Lex Scripta: The Manuscript as Witness to the History of Law

2nd Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age

October 30-31, 2009
Symposium Open to the public
Illustrated initial with jurist.

In partnership with the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Biddle Law Library of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Libraries are pleased to announce the 2nd annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age. This year's symposium is dedicated to the history of handwritten law and legal documents in Western Europe and the Middle East up to the early modern period in honor of the 100th anniversary of the death of Henry Charles Lea, whose library containing a significant collection of works on ecclesiastical legal history was conveyed to the University in 1926.

Nine speakers will present papers on various topics relating to the history of handwritten law and legal documents. The symposium will conclude with a panel of digital humanities scholars who will discuss specific  projects and issues related to the digitization of legal manuscripts and documents.

  • Jonathan E. Brockopp, Penn State University
  • Hugh Cayless, New York University
  • Simon Corcoran, Projet Volterra, University College London
  • Gero Dolezalek, University of Aberdeen
  • Abigail Firey, University of Kentucky
  • Jessica Goldberg, University of Pennsylvania
  • Kathleen E. Kennedy, Penn State University-Brandywine
  • Susan L'Engle, Vatican Film Library, St. Louis University
  • Kenneth Pennington, The Catholic University of America
  • Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania
  • Timothy Stinson, North Carolina State University 
  • Georg Vogeler, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich
  • Anders Winroth, Yale University

Event Series


Friday, October 30, 2009

Special Session in honor of Edward Peters, Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of History, University of Pennsylvania

Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 6th floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, University of Pennsylvania, 3420 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA (map)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Morning Session

Montgomery Auditorium, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St, Philadelphia, PA (map)

Afternoon Session

Silverman Hall, Room 240A, Penn Law School, 3400 Chestnut St (entrance on 34th) (map)

Presentation Abstracts

Anders Winroth, Yale University

The Italian jurist Gratian wrote his textbook on church (canon) law at some point around 1140. The book is huge, containing almost 4,000 chapters. The most recent edition is well over a hundred years old and needs to be replaced. That need has become more acute with the discovery that Gratian first wrote a shorter book, containing only 1,860 chapters, which is almost completely included in the later version. The talk will focus on my work of producing an edition of this earlier work, using digital images of the four medieval manuscripts that contain it as well as a modern program for editing texts.

Kenneth Pennington, The Catholic University of Americ

 Since the beginning of the twenty-first century a number of institutions have put medieval manuscripts and rare books on the internet.  These sites have become valuable resources for research and teaching.   This talk will discuss these sites, demonstrate the technology, their use (good and bad), and the legal and ethical issues that arise from making these materials available.

Jonathan E. Brockopp, Penn State University

Forty years ago, Fuat Sezgin completed what is still our only survey of early Islamic legal manuscripts (in the first volume of his Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums).  Since that time, Joseph Schacht drew the attention of the scholarly community to important collections of manuscripts in Fez, Kairouan, and Tunis, and Miklos Muranyi has published a series of articles and books probing the riches of these collections.  But much more work remains to be done.  The Kairouan collection is of particular importance.  Virtually uncatalogued, this collection contains some of the oldest legal manuscripts in Arabic, including fragments datable to the early ninth century CE.  In this paper, I will review the accomplishments of scholars thus far and suggest some of the ways that further study of these manuscripts can increase our understanding of the development, practice, and study of early Islamic law.

Gero Dolezalek, University of Aberdeen

[abstract missing]

Kathleen E. Kennedy, Penn State University-Brandywine

The Hampton L. Carson Collection of Anglo-American Common Law comprises one of the largest collections of English common law manuscripts in North America.   The statute collections in the Carson Collection provide samples illustrating a range of topics of central importance to the study of English legal history, bibliography, and medieval English culture.   LC 14 20.5 and LC 14.21 date to around 1300, and are among the earliest statute collections, copied as the nature of statutes as law was still developing.  LC 14 09. 5 dates to the later fifteenth century, as legal manuscripts were beginning to compete with print.  MS 14 09 5's illuminations have been used to identify a group of manuscript artists who seem to have specialized in legal manuscripts.   In "Manuscripts in the Hampton L. Carson Collection" I will introduce these manuscripts and others as I assess the usefulness of the collection for scholarly research.

Edward Peters, Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of History, University of Pennsylvania

During the same nineteenth century when the modern study of legal history got underway in Europe, from Savigny to the Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917, Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909), an ocean away and without a serious library in sight, undertook the study of several aspects of ecclesiastical and legal history that brought him into contact with canon law at virtually every turn. This talk will deal with Lea's encounter with canon law - in and out of historical study proper - in the young and library-thin America of the 1850s and 60s. That is, I will focus on Lea's early work - Superstition and Force (1866), An Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy (1867), Studies in Church History (1869), and the beginning of his work on the various inquisitions. In the preface to the second edition of Superstition and Force (1870) Lea remarked that "The history of jurisprudence is the history of civilization." And for Lea that jurisprudence included canon law.

Abigail Firey, University of Kentucky

Scholars of pre-modern legal history face interesting problems with the interpretation of their materials because the ideal of fixed written laws is compromised by the variability in handwritten transcription of the texts.  The variability may lead to inadvertently peculiar readings of the law in specific instances, or may have resulted from deliberate manipulation of the texts to adapt them to particular interests or circumstances.   While such textual evolution occurs in many professional fields (medicine, music, liturgy, etc.), it raises especially interesting questions in the field of legal studies because of the implications for the authority of the text and the threshold of “forgery.” This paper investigates new methods for assessing the relationship between “standard” versions of legal texts and the degree and frequency of alteration in manuscript witnesses, using the Carolingian Canon Law project as one possible model for using a digital environment to study the histories of “living texts”, that is, texts that potentially mutate in each manuscript representation.

Susan L’Engle, Vatican Film Library

This paper will address the various types of marks--graphic and pictorial--made by readers in the margins of twelfth- and early thirteenth-century manuscripts of Roman law. The graffiti and their multiple functions will be discussed in the context of the early teaching and study of law, particularly in Bologna.

Jessica Goldberg, University of Pennsylvania

[abstract missing]

Moderator:  Timothy Stinson, North Carolina State University

Legal Manuscripts in the Digital Age” is a panel discussion featuring leading scholars who specialize in legal documents, open access, and the development of tools for digital research and pedagogy. The panelists will discuss challenges and opportunities encountered at each of several stages in the life cycle of digital objects and archives, including conversion to digital format, markup, rights and permissions policies, dissemination, and sustainability. The panel will focus on the digitization and use of medieval legal documents, with a special focus on issues of open access, but much of the discussion will be pertinent to a wide range of issues and practices in digital humanities.

Featured image: Illuminated initial with the jurist Angelo de Gambiglioni, from a copy of his Tractatus de maleficiis (Free Library of Philadelphia, Hampton L. Carson Collection, LC 14 23, fol. 1r)