The Ames Foundation

Bracton Online
De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae
attributed to Henry of Bratton


   With the assistance of the Harvard Law School Library and the Legal Information Institute of the Cornell Law School, the Ames Foundation has created an online version of the De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, in Latin and English translation. (For more on the work itself, click here.) The online text is based on George Woodbine’s edition of the original and Samuel Thorne’s translation. It is fully searchable, using a range of criteria including section heading, tractate, folio number, page number and key words (boolean searches). It can be accessed at: The following describes how it was done:

   We sent the Thorne volume to a professional keying house and had the volume double-keyed. With this process, two separate keyers re-type the entire volume, the two versions are compared, and any differences are noted and corrections made.

   The HTML used in the two electronic versions of Bracton is generated from SGML text tagged according to the TEI-Lite standard. We found TEI-Lite relatively easy to apply to the problems of encoding Thorne's edition (though in the case of such peculiar Thorne-isms as spanned footnotes we had to stretch our minds -- and the standard -- a bit). In this iteration we tagged only those features which could be easily identified by persons with no special knowledge of Bracton or of Latin, and we have not inserted much of the standard TEI header information into the SGML source files. When we moved the text to to the server on which it currently resides, we updated the TEI-Lite coding to more standard HTML. We believe that this has improved its functionality. If anything seems amiss, please get in touch with us.

   Most of the tagging was done by the keying house. We did identify some highly repetitive and easily automated tagging which could be omitted from the spec given to the keying house; this was a cost saving measure, as we were paying by the keystroke. This tagging was later inserted via a simple Perl script, and included such things as adding an explicit <LB> tag for each line break (we had asked the keying house to preserve but not tag these), and adding the PLACE=FOOT attribute for all the notes. One drawback of having the keying house do all of the tagging was that we were limited to tagging those features which could easily be identified by people unfamiliar with Bracton. Nevertheless, this approach was (as you can see) sufficient to reproduce and enhance the functionality of the printed edition while providing a solid base for further work by specialists. More information regarding the technical aspects of Bracton Online can be found on the search page.

   This electronic version was a co-production of the Ames Foundation, the Harvard Law School Library, and the Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School. The principals involved in its construction were Professor Charles Donahue of the Harvard Law School and Thomas R. Bruce of the Legal Information Institute. Terry Martin formerly of the Harvard Law School Library provided significant support and facilities for the project. We are indebted to numerous others for advice and assistance.





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This page last updated 02/21/13 . Contact Rosemary Spang with comments.
URL: /digital/Bracton/BractonOnline.html .
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