this work of legislation from Late Antiquity. In this post I propose to create a kind of nutshell guide to the current state of knowledge.

New knowledge about an old text

Modern research does of course not lose sight of the critical edition published by Mommsen and Meyer, Theodosiani libri XVI cum constitutionibus Sirmondianis et leges novellae ad Theodosianum pertinentes (2 vol., Berlin 1905), but we tend to look in this century first to its availability online. Only its first volume in the Internet Archive is everywhere accessible online without having to use a U.S proxy. Perhaps you want to start 2018 with finally using this and similar tools. Klaus Graf explained a few days ago again concisely how to start using a proxy for Hathi Trust. For quick reference one can turn to the digitized version with only the text at The Latin Library. We will see to which source the cross references in this online edition point. Another quick way to the text is provided by the invaluable Amanuensis app of Peter Riedlberger and Günther Rosenbaum, introduced here in 2015. You can run his program also on your computer. There is no excuse nowadays for not giving references to the main text of Roman law. Clyde Pharr’s The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian Constitutions: A Translation with Commentary, Glossary, and Bibliography (Princeton, NJ, 1952) provides you with a helpful translation in English of this code which assembled acts of Roman legislation between 311 and 437 AD.

Paul Krüger (1840-1926) could only publish an edition of the books I-VIII (2 vol., Berlin 1923-1926). He would surely have pursued this path, but he died before he could achieve this. In an earlier post I looked at his legacy, in particular at his papers hold at the Library of Congress. Krüger had worked together with Mommsen on a complete edition of the Corpus Iuris Civilis, but Mommsen decided to finish his own edition of the Codex Theodosianus without even mentioning Krüger on the title page of the edition.

Logo Pôlib - Lille

Having access to a text is one thing, approaching it in the right way is another. Probably the best way to start is to go to the version in the Roman Law Library created by Yves Lassard and Aleksandr Koptiev at the Université Grenoble-Alpes. Here the Constitutiones Sirmondianae and other texts are clearly distinguished from the main body of the Theodosian Code. The code came into force in 438 AD. Lassard and Koptiev give in separate sections the text of the Gesta Senatus Romani de Theodosiano publicando and the Leges novellae ad Theodosianum pertinentes. They also guide you to the digital version created at Lille of the Leipzig 1736-1745 edition of the version published by Jacques Godefroy (1587-1652). They point in their digital library correctly to a digitized version in the Internet Archive of the second volume of the Mommsen-Meyer editions with the Theodosian Novellae.

As a student I was intrigued by the title of the Constitutiones Sirmondianae. Jacques Sirmond (1559-1651) was a French Jesuit who published editions of many early medieval ecclesiastical authors. His fame for later generations rests upon his editio princeps in Appendix Codicis Theodosiani novis constitutionibus cumulatior (…) (Paris: Cramoisy, 1631, online, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Rome) of a number of missing constitutions in the editions that had appeared until his time. Of course the fame of this edition is a relative thing: you will see that only the German Wikipedia article for Sirmond mentions it.

Centuries of scholarship

With Godefroy and Sirmond we entered the field of legal humanism and erudite scholarship, and we have to note another thing that somehow is not always clear. The textual tradition of the sources of Roman law rests only for a small part on inscriptions and papyri from Classical Antiquity. Medieval manuscripts and Early Modern editions are very important. Earlier scholars might have seen manuscripts that no longer exist or are mutilated. Sometimes manuscripts were simply destroyed after the printer had finished an edition.

Late Antiquity is the perspective of the Projet Volterra at University College London, named in honour of Edoardo Volterra (1904-1984), with the Law and Empire AD 193-455 (“Project Volterra I”) database which helps you to search efficiently for laws concerning particular subjects or from a particular emperor. The section Early Medieval Texts is a fair attempt to create a nutshell portal for early medieval legal history, and the parallel section Resources for Roman law is perhaps even better, with for example a section for online journals and an overview of online contents of other journals. You might want to look also at the website Roman Empire of Simon Corcoran, one of the main scholars in Projet Volterra. Sadly the link to the Projet Volterra version of books 1 to 8 of the Theodosian Code does not work currently.

Banner Biblioteca Legum

It should not be a complete surprise to find ample information about both the Codex Theodosianus and the Constitutiones Sirmondianae also at the website of a project concerning early medieval law, the Bibliotheca legum: Eine Handschriftendatenbank zum weltlichen Recht in Frankreich led by Karl Ubl (Universität Köln). The project website can be consulted in German and English. In the Bibliotheca legum Ubl and his team give concise introductions to a number of early medieval laws, in particular the so-called Völkerrechte (“Law of Peoples”). The first part of the Theodosian Code (books I-V) has been transmitted to us only in the Lex Visigothorum Romana, sometimes called the Breviarium Alaricianum – hence the reference to Brev. in the version of The Latin Library – and its abbreviated versions, with pride of place for the Epitome Aegidii, first edited in 1517 by Pieter Gillis. You can read more about this Flemish scholar in a post I wrote in 2016 around him and Thomas More’s Utopia. By now it is clear that dealing with the Theodosian Code means entering a constellation of related texts. The Bibliotheca legum leads you to existing editions of texts, to a current bibliography and to the manuscripts containing a particular text. Both for the older editions and the manuscripts you can often go to a digitized version. Ubl points to seventeen manuscripts for the Theodosian Code and ten manuscripts for the Constitutiones Sirmondianae. For the Lex Visigothorum Romana and its abbreviated forms 105 manuscripts are mentioned, and you will find even articles published in 2016 and 2017.

