The Ames Foundation


General Introduction

This Edition

Notes on the Metadata


General Introduction. 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.

This Edition. 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 originally accompanied the online version simply listed each volume followed by the sequence numbers of the images. For someone who is familiar with the arrangement of the Vulgate Corpus, this was better than nothing, and with some guess work and flipping of pages online such a person could find what he or she was looking for. It was, however, a challenge, to put it mildly, even for the person who knew the arragement of the modern editions of the Corpus, and close to impossible for someone who did 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 a start. All the titles of the Digest, Code, Novels, Institutes, and the Libri feudorum are listed with their corresponding medieval citations. We have also listed the main headings of the supplementary volume 6, the contents of which turned out to be quite remarkable. We have provided hyperlinks to the images of all of these. Bringing the references down to the individual fragments within the titles is planned, but that is a project for the 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. The individual web pages devoted to each of volumes contain some notes (particularly in vols. 5 and 6) about the contents of the pages.

Notes on the Metadata. The information in the metadata provided below has been incorporated in the metadata that appears in left-hand column of the Page Delivery Service. A word is in order here about how we matched the pagination in our six volumes to the image sequence numbers. Most of the pages in our volumes contain two column numbers, and where they do so, we have used them. A few contain page numbers rather than column numbers, and where they do we have used those, employing the convention of putting ‘a’ and ‘b’ after the page number where a specific column on the page was being referred to. In both cases we have pointed out errors in numeration in square brackets. Where a title is given with a reference to a specific column number, the other column number on that page is assumed. Where only column or page numbers are given, the title is that of the last previous reference. If the page is blank, it is so marked.

The front matter in each volume and the Thesaurus Accursianus (but not the other parts of vol. 6) have no page numbers. Here we have provided the signature number for each page, placing in square brackets those items that we have supplied (always ‘r’ for recto, the entire number of verso, sometimes the number of the first page of the signature, and usually the numbers beyond iiij). The signature markings vary somewhat throughout the work. We have tried to follow the style of particular signature where we are supplying the numbers. The general pattern seems to be signatures of three folios, with the verso marked in the lower right corner of each folio with an additional mark in the lower right corner of the third folio, but there are many variations. Signatures of four and five folios occur. We have found none that are more than five, but we did not map all the signatures.

The front and back covers, the front and back pastedowns, and a varying number of what have called ‘free standing endpapers’ begin and end each volume. Since we did not disbind the volumes, it is not completely clear that the free standing endpapers really are free standing endpapers, but we marked as such anything that we could not fit into a signature.

The completion of this phase of the project would not have been possible without the assiduous work of Dennis Mahoney, who became a student at the Harvard Law School in the autumn of 2013. This was probably not quite what he had in mind when he answered an advertisement for a research assistant who knew some Latin, but he stuck with it and completed the task with remarkable accuracy. The Ames Foundation is deeply grateful for his efforts. Any errors – some certainly exist; we hope that there are not many – are the responsibility of the undersigned.

Charles Donahue, Jr.
14 May 2014

Digesta 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 IV: Codex (i.e., CJ.1.1 through CJ.9.51): front matter


Tomus IV: Codex: titles corresponding to modern editions


Tomus IV: Codex (i.e., CJ.1.1 through CJ.9.51): back matter


Tomus V: Volumen Parvum: Tres Libri (i.e., CJ.10.1 through CJ.12.53);
   Novellae; Libri Feudorum; Institutiones: front matter


Tomus 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 V: Volumen Parvum: Novellae seu Authentica: front matter


Tomus V: Novellae: citations corresponding to the modern editions


Libri Feudorum


Tomus V: Volumen Parvum: Libri feudorum: front matter


Tomus V: Libri feudorum: titles corresponding to the modern edition


Institutiones Justiniani (i.e., JI.1 through JI.4)


Tomus V: Volumen Parvum: Institutiones Justinani: front matter


Tomus V: Institutiones: titles corresponding to the modern editions




Tomus VI: Supplementum: Thesaurus Accursianus: front matter


Tomus VI: Thesaurus Accursianus: alphabetical listing


Tomus VI: Index antiquae et novae legum interpretationis: by the books of the Corpus


Tomus VI: Supplementum: Notae ad Accursianum: front matter


Tomus VI: Notarum ad Accursium libri miscellanei: by the books of the Corpus


Tomus VI: Benedictorum Accursii Liber singularis: reference





This page last updated 05/16/14. Contact Rosemary Spang with comments.
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