Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Medieval and Early Modern Jurists

Ames Projects

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To search the database click here.

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

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[Below this basic page are found updates dated in 2017, 2019, and 2021.]

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 was in doubt because of Pennington’s then-pending retirement. (Since this writing that site has been taken down. Its contents, which include much more than the older version of the Medieval and Early Modern Jurists, can be found at http://legalhistorysources.com/ [last visited 5/21/2017].) 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

Since August of 2016, there has been some updating of the bibliographies of the existing entries. The principal change, however, has been the introduction of new series of reports beginning with the letter ‘t’. These are derived from another project of the Ames Foundation, a complete bibliographical listing of the works found in the Tractatus Universi Iuris of 1584–1586. That listing has reached volume 8 of TUI 1584, and all of the entries now online have been included here. The result has been the addition of 156 jurists, mostly from the sixteenth century, and, in large measure, civilians. Most of the biographies are skimpier than they are in the main series. Unlike the biographies in the main series, they include a source note. The works listed are, so far, only those that are included in TUI 1584, and there is no list of manuscripts or modern biobliography. The new entries might be regarded as ‘stubs’ for fuller entries. The conversion was undertaken for the Foundation by Devon Coleman, and we are deeply grateful to her for her painstaking work.

These new entries make use of the following sigla and short-forms not found in the other entries: ADB = Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 56 vols. (1875–1912; reprint Berlin 1967–1971) (we used the online edition, accessed through the Biographie-Portal, and hence do not include the page numbers unless we found the reference elswhere); CERL Thesaurus = Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), Thesaurus (online; all references are hyperlinked); DHJF = Dictionnaire historique des juristes français: XIIe-XXe siècle, Patrick Arabeyre, Jean-Louis Halpérin, and Jacques Krynen, 2d ed. (Paris 2015); Jöcher = Christian Gottlieb Jöcher, Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, 4 vols. (Leipzig, 1750–1751); Lange, Glossatoren = Hermann Lange, Römisches Recht im Mittelalter: 1 Die Glossatoren (München 1997); Lange/Kriechbaum, Kommentatoren = Hermann Lange and Maximiliane Kriechbaum, Römisches Recht im Mittelalter: 2 Die Kommentatoren (München 2007); NDB = Neue Deutsche Biographie, 25 vols. to date (Berlin 1953– ) (we used the online edition, accessed through the Biographie-Portal, and hence do not include the page numbers unless we found the reference elswhere).

Charles Donahue, Jr.
May, 2017

In the last two years, we have done some updating of the bibliographies, though we are somewhat behind in that task. We can, however, point to substantial progress in adding more jurists, mostly those who dealt principally with the civil law and who come from either the fifteenth or the sixteenth centuries. We did this by transferring to this database all of the jurists whose works appear in TUI 1584 from the Ames Foundation’s database of TUI 1584 jurists, which backs up, and links to, the digital version of that work on Harvard’s Mirador site. Every new item contains a linked reference to the TUI databse. The only jurist whom we did not transfer was the only one whose dates lie outside of our time frame, Isidore of Seville. More than 300 jurists have been added. What we have for them now is, in many cases, incomplete. Where we have a recent biography, for example, in DHJF or DGI, we noted that fact but have, in many cases, not yet put much or anything into the BioBib biography other than the name, dates, and a reference to the already-existing biography. We spent considerably more time trying to identify those jurists who have not been the subject of recent biography, and in most cases reported our findings here. In a few cases we summarize those findings and refer the reader to the more detailed account in the TUI database. Unlike the TUI database, we list jurists here by their Latin names, but have made some effort to include in the alternative names the vernacular name by which they are normally known. We have made one change from the standard listings in BioBib: The Latin name for ‘John’ was previously normalized a ‘Johannes’. In these listings, where the jurist came from a Romance-speaking country, it is ‘Joannes’.

The links to CERL Thesaurus provide links to the authority files of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and the Bibliothèque nationale de France that we have cited and which we have not always specifically linked. The same applies to Italian edit16 (L'Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico delle biblioteche italiane e per le informazioni bibliografiche [ICCU], Censimento nazionale delle edizioni italiane del XVI secolo). We have made some use of the relatively new Diccionario Biográfico Español (siglum: DBE), which has recently become largely available online, and intend to use it more.

Biographies, lists of works, manuscripts where known, early printed editions (increasingly important for this period), and literature will be filled in as time allows. Some of them are already there, e.g., Alciatus. It is a bit odd to have a full entry for Aliciatus and not yet for Bartolus, but that is where we are now. Even where there is no list of works, many, perhaps most, of the new entries that are not stubs mention the jurist’s main works in the biography.

Charles Donahue, Jr.
May, 2019

In the last two years, we can report some progress with the updating of civilian jurists. Bartolus, for example, now has a report that begins to approach what he deserves. Thanks to Atria Larson and a small team of co-workers we have done some updating in the bibliographies, particularly of the canonists. All told, 151 main entries were added or revised in 2019 and 76 bibliography items, 5 main entries were added or revised in 2020 and 212 bibliography items, and 4 main entries were added or revised so far in 2021 and 25 bibliography items. All told, there are now 7,060 main entries in MEMJ. Over the course of this academic year Robert Olsen has edited a substantial number of biographies, principally of 16th-century civilians, relying principally on English translations of the corresponding entries in DGI. We hope to post these over the course of the summer and early autumn.

We have been trying to maintain and improve MEMJ for fifteen months when we did not have physical access to a library. In the process, we had to rely heavily on online resources, some of which we knew about previously, some of which we did not. We have added a new page to MEMJ, called ‘Notes on Websites’ on the page and ‘Websites’ in the blue navigation bar. It describes the online resources that we have been using and offers some reflections on their usefulness for our purposes.

Charles Donahue, Jr.
June, 2021