Studying the Codex Theodosianus is an international affair. Among the studies after 2000 Ubl mentions for example John F. Matthews, Laying down the law: a study of the Theodosian Code (New Haven, CT, 2000), A.J.B. Sirks, The Theodosian Code. A Study (Studia Amstelodamensia 39; Friedrichsdorf 2007) and the late José María Coma Fort, Codex Theodosianus. Historia de un texto (Madrid 2014), a study which you can download as a PDF. There is an updated version (2017) of the very useful article by Detlev Liebs, “Codex Theodosianus”, in: Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte 1 (2nd ed., 2008) col. 868-870) in the scholarly repository of the Universität Freiburg.

In this post I focused on the transmission and reception of the Codex Theodosianus. During the seminar at Pavia there will be attention also for the redaction of this code of law, with due attention to inscriptions and papyri, too. Boudewijn Sirks and Simon Corcoran will be among the scholars who will teach at Pavia a public of talented and hopefully most attentive students and graduate students about the latest findings and views concerning one of the great attempts in Late Antiquity to bring as much Roman laws together as humanly possible. As for myself, I learned at the very least a few things that needed to be added or corrected to the Roman law page of my legal history website Rechtshistorie. More importantly, I was most happy to see how a line of research starting with Johann Sichard, Jacques Godefroy and Jacques Sirmond through Gustav Haenel and Carlo Baudi di Vesme to Mommsen and Krüger is clearly kicking and alive in this century. Seeing the continuity, the disputes and new starts is a good thing!

A meeting of laws in ancient Egypt

Start screen Synallagma

In December 2009 I started my blog on legal history, and every year I look back in particular to see how far I succeeded in “spanning centuries and continents”, a phrase I used in an early post. The number of gaps and omissions is perhaps not as large anymore as I had feared, but some subjects and themes seem to escape my attention, or they are definitely outside my range. This week I encountered a subject which reminded me how historians can avoid a subject not only for some sound technical reasons, but also like a kind of elephant in the room, very visible but nevertheless almost not to be mentioned. When studying Roman law we long to see its influence everywhere in the Roman world, but there is a state of mind in the Roman world we do not often mention, the awe of the Romans for Greek culture. A redesigned website about contracts in Greek law can perhaps help to put the balance right. Ancient Greek law seldom figures here, another reason to look at this interesting project.

Ancient Greek law

How should one approach ancient Greek law? Even when I did not dare to write about it here I have been aware of the very useful Nomoi portal for this vast subject, hosted by the Simon Fraser University. The Digital Classicist Wiki gives you a fair idea of digital projects concerning Classical Antiquity. For the latest news you can often reckon on the marvellous Ancient World Online blog (AWOL) which figured here prominently in a 2016 post about journals for ancient legal history. In a post about inscriptions I did mention projects on the rim of the Roman empire, but in fact all countries around the Mediterranean and in the Near East form the territories of Classical Antiquity. I did not hesitate to mention papyri in that post, too.

In the project in the middle of this contribution a lot of themes come together: Greek law, inscriptions, papyri and Ptolemaic Egypt. The very title of the project Synallagma. Greek Contracts in Context goes with an explicit reference by its creator, Uri Yiftach (Tel Aviv University), to its earlier title, “Greek law in Roman times”, a phrase which indeed suggested Greek law is only a footnote or at its best a lesser relative of Roman law. Synallagma means originally mutual exchange. In the user guide and introduction Yiftach explains the working of this database with some 6,000 legal documents. With twelve fields you are able to filter for your specific search question. In the advanced search mode you can add search fields at will. In the overview of results the locations of documents, mainly in Egypt, take pride of place. Among the strengths of the Synallagma database are not only the references to the main overviews of inscriptions and papyri, but they will even directly link to them. You will see for example an embedded screen with information from Papyri.info, an aggregator of the main papyrological databases. These databases bring you to images, too.

A very useful function is the clauses section which distinguishes the elements of a contract. In the start screen you can select from twelve contract categories. You can set the presentation of search results in various orders. Thus it is easy to ascertain for example the first occurrence of a cheirographon in 247 BCE, and its latest in the eighth century CE, or to filter for contracts with women as one of the parties involved, in 1220 items. The drop down menu for gender includes also a couple, groups and forms of incorporation. Acts of sale dominate with 2820 items, followed by petitions and applications. some 2,500 items, nearly 1,600 lease contracts, and nearly 1,400 loans and deposits. The sum is higher than the total of 6,000 items, and one can readily assume the petitions concern all kind of contracts. There are 420 laws and decrees.

