The Ames Foundation


Modern editions of the Corpus Iuris Civilis are normally arranged in the following order: Institutes, Digest, Code, Novels after the manner of “the Berlin stereotype edition”: Corpus Iuris Civilis, T. Mommsen, P. Krüger, R. Schöll, W. Kroll eds. (var. ed. 1911, 1915, 1904) (many times reprinted), which is in three volumes: the first, a very large volume containing the Institutes and the Digest; the second, the Code, and the third, the Novels in three versions: Greek, Latin as the text was known in the West, and Latin, a translation of the Greek.

The various parts of the Corpus are, in turn, subdivided and cited as follows:

I or Inst. (=Institutiones) or JI (for Justinian’s Institutes to distinguish them from “GI,” Gaius’s Institutes, an earlier work on which Justinian’s was based) followed by book, title, and section number. The first section is not numbered “1” but is called “pr” for principium. Hence, a reference to I.1.1.1 or JI.1.1.1 is a reference to Justinian’s Institutes, book 1, title 1 (De iustitia et iure), section 1 (actually the second section: Iurisprudentia est divinarum atque humanarum rerum notitia, iusti atque iniusti scientia).  A reference to JI.1.1pr is a reference to the first section of the same book and title (Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius suum cuique tribuens).  A somewhat older form, still in use by some publications, particularly in Europe, separates the reference numbers with commas, e.g., Inst. 1, 1, 1.

References to other parts of the Corpus Iuris Civilis follow a similar pattern:

D. or Dig. (=Digesta), followed by book, title, fragment, and section numbers (if necessary). E.g., D.23.2.1 is an extract from the first book of Modestinus’s Regulae, inserted at the beginning of the Digest title De ritu nuptiarum: Nuptiae sunt coniunctio maris et feminae et consortium omnis vitae, divini et humani iuris communicatio. D.23.2.11pr (note that the ‘pr’/’1’ peculiarity operates only at the section level not at the fragment level) is an extract from the 26th book of Ulpian’s Ad Sabinum: Si qua mihi uxor fuit, deinde a me repudiata nupsit Seio, quem ego postea adrogavi, non sunt nuptiae incestae.

C. or Cod. (=Codex) or CJ (for Justinian’s Code to distinguish it from “CTh,” the Code of Theodosius, an earlier work on which Justinian’s was partly based), followed by book, title, constitution, and section numbers (if necessary). E.g., C.5.4.1 is a rescript of the emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla inserted at the beginning of the title De nuptiis: Cum de nuptiis puellae quaeritur nec inter tutorem et matrem et propinquos de eligendo futuro marito convenit, arbitrium praesidis provinciae necessarium est.

Nov. (=Novellae), followed by novel, part, and section numbers (if necessary). E.g., Nov.78.3, issued by Justinian in 539, reads in part: Si quis autem libertam ducere voluerit aut legitimam facere coniugem cuiuslibet dignitatis existens, nuptialia conficiat documenta; hanc enim solam post manumissionem observationem adicimus.

English translations of all parts of the Corpus Iuris Civilis are available.  There are many translations of the Institutes. That by J. B. Moyle (Oxford, 1913) is well done and publicly available. The better of the two English translations of the Digest is the one done under the editorship of Alan Watson (Philadelphia, 1985).  For the Code and the Novels reference must be had to S. P. Scott’s The Civil Law (Cincinnati, 1932).

The arrangement of the Vulgate edition of the Corpus is quite different. It is normally bound in at least five volumes, following the arrangement that appears in most of the medieval manuscripts:

Digestum vetus (i.e., D.1 through D.24.2)

Infortiatum (i.e., D.24.3 through D.38.17)

Digestum novum (i.e., D.39 through D.50)

Codex (i.e., C.1 through C.9)

Voumen parvum (i.e.:

Tres libri [C.10 through C.12]

Authentica [the Novels with a somewhat different arrangement]

Libri feudorum [a medieval collection not printed today with the Corpus]



(Because of a miscommunications with the technical people, we are currently displaying the Volumen parvum before the Codex. That will be corrected in due course. Our display also includes a sixth volume, called Thesaurus Accursiani, which consists of a massive collection of finding-aids of considerable interest.

