Tag Archives: lombard laws

Vampires, Witches and Witchcraft in the Lombard laws

Witches and witchcraft are addressed in four separate clauses in Rothari’s Edictus of 643 CE. Three of the clauses address accusations of woman as being vampires (striga) or witches (masca), with Nos 198 and 199 addressing accusations made against free woman by, first, their guardians and, second, by someone not holding their guardianship; No. 376 addressing the killing of ancilla (female slaves) and aldia (half-free women). The other clause, No. 368, addresses duellers carrying what Fisher-Drew translates as ‘witches herbs’ into combat. The Latin of this latter clause, however, gives it as ‘herbas quod at maleficias pertenit’ [herbs which pertain to bewitching], and may not necessarily represent the same type of witchcraft as the ‘eating of a living man from within’ addressed in the other clauses. It is on the treatment of these apparent masca that I wish to focus here.

The traveller on the Clapham Omnibus might well imagine that the punishment for witchcraft proscribed in the ‘barbarian’ early medieval laws of the Lombards might include burning, torture and execution. Such expectations would certainly fit with the biblical proclamation that one must not ‘suffer a witch to live’ (Exodus 22:18), especially considering the widespread tendency of early medieval royal ideology to present itself within a framework of biblical kingship. The laws, however, stand apparently at odds with this. Rothari No. 376 begins stridently and with clear direction:

No one may presume to kill another man’s aldia or woman slave as if she were a vampire (striga), which the people call witch (masca), because it is in no wise to be believed by Christian minds that it is possible that a woman can eat a living man from the within.

The Lombard Laws, trans. Katherine Fisher-Drew, p. 126

Despite the biblical model for witchcraft that the Lombard legislation could have been drawn on, then, Rothari and his advisors took a distinctly different direction. The belief in witchcraft is denounced as being against the rationality of Christian belief, and the guilty party is actually the accuser who has killed the aldia or ancilla, for an imagined crime. The clause then continues to stress that the action is both ‘illegal and impious’ and reinforces this with relatively weighty penalties on top of the composition for the killing itself. In addition to the sixty solidi for killing an aldia (as per Rothari No. 129) the clause outlines a further fine of 100 solidi. In the case of an ancilla, the composition for the killing varies depending on whether she was a household or field slave (again, as per Rothari Nos 130-136, and ranging therefore between sixteen and fifty solidi). The additional fine is set at sixty solidi regardless, however, and is split in two equal parts, with half going to the owner of the aldia or ancilla and the other half going to the king. As such, royal interest in preventing the killing of women as masca or striga can be clearly seen, and even if a man killed his own ancilla or aldia on grounds of witchcraft he would still be liable to pay either thirty or fifty solidi, respectively, for his impious and un-Christian act.

That Rothari and his advisors, had set themselves against such un-Christian behaviour, of course, does not mean that the average Lombard agreed with the sentiment. That the clauses existed at all indicates that women were being accused of – and killed for – ‘eating a living man from within’ and sometimes it seems that this occurred at the instruction of a judge who had presumably overseen the accusation of witchcraft. To counter this Rothari No. 376 concludes by stating that:

If indeed a judge has ordered him to perpetrate this evil act, then the judge shall pay composition according to the above written penalty from his own property.

The Lombard Laws, trans. Katherine Fisher-Drew, p. 127

Judges, then, it seems were considered as likely as ordinary Lombards to participate in the killing of women for witchcraft, and the opposition to such behaviour began at, and was perhaps limited to, the uppermost echelons of royalty and royal advisors.

The two clauses addressing accusations of being a masca or striga made against free women or girls, Nos 197 and 198, differ from the previous clause in their severity. Both clauses assume only the accusation was made, not the woman in question was killed, and appear in a swathe of other clauses that address the legal protection of women and crimes made both against or by them. The first focuses on an accusation made by a man who holds the guardianship (mundium) of the woman in question, and nominally results in the accuser losing her mundium and it being transferred to either her relatives or the king, as she wishes. However, the law specifically excludes the father or brother from inclusion in this crime, indicating that if her mundium is already held by her immediate relatives and it is they who make the accusation, then there is no further legal protection for her. In the case of No. 197, where the accusation is made by a man who does not hold her mundium, the crime is framed as an assault on her honour and unjustified imputation of shame. Where the other clauses relate accusations of being a witch (masca) or vampire (striga) together, here the emphasis shifts to be an accusation of being a witch/vampire (strigam) or a harlot (fornecariam). As such, the crime has moved from the supernatural to the misogyny and sexual control of fragile masculinity.

