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Law Codes of Henry I, in a Legal Compilation

Law Codes of Henry I, in a Legal Compilation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1321

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Claudius D II

Item number: f.45v

Length: 33.5

Width: 21.4

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

A large compilation of documents relating to English law, this manuscript is only part of the original book, with others now kept by the Corporation of London and Oriel College, Oxford. Compiled about 1321, it appears to have been connected with Andrew Horn, Bridge Street fishmonger and Chamberlain of the City of London who bequeathed the manuscript to the City upon his death in 1328. Written by several scribes, it was decorated by a team of artists, some of whom were working in a style seen in luxurious contemporary manuscripts from London, such as the 'Queen Mary Psalter' (now in the British Library). Its visual impressiveness and chronological ordering (not done since the 10th century) places its purpose beyond the utilitarian law book, perhaps as a history in times when the use and idea of law were changing.

The law codes of Henry I (1100-1135) were extremely important to the development of English law. The collection includes an account of them, but Horn seems to have tinkered with the texts. At the beginning, the sorrowing king overlooks a picture of a sinking ship, a reference to the drowning of his sons. The truncation of his descendants is shown in the genealogical diagram running between the two pictures.

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