Guide to using the Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law library


The library of the Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law is a premier collection of primary and secondary source material related to the study of medieval canon law. It supports the scholarly activities of the Institute as well as the research and learning of students and faculty at Yale and world-wide.

The library began as the private collection of Stephan Kuttner (1907-1996), a scholar and editor of medieval canon law who worked in that field for six decades. The Institute which now bears his name started in 1955 when Kuttner taught at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 1964 he came to Yale, bringing the Institute and library with him, and then to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1970. The Institute and its collection moved to Munich in 1991, and most recently to the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School in 2013, where it will remain for at least twenty-five years.

The Institute fosters scholarship in medieval canon law, an important field of research both in its own right and because of the ground work it laid in areas such as constitutional law, marriage law, or theories of guilt. To assist in this research, the Institute publishes the Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law, organizes a quadrennial international Congress, and supports the work of creating critical editions of medieval canon law texts, including Gratian’s Decretum.

The Institute’s library materials are divided into three discrete collections – manuscript reproductions, books, and offprints (individually produced articles from journals). Please follow the links on the left or below for more information about each collection. Most of the materials can be accessed whenever the Yale Law Library is open, with the exceptions of Rare, Oversize, and Miscellanea materials, which are housed in locked stacks. Please contact the Rare Book Librarian to arrange to use those materials.

Scholars needing to use collection materials for an extended period of time may wish to contact the Rare Book Librarian prior to arrival, so that the Law Library may best accommodate the scholar’s needs. Researchers from outside of Yale can obtain a pass as described in the Law Library’s privileges policy. Finally, please note that all of the materials from the Institute’s collection are library use only.

Microfilm, microfiche, and prints

The Kuttner Institute’s extensive collection of manuscript reproductions supports its critical edition work and provides access to unpublished primary source material. With almost 700 manuscripts from libraries across Europe and the United States represented in film or print copies, the collection contains a critical mass of important canon law sources, many of which have not been published. The collection consists primarily of microfilms with only a few microfiche and a number of print copies.

The collection is organized both physically and virtually by shelf-mark and filed alphabetically by the name of the city of the library which owns the manuscript (for example: Oxford, Bodleian Library). The Institute website lists the contents of some of these reproductions on its Microfilm Catalogue/Mikrofilmkatalog page, which can be accessed from their Library/Bibliothek page. The website also includes information for reproductions not held by the Institute library proper, but available for use in Munich. For information on only those items currently held at the Yale Law Library, please consult this spreadsheet, which is split into three sheets for microform, prints, and non-manuscript materials.

The collection is housed in the Upper East Side of the Yale Law Library and is available for use without appointment whenever the library is open. A microfilm/fiche reader with a scanner and instructions for use is located across from the shelves holding the collection. It can be set to email scans, or to save them to a USB or other external drive. Since the scanner is not connected to a printer, any printouts must be made off of saved copies elsewhere.

Please note that a number of the manuscripts have both positive and negative films available. Also, the physical collection is divided between microfilm, microfiche, and prints, with the fiche at the end of the film, and the prints on the shelves above the film and fiche cabinets.

Please feel free to contact the Rare Book Librarian with any questions.

Book Collection

The book collection of the Kuttner Institute’s library is an extensive gathering of materials on medieval canon law and related topics from the late 19th century to the present, with approximately 2,000 books. It is an excellent reference collection for any scholar consulting the manuscript reproductions or researching canon law, containing subject dictionaries, critical editions, Institute publications, and secondary scholarship.

To find books in the collection, simply perform a title, author, or subject search as you normally would in the library catalog. To see only those books held in the Institute collection, perform an advanced search with “Kuttner collection” as the keyword/any field, along with the title, author, or subject heading. You can also browse the collection through this record.

The collection is located on the Upper East Side, right next to the fish tank and near the manuscript reproductions. It uses a unique call number scheme, with the letters progressing alphabetically and the numerals counting up sequentially (thus: Ab 20, Ab 21, Ac 1, Ac 2). A guide to the call number scheme can be found here. While the books are available in open stacks and can be accessed whenever the Law Library is open, they must be used in the library.

Three subsets of books from the collection, the Miscellanea, Oversize, and Rare materials, are held in locked stacks and must be used in the Rare Book Room. Please contact the Rare Book Librarian for further information or to make arrangements to use the materials. The Miscellanea and Rare materials can be browsed virtually here.


The offprints are a collection of about 15,000 articles around medieval canon law studies, about half of which are not available online. However, unlike the manuscript reproductions and books, the Institute stopped adding materials in the mid-1990s. This collection is located on level L1 of the Yale Law Library in the shelving near the Foreign and International Law office and available for use whenever the library is open. The offprints are organized in boxes alphabetically by author, with oversize offprints at the end of the range.

To find a specific article or to search the holdings, click the Off prints/Sonderdrucke link on the Institute’s home page. This will pull up the institute’s database of offprints which can be searched by author, title, or full text. One point to remember is that the database does not translate search terms or results, so Full text/Freitext searches for “women,” “frauen,” and “Femme,” will yield different results.

Other Canon Law Resources

The Rare Book Collection at the Lillian Goldman Law Library includes outstanding holdings on canon law, both those developed by the library itself, and those acquired from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. These collections hold manuscript and print materials, including incunabula, primary source material, and scholarship on canon law. Please contact the Rare Book Librarian with any questions or to access these materials.

The circulating collections include a great many monographs on the subject, searchable via the usual methods on the Law Library catalog. Scholars may also wish to simply browse the stacks at call numbers KBR-KBU, or KD for those interested in English canon law. Studies on the ius commune can be found generally in call numbers KJC-KJE. The Law Library also subscribes to a number of canon law journals, including the Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law, The Jurist, and Studia Gratiana. Please contact the Reference Desk with any questions regarding non-rare materials.