This shift to the regulation of female honour and sexuality is reflected in the next part of clause No. 197, in which, if the man can prove that the accusation was made in wrath rather than in certain knowledge, then he pays a composition of twenty solidi and is not further liable. If the accuser maintains his claim, however, then its validity is to be determined by the ordeal of a judicial dual (camfio): and if proven false here once more the accuser pays composition equal to her wergeld. Conversely, if the duel proves the accusation to be correct, the she is ‘guilty and [to be] punished as provided in this code’ (The Lombard Laws, Trans. by Fisher-Drew, p. 90). Fisher drew cross-references this to the 100 solidi composition outlined in Rothari No. 189 for fornicating free women, and to the previously discussed clause on the killing of aldiae and ancillae. How the latter of these would have worked in practice remains unclear, would an accusation of witchcraft proved by the camfio simply have resulted in the same punishment as for fornication? Or, did the strident terms of Rothari No. 376, denouncing accusations of witchcraft as illegal and impious, rise to the surface and take precedence once more?

Considering that the judicial duel would surely have been overseen by a judge who was, presumably, in possession of a copy the law-code, the punishment for the guilty must surely have been determined by him. Whether or not the capital punishment of a freewoman for witchcraft at the instigation of a judge led to said judge paying the composition and fine as for the killing of an aldia or ancilla, however, remains unclear.

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Theft, Aldia and Ancilla: Slaves and the ‘Half-Free’ in Lombard Law, Part II

This is the second of two posts, discussing slaves and the ‘half free’, in Rothari’s Edictus, focusing in this part on female slaves and half-free in particular. The first post can be found here. The main points made previously were that the praetium, or ‘worth’ owed to their owner should they be killed, were highly differentiated for different types of slave depending on their duties. The lowest being a field slave subordinate to another slave valued at 16 solidi, the highest 50 solidi for either a trained household slave or a master swineherd with three or more underlings. The aldius, or ‘half-free’ was valued somewhat higher, at 60 solidi. Conversely, in the case of injuries, these are merged into two broad groups: aldii and household slaves in the first group, and agricultural slaves in the second.

While these tariffs for death and injury appear to refer only to men, sometimes explicitly, a clause close to the end of the Edictus elaborates on specific instance in which women are killed. Rothari No. 376 addresses the killing of another man’s aldia or woman slave, on the grounds that she was a vampire ‘striga’ or witch ‘masca’. True to early medieval style, it is the perpetrator of this attack who is punished, on the grounds that it is illegal, impious and that ‘it is in no wise to be believed by Christian minds that it is possible that a woman can eat a living man from within’ [trans. Katherine Fischer Drew, The Lombard Laws, pp. 126-27]. For killing an aldia the perpetrator paid a fine of 100 solidi ‘for the guilt’ as well as 60 solidi for her life. The same praetium as for her male counterpart. In the case of a female slave the killer pays 60 solidi for the crime and composition according to her status as a household slave or field slave, and here a cross-reference is made to the values outlined previously in the Edictus. While the values laid out are often explicitly male in their terminology, women appear to be implicitly included within them. Women are only discussed directly in the cases where the nature of the crime is such that the victim or perpetrator is explicitly female. The most notable instances are rape (The potential for men to also be victims of rape not being recognised in the Lombard laws) and injuries leading to the death of an unborn child (Rothari No. 75, set at half the praetium of the mother according to whether she is free, unfree or half-free).

The focus of discussion here, though, is on crimes committed by female slaves and aldia to see how the distinction between these ranks is addressed. The main instance in the Edictus is theft, which at the very least reflects the stereotypical behaviour which the Lombard law-makers expected from unfree and half-free women. Theft is addressed directly in four of the clauses: Rothari No. 253 addressing theft by a freeman, No. 254 by a slave, No. 257 by a folkfree woman, and No. 258 by a female slave or aldia. In all cases the basic reparation is for the thief (or the one who owns them) to return the value of the goods nine-fold, with further details according to status and gender. Theft by freemen, for example, are only considered if the value taken is over 10 seliquae (twenty-four seliquae being equal in value to one solidus). In addition to the nine-fold return of the goods, the freeman must also pay 80 solidi in composition for the guilt, but if he is unable to do so then he is to be killed. A similar situation is true for the slave, except that the composition due is 40 solidi.

