Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 18

Fragment: Sextus liber decretalium (Bologna or Padua)
Date: c. 1320-1330?
Found in: Bologna (Italy). Statutorum inclytae civitatis … Bononiae, vol. 2. Bologna: Giovanni Rossi, 1569.


Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) held a doctorate in canon and civil law and, like Gregory IX seventy years earlier, sought to update and expand the body of canon law jurisprudence. He did so by commissioning a new collection of decretals, which he sent to the universities in 1298 with instructions that it be incorporated into the canon law curriculum. The Sextus liber decretalium (the Sixth Book of Decretals, often simply called the Liber sextus) thus took its place beside the Decretum and the Decretales Gregorii IX as a core element of the Corpus iuris canonici. The standard gloss of the Liber sextus was written by Giovanni d’Andrea in the early 1300s.

In the fragment of the Liber sextus seen here (from Book 5, Title 2, Chapter 20) Boniface himself discusses techniques for questioning suspected heretics. Giovanni d’Andrea’s gloss surrounds the main text. The manuscript was probably copied in Bologna as the script is characteristic of Bolognese gothic book hands.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Richard Rouse (UCLA) assigns an Italian origin to the manuscript and calls attention to the line fillers, which look like exclamation points. Susan L’Engle (Saint Louis University) believes the manuscript is from Bologna or Padua, 1320-1330?, and notes the “Italian script, text keyed to gloss by letters of alphabet, an Italian practice.”

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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