My colleague at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Raymond Clemens, recently asked me for a list of the Law Library’s medieval manuscripts in vernacular languages. The list is in three parts: (1) complete manuscripts, (2) facsimiles, and (3) binding fragments. You can view images from each of the items in a gallery on our Flickr site, “Medieval manuscripts in vernacular.”
PART 1: COMPLETE MANUSCRIPTS
All of our complete medieval manuscripts are in Law French, the dialect used in English legal literature and common law pleading until the early 18th century. The image at right is from one of these manuscripts, a collection of case reports from the reign of Edward III known as the Liber Assisarum. Our collection has a number of manuscripts of Italian city statutes in the vernacular, but none of them are from the medieval era.
- (Law French) Britton. 13th century.
- (Law French) Novae narrationes. Late 14th century.
- (Law French) Liber assisarum: 20-45 Edward III (1345-1377) and two cases from 7 and 8 Henry IV (1405-1407). Ca. 1450.
- (Law French) England. Statuta Angliae nova. Ca. 1444-1483/1484. In Law French and Latin.
- (Law French) Index statutorum Edw. III - Hen. VI [bound with] De natura brevium. Ca. 1490-1550?
PART 2: FACSIMILES
The outstanding examples here are the four facsimiles of the medieval Saxon law code known as the Sachsenspiegel. These manuscripts are known collectively as the codices picturati (illustrated codices) because they are heavily illustrated with images designed to help the reader understand and navigate the code.
- (Church Slavic) Merilo pravednoe po rukopisi XIV veka. Moskva: Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1961.
- (German) Vollständige Faksimile-Ausgabe im Originalformat des Dresdner Sachsenspiegels. 4 vols. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 2002-2011.
- (German) Der Sachsenspiegel: die Heidelberger Bilderhandschrift Cod. Pal. Germ. 164. Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 1989.
- (German) Der Oldenburger Sachsenspiegel: Codex picturatus Oldenburgensis CIM I 410 der Landesbibliothek Oldenburg. 2 vols. Graz: Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, 2006.
- (German) Sachsenspiegel: die Wolfenbütteler Bilderhandschrift Cod. Guelf. 3.1 Aug. 2?. 3 vols. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993.
- (Irish) Ancient laws of Ireland: Senchas mar, facsimile of the oldest fragments from ms. H.2.15 in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. Dublin: Stationery Office of Saorstát Éireann, 1931.
- (Old Norse) Fragment AM 315 E of the older Gulathing law: from an old Norwegian codex of the XIIIth century with facsimile and introduction. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1928.
- (Portuguese & Spanish) Portugal. Tratados de Tordesillas. Madrid: Testimonio, 1986-1990.
- (Swedish) Wästgotha lagben. [Stockholm: s.n., 1889]. Facsimile of MS. B 59 in Kungliga biblioteket, Stockholm.
- (Welsh) Facsimile of the Chirk codex of the Welsh laws. Llanbedrog, N. Wales: [s.n.], 1909.
PART 3: BINDING FRAGMENTS
These fragments were recycled as binding materials. Several of them were featured in our Spring 2010 exhibit, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.” We have two Flickr galleries devoted to manuscript binding fragments: “Medieval binding fragments,” with 189 images, and a subset of these, “Medieval binding fragments - legal texts,” with 33 images.
- (French) Fragment: French, perhaps a deed of sale for a piece of property, ca. 1475-1525; used as a wrapper. Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 20. Found in: Giovanni Battista Caccialupi, De pensionibus (Rome, 1531).
- (German) Fragment: Cover is half stamped leather and half manuscript fragment, from a 13th-14th century manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel, marked with red initials. Found in: Angelo Gambiglioni, De maleficiis (Lyon, 1551).
- (Hebrew) Fragment: Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah / Vidal of Tolosa’s Maggid Mishne, ca. 1300-1500. Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 19. Found in: Milan (Duchy), Constitutiones dominii mediolanensis (Novara, 1567).
- (Hebrew) Fragment: Mahzor, c. 1300-1500. Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 9. Found in: Robert Parsons, Elizabethae reginae Angliae edictum promulgatum Londini 29. Nouemb. anni M.D. XCI. (Rome?, 1593).
– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian