Scope of the data base
The data base was first published in July 2012. It provides a census of handwritten texts of juridical literature from past times. In 1964 when the undersigned started to collect data of the kind, the original purpose was to find out - by statistical counting of extant manuscripts - which works of juridical literature were held in high regard in their time, and in which geographical regions they gained particularly wide dissemination. Materials to this are published here. In contrast to art historians who will perhaps not worry whether the text in whose margin they find a precious artwork was held in high esteem or not, legal historians must accord utmost importance to this fact because they need to gauge how influential the text was.
As a matter of principle, “Manuscripta juridica” only provides information in which a legal historian's specific knowledge and experience is brought to bear. Thus no assessment of illuminations in manuscripts is made. No detailed paleographic or codicological description is given, etcetera.
Stock of the Data Base
[Last update October 2017: now describing 29,971 items, in over 10,000 manuscripts, held in more than 1000 locations]
The main stock was gathered from research activities of scholars who have been furthered by the Max-Planck-Institute of European Legal History, or assisted by the Institute's staff. Particularly much comes from the undersigned. He was affiliated to the Institute in 1967-1989 in projects which focussed on medieval learned law. As a consequence, at present, the main focus is on texts in Latin, from times before 1500, but “Manuscripta juridica” also accommodates texts in vernacular languages, and much material dates from times after 1500.
The data base complements its main stock with correlated information found elsewhere. Circa 1200 catalogues or inventories of manuscripts were perused. Their reports were crossed over with findings published in ca. 700 scholarly publications on legal history. Therefore the data base tells users who published what and when and where, on handwritten juridical texts.
Roman-law based notes from the undersigned's files had first been published by him (in collaboration with Hans van de Wouw) in 1972 under the title “Verzeichnis der Handschriften zum römischen Recht bis 1600”, four volumes, Frankfurt (Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte). The data had all been fed into an electronic file. Computer programs written by the undersigned formatted the data for publication and created 58510 index entries. This was by far the oldest electronic data processing applied to manuscripts, many years before personal computers were invented and developed. The contents of the afore-mentioned electronic file have fully been integrated into the present data base.
Another large quantity of data originated from 1423 analyses of manuscripts which had been compiled at the Institute in 1972-1975 by a team of researchers called “Arbeitsgruppe Legistik” consisting of Peter Weimar (project director), Elena Dietz, Linda Fowler, Hans van de Wouw and the undersigned. These analyses were typed or handwritten, and conversion to electronic format was only accomplished in 2011 and 2012. The “Arbeitsgruppe Legistik” mainly searched for works of Roman law written in the time span 1100-1250.
Much remains to be done. In particular, more than 1000 unpublished analyses of Vatican manuscripts, elaborated in 1970-1991 during the Institute's collaboration with the Institute of Medieval Canon Law, may finally be made available to the community of scholars by means of feeding them into “Manuscripta juridica”.
My thanks for technical construction and maintenance of the data base go to Dr Volker Novak, the Institute's CIO.
Gero R. Dolezalek (Emeritus professor of Civil Law, University of Aberdeen)