JUSTINIAN, Emperor (527-565), Digestum novum, with the gloss of Accursius, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANSUCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Bologna, mid 13th-century]
420 x 250mm. ii + 271 + i leaves: I2, 1-68,77(of 8, lacking iv), 8-228, 23-3110, 326, II1(of 2, ii end pastedown), catchwords on final versos of many gatherings, guides to rubricators at tops of folios, two columns of 47 lines, except ff.264-271v single column, written in black ink in a round gothic bookhand with up to 109 lines of gloss written in all four margins in a more upright glossing hand, tie-marks of dots and lines linking gloss to text, text between four verticals and 49 horizontals ruled in plummet, justification: 235 x 59-11-57mm, prickings survive in many outer margins, the gloss is written on an independent ruling provided as necessary, rubrics of red, paraphs alternately of red or blue, headings of Book number in alternate letters of red and blue supplied in first gathering only, one-line initials of red stroked blue, two-line initials of blue flourished red, three-line illuminated foliate initials, sometimes with animal heads or human faces in the infill, BEASTS AND BIRDS in some margins, ELEVEN MINIATURES WITH TITLE PANELS, many later annotations, manicula and small informal drawings of faces, animals and plants inserted between lines and in margins (dampstaining to preliminary leaves and in top margins of first 20 leaves of the Justinian extending into the gloss of ff.1-4 affecting legibility and causing two small holes in f.1, pages edges darkened and minor nibbling to edges of a few folios, lower blank margins excised from ff.44, 45 and corner of f.i, page-opening ff.125v/126 darkened and abraded with some loss of text). Medieval binding of leather over wooden boards, three (of four) brass catches on lower cover (worn, lacking straps and clasps).
Undoubtedly made in Bologna for use in the teaching or study of law. By the 13th century the city was established as the international centre for civil law studies with a highly developed and regulated book trade to satisfy the requirements of teachers and students. The manuscript's continued ownership, consultation and modification by lawyers is evident from the successive and careful corrections, annotations and even pledge-notes. The script of some 15th-century additions suggests that by that date the manuscript had reached France. It was certainly in southern France by the 18th century when it was owned by the Marquis de Saporta whose engraved bookplate is inside the upper cover. It remained in France, and was once again owned by a lawyer, in the 19th century when it belonged to M. Caillemer, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Lyons.
Justinian, Digestum novum ff.1-271v: Book XXXVIIII, opening with De operis novi nuntiatione ff.1-22v; Book XL, opening with De manumissionibus, lacking end with XL.15 and 16, ff.22v-51v; Book XLI, lacking opening lines of XL.1 De adquirendo rerum dominio ff.52-71v; Book XLII, opening with De re iudicata et de effectu ff.71v-86v; Book XLIII, opening with De interdictis sive extraordinariis actionibus, quae pro his competunt ff.86v-112; Book XLIV, opening with De exceptionibus sive prescriptionibus ff.112-126; Book XLV, opening with De verborum obligationibus ff.126-145; Book 46, opening with De fideiussoribus et mandatoribus ff.145-169v; Book 47, opening with De privatis delictis ff.169v-195; Book 48, opening with De publicis iudiciis ff.195-222; Book 49, opening with De appellationibus et relegationibus ff.222-240; Book 50, opening with De municipalis et de incolis ff.240-271v. A table of contents, in the same hand as the gloss, was supplied on the second verso of two preliminary leaves. Originally otherwise left blank, they have been used, like the final endleaf, for additional legal texts and annotations written in several informal hands of the 13th to 15th centuries.
'The compilation of Roman law which was enacted under the Byzantine emperor, Justinian I (c.482-565), and which together with that emperor's later laws, subsequently came to be known as the Corpus Iuris Civilis has been without doubt the most important and influential collection of secular legal materials that the world has ever known. The compilation preserved Roman law for succeeding generations and nations. All later Western systems borrowed extensively from it. But even more significantly, that strand of the Western tradition encompassing the so-called civil law systems derives its concepts, approaches, structure, and systematics of private law primarily from the long centuries of theoretical study and putting into practice of the Corpus Juris Civilis. Of the Corpus Juris Civilis the most important part is the Digest, the others being the Code, the Institutes, and the Novels.': Alan Watson, preface to his edition of the translation, The Digest of Justinian, I, p.xxiii, 1998.
On Justinian's instruction a committee of 16 lawyers headed by his quaestor, Tribonian, spent three years examining the writings of classical Roman jurists. These were abridged, ordered and gathered together, and the resulting Digest or, from the Greek, Pandects was made statute in December 533. It was largely the recovery in Pisa around 1070 of a 6th-century manuscript of the Digest (now Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana) that stimulated the subsequent growth in law studies. The earliest law school in Europe was established at Bologna by the early 12th century, and by the late 12th century it was attracting students from all over Europe. Since medieval legal learning depended mainly upon the close study of authoritative texts, professionally produced copies of Justinian's Corpus were required and made in substantial numbers. Recovery and reconstruction of the entire Corpus Juris Civilis was completed between the 12th and 14th centuries, although the medieval arrangement was not necessarily that of the original. The Digest, for example, was subdivided into three: the Digestum vetus (Bks 1-23), the Infortiatum (Bks 24-38) and the third volume -- like the present manuscript -- the Digestum novum (Bks 39-50).
As well as modifications to Justinian's texts medieval jurists provided commentaries and interpretations, and these served as interlinear or marginal glosses to the classical texts. Towards the middle of the 13th century the gloss of Accursius, into which earlier commentaries were synthesized and assimilated, was found to be so invaluable that it was accepted as the glossa ordinaria. The fact that in the present manuscript Accursius's gloss is matched to the relevant passage in Justinian's text by tie-marks made up of dots and dashes indicates an early date: later a simplified alphabetical sequence became the norm in Bologna. Illuminating the Law, Susan L'Engle and Robert Gibbs, 2001, pp.12-19, 22-27, 64-68.
Each Book opens with a miniature showing a figure of authority -- a judge or jurist -- beside a panel bearing the name of the author whose work is the source of the following text: for the Digestum novum this is always Ulpianus. Both miniature and title are within frames of pink, blue, blue-grey or orange with white decoration and the jurist is usually flanked by columns or a simple arch, the background behind him decorated with white flowersprays, dots or stars. This format is characteristic of legal manuscripts produced in Bologna in the third quarter of the 13th century, for three in Paris see F. Avril & M.-T. Gousset, Manuscrits enluminés d'origine italienne, 2 xiiie siècle, 1984, pp.83-85 pl.xlviii (BnF, Mss Lat. 4472, 4531 and 4535). But the squat little figures with broad brows and lowering eyes are especially close to those of a Digestum vetus in the Vatican (Bibl. Apost. Lat.1412) which is likely to be the product of the same workshop if not the same illuminator. The Vatican manuscript has been described as 'representing the essential features of the emerging Academic style' and dated close to the middle of the century: R. Gibbs, 'The Development of the Illustration of Legal Manuscripts by Bolognese Illuminators between 1241 and 1298', Juristische Buchproduktion im Mittelalter, 2002, pp.173-218. The present manuscript can be seen as one of the first fruits of organised book production serving the university of Bologna, one of the most precocious and sophisticated developments of the medieval book-trade.