"Manuscripta juridica" [Principal Investigator: G. R. Dolezalek]

Scope of the data base

The data base aims at providing a census of handwritten texts (as many as possible) of juridical literature from past times. At present, the main focus is on texts in Latin, and predominantly texts from medieval times before the invention of the printing press. However, the data base also accommodates texts in vernacular languages and texts not from the Middle Ages.

Stock of the data base at its first publication in July 2012

The data base was first made available to the public on the internet in July 2012 when the first stage of constitution of the data base had ended – with the following stock:

  • - information on 879 locations where manuscripts are kept, and on their catalogues
  • - descriptions of 7133 manuscripts held in the above locations, with reference to catalogues and legal-historical literature from which the information was gathered
  • - descriptions of 20368 items (texts), passed on to posterity within the above manuscripts.

This stock was predominantly taken over from an old electronic world-wide master-file of manuscripts of Roman law, compiled at the Max Planck Institute in the years from the Institute’s foundation in 1964 to 1972, by Gero Dolezalek in collaboration with Hans van de Wouw. This was by far the oldest electronic file on manuscripts – and thus an absolute pioneer work. In its time it could not be disseminated in electronic form because by then only few research institutions had computers. It still took many years to invent and develop personal computers. The Institute thus provided print-outs with descriptions of manuscripts together with electronically generated indexes of titles of works, authors, beginning words, closing words, scribes, previous possessors, etc. (all of them electronically programmed by by Gero Dolezalek), and then disseminated in four printed volumes under the title “Verzeichnis der Handschriften zum römischen Recht bis 1600,” published in 1972. The four volumes comprised 6764 descriptions of manuscripts and 58510 index entries.

Data for the electronic file of 1972 had mainly been drawn from 1148 catalogues and inventories of manuscripts, and from more than 650 legal-historical publications. Therefore, the file provided much second-hand information: telling users “who published what and when and where, on handwritten juridical texts.” However, 693 manuscripts had been seen and analysed in person by Gero Dolezalek, and these parts of the electronic file provided information at first hand.

Another large quantity of data in the stock of the data base originated from 1423 analyses of manuscripts which had been compiled at the Institute in 1972-1975 by a team of researchers called “Arbeitsgruppe Legistik:” Peter Weimar (project director), Elena Dietz, Linda Fowler, Hans van de Wouw and Gero Dolezalek. The analyses were typed or handwritten, and conversion to electronic format was only accomplished in 2011 and 2012. They mainly bear on works of Roman law written in the time span 1100-1250.

Updating has just begun. It shall be continued in subsequent stages. Much additional information on locations and manuscripts and on their contents was added by Dolezalek from his own private collection of notes. Yet, thousands of other notes, and information drawn from hundreds of recent legal-historical publications and from many recent catalogues of manuscripts still need to be converted into electronic format.