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The Body of Civil Law, A Roman and Byzantine Legal Legacy


Corpus Juris Civilis Academicum, or “Body of Civil Law, for Academics”, by Christoph Heinrich Freiesleben, alias Ferromontano, written in Latin, published in 1748, is rare: records 19 copies of Juris Civilis Academicum published in 1748 as being still extant, mostly in the special collections of European libraries: some of these copies contain only one Tomus (Latin, “section”), but this one contains two, Tomus I & II, and it is available for private collection.


Its full Latin title is Corpus Juris Civilis Academicum: in suas partes distributum, usuique moderno ita accommodatum, ut nunc studiosorum quivis, etiam tyro, uno quasi intuitu, omnes leges digestorum et codicis, omnesque titulos institutionum invenire possit.


Translated into English, the title reads: The Body of Law for Academics, distributed in sections, has been made convenient for modern use, so that it provides students, even beginners, with a quick overview of Codex Constitutionum, Digesta, Institutiones, permitting them to assess to a systematic classification of all statutory laws.


Blind Tooling: A Decorative Technique on Bindings


This rare copy can also be read as an artifact of blind tooling decorative technique, an old binding technique which can be traced back to Coptic bindings of the eighth century or earlier. Blind tooling is a decorative technique, creating an impression on dampened leather with a heated brass tool, a popular technique from the medieval period up until the sixteenth century in Europe. As the word “blind” suggests darkness and inner vision, blind tooling, by implications, creates impressions augmented by pleasing shade and depth sans coloring. In this copy, the intricated, decorative blind-tooled lines on pig skin are still prominent.


A Legal Epic: Code of Justinian, or Corpus Juris Civilis


The Byzantine emperor Justinian I (483-565 CE) sponsored the compilation of old laws, coupled with legal interpretations from Roman jurists, he wished to retain, and his newly enacted laws. This new system of laws, thus, is called Code of Justinian, Latin Codex Justinianus, another name for Corpus Juris Civilis. The Code, a continuation of Roman Laws, was annexed with regulations on Christian practices, taking more than three decades to complete (from 529-565 CE), truly an epic compilation. The Justinian Code consists of four books: Codex Iustinianus, Digesta (or Pandectae), Institutiones, and Novellae Constitutiones Post Codicem (New Constitutions or Novels), Latin being the language for all, except Novels, which was first published in Greek. Novels, the fourth part, was compiled after the death of Justinian I and has been treated as a part of Corpus Juris Civilis. This 1748 copy includes Novels in Latin.


The Code grounds the foundation of Latin jurisprudence (such as marriage, property, women’s rights, criminal justice, and ecclesiastical Canon Law) for the next 900 years, its scope and impact leaving an endless legal legacy. The provisions of the Code had a large impact on the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church; however, the Code was not applied widely until after the Early Middle Ages. Italy was the first to promulgate the Code before it spread to other European countries and Russia in the twelfth century. Since, the code has formed the basis for civil law in Western legal jurisdictions.


As the opening line remarks: “Jus Civile Romanum, quod propter divinam in eo elucentem sapientiam, & aequitatis excellentiam, omnium fere gentium assensu comprobatur, tam varium & multiplex est, ut omne illud vi memorie complecti, supra humani ingenii capturn videatur esse positum.


Translated into English, this reads: so comprehensive and multicomplex is the Roman Civil Law: it exemplifies the shinning wisdom and excellence of God or of Divine’s intervention and thus earns the consent of nearly all nations as the basis of all laws to be ranked above human nature.


The single, matchless influence on civil law has been and is, still, Corpus Juris Civilis.


The condition of this book is fine, no loose pages, clean interior (see photos), except some foxing marks on the front board, unavoidable for any eighteenth-century text; extremely rare.


Approximate size: 26 x 22 x 9.5 cm

Weight: 3240 gram

Language: Latin


The Body of Law, 1748

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