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Laws from 'Henry II to Edward III', in a Legal Compilation

Laws from 'Henry II to Edward III', in a Legal Compilation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1321

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Claudius D II

Item number: f.139r

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 inscription (probably 16th or early 17th century) at the top of the page says that this section containing laws from the "reign of Henry II to Edward III was taken from the great roll in the archives of the Tower of London and begins with a copy of Magna Carta." The portrait of a king differs in style from the 'Queen Mary Psalter' but resembles the work of some London painters working in the 1320s. It probably is meant to portray the King Edward mentioned in the sentence next to it, but if it is Edward III (1327-1377), it would be after 1326 or 1327. The arms in the lower border are Robert Cotton's elaboration of the Cotton-Bruce family. Cotton acquired the manuscript in the late 16th century.

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