In the case of the ‘folkfree’ woman who commits theft (Rothari No. 257), that is a woman who has been freed rather than one who was born free, no additional composition is due, but, as discussed in this post, the law states that ‘shame [should] be reflected on her who did this disgraceful deed’ [Trans. Fischer-Drew, The Lombard Laws, p. 257]. As it is the ‘folk-free’ woman who is specifically addressed her, it may perhaps be assumed that the ordinary freewoman is subject to the same punishment as for the freeman. The imputation of shame for having committed theft, then, may be a statement reflecting on one who has previously managed to increase their station on the social ladder, but has kept the stereotypical behaviour from their previous position. I would still argue, however, that as this law only address folk-free women, not freedmen, the moralising on behaviour by the Lombard lawmakers is still fundamentally about gender, rather than exclusively social mobility. Or rather, that it relates specifically to female social mobility.

Thefts committed by either an aldia or ancilla are addressed together in Rothari No. 258. No distinction whatsoever is made for the various distinctions in rank and position as identified for injuries and praetium discussed earlier. Instead, all are subject to the same punishment: return of the goods nine-fold by her lord and a payment of 40 solidi for the guilt. No mention is made here of imputing shame, which strengthens the argument made before that the moralising in the previous clause was explicitly about female social mobility. The question that rises, however, is what purpose exactly does this clause serve? If woman are being implicitly addressed in the explicitly male clauses, then how does this clause differ? Both proscribe a nine-fold return of the goods stolen, and both proscribe a 40 solidi composition for the guilt itself.

Conversely, these two clauses differ in a number of small but significant ways: firstly, the aldius is not mentioned at any point in relation to theft, only the aldia. Secondly, theft by male slaves is only addressed if the value of the property taken is up to ten seliquae (therefore opposite to the freeman, where theft is only considered for property above that value), while for the ancilla and aldia no maximum or minimum limit to the value is discussed. Thirdly, where restitution cannot be made by men (free or unfree), they are put to death, no capital punishment is outlined for women. Finally, it is explicitly stated that the lord of the ancilla or aldia makes the payment, while it is not made clear in the case of the male slave. If anything, then, the law seems to take responsibility and consequence away from the female perpetrator, making it explicit that it is the lord who pays and removing the threat of death from them. For the male slaves, however, the situation is reversed, and the laws appear to lessen the responsibility of their lord, apparently burdening the slave with a composition they most probably will not be able to afford to pay, and facing therefore death.

The laws, therefore, hint at the role of women in the lower social strata of Lombard society, and many inferences both wild and cautious could be drawn from the evidence. The implications of these laws for the distinction in social hierarchy between aldia and ancilla are less clear; the clause makes no distinction between the two. Taken alongside the injury tariffs and the praetium for the different social ranks, it becomes increasingly clear that no distinct line can be drawn in Lombard society between the aldius or aldia and the slave or ancilla. On the one hand, fine distinctions are sometimes made within these groupings, to the extent that the aldius or ancilla appear as simply one more gradation of value, positioned just one small step higher than the most valued of slaves. On the other hand, aldius and slave, aldia and ancilla can be grouped together without need for distinction: honour does not appear to be at stake and half free seems still to be, to a great extent, property.

Slaves and the ‘Half-Free’ in Lombard Law, Part I

The structure of early medieval Lombard society, as presented in Rothari’s Edictus of 643 CE, was sub-divided into a number of broad strata. Ignoring the king and his officials, there are the freemen (homo libera) at the top, the country slaves (servus rusticanus) at the very bottom and the household slaves (servus menisteriales) and the ‘half-free’ aldius somewhere in between. English translations throughout are from Katherine Fischer-Drew, The Lombard Laws (University of Pennsylvannia Press, 1973), Latin from Edictus Rothari, ed. F. Bluhme, in Legum, IV, (Monumenta Germania Historica, 1868).

Neither free, half-free nor slave are explicitly defined within the Edictus, inferences about the group as a whole must instead be drawn from similarities and differences in the ways in which each is treated in specific circumstances. My focus here is primarily on the men of the lower levels, comparing the ways in which they are equated and differentiated within the laws. This is the first of two intended posts, the second will explore the extent to which these divisions extend to the social position of women in the Lombard society of the mid-seventh century.