From Greek law to the Roman empire

P.Rain Cent. 166 - image Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

P. Rain. Cent. 166 – image Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

I was intrigued by the testamentary dispositions (235 items) in the Synallagma database. When I saw two of them stem from Ravenna in the sixth century CE I could not help being greatly interested from the perspective of Roman law. Alas the two papyri, P.Ital.-01-00004-and 5, dated 552-575, and P.Ital. 01-00006 from 575 did not show up correctly at first in Synallagma. At Papyri.info only P.Ital. 1.4-5 (ChLA 17.653) is present. P.Ital I refers to the edition by Jan-Olof Tjäder, Die nichtliterarischen lateinischen Papyri Italiens aus der Zeit 445-700 (Lund 1955). In the Trismegistos database (TM) P. Ital. 1-6 (ChLA 2.714) is recorded as a Latin text in Greek script. ChLA stands for Chartae Latinae Antiquiores, and you can search for items in ChLA using an online database.

Synallagma notes two other documents from Ravenna. The first is P. Rain. Cent. 166 / ChLA 45.1346 = P. Ital I 10 = TM 35870, a Latin act of sale from the sixth or seventh century CE, digitized at Vienna. Another act of sale from 151 CE (SB 6 304, TM 18822) in a papyrus held at Giessen which turns out to be a wax tablet, written in Latin with passages in Greek script. You can read about it online in a study by Hans Georg Gundel, Antiker Kaufvertrag auf einer Wachstafel aus Ravenna (Giessen 1960). Papyri.info has a checklist for the most used editions and their abbreviations. I have on purpose expanded some of these references to papyri, but in fact I left much more out as you can check yourself.

Logo Trismegistos

Recently appeared a volume of essays with the title Ravenna: its role in earlier medieval change and exchange (London 2016), edited by Judith Herrin and Jinty Nelson, now put online in open access by the School of Advanced Study in London. Simon Corcoran contributed an article on ‘Roman law in Ravenna’ (pp. 163-198) and looked also at the evidence of papyri. Trismegistos makes it very clear that many hundred papyri stem from Ravenna, but only 70 are dated later than 400 CE.

One of the few quibbles I have with Synallagma is the absence of a possibility to save your results. No doubt such features are present for those who register with the project, and do not stay content with the guest access I used. You can frown on me for leaving Synallagma so quickly for the lures of papyrological databases, and eventually even for Roman law, but we should admit Synallagma inspires you to check such resources and link them with your own favorite subjects.

As for linking places with objects I cannot help adding here a link to Peripleo, the latest jewel in the crown of the Pelagios initiative. It offers nothing less than an interactive map where you can click on modern and ancient locations to find objects from Classical Antiquity associated with them. Miraculously there is no direct entry for Ravenna, but in one of its supporting resources, the Pleiades gazetteer, it is present, clearly a case of oversight. You might feel sometimes almost sick from manoeuvring from one site to another, but did scholars not use to work with piles of books in front of them to find their way? By patiently combining and comparing information, and as often as possible looking at projects or studies with a very particular search angle such as Synallagma, you can build slowly and cautiously but also consistently. Hopefully such resources will surprise you also every now and then with insights that help you decisively.

Between French and Roman law: Li livres de jostice et de plet

Image of the Livres de jostice de plet - image source: ENC / BNFA few days after the celebrations of Quatorze Juillet, the French national day, I looked in the digital library with editions of the École nationale de Chartes, one of the French grands établissements, the famous school for the training of archivists and palaeographers. Not only can you find here a heading Édition de textes juridiques, but the text edited here anew and online since November 2016, Li livres de jostice et de plet, belongs to the classic legal texts of medieval France. The edition appeared online in 2016. Interestingly this text survives in its entirety only in a single manuscript at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ms. fr. 2844). The text shows clear influences of Roman law, a fact sometimes used to frown upon. How sensible is it to judge the value of its text depending on the presence or absence of influences? It seems useful to look at it here in some detail, also because the new edition curated by Graziella Pastore comes into its own thanks to an accompanying website with more information, a combination that could serve as a model.

Between two laws

Li livres de jostice de plet is a treatise written in Old French and composed in the mid-thirteenth century in the Orléanais, the region around Orleans. Its twenty chapters follow the divisions of the Digesta Iustiniani: The chapters 1 to 10 follow the Digestum Vetus (D. 1 to D. 24.2), chapters 11 and 12 correspond with the Infortiatum (D. 24.3-D. 38), and the remaining chapters 13 to 20 with the Digestum Novum (D. 38-D. 50). The university of Orleans was famous for its law faculty, a fact which came into new light only since the twentieth century in research conducted at Leiden. I will refer to both universities later on.

In the edition published in 1850 by P.N. Rapetti – online in the Internet Archive – the parts of the chapters which contained translations of the Justinian Digest had been skipped. The manuscript Paris, BnF, ms. français 2844 has been digitized (Gallica). Some rather prominent notes written in later centuries show up on the cover and the first pages of the black-and-white digitized microfilm. The description of the edition explains that two other manuscripts have been adduced to complete textual lacunae in the part corresponding to the Infortiatum.The manuscript Bordeaux BM, 354 can be consulted online in the Selène digital library of the Bibliothèque Municipale in Bordeaux, but I could not find an online version of the other manuscript, Rouen BM 794. The use of these manuscript reminded met about my post last year about medieval laws in translation where I did not mention the Livres de jostice et de plet. In the online Catalogue collectif de France you can restrict your search to manuscripts and archives, and you will find in it information about both manuscripts, although this often leads you only to the nineteenth-century Catalogue général. On the other hand, the information about the manuscript BnF, ms. fr. 2844 given in the online edition is also very general. In the new edition all paragraphs with direct translations from the Digest are given in blue print.

