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Roman Law in Ruins: Re-discovering the Paul Krueger Archive

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The following is a guest post by John Hessler, Senior Reference Specialist in the Library of Congress’s Geography And Map Division.

Krueger's Notebook

It was one of those moments that happens to a scholar perhaps once or twice in a lifetime. For the past eight years I had been working on a book that centered on Roman land ownership law and the origins of cadastral mapping. On this particular morning I found myself once again in the Rare Book Collections of the Law Library of Congress looking for a group of very rare early 16th century books on medieval land surveying and law (the books were Andrea Alcitai’s De quinque pedum praescriptione, 1529 and Bartolo of Sassoferrot’s Tyberiadis, 1576). While in the vault searching for these two volumes, Meredith Shedd-Driskel, the curator of the Rare Book collections, opened an envelope and handed me a small notebook. She asked if I had ever seen this before. I stood there for a moment in absolute shock. I immediately recognized, without even opening the notebook, the handwriting of Paul Krueger (1840-1926), one of the most important scholars of Roman law in the history of the discipline, a man, who in the late 19th and early 20th century examined more of the original medieval sources Roman law than anyone before or since. Standing there in amazement, I recall asking her one question, “Are there any more of these?”  It was at this point that she drew my attention to a wall of boxes, which since their acquisition by the Law Library more than 80 years ago, have gone unstudied and un-inventoried. I have since found those boxes to contain the manuscripts, notebooks, fragmentary jottings and paleographic reconstructions of Paul Krueger relating to his work on the Corpus Iuris Civilis and other classical sources of Roman law, an archive long thought lost by scholars.

Paul Krueger

The compilation of Roman law that was originally brought together by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (ca. 482- 565) and that is now known as the Corpus Iuris Civilis (Corpus), is the most important and influential collection of civil and secular law that has come down to us from antiquity. The importance of the Krueger archive to the history of the text of the Corpus Juris Civilis and the history of Roman law in general cannot be overestimated, considering the fact that there are so few surviving archives of the working material from 19th century scholars engaged in the new forms of textual philology from this critical period in history.

The most important critical edition of the Latin text of the Corpus was produced by the great Roman historian Theodor Mommsen (1807-1903) with the assistance of a younger philologist, Paul Krueger. Mommsen and Krueger’s edition of the texts that make up the various parts of the Corpus is still in use today, almost a century and a half after its first publication, and there is no indication that it might be replaced anytime soon.  Since their publication, each of these editions has been quoted and used in almost all of the scholarship regarding the history and foundations of Roman law, and these editions form the basis for the modern English, German, and French translations.

Krueger's Manuscript Notes

It is of course well known that the Corpus of Justinian is composed of four parts; the Digest, the Code, the Institutes and the Nouvelles. During the 1860’s, while Paul Krueger aided Theodor Mommsen in the production of the edition of the Digest, he also worked on critical editions of the Institutes and the Code. In 1867, when he was just 27 years old, Krueger published both a new edition of the Institutes and a comprehensive study of the Code that would form the basis for his edition of the work, published in 1877. Krueger’s archive contains notes and fragments relating to both of these studies that detail how Krueger approached the collation of manuscripts and produced his textual apparatus. It was one of his notebooks relating to the Code that Meredith first handed to me in the Rare Book vaults almost a year ago. These notes and others like them give us a unique view into how Krueger made critical decisions regarding the text of the Code and how he dated many of the medieval manuscripts that formed its foundation.

Most of the manuscripts of the Code that Krueger worked with were purely in Latin and had had the Greek laws that they originally held removed from them during the early Middle Ages. In Justinian’s original text however, there were many Greek laws that were key components to the structure of the Code. To replace the critical Greek parts of the text Kruger worked from some of the most difficult and fragmentary evidence that was available. One of Krueger’s most penetrating studies of a hybrid Greek and Latin text from the eastern law tradition comes from his Die Sinai-Scholien zu Ulpinas libri ad Sabinum. In this study he explored the origin of a fragmentary collection of notes (scholia) written about the jurist Ulpian’s libri ad Sabinum.

This group of fragmentary scholia was found as part of the binding of a book in the monastery of Mount Sinai in 1880 and unfortunately has since been lost.  The text of the notes, which is written in Greek, cites the Codex Theodosianus, and according to Krueger’s jottings from his study of the fragments found in the archive, he believed them to be the product of a law school, most likely originating in Beirut.

Krueger’s notes from his study of these scholia are very significant, especially considering that the original manuscript has since been lost.  The scholia themselves detail an important innovation in the study of Roman law in the eastern empire as the number of students who were capable of reading Latin diminished in the 5th century. The students of Roman law in the time just before Justinian, which is when these fragments date from, began the study of any Roman law text by using what was called in Greek, an index. These indices were basically translations and paraphrases of important texts into Greek that also included reading tools, such as definitions of technical and specialized terms, explanations of archaic language and phraseology, and glosses that would highlight parallels in other important texts of law.

Krueger's Lectures on Roman Law

There are many treasures still to be fully understood in the archive, including Krueger’s lost lectures on the history of Roman law that have never been published or edited. The re-discovery of the archive has excited many scholars of the history of Roman law and there is much, much more work to be done on this extremely important group of manuscripts.

My current research on the Krueger archive centers on the completion of a detailed finding aid for this important collection and a study of Krueger’s methodology of collation of medieval manuscripts. The recension of medieval manuscripts of the Corpus of Justinian is a complex problem and with the discovery of the Krueger archive it is hoped that more light can be shed on this extremely difficult open question in the history of Roman law. I have recently prepared two articles on the Krueger archive that would be of interest to those who might want to find out more about its contents and problems of the recension of medieval and classical legal texts. The first is entitled “Editing Justinian’s Corpus” and will appear in the August, 2011 issue of the Law Library Journal. The second, “Using Binary Galois Lattices to Investigate Medieval Manuscript Collation: the Case of Paul Krueger and the Codex of Justinian”, will be published in the March 2012 issue of Revue D’Histoire Des Textes.

Comments (7)

  1. This is an amazing discovery. I have been teaching Roman Law for over 40 years and Krueger’s name is ever present. I look forward to reading Dr. Hessler’s papers and hearing more about this archive.

  2. Congratulations, John, on bringing this great collection to us! I wish you many more fruitfull years of scholarly work in this regard.
    Dante Figueroa

  3. I was at Mr. Hessler’s presentation of this collection in Italy this summer and it is a fantastic find. I will look for more on this in the future.

  4. It is great to know Paul Krügers private library has been preserved at the Library of Congress and that scholars of Roman law can study its contents to their profit. A few years ago the presence of this great collection has been duly noted by Jolande E. Goldberg and Natalie Gawdiak (eds.), “Library of Congress Law Library: An Illustrated Guide” (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2005), at page 72. Goldberg and Gawdiak make clear that in 1934 a list of the items in Krüger’s library was created, but this list needs cross-referencing and further arrangement. John Hessler in the Law Library Journal makes me curious for more.

  5. Este tema es digno del esfuerzo del autor. El Derecho Romano no ha podido ser superado por la ciencia jurídica moderna-contemporánea ya que es su propia base.

  6. I would like to know when this might be available to the general public. This is a subject that I have been interested in for a long time and I am suprised by Krueger’s lectures still surviving.

    L Summers
    Professor of History

  7. That was a really good read!

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