The main aspects of the laws which allow for comparison between the social ranks are the compositions due in redress for killing or inflicting injures on a person, or the punishment allotted for the same crime according to the rank of the perpetrator. Perpetrators of different ranks, such as thieves, will be addressed in Part II of this post, and here I will focus on first injuries and then killings.

Redress for injuries (and killings) is made financially – that is composition is paid to the victim, their family or their owner – and with every injury having its (maximum?) price defined. Despite the apparent ease at comparing a value of, say 16 solidi opposed to 4 or 2 solidi for the same injury made against a freeman, an aldius or a slave, respectively, the situation is more complicated. Aldii, like slaves, are considered property, and the crime is against their owner. Likewise, the composition is paid to the owner as recompense for property damage, not to the person for the injury they sustained. In many instances the laws add to the composition due for the crime against an aldius or slave, redress for the work lost and a requirement to pay the doctor’s fee. Appeasing the honour of the slave or aldius, however, is not a concern: conversely, the clause introducing the tariffs for injuries against freemen firmly states that once payment has been made, the faida, that is the ‘feud’, ends, (Rothari No. 45).

With these provisos firmly in mind, there is still much information regarding the Lombard social hierarchy and the relative worth adjudged to different members that can be derived from Rothari’s Edictus. The injury tariffs divide Lombard society into three broad categories: first come those done to freemen (hominem liberum), in Rothari Nos 45 to 74; next addressing the ‘half-free’ ([h]aldius) and household slaves (servus menesteriales), Rothari Nos 77 to 102; finally the laws turn to country slaves (servus rusticiani), Rothari Nos 103 to 126. Immediately preceding the section addressing the aldii and household slaves, a clause outlines the difference between a household and country slave, defining the former as one who has been “taught, nourished and trained in the home” (Rothari No. 76).

Each set of tariffs addresses roughly the same types of injury in order, and lays out the composition due in redress according to the social class of its victim. A quick cross-comparison of the values given across the three levels rapidly reveals two details: 1) despite the similarity across the three tariffs, specific injures are not addressed at all social ranks, and 2) there are more specific injuries for freemen than for aldii and slaves. Choosing a few injury types from the lists (almost) at random, but excluding injuries where the composition due is a proportion of the injured person’s praetium or ‘worth’ which I will come to shortly, a quick comparison of the respective values can be made (EDIT: a tabulated comparison of all the injury tariffs is given in Appendix I, at the bottom of this post) :

  • Knocking out one of the front teeth ‘that appears when smiling’ accrues a composition of 16 solidi for a freeman (Rothari No. 51). For the same injury inflicted on an aldius or household slave the composition is only a quarter, 4 solidi (Rothari.No. 85), while the country slave it half this value again, or one eighth that for the freeman, with a composition of only 2 solidi (Rothari No. 109).
  • The same proportions by ranks are seen in the case of cutting off a ring-finger (or ‘fourth finger’) has a composition of 8 solidi for a freeman (Rothari No. 66), 2 solidi for an aldius or household slave (Rothari No. 92), and 1 solidus for a country slave (Rothari No. 117).
  • The proportions change slightly in the case of chest wounds, with one made against a freeman receiving redress of 20 solidi, (Rothari No. 59) but with 6 solidi for the same injury against an aldius or household slave (Rothari No. 101). This then is slightly more than a quarter of the composition given for a freeman, but the composition due for a chest wound to a country slave remains in the same proportion (half) to that for the aldius and domestic slave with a value of 3 solidi, (Rothari No. 111).

That the laws associate the household slave and the aldius together in the same section suggests that they shared the same economic worth and social value. A more nuanced situation can be seen, however, by examining the redress due for the killings, a sum defined as their ‘worth’ which is praetium or, occasionally, widrigild (the langobardic cognate of the wergeld of the Anglo-Saxons).

