13th C. Justinian Civil Law m/s


A large medieval illuminated vellum fragment

 from the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law).



Verso:  The main text is written on vellum in a rounded gothic bookhand in two columns and has numerous 3-line illuminated initials embellished with the contrasting colour, paragraph marks and one-line sentential capitals.  The two columns of text are surrounded by commentaries (glosses) written in a similar smaller script with many 2-line illuminated initials.  Additional marginal corrections and annotations, and with a few notations in a later hand from its time as a binding.


Recto:  As Verso with main text and gloss and with a heading in red in the top margin: XII.


Source:  Probably Bologna, Italy


Date:  Latter part of the 13th century, c. 1280.


Content:  This leaf is from the Digests (or Pandects), which were comprised of 50 ‘books’ and is from Book 12: Title 6 - “Concerning an action for the recovery of money which is not due.”


The text in the left column of Recto, starting with the 3-line illuminated blue initial ‘P’ reads:  Pomponius. Quod indebitum per errorem solvitur, aut ipsum aut tantundem repetitur  (Where money which is not due is paid through mistake, suit may be brought for the recovery of the same money, or of an equal amount).  

The next red initial ‘P’ begins the paragraph: Paulus. Quod nomine mariti, qui solvendo non sit, alius mulieri solvisset, repetere non potest: adeo debitum esset mulieri. (Where a third party pays a wife on account of a husband who is insolvent, he cannot bring suit to recover the money, since it is, to all intents and purposes, a debt due to the wife).


Other excerpts from both Recto & Verso include: 

“ The right to recover anything which was not due is based upon natural law, and therefore the action will include any addition to the property, for instance, a child born of a female slave, or any land added by alluvium; and, indeed, it also includes crops gathered in good faith by the party to whom delivery was made”. 


“Even a slave may be bound by a natural obligation; hence, if anyone should pay a debt for him, or the slave himself should do so after being manumitted (as Pomponius says), he cannot recover the money out of the peculium the free administration of which he enjoys; and on this account a surety who had been accepted for the slave will be liable, and a pledge given on his account will be retained; if, however, the slave who has the administration of his peculium gives anything as a pledge for what he owes, he should be granted a praetorian action to recover it.  Moreover, where a ward borrows money without the authority of his guardian, becoming more wealthy thereby, and pays the same after he reaches puberty, he cannot bring an action for its recovery”.



Condition:  This leaf was used as a binding and consequently has trimmed corners, creases at the edges, some soiling, and some fading or abrasion to the text.  There are small illegible patches and a few small holes but it is nevertheless an interesting fragment demonstrating the full life cycle of an early manuscript. The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.


Notes:  Justinian ruled the Byzantine Empire as Emperor from 527 - 565 A.D. and and sought to codify existing Roman civil law into one body.  The resultant work, produced between 529-534 AD is known as the “Corpus Juris Civilis Justinianus” and became the basis of Western civil law, with many aspects still in use today.  These works have become known individually as the Code, which collected the legal pronouncements of the Roman emperors, the Institutes, an elementary student's textbook, and the Digest or Pandects, by far the largest and most highly prized of the three compilations. The Digest was assembled by a team of sixteen academic lawyers commissioned by Justinian in 533 to cull everything of value from earlier Roman law. It was for centuries the focal point of legal education in the West and remains today an unprecedented collection of the commentaries of Roman jurists on the civil law.


In the 13th century, Bologna was the most prolific centre of medieval manuscript production.  This manuscript was probably produced there during a time when the University of Bologna was the principal institution for the teaching and promotion of law.  It was at the University of Bologna that the foundations of modern legal tradition arose. The gloss - the commentary on the main text - is possibly by Accursius (c. 1182 - 1263) who was an Italian jurist, later appointed professor at Bologna. 


Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 365x280 mm.  Free postage worldwide.  


References:  The Bodley Library possesses a manuscript edition of the Codex: 

see: http://bodley30.bodley.ox.ac.uk:8180/luna/servlet/detail/ODLodl~1~1~1815~101844


Item No:  MOT052

N.B.  A complete translation of the text, excluding the gloss, accompanies this item.

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