In my earlier post I referred to the online bibliography of the Dictionnaire étymologique de l’ancien français (DEAF), and this time I was much more aware how succinct the information it gives is. Interestingly there are two articles for the Livres de jostice et de plet, the first for the old edition without the Digest fragments, the second for those parts taken over from Roman law edited by Pastore. The entry in the DEAF points even to some mistakes in her edition.

Another rather elemental thing jumped into my face: How should one translate the title of this treatise, and where do we find online information about Old French? Jostice is clearly to be associated with justice, but plet is not a quite transparent word. Luckily a number of French dictionaries can be consulted online, including those for medieval French. The ATILF platform leads you to research projects, digital text corpora and dictionaries such as the Dictionnaire du Moyen Français for medieval French between 1300 and 1500, and the bibliography for the Godefroy, the nickname of the Dictionnaire de l’ancienne langue française et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe siècle edited by Frédéric Godefroy (10 vol., Paris 1880-1905), digitized in the Gallica digital library of the BnF. It is also very nifty accessible at Lexilogos with an option to switch dictionaries. Godefroy brings you to the word plait, with as its primary meaning “accord, convention, traité”, but also “procès, querelle, jugement, discussion”, to mention only the most relevant meanings. The compact dictionary edited by the famous linguist A. Greimas, Dictionnaire de l’ancien français jusqu’au milieu du XIVe siècle (Paris 1968) gives for plait seven main meanings with brief examples.

The etymology of plait is revealing: Plait stems from placitum, explained in the lemma plaid as being conform to the will. In Italian legal history the placita are charters with verdicts which contain in a number of cases formulaic references to Justinian’s Digest. Only in the eleventh century such references clearly point to actual use of the Digest. The online version of the DEAF with a preliminary version of the letters G to K gives a very elaborate lemma for justice and its various spellings. It is seducing to translate the title of the treatise with an alliteration, The Book of Justice and Judgment, but “The Book of Justice and Procedure” seems a reasonable translation.

The second website

Banner "Li livres de jostice et de plet"

On purpose I wrote the first part of my post without using the accompanying website, in the hope it will correct some of my findings and anyway tell us much more than I can do here. However, I cannot hide some mixed feelings in my first impressions. The second website is to a large extent a kind of pilot project for the proper use of meta-data. In fact in the introduction Pastore states this clearly. With just twenty titles in the bibliography and five persons discussed in the biographical section this seems too much of a good thing, especially when you see the wide range of possible output forms and the thoughtful addition of preset links to a host of websites, catalogues and digital libraries. Pastore mentions at the second site only the 1918 offprint of an article by Henri Stein, ‘Conjectures sur l’auteur du Livre de jostice et de plet’, Nouvelle revue historique de droit français et étranger 41 (1917) 346-382, but it figures correct in the bibliographical section of her introduction to the online edition. Stein’s contribution is not included at all in the online Bibliographie d’histoire du droit en langue française (Université de Lorraine, Nancy). The bibliography at the second website consists of printed and online editions of archival resources and texts, but the critical studies do not figure in it. The DEAF bibliography refers to a short article by Jaana Seppänen, ‘”Livre de jostice et de plet” – un texte à rééditer?’, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 91 (1990) 153-156. The references in Stein’s article were used as materials to give some bones to this prototype website.

The section Le manuscrit brings you to an embedded version of the digitized microfilm of the manuscript, and to a link for the description of it in the Jonas database of the IRHT at Paris-Orléans. This database with a repertory of medieval manuscripts with texts in medieval French and Occitan gives a short description of the manuscript in the BnF – essentially: written on parchment, 200 folia, dimensions: 350 x 270 mm; language: French (langue d’oil); datation: 1260-1275; origin: Orléanais-Île de France, and the incipit of the main text – and refers for more details to an upcoming article by Graziella Pastore and [Frédéric] Duval, ‘La tradition française de l’Infortiat et le Livre de jostice et de plet’ in the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes, one of the oldest European history journals; it appeared in 2017 in BEC 121 (2013) 199-226. The issues from 1840 to 2012 can be consulted online at Persée. The entry in the Jonas database does not give the first name of Duval. You might want to check in the online bibliography of the Regesta Imperii how many medievalists share the name Duval! At Academia you can look at a poster created by Pastore concerning the matters to be discussed in the promised article, and even better, you can view online a registration of her lecture about Li livres de jostice et de plet given at the École nationale de Chartes on November 29, 2016 for the presentation of the online edition. The results she announces in her lecture make you impatient to read the full story. I will not give a complete spoiler here, but one of the elements which comes into focus is the role of medieval canon law.