The composition due for killing a freeman is a sum equal to his worth, (Rothari No. 11): 300 solidi for an ordinary, land-holding freeman, or 150 solidi for a lesser one who did not own land (see Fischer-Drew, 29). The value could be even higher, such as if the freeman was an officer of the royal court. Clauses in the Edictus running from Rothari No. 129 to 134 lay out the praetium for a range of individuals in the lower social strata. The aldius has the highest amount, valued at 60 solidi (Rothari No. 129). The following two clauses distinguishes between two types of household slave, the ordinary one having a praetium of 50 solidi (Rothari No. 130), and with slaves subordinate to them being valued at half the worth, or 25 solidi (Rothari No. 131). In this way a hierarchy of value is made in the case of killing, for a group who were treated as broadly homogenous in the case of injuries. As four of the injuries identified in the tariffs, however, set the composition as equal to half the praetium differentiation between these classes was produced here by default (gouging out an eye, cutting of a hand, a foot or crippling without severing a hand, foot or limb Rothari Nos 81, 88, 95 and 126, respectively). The severed ringfinger of a household slave might be worth as much as that of the aldius’ (2 solidi), but the gouged eye ranges from 30 solidi for the aldius, to 25 solidi for the household slave and only 12½ solidi for their subordinate slave.

Turning to the agricultural slaves, a master swineherd (presumably still a slave, although the laws give him the specific title of porcariu[s] without the word servus attached) with at least three underlings ranks highest at 50 solidi, equal to the household slave, while his subordinates are valued at 25 solidi each (Rothari No. 135). Further down the social ladder are the tenant slave (Rothari No. 132), ox ploughman (Rothari No. 133) and cattleherd, goatherd or oxherd (Rothari No. 136) all valued at 20 solidi. Valued lowest of all is the field slave who is subordinate to a tenant slave, given a praetium of 16 solidi (Rothari No. 134). The same four injuries in the tariffs for the country slaves as outlined for the aldius and household slaves previously are given composition equalling half their praetium: gouging out an eye, cutting of a hand, a foot or crippling without severing a hand, foot or limb (Rothari Nos 105, 113, 119 and 126, respectively). A quarter of the praetium is awarded to the owner of a country slave for a broken arm, hip or leg that has not healed within a year (Rothari No. 112). Subdivisions in the ranking of the country slaves, then, can also be clearly seen that would be made manifest in the redress given to their owners in the case of specific, severe injuries as well as if they were killed.

The line between the aldius and the slaves is narrow but nevertheless discernible – a sliver of 10 solidi between their 60 solidi and the uppermost value of 50 solidi for the household slave or the master swineherd. While ostensibly distinct, these values still seem very much as part of a group when compared against the 150 to 300 solidi or higher of value given to the freemen. It is a truism of early medieval studies, however, that one cannot directly compare the wergild of the freeman with the praetium of the slave despite the values being reckoned in the same currency (although it should be noted here that solidi is essentially an accounting convention imported into Lombard Italy from their contact with the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire, rather than reflecting specific coinage in use). Wergeld, or better widrigild, is for appeasing honour and ending the feud, paid to the victim or to their family. Praetium, conversely, is the market value of a commodity, paid to the owner for the damage to or loss of their property. Fischer-Drew’s translation silently corrects the apparent ‘mistake’ found throughout the 1868 Monumenta Germaniae Historica edition and the laws themselves, keeping praetium as ‘worth’ for the salves and aldii but consistently changing it to ‘wergild’ for the free. In the case of freemen the laws occasionally use the langobardic widrigild for ‘worth’, but far more often than not use the Latin praetium instead. I will pose, but not answer the pressing question here: what, then, does it mean that the Lombard laws repeatedly use ‘praetium’ for describing the composition due for free, half-free and un-free? I hope to return to this question in the future, but it is one that requires a close-reading and manuscript-led investigation, and probably one made in comparative study across the surviving ‘barbarian’ laws of Western Europe.

What can be said is that the laws are detailed on the exact relationship of the aldius to the various rankings of slaves. Where the two are treated as a homogenous group, there is still space for distinction – at least when the injuries are at the most severe. Part II of this post will step away from injuries to male aldii and slaves, and will consider the distinction between them when they are the perpetrators of a crime, and when their female counterparts are expressly addressed in the mid-seventh century Lombard society as constructed in Rothari’s Edictus.


