New Flickr images: Tractatus iuris

Michael Widener

There are two new sets of images in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr galleries: Tractatus iuris (1549) and Tractatus universi iuris (1584-86). Apart from the title pages, you won’t see any pretty pictures in these image sets. What you will see are tables of contents and indexes of authors and titles for these two massive compilations of Roman and canon law scholarship. The images were cropped and edited for legibility, not for aesthetics. I scanned the images to save myself the trouble of wrestling these large and unwieldy volumes, but I hope researchers will benefit as well.

The 18-volume Tractatus ex variis iuris interpretibus (1549) was published by a consortium of Lyon printers. Its tall folios contains 458 separate works by over 200 different authors on virtually any topic of interest to lawyers and jurists of the time, and served as a sort of encyclopedia of the ius commune. Topics include arbitration, contracts, heresy, debt, adultery, taxation, judicial torture, banking, estates, criminal procedure, and the law of war, to name just a very few. Most of the leading authors of medieval and Renaissance jurisprudence are represented, including Baldus, Bartolus, Durandus, Odofredus, Jean Montaigne, Jacobus de Arena, Johann Oldendorp, and Guy de la Pape.

A much-expanded expanded edition, the 22-volume Tractatus universi iuris, was issued in 1584-86 by the Venetian publisher and bookseller Francesco Zilletti. It contains 754 titles by 362 authors, including several jurists who rose to prominence after the publication of the 1549 edition (i.e. Joost de Damhoudere, Benvenuto Stracca).

I hope that putting the author and title contents of these sets online will encourage others to study them. They are of interest for a number of reasons.

In connection with the history of the book, these were quite large and ambitious publishing ventures for their time. The 1549 Lyon edition required a consortium of printers, including Thomas Bertellus, Georges Regnault, and Pierre Fradin. It is tempting to speculate on a link between Pope Gregory XIII’s sponsorship of the 1584-86 Tractatus universi iuris and the fine the Inquisition levied against its printer, Francesco Zilletti, a couple of years earlier for selling prohibited books.

An analysis of how the contents changed between the 1549 and 1584-86 editions would shed light on developments in legal scholarship. My cursory look at the contents reveals signs of the Counter-Reformation. The 1549 Tractatus contained 13 articles by the German jurist Johann Oldendorp, who was also a leader in the Protestant Reformation, but in the 1584-86 edition Oldendorp is nowhere to be found.


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