The Jonas database does not indicate the presence at the start of the BnF manuscript of a royal ordinance from 1254 (fol. 1r-3r) and some chapters of the Établissements de Saint Louis at fol. 3r-4r, things duly noted by Rapetti. His introduction is certainly still worth reading. For further study of this second legal text the translation by F.R.P. Akehurst, The Etablissements de Saint Louis. Thirteenth-century legal texts from Tours, Orléans and Paris (Philadelphia, 1996) offers itself as a starting point. Of course Pastore should get credits for giving some information about five historical figures around the Livres de jostice et de plet, but you would want to have not only references to old editions or to Stein’s article. These persons were mainly officers with a royal charge, for example baillif (bailli), and their presence is suggestive. A recent essay by Bernard Ribémont, ‘Compiling and writing a legal treatise in France: the Livre de Jostice et de Plet’, in: News from the Raven: Essays from Sam Houston State University on Medieval and Renaissance Thought, Darci N. Hill (ed.) (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2014) 133-142, gives you an idea of paths to pursue. Ribémont does look in particular at the role of medieval canon law and the way canon law texts were translated and adapted in the Livres de jostice et de plet.

Between Paris and Orleans

In my view there is another fruitful way to approach these legal treatises, by paying attention to the university of Orleans. Only last year the online legal history journal Clio@Themis published a special dedicated to the theme La forge du droit. Naissance des identités juridiques en Europe (IVe-XIIIe siècles), “The forge of law. The birth of legal identities in Europe (4th-13th centuries)”, with an article by Kees Bezemer (Leiden), ‘Jacques de Revigny (d. 1296): Roman law as a means to shape French law’. His footnotes refer to a number of his own publications, including ‘French customs in the commentaries of Jacques de Revigny’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 62 (1994) 81-112. Bezemer devoted a book to Revigny, What Jacques saw. Thirteenth-century France through the eyes of Jacques de Revigny, professor of law at Orleans (Frankfurt am Main, 1997). Custom law in the eyes of De Revigny is the subject of the thesis of Laurent Waelkens (Universiteit Leuven) defended thirty years ago at Leiden, La théorie de la coutume chez Jacques de Révigny: édition et analyse de sa répétition sur la loi De quibus (D. 1, 3, 32) (Leiden, 1984). Sadly the online bibliography at Nancy does not contain this study of Waelkens, and for Bezemer only one publication has been entered. Bezemer and Waelkens follow the lead of the late Robert Feenstra who had entered the paths first walked by Eduard Maurits Meijers (1880-1954).

We will probably have to look also at an earlier generation of professors at Orleans, to the predecessors of Jacques de Revigny and Pierre de Belleperche, such as Guido de Cumis and Jean de Monchy. In this respect and for a good balance I have to mention a study by Marie Bassano, “Dominus domini mei dixit. . . “; Enseignement du droit et construction d’une identité des juristes et de la science juridique. Le studium d’Orléans (c. 1230-c. 1320) (Ph.D. thesis, Université Paris-2, 2008).

There is a clear need to look past the blinkers! From my point of view there seems to be a gap between an outdated belief on one side that any influence of Roman law in French medieval legal history is harmful, perhaps because this legal system contributed to the power of the French kings, and on the other side the fact Roman law offered itself as a normative system with the possibility to give legal customs a proper place. The French kings had indeed strong ambitions to become as powerful as their English counterpart and the German emperor, and they, too, enlisted everything and everyone that seemed useful for that purpose, with or without explicit use of Roman law. The online edition of Graziella Pastore should indeed offer yet another stimulus to look again at France in the thirteenth century in an open way. Using the French translations of Meijers’ articles concerning Orléans and French law provided by Robert Feenstra and H.FW.D. Fischer [Études d’histoire du droit (4 vol., Leiden 1956-1973)], and the studies of Bezemer and Waelkens, often accessible in French, give us the critical mass to do this. Let’s hope Pastore quickly puts things in order at the second website and brings us the promised new article in the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes which should do justice to the almost two centuries long tradition of the École nationale des Chartes.

A postscript

On September 22, 2017 Kees Bezemer will retire from Leiden University after 42 years. A meeting in his honour will be held at the Law Faculty.

Graziella Pastore kindly provided me with complete information about her article which finally has been published. The second website is indeed a prototype she built around Stein’s article. Pastore pointed me also to the description of the manuscript at the BnF in the Miroir des classiques project of Frédéric Duval at the École nationale des Chartes.

Opening a book: Simon van Leeuwen and Dutch history

Portrait of Simon van Leeuwen by P. Philippe, 1662 - Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Portrait of Simon van Leeuwen by P. Philippe, 1662 – engraving, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

In the galaxy of lawyers in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic Hugo Grotius is at the very center. Other lawyers are judged according to their contributions to legal doctrine. In this view Simon van Leeuwen (1626-1682) would figure near the outer rim, because he was more a compiler and commentator. Nevertheless, he shared with Grotius among other things an interest in Dutch history. In this post I would like to look at Van Leeuwen’s books, and in particular his posthumously published work on Dutch history. This year I could benefit time and again from its information while researching the lives of some people living in the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic. My curiosity to find out more about his works prompted me to write here in my series Opening a book. Van Leeuwen translated for example also a work in the field of world history. My search brought me back to the repertory of Dutch Early Modern historians, Repertorium van geschiedschrijvers in Nederland 1500-1800 by E.O.G. Haitsma Mulier and G. van der Lem (The Hague 1990), now also available online in the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren.

