The Ames Foundation


HLS Ms 41 (formerly Dunn 41) has long been known to scholars as one of the surviving texts of Novae narrationes and, perhaps more importantly, as a unique, and early (i.e., pre-Statham), ‘abridgement’ of Year Book cases. The importance of the manuscript makes it a prime candidate for something that should be made available to scholars world-wide in digital form. The Ames Foundation, in cooperation with the Harvard Law Library and the Harvard University Library, has now done so.

The quires of the manuscript are of a roughly uniform size, approximately 6 x 9 inches. A number of hands are at work, all of which, at least so far as we have been able to determine, seem to date from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century. The style of the script, for the most part, is the semi-cursive one familiar to readers of English legal manuscripts, sometimes called ‘Anglicana’ or ‘bastard’. Some of the scripts in the ‘abridgement’ have spikey features that we associate more with scripts of the fifteenth century than with those of the fourteenth.

The manuscript was acquired by the Harvard Law Library from the Dunn Collection in 1913. When it arrived, it was bound, very tightly, with two boards with a third board approximately one-fifth of the way through, tied with thongs on the back, and very tight. The binding was old, but probably not contemporary with manuscript itself. The binding was not in good condition, and it was so tight that is was not possible to read what was in the gutters of many of the pages. Since some of the contents of the manuscript are unique, it was obviously important that all of it could be read. With this in mind, the Library in 1984 asked the Northeast Document Conservation Center to rebind it. They recommended that the older binding be discarded and that the manuscript be bound in four physical volumes small enough that they could be laid open and the entire contents of the pages be viewed. The first physical volume of the modern binding contains a separate work, whereas the division among the three subsequent volumes is basically arbitrary.

The manuscript has two sets of foliation, the first in Roman of 73 folios of which 71 contain writing, the second in Arabic, but of considerable antiquity, of 429 folios. The first foliation is a manuscript of Novae narrationes, of the ‘C’ type. This work constitutes the first physical volume of the manuscript in its current binding. A description of its contents may be found on a separate page.

The Arabic foliation contains an ‘abridgement’ of cases from the reigns of Edward III through the beginning of that of Henry VI. The work bears some resemblance to Statham, but is, so far as we are aware, unique. This work is divided among three physical volumes in the current binding. A description of its contents may also be found on a separate page.


This page last updated 03/11/12. Contact Rosemary Spang with comments.
URL: /digital/HLSMS41/HLSMs41Metadata.html.
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