What to search for, and what not to expect
The data base retrieves extant copies of juridical literature = works designated to be tools of the trade of being a lawer. The data base is thus not meant to gather texts drafted by some lawyer for specific parties (= in pursuance of his profession - such as contracts, last wills, charters of any kind, papers for a litigation in court, etc.).
No systematic effort was made to record accompanying material = other texts which happen to fall into the investigator's hand while searching for juridical literature - such as e.g. individual texts on theology or medecine which happen to be kept or even bound together with juridical literature.
At times, if the investigator could immediately identify from memory what he had before him (and had spare time), he would also record accompanying material in order to help the next persons in whose hand the material might fall. Yet as a matter of principle no tasks were undertaken in which the legal historian's specific knowledge and experience was not brought to bear.
For the same reason paleographic or codicological characteristics were only recorded when they might help determining the geographical region and time in which the text in question had been disseminated.
General characteristics of the data base
(a) Here, the presentation of data makes it specifically clear that the task of giving an accurate account on fact-finding differs greatly from the task of delivering retrievable wording for data base searches.
Information is offered in three tiers - as usual.
- First tier: locations where manuscripts are kept (libraries, archives, museums, etc.).
- Second tier: individual manuscripts which are kept in the specified locations.
- Third tier: the items (= texts) which are contained in the specified manuscripts.
Yet here, each of the three tiers distinguishes in an obvious way (under distinct index-tabs) what is retrievable wording (= standardised by the investigator for purposes of electronic data processing), and what is just a non-retrievable account on fact-finding (= not standardised, and therefore on purpose not admitted to retrieval).
(b) Even within standardised information, retrieval is rigidly restricted to a wording's start. Only so many words are retrievable as are needed to characterise the information. Subsequent parts of information, although not admitted to retrieval, will however be attached when the Max-Planck-Institute's server returns its "list of hits" - and can thus be seen in that list.
For example, search for copies of the Ordo iudiciarius by Tancredus de Bononia. For five of these copies the attributed title ends with the word "fragment", and for other three it ends with "recensio II". Retrieval is only admitted up to "Ordo iudiciarius". You cannot search for the word "fragment", nor for "recensio". The advantage is that the server will return a consolidated list of all extant copies of the work searched for, no matter whether such copies are just fragments or different versions of the text. In the returned list, however, additional specifications such as "fragment" or "recensio II" etc. will be shown.
The same rigid principle applies to Incipit words and Explicit words. You can only search for words within the first 30 characters of an Incipit, or last 30 characters of an Explicit. This effects that the server will return clearly visible groupings of wording. In the returned list, however, also subsequent words of an Incipit will be shown. Or, in an Explicit, the words which precede the very last words.
Special legal-historical characteristics
All juridical literature can be categorized into unquestionable literary genres: Additiones, Apparatus, Argumenta, Brocarda, Bulla, Canones, Capitularia, Casus, Codex, Collatio, Commenta, Commentarius, Concilium, Consilium, Constitutio - etcetera. Such categorisation lends itself to electronic data processing.
In contrast, the titles of texts which one finds in the manuscripts vary greatly and can be unspecific, e.g. "Precious gemstone of reasoning" or "Lawyers' treasure", etc. Often it is not clear whether the author gave his text a title at all. Scribes made titles up as the whim took them.
Therefore this data base rigidly attributes to each text a standardised title which always starts with the literary genre. The title found in the manuscript, in contrast, is relegated to the account on fact-finding.
In search fields, always prefer to type just the first three characters of what you want to search for - and wait. Usually the Max-Planck-Institute's server will soon suggest to you what is on offer within the data base. So you come to know beforehand what you can search for.
Although the data base also admits searching for a string at the begin of a word in second position in the information, or third position or further on, you should only sparingly make use of this facility. In most cases it will return a lot of useless information, along with maybe just very few lines which actually bring what you wanted to obtain.
No search is admitted for strings less than three characters long - because in juridical literature (standardised as here) such searching makes no sense.
Catalogues (they are cited at the end of detailed description of a manuscript)
If a catalogue bears on only one specific location it is listed under that location. If however catalogues bear on several locations they are listed under a fictitious location named "ZZZ" .
Publications of legal historians (cited either at end of description of an item, or at end of description of a manuscript)
They, too, will be listed under the fictitious location named "ZZZ" .
Specific abbreviations in titles of items
CAP = Capitularia
NOTARIA = works for notaries
POE = works on penitence.
S, L, P = in the literary genre “Apparatus,” these appended characters indicate how the individual glosses of the Apparatus are linked to the text on which they comment.
“S” indicates that at the start of each gloss you find the pertinent word of the main text, underlined.
“L” indicates that the glosses and the pertinent word in the main text are both marked by means of a character of the alphabet.
“P” indicates that signs formed from dots, dashes etc. are used for the above purpose.
A, C, I, P, S = in the literary genre “Consilia” these appended characters indicate whether the item is a mere copy (“C”), or entirely autograph (“A”), or bears an autograph signature (“S”). In the latter two cases the item may still have an extant seal (“I”), or there may be traces of a lost seal (“P”).