Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bracton Online @ Harvard University

Henry Bracton was a 13th-century English judge who wrote a comprehensive treatise outlining and explaining the whole of English law at the time. Harvard keyed his On the Laws and Customs of England from both the original Latin manuscript and a 20th-century English translation of it, making it available in a frames-based web page. The text is searchable by keyword, and the Latin and English versions can be compared side by side. However, images of the actual manuscript are limited to three thumbnails on the project's homepage, making it difficult for any scholars wishing to study the original physical document to do so; it's unspecified why this is the case. It may be due to the fragility of the original document, but if that's the case, why even do three scans?

Parts of the manuscript have been tagged by the house hired to key in the manuscript, which, as the homepage puts it, limits the tags to things people unfamiliar with the work could easily identify. Harvard did this in order to save on production costs, and they believe the tagging is sufficient for most work. The manuscripts are now under copyright of Harvard and its partner institutions, Yale and Cornell Law School.

This might be a good resource for historians interested in medieval law or England, or scholars of jurisprudence in general.

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