Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Medieval and Early Modern Jurists

Ames Projects

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Notes on the various ways of searching the database can be found here.

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Kenneth Pennington’s Medieval and Early Modern Jurists: A Bio-Bibliographical Listing has long been known as a useful guide to literature about medieval jurists and their works and manuscripts containing those works. Its particular focus was on jurists and writings in the field of canon law. First put online as a website in 1993, it is difficult to use, and its home on Pennington’s website at the Catholic University of America is in doubt because of Pennington’s pending retirement. With this in mind, the Ames Foundation offered to take the website, convert it into a more modern database, and present the results on its website. The process proved more difficult and time-consuming than we expected. In addition to breaking up the website into the appropriate fields for the database, many of the entries had not been updated to take into account scholarship since the 1990s. Dr. Atria Larson and Dr. Brandon Parlopiano worked long and hard on both processes. The University of St. Louis Center for Digital Humanities provided valuable technical advice and designed the software for the search engines and an interface that will allow us to maintain the database online. The result, in our view, was worth the effort. We now have a database that is more up-to-date, can be updated more easily, and is much easier to use.

Like a library catalogue, the site is arranged by main entries, the names of authors or works. Each report on an author or work is accompanied by a brief description or biography; a list, in the case of authors, of texts attributed to him; a list of manuscripts of each text, of early editions of each text, and of modern editions; and, finally, a bibliography specific to the author or the text. As of this writing, there are 595 reports on canonists beginning with Gratian and extending to 1298, 37 reports on civilians in the same period, 560 reports on canonists between 1298 and 1500 (a number of whom lived into the sixteenth century), and one on a canonist who lived entirely in the sixteenth century, for a total of 1193 main entries. There are 2405 modern authors, one or more of whose works are cited, and 424 libraries, one or more of the manuscripts of which are cited.

A number of search engines are referenced above. The one specifically referenced is a generic search. It searches most of the text fields in the database for anything that the user wants to put in and returns a list of the reports in which the searched-for item appears. More specific search engines are given with the Table of Contents (an alphabetical listing by main entry), the Index of Modern Authors, and the Index of Manuscript Libraries.

The reports have a navigation bar at the top of the page similar to the one that heads this page but with the addition of two navigation functions that allow one to access the first, previous, next, and last report either in chronological order (‘Navigate by Year’) or in report number order (‘Navigate by Type’). The chronological ordering makes use of a hidden field that makes precise those dates that cannot be made precise (e.g., the death date of an author where a range of dates is given in the report, or 1450, where the best we can do is to date something in the fifteenth century). The report numbers have a prefix ‘a’ for canonists prior to 1298, ‘r’ for those who postdate 1198, ‘c’ for civilians who antedate 1298, ‘s’ for jurists of whatever type of the sixteenth century. The records numbered ‘a’ proceed in alphabetical order by main entry until we reach a564; after that the order is random. The records numbered ‘r’ proceed in alphabetical order by main entry until we reach r556; after that the order is random. The records numbered ‘c’ proceed in roughly chronological order. At this writing there is only one record numbered ‘s’; additions to that category will be in random order.

References follow the style of the Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law. A list of standard sigla and short forms may be found here. The formatting is optimized for Firefox; it works, however, in all the standard browsers that we have tried. It is not designed for use on hand-held devices, but any such device that is equipped with a browser can call it up.

The nature of guides like this one is that they are never complete. We believe that we have here a comprehensive list of canonists who wrote between the years 1140 and 1500. We have begun on the civilians in the same period, but the coverage here is much more spotty and does not go beyond the middle of the thirteenth century. Writers whose works deal with penance rather than with the law of the public courts are dealt with only selectively. Coverage of all three types of writers in the sixteenth century is very spotty. Work is proceeding on all these fronts. The possibility of including writers and writings on law prior to 1140 is, at least, being contemplated. What we have, however, is, we believe, worth presenting to the public.

Kenneth Pennington
Charles Donahue, Jr.
August, 2016