A prolific writer

If you check for Simon van Leeuwen in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands you will get nearly ninety hits, and the earliest book shown is his edition in 1651 of a work by Quintyn Weytsen, Een tractaet van avarien, a work about general average, cases in maritime law about unavoidable damage to ships, a matter dealt with here three years ago. In 1652 van Leeuwen published his first own book, Paratitula juris novissimi dat is Een kort begrip van het Rooms-Hollandts-reght (Leiden 1652), with in the subtitle the term that made him famous, the Rooms-Hollands recht, the Roman-Dutch Law. I had expected the exhibit of the Robbins Collections of Berkely’s School of Law would at last resurface on its redesigned website, but as for now you can only view the starting page of The Roman-Dutch Legal Tradition. Notaries are the subject of his following book, Notarius publicus, dat is, De practycke ende oeffeninge der notarissen (first edition, Dordrecht 1657), but actually it had already been printed a year earlier as an additional part of the second edition of the Paratitula (Leiden 1656). In this book he offers also a dictionary of Dutch law terms, including the neologisms coined by Grotius in his Inleidinge tot de Hollandsche regtsgeleerdheid (1631).

Cover öf the "cesnura foresnsis", 1662 - source: STCN

Cover of the first edition of Van Leeuwen’s “Censura forensis” (Leiden 1662) – copy Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; image: STCN

Van Leeuwen’s practice as a lawyer explains to some extent his choice of subjects. He was born in Leiden where he studied literature and law at the university. After receiving his law degree in 1646 he started as a barrister in The Hague at the Hof van Holland and the Supreme Council, and later in Leiden. In 1681 he returns to the Dutch Supreme Council, the Hoge Raad van Holland en Zeeland. In 1659 appeared his first work on Dutch history, Redeningh over den oorspronck, reght, ende onderscheyt der edelen, ende wel-borenen in Hollandt, literally translated “an argument about the origin, law and distinction of noblemen and gentry in Holland”, a subject which should indeed interest people in a country that aspired to be a real republic of equal citizens. In 1659 appeared also his translation of a book by Petrus Peckius (1529-1589), De iure sistendi, with the Dutch title Verhandelinghe van handt-opleggen ende besetten: dat is, Arrest op persoon ende goederen (Leiden 1659), a book about the way one could arrest people and legally seize goods. His following book is in Latin, which no doubt helped to get noticed by lawyers all over Europe, Censura forensis, theoretico-practica id est Totius juris civilis, Romani […] methodica collatio (Lugduni Batavorum 1662).

A year later appeared an even more ambitious work, an enlarged version of the edition by Denis Godefroy and Antonius Anselmus of the Corpus Iuris Civilis (Amsterdam-Leiden 1663). A few years later Van Leeuwen chose a more restricted subject, court procedure, in his Manier van procederen in civile en criminele saaken (Leiden 1666). In 1667 appeared his translation of a work in Latin on Persian history by Johannes de Laet (1593-1649), Voyagien, naa, en door het groot en magtige koninkryk van Persia (Amsterdam 1667) [Persia seu Regni Persici status variaque itinera in atque per Persiam]. De Laet (latinized Laetius), a student at Leiden of Scaliger, was a pioneer of comparative linguistics and world geography, and also a governor of the Dutch West India Company. Van Leeuwen commands our respect for his wide interest and his personal combination of global and more local matters.

In 1667 Van Leeuwen published also two editions of sources, the Handvesten ende privilegien van den lande van Rijnland, met den gevolge van dien, and Costumen, keuren, ende ordonnantien, van het baljuschap ende lande van Rijnland, in particular ordinances and privileges of Rijnland, the area around Leiden which in one particular respect, water government, formed a unity. We shall see below how he used these sources in the work published only after his death. in 1671 appeared a work on the history of Roman law he wrote together with Arnoldus Vinnius (1588-1657), De origine & progressu juris civilis Romani authores & fragmenta veterum juris consultorum, to which he contributed two chapters.

The last independent work published during Van Leeuwen’s life was a book on the history of Leiden, Korte besgryving van het Lugdunum Batavorum nu Leyden (Leiden 1672). The collection of legal consultations Bellum juridicum: ofte Den oorlogh der advocaten (Amsterdam 1683) is ascribed to him, but there is reasonable doubt about his authorship. One of the reasons for this doubt is that we know Van Leeuwen helped in this very year Cornelis Cau in publishing the third volume of the massive collections of ordinances issued by the General Estates and the States of Holland, the Groot placaet-boeck, vervattende de placaten […] van de […] Staten Generael […] ende van de […] Staten van Hollandt ende West-Vrieslandt (third volume, The Hague 1683).

