Taking Inventory of Manuscripts. Survey of Tasks Achieved and Tasks to Do
By Gero Dolezalek (University of Aberdeen)
Plenary Lecture given at the 14th International Congress on Medieval Canon Law, at the University of Toronto on August 5, 2012
This paper was an informal discussion on the topic of manuscripts and canonical resources, regional statistics and the problems with current database compilation. Which literary genres existed and which works were written for these genres? What were the important works? Highly regarded works were disseminated in many extant hand-written copies and European manuscripts came from largely the same geographic region where they can be located today.
Where can we retrieve these manuscripts? We need a general repertory that lists the manuscripts and individual texts items in each manuscript with sufficient indexes, titles, authors links, and scribes. This could best be achieved in the form of a database.
Very few locations have cataloged entire collections under the guidance of medieval canon law specialists or legal historians. Dolezalek shared how he compiles manuscripts for databases and the problems inherent in compilation.
He provided a few links to places that can help canonists locate the information they need such as: http://manuscripts.rg.mpg.de/, and Mirabile (by Sismel) a repertory of medieval works, with some legal items but it is not complete and still insufficient for canonists.
He discussed Stephan Kuttner’s compilation efforts. Kuttner had an expansive collection of file cards on what content legal historians had published and where. He also kept track of publications on particular authors and their works. Other compilers have done a bit of piecemeal work in various canon law areas, like Carolingian canon law. Italy has a large database called Codex. Manus is a database made by a group in Rome and contains a report on manuscripts in Italy. Dolezalek concluded by saying that catalogues undertaken by librarians do not extinguish our need to come up with additional tools to take inventory of manuscripts.