Appendix I: Comparison of Injury Tariffs in Rothari’s Edictus

Crime Freemen Aldius / Household Slave Agricultural Slave
Strikes so a wound is apparent 1 solidus
(Rothari No. 77)
1/2 solidus
(Rothari No. 125)
— two blows 2 solidi
(Rothari No. 77)
— three blows 3 solidi
(Rothari No. 77)
— four or more blows Up to 2 solidi
(Rothari No. 125)
Hits another man on head, bone broken 12 solidi
(Rothari No. 47)
–two bones broken 24 solidi
(Rothari No. 47)
— three or more bones broken 36 solidi
(Rothari No. 47)
Gouging out an eye Half praetium
(Rothari No. 48)
Half praetium
(Rothari No. 81)
Half praetium
(Rothari No. 105)
Cutting off nose Half praetium
(Rothari No. 49)
8 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 82)
4 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 106)
Cutting off lips 16 solidi
(Rothari No. 50)
— if 1, 2 or 3 teeth exposed 20 solidi
(Rothari No. 50)
4 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 84)
3 solidi
(Rothari No. 109)
Knocking out a front tooth 16 solidi
(Rothari No. 51)
4 solidi
(Rothari No. 85)
2 solidi
(Rothari No. 109)
— two or three teeth
(or several: aldius / household slave;
or more: agricultural slave)
16 solidi per tooth
(Rothari No. 51)
4 solidi per tooth
(Rothari No. 85)
2 solidi per tooth
(Rothari No. 109)
Knocking out jaw teeth (molars) 8 solidi per tooth
(Rothari No. 52)
2 solidi per tooth
(Rothari No. 86)
1 solidus per tooth
(Rothari No. 109)
Cutting off ear Quarter praetium
(Rothari No. 53)
2 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 83)
2 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 107)
Wound to the face 16 solidi
(Rothari No. 54)
1 solidus
(Rothari No. 104)
Wound to the nose
if heals leaving only a scar
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 55)
Injury to the ear
if heals
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 56)
Arm wound
pierced
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 57)
Arm wound
not pierced
8 solidi
(Rothari No. 58)
Punctures arm or leg 3 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 102)
2 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 110)
Strikes arm or leg
doesn’t puncture
1 solidus
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 102)
1 solidus
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 110)
Strikes on chest
wounds
20 solidi
(Rothari No. 59)
6 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 101)
3 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 111)
Strike on hip
pierced
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 60)
Strike on hip
not pierced
8 solidi
(Rothari No. 60)
Broken hip or shin 3 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 94)
Breaking arm, hip or shin 3 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 112)
— if not healed within a year Quarter praetium
(Rothari No. 112)
Cut off hand Half praetium
(Rothari No. 62)
Half praetium
(Rothari No. 88)
Half praetium
(Rothari No. 113)
— hand paralysed but not severed Quarter praetium
(Rothari No. 62)
Hand, foot or limb crippled but not severed Same value as if entirely cut off
(Rothari No. 126)
Same value as if entirely cut off
(Rothari No. 126)
Cuts off thumb sixth praetium
(Rothari No. 63)
8 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 89)
4 solidi
(Rothari No. 114)
Cuts off index finger 16 solidi
(Rothari No. 64)
6 solidi
(Rothari No. 90)
3 solidi
(Rothari No. 115)
Cuts off middle finger 5 solidi
(Rothari No. 65)
2 solidi
(Rothari No. 91)
1 solidus
(Rothari No. 116)
Cuts off ringfinger 8 solidi
(Rothari No. 66)
2 solidi
(Rothari No. 92)
1 solidus
(Rothari No. 117)
Cuts off little finger 16 solidi
(Rothari No. 67)
4 solidi
(Rothari No. 93)
2 solidi
(Rothari No. 118)
Cuts off foot Half praetium
(Rothari No. 68)
Half praetium
(Rothari No. 95)
Half praetium
(Rothari No. 119)
— foot paralysed but not severed Quarter praetium
(Rothari No. 68)
Cut off big toe 16 solidi
(Rothari No. 69)
4 solidi
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 96)
2 solidi
(Rothari No. 120)
Cut off second toe 6 solidi
(Rothari No. 70)
2 solidi
(Rothari No. 97)
1 solidi
(Rothari No. 121)
Cut off third toe 3 solidi
(Rothari No. 71)
2 solidi
(Rothari No. 98)
1 solidus
(Rothari No. 122)
Cut off fourth toe 3 solidi
(Rothari No. 72)
1 solidus
(Rothari No. 99)
1/2 solidus
(Rothari No. 123)
Cut off little toe 2 solidi
(Rothari No. 73)
1 solidus
(Rothari No. 100)
1/2 solidus
(Rothari No. 124)

On Ruling grids

Having just spent a month and a half travelling around France and Northern Italy looking at some of the manuscripts of the Liber legis langobardorum for my research project, I am now back in the office and writing up copious amounts of notes. One of the main things I have to be working on is the descriptions of the ruling grids, as used by the scribes to lay out the page and position the main text-block, decorative initials, glosses in the margins and the such like.