Holland’s history brought to higher levels

Frontispice of Batavia Illustrata, 1685

Frontispice of Van Leeuwen’s “Batavia Illustrata” (1685) – copy Royal Library, The Hague – image STCN

With Van Leeuwen we encounter a writer interested in several subjects: Dutch law, Dutch history, Roman law and even world history. In my view he clearly aspired to have a part in major projects both within Holland and on an European scale. Only by considering this context you can arrive at an explanation for the title of his posthumously published massive work Batavia illustrata, ofte Verhandelinge vanden oorspronk, voortgank, zeden, eere, staat en godtsdienst van Oud Batavien (…) (1 vol. in 2 parts, The Hague 1685), “Illustrious Holland, or a treatise on the origin, progress, traditions, state and religion of Old Batavia. Van Leeuwen presents here materials around an enlarged edition of a work by Wouter van Goudhoeven (1577-1628), D’oude chronijcke ende historien van Holland (first edition 1620), in itself a continuation of the so-called Divisiekroniek, first printed in the early sixteenth century. Van Leeuwen does not only follow the foot steps of Dutch historians, but chooses a title, Batavia Illustrata which in a way sounds as a conscious imitation of the title of a famous work on the history of Italy, Italia illustrata by Flavio Biondo. The frontispiece of Van Leeuwen’s opus ultimum shows in front of the two angels with the title at the left an allegory of the Dutch virgin with a staff bearing the hat of library and a hand caressing the Dutch lion, and at the same time telling Clio, the muse of history, the stories of Holland’s glory which she jots down in the book on her knees. If you read the complete title on the title page you cannot miss the double approach of this work, a continuation and improvement on earlier histories and a work based on research in oude schriften ende authenticque stukken, “old manuscripts and original records”.

The gentry, too, appears in Van Leeuwen’s long title. An overview of genteel families in Holland is a major feature of his book, with lots of genealogical detail. It reads almost as a who is who of Dutch Early Modern history. Inevitably this work has been digitized by the Great Global Search Firm, but only in black-and-white. You had better use the version in the Digitale Sammlungen of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich (vol. 1, vol. 2). The last part of the second volume contains several lists of all kind of Dutch officials, including the board members of three major hoogheemraadschappen, the independent boards responsible for water control and protection against the sea, Rijnland, Delfland (around Delft) and Schieland (near Rotterdam). Here you will find out why the museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam is situated at a lane called Matenesserlaan, not only because of a field name, but also in recognition of the role of a powerful family. During my research on members of the Van Matenesse’s I found often more in Van Leeuwen’s book than in modern Dutch biographical works conveniently accessible online at the Biografisch Portaal. Of course I could also spot at some turns information which clearly is not correct, but in general this work is reliable.

For me the point in writing here about Van Leeuwen is the fact he was not just a second-rank writer about Dutch law, however right this judgment surely is. Van Leeuwen did efforts to republish or translate the work of others, and he succeeded in collaborating on important publications of other Dutch authors. He did not only publish source editions, but used them also for his own historical works. Through his manuals on Dutch law, legal procedure and notarial law his influence on Dutch practitioners of the law was substantial. Both the original and the English translation of his work on the Roman-Dutch law influenced law in South Africa.

A postscript

On May 19, 2017 the fifth and final volume of the series “Bibliografie van de Nederlandse Rechtswetenschap tot 1811”, Bibliography of jurists of the Northern Netherlands active outside the Dutch universities to the year 1811, edited by the late Robert Feenstra and Douglas Osler (Amsterdam 2017), will be officially presented at the Peace Palace in The Hague. No doubt Van Leeuwen, too, figures in this volume, and the multitude of the reprints and re-editions of his works will come much more into view.

A personal touch: Chasing autograph manuscripts of medieval lawyers

The Middle Ages span a millennium, and the very term has long darkened our understanding of this period in European history. Somehow the image of the Dark Age keeps to some extent its force for children, the general public and scholars alike. Seemingly out of the dark come the persons whose names we know, and romantic phantasy has often been very active to make them as colourful as possible. Clovis, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror and Saint Louis, the holy French king pronouncing the law, are among the people for whom we can find out more than only battles, deeds and orders, but we hear seldom the voice of more ordinary people. Thus the counsels of Dhuoda to her son, the visions and songs of abbess and composer Hildegard von Bingen, and Christine de Pisan, a passionate writer and defender of women, stand out even stronger, because they shed light on the history of women, too. In the field of medieval art there has been a hunt to find traces of individual artists. Some works of art still bear their names, but others remain anonymous.

Cover Autographa I.2

Medieval law, too, can seem not only a very masculine, but also a very impersonal affair. However, juridical glosses from the twelfth century in the manuscripts with the main texts of Roman and canon law are sometimes signed with an abbreviated form of the names of lawyers such as Azo, Jacobus Bassianus, Rogerius and Pillius. In the last decades another hunt has brought some astonishing results. Scholars have been able to identify autograph manuscripts of a surprising number of medieval lawyers. Individual scholars succeeded in connecting one or more manuscripts directly to the author of a particular juridical text. Surprisingly this is indeed possible for medieval lawyers, for many scholars not the group in medieval society you would immediately pinpoint.

On February 8, 2017 the second volume of a series of studies about medieval autograph manuscripts will be presented at the École française de Rome. This post is a small tribute to the scholars contributing to these volumes, and especially to Giovanna Murano, the courageous editor who has set an example herself in approaching legal manuscripts with new questions and sharing her wisdom and results with others. The blog Storia del Diritto medievale e moderno alerted me to the presentation of the new volume, and apart from translating the main information of their message in French I will try to provide some context for this important publication.