The curious divisions of the Digest and the Code are thought to reflect the fact that the originals were recovered at different times in the late eleventh or early twefth century and brought to Bologna for study in pieces and were taught in those pieces. That would explain why the Infortiatum is jammed in between the Digestum vetus and Digestum novum and why the last three books of the Code were always thought of as something separate.

Modern scholars tend to cite the pieces of the Vulgate using the modern form of citation with an indication of the edition used, e.g., D.23.2.6, (Lyon 1604) col. 2107: Denique Cinna scribit: eum, qui absentem accepit uxorem, deinde rediens a cena iuxta Tiberim perisset, ab uxore lugendum responsum est. (Except for the spelling of cena, our Vulgate text in this case is the same as the modern if we, as is normally done, expand the abbreviations and modernize the punctuation: Denique Cinna scribit: Eū qui absentem accepit vxorem, deinde rediens a coena iuxta Tiberim perisset: ab uxore lugendū respōsum est.) A reference to the gloss will add the lemma of the gloss, e.g., D.23.2.6 vo absentem, (Lyon 1604) col. 2107: “Absentem. per suos enim amicos fecit eam in domum suam deduci: ut supra lex proxi[ma].” ‘LF’ is used for references to the Libri feudorum, followed by book, title, and section number (if necessary). E.g., LF.1.6.1, (Lyon 1604) col. 11, is Libri feudorum, book 1, title 6 (Episcopum vel abbatem vel dominus plebis feudum dare non posse), section 1 (i.e., 2): Quinetiam si quis eo tenore feudum acceperit, ut eius descendentes masculi et foeminae illud habere possunt, illud habere possunt; relicto masculo ulterius foeminae non admittuntur.

This was not, however, the way in which medieval and early modern authors cited the Corpus, and their method of citation takes some getting used to. The basic form of their citations employs the abbreviation ‘ff’ for the Digest (probably a corrpution of a curiously made upper-case ‘D’), ‘C’ for the Code, and ‘Inst’ (or some other shortening of the word) for the Institutes. To this is added an abbreviated form of the title, and, normally, the first word of the fragement, frequently preceded by ‘l.’, for lex. Hence, a reference to D.23.2.5 (Mulierem absenti per litteras eius vel per nuntium posse nubere placet, si in domum eius deduceretur: eam vero quae abesset ex litteris vel nuntio suo duci a marito non posse: deductione enim opus esse in mariti, non in uxoris domum, quasi in domicilium matrimonii.) would be ‘ ritu nuptiarum.l.mulierem’ or, perhaps more commonly ‘ ritu nuptiarum’. Mastery of this form of citation requires a familiarity with the titles of the Digest, Code, and Institutes, which are conveniently listed together in alphabetical order in the Berlin stereotype edition. Many of the early printed editions, including ours, also give an alphabetical listing of the first word(s) of the leges (fragments) in each of the parts of the Corpus. If the reference is to the part of Corpus in which the reference is contained, supra and infra, frequently radically abbreviated, will be substituted for the abbreviation of the main division. If the reference is to a fragment that is in the same title in which the reference occurs, eo. (for eodem titulo) will be substituted for the name of the title. The most radical form of abbreviation is found in the gloss absentem given in the previous paragraph: supra lex proxi[ma]. The reference is to D.23.2.5, i.e., ‘the law next above’.

Medieval and early modern citations to the Novels present a particular challenge. The best introduction to this topic was published by Stephan Kuttner in Seminar in 1944. It is written in Latin, but you wouldn’t be reading this page if you couldn’t handle Latin. For a pdf of the article click here.

Careful scribes and printers were able to correct texts in which obvious errors were found. Their command of Latin was frequently quite good. The same cannot be said, however, for mistakes in citations. These tended multiply over the course of many copyings and printings. Hence, one should not be surprised if a citation seems totally inapt. It may be wrong, though with some effort one is sometimes able to correct it. One should not, however, assume that a citation that seems inapt is a mistake. The glossators and commentators sense of relevance was not the same as ours, and one should examine the cited text closely (and its gloss) before one assumes that the citation is mistaken.