I’ve previously found analysis of these to be highly informative when considering the general ways in which a given manuscript was physically produced, and long hours spent considering the minutae of exactly which lines are extended to the outer edge of the folio or across the centrefold of the bifolium often prove to be worthwhile. Even if at the time, barely perceptible scratched lines, damaged parchment and dozens upon dozens of folios can cause the eyes to cross and the attention to wander.

At the moment I am writing up the details for Padua, Biblioteca del Seminario Vescoville, MS DXXVIII, one of the latest copies of the Liber legis langobardorum dating to the first quarter of the twelfth century. It is a plain manuscript overall, written in a single column with simple, pen-drawn initials for each clause offset from the text-block in the left margin, made in what appears to be the same ink as used for copying the text itself. There are glosses copied in the outer margin of many of the folios (they appear to be in the same hand as the main text-block, but detailed palaeographic analysis is currently a little further down my to do list), and running headings in the upper margin of each folio, recto and verso.

Here and now, however, it is the ruling grid that has my attention. My focus in this post is to consider the methodology of describing and analysing these, the implications for the production of the book (skirted around here somewhat, but nonetheless present) must wait for a fuller article on the manuscript itself. A summary glance at the data could easily be used to say that only two grids are used: Grid A has 38 long lines to the column and is used on the vast majority of the folios, while Grid B has only 37 lines and is used only on folios 31-33 and 60-61.

Looking at which of the long lines the scribe chose to extend to the outer margins of the page and into the centrefold (close analysis shows that here the ‘through lines’ do not actually go through, but instead stop just shy. Each folio was ruled individually, not as an open bifolium), gives a more detailed picture. Between variations in extension of the first two to four lines, the last one to three lines, and any of none to three lines around the middle of the page (between lines 16 and 23), a much larger range of ruling grids appear. three for type B, and at least 24 for type A.

In fact, there may be more than 24 of type A, as there are some subtle variations on the given theme, usually where only one line is apparently missing from one side of the grid. As the lines are often faint and difficult to discern, I have given the grid the benefit of the doubt and labelled these variants with an additional code e.g. Grid AD2 or AD3, rather than giving them a whole new code to themselves. If the variants are included, a further eight ruling grids can be added to the total – making for thirty-two of type A (38 lines) and thirty-five in all. A sizeable number for a manuscript of only eighty-three folios, averaging at one for every 2.4 folios.

In all those grids, the duplicates are generally adjacent. Despite the overall similarity of the grids, there are surprisingly few repeats of exactly the same pattern. Grid AP first appears on fols 46-49 and again on fols 6-67, while Grid AF appears on fols. 14-15 and 22-24, then perhaps in a variant form (AF2, which includes line 36 as a ‘throughline’, but not as an extender) on fols 76-79.

My initial instincts are to draw a diagram to summarise each one, and it is an approach I have used in the past on other manuscripts (both the collection of Anglo-Saxon laws in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 383 on which my doctoral project was based, and on the copy of the Liber legis lagobardorum in Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek MS 471, that formed the foundation for my current postdoctoral research project). It may still prove to be a useful tool here, but the variations in the ruling grids are subtle and I am not sure how much information the reader might glean from comparing to ostensibly similar grids. Take for example grids AA and AB below, where the only variation is that mid-lines 18-20 are extended in AA, and 19-21 in AB.

PaduaDXXVIII_gridAA
Ruling Grid AA (fols 2-5)

PaduaDXXVIII_gridAB
Ruling Grid AB (fols 2-5)

Instead, I have focused on tabulating the information, a PDF of the draft file can be found here. This provides a very dense appendix to an article or manuscript description, which is nonetheless far more approachable than the initial extended table of page-by-page data, painstakingly gathered in the library direct from the manuscript. Editing the data into this tabulated form is as much a process of analysis as presentation, and as actively constructed data (is there any other kind?) belays interesting suggestions on how the manuscript was produced. As such, there is a balance between the density of the information provided and its usability.

I wonder (idly, not as a challenge!) how many people will check the tabulated data in detail, preferring instead to refer to the key points that I draw attention to. This, then, like any research, is a case of forming, analysing and curating data. And as such, I will keep sifting through it partly to see what patterns and suggestions fall out for myself, but also to see if better ways can be found to present it.