CORPUS IURIS CIVILIS CONTENTS
As part of his effort to restore the grandeur of the Latin Roman Empire, the Byzantine emperor Justinian (r.527–565) appointed a commission to collect the disparate sources of Roman law. In 533, just three years after the commission had begun its work, Justinian promulgated the commission’s chef d’oeuvre, the Digest (or Pandects). The Digest is a collection in fifty books of excerpts from the writings of the classical jurists dating from the late Roman Republic to the beginning of the third century A.D. The year 533 also saw the promulgation of the Institutes, an elementary textbook based in large part on the work of the same name by the second-century jurist, Gaius. In the following year, Justinian promulgated the Code, a collection in twelve books of excerpts from the constitutions (roughly, legislative pronouncements) of the Roman emperors dating back to Hadrian (r.117–138). Justinian's constitutions that date from after 534 were not officially collected in his lifetime, but an unofficial collection, known as the Novels, was compiled shortly after his death.
These four works, known collectively since the sixteenth century as the Corpus Iuris Civilis, rank in importance second only to the Bible among the legacies of the ancient world to the west. The Corpus has been studied intensively in the west from the late eleventh or twelfth centuries to our own day and is a principal source of the modern codifications of Continental Europe and of all those countries that have laws derived from those of Continental Europe. Its influence on English law, and from there on those countries that belong to the Anglo-American legal tradition, is less but still substantial.
Good modern editions of the largely Latin text of the Corpus are readily available, and adequate editions are available online. The same cannot be said, however, of what is sometimes called the Vulgate edition, with the gloss, the edition that scholars of the Corpus used from the thirteenth until well into the seventeenth century. The text of the Corpus in this edition is somewhat different from that of the modern editions, and its arrangement is quite a bit different, but more important is the fact that it is accompanied by an elaborate marginal commentary compiled by the thirteenth-century Bolognese jurist Accursius. Later editions of the Vulgate Corpus also include additions by jurists who lived after Accursius, a few constitutions by medieval Holy Roman emperors, and a glossed edition of a twelfth-century work known as the Libri feudorum. Many of the early printed editions also include finding-aids, some of which are quite elaborate, and which provide clues to way in which jurists in different periods thought about these texts.
Early printed copies of the Vulgate Corpus are fairly common in the rare book collections of Europe, and some exist in rare book collections outside of Europe. They are, however, difficult of access, particularly for those who need the Vulgate Corpus as a work of reference, a guide to understanding the thought of virtually everyone who wrote about law in the medieval and early modern periods. What is needed is a copy of the Vulgate Corpus that is more accessible than those that can be found in rare book collections.
With this in mind, the Ames Foundation has had one of the copies of the Vulgate Corpus in the Harvard Law Library digitized. (Details about the edition used and reasons for choosing it may be found on a separate page.) The six massive volumes are now publicly available on the Harvard College Library’s page delivery service. What is available is images of the pages. The typeface and arrangement of the Vulgate Corpora is beyond the ability of what is possible with normal optical scanning. That technology is improving, and we may eventually hope that optical character reading will become possible, but it is not now.
Hence, publication of the images is only a start. The metadata that currently accompanies the online version simply lists each volume, with a somewhat misleading title, followed by the sequence numbers of the images. For someone who is familiar with the arrangement of the Vulgate Corpus, this is better than nothing, and with some guess work and flipping of pages online such a person can find what he or she is looking for. It is, however, a challenge, to put it mildly, even for the person who knows the arragement of the modern editions of the Corpus, and close to impossible for someone who does not.
The Ames Foundation has therefore also undertaken to provide metadata for these images. This is large undertaking. What appears on the pages linked below is, once more, only a start. All the titles of the Digest and Code are listed, as are the Novels with their corresponding medieval citations. We have provided hyperlinks to the images down to the level of the title in the first two parts of the Digest. We intend to continue through the rest of the titles of the Digest, the titles of Code and Institutes, the individual Novels, and, finally, the divisions of the Libri feudorum. Bringing the references down to the individual fragments within the titles is planned, but lies in the future.
A guide to the arrangement of the Corpus, both in the modern editions and in the Vulgate, may be found on a separate page. This page also contains a list of standard abbreviations, both those used by modern scholars and those used by medieval and early modern jurists.
Digesta seu Pandectae (i.e., D.1 through D.50)
|Tomus I: Digestum vetus (i.e., D.1.1 through D.24.2): front matter|
|Tomus I: Digestum vetus: titles corresponding to modern editions|
|Tomus II: Infortiatum (i.e., D.24.3 through D.38.17): front matter|
|Tomus II: Infortiatum: titles corresponding to modern editions|
|Tomus III: Digestum Novum (i.e., D.39 through D.50): front matter|
|Tomus III: Digestum Novum: titles corresponding to modern editions|
|Codex Justinianus (i.e., CJ.1 through CJ.12)|
|Tomus V (i.e., IV): Codex (i.e., CJ.1.1 through CJ.9.51): front matter|
|Tomus V (i.e., IV): Codex: titles corresponding to modern editions|
Tomus IV (i.e., V): Volumen Parvum (i.e., CJ.10.1 through CJ.12.53;|
Novellae; Libri Feudorum; Institutiones): front matter
Tomus IV (i.e., V): Tres Libri (i.e., CJ.10.1 through CJ.12.53):
titles corresponding to modern editions
|Novellae Justiniani (i.e., Nov.1 through Nov.168)|
|Tomus IV (i.e., V): Volumen Parvum: Novellae seu Authentica: front matter|
|Tomus IV (i.e., V): Novellae: citations corresponding to the modern editions|
|Tomus IV (i.e., V): Volumen Parvum: Libri feudorum: front matter|
|Tomus IV (i.e., V): Libri feudorum: titles corresponding to the modern edition|
|Institutiones Justiniani (i.e., JI.1 through JI.4)|
|Tomus IV (i.e., V): Volumen Parvum: Institutiones Justinani: front matter|
|Tomus IV (i.e., V): Institutiones: titles corresponding to the modern editions|
This page last updated 05/21/11.
Contact Rosemary Spang with comments.