Monday, March 31, 2008

Murray on Law Book Bindings

One of the subjects which David Murray discusses in his Legal Merriments is the history of the binding law books. He observes that the subject was not one which interested his contemporaries, a statement which would be true today as well. But, he pionts out that there have been learned disquistions published on the subject. Among the various opinions he cites is that of Sebastian Brant, best known for his Ship of Fools. Brant was a law professor at Basel and much interested in the organization of legal knowledge. He recommended that law book bindings be color coded, to reflect their contents. Thus, he argues that the Digestum Vetus be bound in white, for simplicty; the Infortiatum in black because it deals with succession and the property of the dead, the Digestum Novum in red because it deals with crimes; and theVolumen in green and red to signify that it deals with both recent laws and fiscal matters. [David Murray, Legal Merriments, pp. 266-267] It is interesting to speculate whether Brant's scheme of color coding bindings drew its inspiration from the medieval habit of illuminating law books with scenes which corresponded to the subjects discussed on the same and nearby pages, about which more in the next post.

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