Rare Books Blog

December 17, 2011

Our 15th-century manuscript of the statutes of Montebuono, Italy, is now available in a full-color facsimile edition, along with a full transcription and three scholarly studies. Lo Statuto di Montebuono in Sabina del 1437 (Rome: Viella Libreria Editrice, 2011) is available for purchase from the publisher’s website. It includes an introductory essay by Mario Ascheri, the leading scholar of Italian statuti, as well as a history of medieval Montebuono by Tersilio Leggio, and a detailed study of the Montebuono statutes by legal historian Sandro Notari. In addition, Alda Spotti of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma provided a transcript of the Latin manuscript.

I was honored to speak at a symposium marking the publication of the volume on November 23 at the Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica in Rome. Other speakers included Mario Ascheri (Università di Roma 3), Sandro Notari, Sandro Bulgarelli (director, Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica), Maria Teresa Caciorgna (Università di Roma 3), the Hon. Dario Santori (mayor, Comune di Montebuono), and Yale’s own Professor Anders Winroth. Following is an excerpt from my talk:

My library’s involvement with the Statuto di Montebuono began in 1946. In that year Samuel Thorne was appointed as the head librarian of the Yale Law Library. Thorne was not a librarian by training. He was a legal historian, one of the outstanding historians of medieval English law in the 20th century. However, Thorne had a librarian’s instincts. With the help of a large endowment, he began a ten-year campaign of buying rare books and manuscripts. He put the Yale Law Library into the first rank of historical law collections in the United States.

In his first annual report, for 1946, Thorne wrote: “The outstanding acquisition of the year was the notable collection of Italian statuta, numbering almost nine hundred volumes, purchased from a learned Italian lawyer who had brought it, over a period of fifty years, to its present completeness. It contained fifty-two manuscripts of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries, nine incunabula, and many sixteenth-century editions.”

With this single purchase, the Yale Law Library acquired what is still the largest collection of Italian statuti in the Americas. Among these nine hundred volumes was the 15th century manuscript of the Statuto di Montebuono.

In 2007, Professor Anders Winroth brought his medieval legal history seminar into our Rare Book Collection. One of his doctoral students, Ms. Oriana Bleecher, chose the Statuto di Montebuono for her research project.

Ms. Bleecher was perhaps the key catalyst in the project that led to the book we are celebrating today. She asked me if the Law Library could acquire a book that the Fondazione Gabriele Berionne had just published, Montebuono e il suo territorio. The Fondazione refused to sell us the book. Instead, Renata Ferraro insisted on donating this beautiful book to my library, on behalf of the Fondazione. As a token of gratitude, I sent Sig.ra Ferraro a copy of Ms. Bleecher’s seminar paper.

Soon after, Sig.ra Ferraro sent me a full-page article from the newspaper, Montebuono Spazio Comune, about our Montebuono manuscript and Ms. Bleecher’s research. In 2008, my library featured the Statuto di Montebuono in the inaugural exhibit in our new exhibit gallery. The title of the exhibit was “The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library.”

At Sig.ra Ferraro’s request, we digitized the Statuto di Montebuono, and then I put her in touch with Mario Ascheri, the world’s leading scholar of early Italian statutes. The result of their collaboration, Lo Statuto di Montebuono in Sabina del 1437 (Rome: Viella Libreria Editrice, 2011) is before us today. The Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, and I are deeply, deeply honored to have played a part in making this publication a reality.

I learned that my Italian colleagues consider the Montebuono statutes to be particularly significant: medieval municipal statutes from the Sabina region are generally rare, and especially such sophisticated statutes from a small rural community.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica, Rome, 23 Nov. 2011. L-R: Prof. Maria Teresa Caciorgna (Università di Roma 3), Sandro Notari, Prof. Mario Ascheri (Università di Roma 3), Prof. Anders Winroth (Yale University), Mike Widener.

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