Rare Books Blog

October 4, 2008

The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library

Introduction

Beginning in the eleventh century, scholars in what is today northern Italy began to rediscover the Roman legal tradition as expressed in the Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century Corpus iuris civilis. In the centuries that followed, jurists, merchants, clergymen, and civic leaders all across the Italian Peninsula pragmatically integrated Roman law with the long-held customary laws of their own towns and cities. Over time a new and dynamic system of civil law emerged, one which continues to evolve to this day. The works featured in this exhibition are simultaneously examples of—and evidence for—the flourishing of Italian civil law in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.

The Yale Law Library’s collection of early Italian city statutes contains codes from over three hundred and eighty municipalities—including major cities such as Milan, Bologna, Rome, and Venice as well as tiny villages like Bellosguardo, Crasciana, and Montebuono. Regardless of their size, all of these municipalities took pride in their laws, and looking at the title pages one can sense the important role that these codes played in defining a municipality and its citizens.

As you explore the exhibition in the posts that follow, note the ways that the books’ owners marked and annotated them; the coexistence of printed and hand-written statutes; and the transition from the Latin of jurists and scholars to the Italian of merchants and politicians.

The Law Library’s Italian statute collection provides a rich resource not only for legal history, but also for the history of reading, print culture, manuscript culture, bookbinding, Italian social history, political history, and much more. In addition, the books are fascinating cultural artifacts. We welcome you to make use of them.

BENJAMIN YOUSEY-HINDES & MIKE WIDENER
Exhibit Curators

“The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library” is on display October 2008 through February 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Image at right: Sicily (Kingdom). Regni Sicilie constitutiones per excellentissumum j.v.d. do. Andream de Isernia (Naples, 1533).

October 4, 2008

The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library

Montebuono (Italy). Statuti communis et hominum terre Montis Boni (manuscript, Montebuono, middle or late 15th century). Acquired with the John A. Hoober Fund, May 1946.

(View Montebuono on a map.)

The statutes from the town of Montebuono (about thirty miles north of Rome) were collected and revised by the notary Eusebius Angeli of Narni as part of a reform program in 1437. The manuscript you see here was copied out by a scribe named Maximus Vincentius several years later. The statutes are organized into four sections: the first deals with city government; the second with damages to property; the third with civil, social, and legal matters; and the fourth with violent crimes and perjury. Luckily, one statute prohibited the throwing of dead animals or other filth onto people walking along the public road.

Yale Law School’s rare manuscript is attracting attention in modern-day Montebuono, now a village of about a thousand residents. Renata Ferraro, president of the Fondazione Gabriele Berionne, wrote an article about the Yale manuscript in the August 2008 issue of Montebuono Spazio Comune. The issue is available as a PDF file, at the Montebuono On Line website, and Ferraro’s article is on pages 6 and 8. The article is based on a detailed study of the manuscript authored by Yale graduate student Oriana Bleecher.

If you are interested in learning more about the rich history of Montebuono, see Montebuono e il suo territorio: storia, architetture e restauri inizia la ricerca (Mariasanta Valenti, ed.; Rome: Fondazione Gabriele Berionne, 2007), shelved in the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room. We thank Renata Ferraro and the Fondazione Gabriele Berionne for the gift of this splendidly illustrated volume.

BENJAMIN YOUSEY-HINDES & MIKE WIDENER

Exhibit Curators

“The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library” is on display October 2008 through February 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

October 4, 2008

The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library

Bergamo (Italy). Statuta magnificae communitatis Bergomi (Brescia, 1491). Acquired with the John A. Hoober Fund, May 1946.

(View Bergamo on a map.)

The city of Bergamo was part of the Venetian Republic from 1426 to 1797, but like many of Venice’s territories it was allowed to maintain its own municipal statutes. The volume displayed here is the first printed edition of those statutes, and one of thirteen incunables (books printed before 1500) in Yale Law Library’s collection of Italian civil codes. Here we see an excellent example of the coexistence of print and manuscript, as the statutes printed in 1491 are supplemented by thirty-three pages of “reformationes et correctiones” from 1492, and eight pages of material added between the 1570s and 1610s.

BENJAMIN YOUSEY-HINDES & MIKE WIDENER

Exhibit Curators

“The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library” is on display October 2008 through February 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

October 4, 2008

The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library

Venice (Republic). Institutio Phederici Reynerii in dignitatem rectoris civitatis Canee in insulae Cretea ab Leonardo Laurendano duce Venetiarum (manuscript, Venice, 22 Sept. 1507). Acquired with the John A. Hoober Fund, June 1956.

(View the Republic of Venice on a map: “Rep. di Venezia”.)

 In this fascinating manuscript the Doge of Venice, Leonardo Laurendano, names Federico Reynerio as Venice’s governor in the region of Chania on the northern coast of Crete for two years –“unless your successor arrives earlier.” Organized and presented much like the municipal statutes in this exhibition, the manuscript lays out over one hundred and eighty different instructions for the new governor to follow. Note how Federico’s name and coat-of-arms have been written over earlier erasures. Perhaps he was not the first recipient of this manuscript? This is one of six similar manuscripts held by the Yale Law Library.

BENJAMIN YOUSEY-HINDES & MIKE WIDENER

Exhibit Curators

“The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library” is on display October 2008 through February 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

October 2, 2008

Now on exhibit…

Oct. 2008 – Feb. 2009

Rare Book Exhibition Gallery

Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library

Yale Law School


An exhibition highlighting the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s outstanding collection of early Italian city statutes inaugurates the Law Library’s new, state-of-the-art exhibition gallery. The exhibition, “The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library,” debuts during the Yale Law School’s annual Alumni Weekend, Oct. 3-4, 2008.

The Law Library’s collection of Italian “statuta” is rivaled by few other U.S. libraries and surpassed by none. These municipal codes governed the dozens of Italian city-states that arose in the Middle Ages and persisted until the reunification of Italy in the late 19th century. The collection contains over 900 volumes of printed books and 60 bound manuscripts, dating from the 14th to 20th centuries, and representing over 380 municipalities and jurisdictions. In their mixing of Roman law, local law, and pragmatic innovations, the Italian municipal statutes became the prototype of European civil law.

The new Rare Books Exhibition Gallery is located in the lower level of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (Level L2), directly in front of the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room. The exhibition cases are climate-controlled and protect the exhibit items from damage by ultra-violet light.

The exhibition was curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, doctoral candidate in medieval history at Stanford University, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian.

For those unable to visit the exhibit in person, the exhibit will appear in installments here on the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

For more information, phone me at (203) 432-4494 or email me at .[at]yale.edu>

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

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