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Introduction to Roman Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights

This is a guest post by Dante Figueroa, a senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress.  Some of Dante’s recent posts include Introduction to Canon Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights, Resources and Treasures of the Italian Parliamentary Libraries, and A Fresh Update on the Canonical Rules on the Election of a New Pontiff.

Elementi di Diritto Privato Romano

Elementi di Diritto Privato Romano

Visitors to the Law Library of Congress closed stacks may have seen our amazing collection of Roman law materials.  A question that many have asked is whether and how these books are used by researchers today.  For academic researchers it seems very interesting to consider the various intersections between the common and civil law worlds, when discussing the role of Roman law in terms of its influence in shaping both the common and civil legal systems.

In the world of civil law, Andrés Bello–a poet, intellectual, and polyglot, like many of the great men of the 18th century–, was also a Roman law professor.  He was a key figure in the drafting of the Chilean Civil Code.  The Chilean Civil Code was in turn adopted by Colombia, Ecuador and much of South America for which won Bello the reputation of father of codification in South America.  As an aficionado of Latin, he famously wrote that “nothing enhances the acquisition of foreign languages more than the previous knowledge of Latin” (Selected Writings of Andrés  Bello, 1997, at 120). In the field of law, Bello recognized the indisputable origins of Roman law–particularly, the Lex Romana Visigothorum, Roman Visigothic law–contained in the Ley de las Siete Partidas, which was one of the most important legal instruments applicable to the Spanish colonial America.  According to Bello, “the Siete Partidas are a copy of the Roman Pandects” (Bello, at 122-3).  The fact that “Roman laws have withstood the test of time” (Bello, at 123) is also evident in the U.S. legal tradition, where examples abound. In 1997, when commenting on Geer v. Connecticut (161 U.S. 519 (1896)), professor Richard Epstein skillfully argued that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution should be disregarded in a case concerning private ownership rights over “birds in the air, the animals in the land, and the fish in the water” (Richard A. Epstein, The Modern Uses of Ancient Law, 48 S.C.L. Rev. 243, 245 [1997]); and, instead, we should make avail of “Roman precedents [which are] directly applicable.” (Epstein, at 255).

Materials in the Law Library’s Roman law collection include treatises by various important English legal commentators:

Other Roman Law items in our collection include:

We hope our readers become interested in exploring the amazing collection of Roman Law materials at the Law Library of Congress.

Tribal Governments and Violence Against Women Act — Pilot Project

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Davis, a supervisory collection specialist in our Collection Services Division.  March is the annual occasion to laud women’s landmark milestones and accomplishments for Women’s History Month.  A new pilot project began in March that is a signal triumph for women, particularly native women. It is also a […]

Works by Leon Battista Alberti – Pic of the Week

  A humanist and generally recognized as an uomo universal [“Renaissance man”], Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) is known for his works in painting, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, music, physics, philosophy, and cryptography.  The writing of the mysterious Hypnerotomachia Poliphili has even been attributed to him.  The Law Library recently acquired a compilation of his lesser-known works, simply titled […]

An Introduction to Water Law

Although I grew up in an arid western state, my first real awareness of the complicated rules governing water usage came when I saw the movie The Milagro Beanfield War in 1988.  The action in the movie centers around the accidental and illegal diversion of water by Joe Mondragon, which brings down the wrath of the state government […]

Costa Rican Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights

The following is a guest post by Norma C. Gutiérrez, senior foreign law specialist for Mexico and Central American countries in the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Directorate. It is part of our Global Legal Collection Highlights series that aims to inform readers about English-language materials in the Law Library’s collection. To date, the series […]

Magna Carta is Coming to the Library of Congress

Today, the Library of Congress announced officially that Magna Carta is coming to the Library!  Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England, is loaning the Library its exemplification of a 1215 King John Magna Carta.  The historical document will be part of the exhibition, Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, which opens November 6, 2014 and continues through January 19, […]

Japanese Family Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights

The following is a guest post by Sayuri Umeda, a senior foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress, who covers Japan and several other Asian jurisdictions.  This post is part of our Global Legal Collection Highlights series, which has included posts on the Law Library’s collections related to a wide range of countries and subjects. The […]

Foreign and International Legal Research Guides – Pic of the Week

  Happy Friday!  We’ve updated the links of our legal research guides for fourteen foreign jurisdictions.  These research guides provide a one-stop primer on the legal systems of foreign countries by providing links to reference sources, compilations, citations guides, periodicals (indexes and databases), dictionaries, web resources, free public web sites, subscription-based services, subject-specific web sites, and country overviews.  The […]

Mexico’s Constitution and Its Square, the Zócalo

Today, I return to blogging for In Custodia Legis after a considerable hiatus.  That gap came from being involved in other projects, among these the Library of Congress Leadership Development Program and the coordination of the Library’s recent Celebration of Mexico and tribute to the Living Legend Award Winner, Dr. Miguel León-Portilla. In keeping with Mexican and Spanish […]