The hands of the masters

During the thirteenth century a system for the reproduction of medieval texts used at universities came into existence. Book shops were given controlled master copies, exemplars of these texts. Students could hire quire after quire for scribes to make copies. The pecia system – literally “piece” – was first described for theological manuscripts by Jean Destrez. Last year Frank Soetermeer died, the Dutch scholar who did research about the use of the pecia system for legal texts in Italy and France. Giovanna Murano, too published a book about the pecia system, Opere diffuse per exemplar e pecia (Turnhout 2005). Since a few decades it becomes clear that the chances for survival of original author manuscripts were relatively high. In the sixteenth century, however, printers often discarded the very manuscript(s) they had used to produce printed versions of texts.

Recognizing the handwriting of a specific author can be easy, but first you have to connect an inimitable script with him or her. The almost illegible script of Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274) got nicknamed littera inintelligibilis by his contemporaries, and the mirror writing of Leonardo da Vinci in the fifteenth century is rightly famous. Medieval lawyers signed in particular charters, acts written on parchment, or added some confirming lines in their own hand to consilia, legal consultations. The cover of the new volume shows a consilium with some of such closing lines and signatures. The interest in these consilia has helped very much to make the identification of the handwriting of medieval lawyers possible.

Perhaps the single most important step was the identification of a set of autograph manuscripts in the Vatican Library written by or produced under the direction of Baldo degli Ubaldi (1327-1400), first signalled by Giancarlo Vallone, ‘La raccolta Barberini dei “consilia” originali di Baldo’, Rivista di Storia del Diritto Italiano 62 (1989) 75-135. You can read online (PDF, 9 MB) an article by Vincenzo Colli, ‘Collezioni d’autore di Baldo degli Ubaldi nel MS Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Barb. lat. 1398’, Ius Commune 25 (1998) 323-346. Twenty years ago Colli identified more autographs and other manuscripts close to their author for other medieval lawyers as well, for example for Guillelmus Duranti (around 1237-1296), the author of the Speculum iudiciale, a massive legal encyclopaedia, ‘L’apografo dello Speculum iudiciale di Guillaume Durand’, Ius Commune 23 (1996) 271-280 (online, PDF, 3 MB), and together with Giovanna Murano ‘Un codice d’autore con autografi di Giovanni d’Andrea (ms. Cesena, Biblioteca Malatestiana, S.II. 3)’, Ius Commune 24 (1997) 1-23 (online, PDF, 9 MB).

In the second volume of the series on medieval autograph manuscripts [Autographa I.2: Giuristi, giudici e notai (sec. XII-XV)Giovanna Murano (ed.) (Imola 2016)] you will find some eighty images of medieval manuscripts, and very often you will see a medieval consilium and a manuscript of a particular work as evidence for the identification of an author’s hand. Apart from lawyers who published legal works the team looks also at medieval judges (giudici) and notaries (notai). For the second volume twelve scholars have identified 49 authors and consulted more than one thousand manuscripts in more than two hundred libraries. The new volumes contains eighty photographs.

Giovanna Murano contributed an article about the autograph of Antonio de Roselli’s Monarchia for the second volume of the Festschrift for Mario Ascheri, Honos alit artes. Studi per il settantesimo compleanno di Mario AscheriPaola Maffei and Gian Maria Varanini (eds.) (4 vol., 2014), a publication briefly mentioned here, too, available in print and online. In the first volume a whole section is dedicated to articles concerning medieval legal consilia. Murano provides a must-read on this genre with her article ‘I consilia giuridici dalla tradizione manoscritta alla stampa’, Reti medievali. Rivista 15/1 (2014) 1-37. She offers an uptodate illustrated introduction to this medieval genre. It gives you an example of her rigorous thinking and dense argumentation. At every turn Murano makes you think and reconsider matters you had not thought about for a long time or simply not carefully enough. In a similar article she gives a status questionum for the study of the Decretum Gratiani, the great treatise for medieval canon law from the early twelfth century [‘Graziano e il Decretum nel secolo XII’, Rivista Internazionale di Diritto Comune 26 (2015) 61-139; online].

The first volume of the series Autographa appeared in 2012. In my view both volumes can serve also as a palaeographical atlas for anyone studying the learned law, i.e. the medieval – and Early Modern – use of Roman and canon law. Instead of hunting digitized manuscripts on your computer screen or tablet you might want to sit down and study the variety of handwriting offered by Murano and her international team. The books can be used indeed as a fine guide to medieval legal manuscripts. However, maybe it is simple the urge to come as closely as possible to the hands of the great magistri of Italian and French medieval universities that makes you want to have these books within your reach. The names of medieval lawyers change here from glorious but inevitable dead names into living persons, not just as law professors producing a theoretical frameworks for judges, advisors and officials all over Europe, but at work themselves, counseling parties or pronouncing judgment on cases which show law in action. These manuscripts and archival records offer a splendid window to medieval life and society. My warmest congratulations to Giovanna Murano and the scholars participating in this great project! It deserves your attention by all means.