A COMPLETE, HANDSOMELY BOUND AND ATTRACTIVELY DECORATED EXAMPLE OF A FIFTEENTH CENTURY LEGAL MANUSCRIPT, WRITTEN BY A NAMED SCRIBE IN BOLOGNA OR PADUA. The manuscript certainly went on to see practical use by lawyers, and is interesting for the inclusion of names connected not only with its commission and production, but especially with intellectual life among jurists in Bologna and the territory of the Visconti.
The name of the scribe is given as Franconis de Gheele, who was almost certainly of Flemish origin since the script is Flemish or North Eastern French in style, although the attempt at adopting an Italian style is palpable. The scribe of the first text states that it was first published in 1393 under Johannes Galeat, whom he wishes to honour with the compilation of this book. The name "Johann Galeat" in the explicit presumably refers to Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351-1402), Duke of Milan, who ruled in Pavia, Pisa, Padua and Perugia, i.e. all the university cities where Baldus de Perusio had taught in the course of his life. Baldus (Perugia, 2 October 1327-Pavia, 28 April 1400), was descended from a noble Perugian family and gained fame as a practising jurist in both Roman and canon law, giving more than 2500 consilia or legal opinions. He had counted Bartolus de Saxoferrato among his teachers, but by 1347 he had become a respected professor himself at the above universities. The commentaries on twelfth century Langobardian feudal law constitute his most successful and influential work; they were reprinted many times over the centuries.
Lapo da Castiglionchi, also known as Johannes Lapus de Castillione (born in Florence, died 1381 in Rome) was a jurist of canon law; he became involved in the preservation of legal rights of certain notable families in Florence, as a consequence of which his house was ransacked and burned down during the revolt of the Ciompi in 1378. His Allegationes were one of his major works, covering various juridical issues from the perspective of both civil and canon law.
The present text was abbreviated by Antonius de Butrio (1338-1408), another Italian jurist and noted teacher of law at Bologna. He composed numerous commentaries to the Decretals of Gregory IX and the Liber Sextus, so he was certainly educated to undertake the abbreviation of Lapo's work. The misspelled name of Paulus de Eleagariis in the explicit probably refers to Paulus de Liazariis (died 1356), as the same recommendation of the text also occurs in other manuscript witnesses (e.g. Darmstadt, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Hs 381, fol. 248r). He was another great jurist from the University of Bologna, specialising in questions of papal law. As the most senior lawyer and respected professor of the three, his recommending the book would certainly have helped it to spread - indeed the Allegationes were printed in Rome as early as 1477.
Fol. 1: Incipit of the Lectura super usibus Feudorum: "Intellectus tibi dabo et instruam te in via hac qua gradieris ait dominus omnipotens ..." Fol. 144: Explicit: "Explicit utilis ac subtilis lectura super usibus feudorum baldi de perusio utriusque iuris doctoris inclina civitate pa[v]ie publicata Anno domini Mcccxciii sub felici et illustri domino - domino Johannes Galeat Comite virtutum in cuius laudem et honorem copilavit hoc opus Deo gratias" Fols. 144v-146v had originally been blank, but a table of contents for the book of Baldus de Perusio was added in the course of the fifteenth century. Chapter numbers in the margins refer to this index. Fol. 147: Incipit of the index for the following book: "De constitutionibus Rubrica/ Non obstante constitutione facta per caplin vacante sede penali et iurata ..." Fol. 159: Incipit of the Allegationes iuris: "In nomine domini nostri Jhu xpi Alleg(ationes) solmp(nis) doctor domini lapi de florencia abreviata per domini Anthonii de Butrio de bononia// Allegatio prima de appellare// In hac allegatione facit tria vel quatuor dubia ..." Fol. 257: Explicit: "Expliciunt Allegationes domini lapi scriptus per manus Franconis de Gheele Anno 1436 die 21 Junii/ Laus Deo omnipotens". And an added commentary: "Sic dico et consulo Ego Paulus de eleagariis de Bononia. Gratias altissimo Amen".
It is unusual for legal texts (apart from the Decretum Gratiani) to be as copiously decorated as the present copy, implying that it was made as a commission for a noble family, which is confirmed by the coat of arms on fol. 1. Identifying the many drawings of coats of arms in the margins would help to confirm where the manuscript was in use during the fifteenth century, but the oblique form of a large initial 'I' (as on fol. 1), inserted into the text block like a wedge, is typical of both Paduan and Bolognese manuscript illumination in the middle of the fifteenth century (cf. Padua, Bibl. Ant. 30, fol. 1r; no. 45 in: Manoscritti datati d'Italia 4. I manoscritti datati della provincia di Vicenza e della biblioteca Antoniana di Padova, 2000, tav. XXXIII). However, the palette, the sparkling burnished gold, and the very refined use of white penwork in the two initials, as well as the floral borders with spiralling acanthus leaves and quadrifoil flowers, and the lavish use of lapislazuli for the blue, place it closer to Bologna. Apart from being one of the most important centres for manuscript illumination in Renaissance Italy, Bologna was of course famous for its faculty and many schools of law. The combination of these two important legal texts, together with the refined illumination, make this a fine manuscript in the great Bolognese tradition of legal studies.
1. The original coat of arms of the first unidentified owner, in the lower margin of the first page, has been overpainted. As can be judged from the verso of this leaf, the coat of arms must have been a diagonal yellow/golden bar over a multicoloured shield (red, white and green?). 2. Later in the fifteenth century the manuscript seems to have been used by legal scholars. There are many annotations and drawings of coats of arms in the margins, probably referring to duchies or members of the nobility to whom certain laws might apply, and a detailed index following the first book was added around the same time. 3. The eighteenth century owner, who had the manuscript rebound, seems to have overpainted the original coat of arms with his own, an overturned sun with a face and spreading rays on a red ground, with a blue band and three white stars above. 4. M. Jean Baptiste Théodore de Jonghe of Gent (1801-1860), one of the most notable bibliophiles of his time, with his bookplate. 5. Brussels, F. Heussner, Livres et manuscrits formant la Bibliothèque de Feu M.J.B.TH. de Jonghe, Officier de l'ordre de Léopold, 9 November 1860, vol. 1, lot 172/f1564. 6. Purchased from Sotheran and Co., September 1900 (note on fly-leaf).
Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, vol. IV, 572(3).
Vincenzo Colli, Le opere di Baldo. Dal codice d'autore all'edizione a stampa, in: Atti del Convegno Internazionale nel VI Centenario della morte di Baldo degli Ubaldi, a cura di C. Frova e M.G. Nico Ottaviani, Perugia, Università degli Studi, 2004, pp. 25-85.
Vincenzo Colli, L'esemplare di dedica e la tradizione del testo della Lectura super usibus feudorum' di Baldo degli Ubaldi, in: Ius Commune 27, 69-117 (2000).
BALDUS de Perusio, also known as 'Baldus de Ubaldis'