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Figures of a Hunt Scene, in the Codex Justiniani

Figures of a Hunt Scene, in the Codex Justiniani

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1250

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3753

Item number: f.32v

Length: 41.2

Width: 26

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The Codex Justiniani, called the 'Digest' or 'Pandects', goes back to 534 when the Emperor Justinian had imperial decisions and enactments compiled as part of his programme to codify Roman law. When law began to be studied in western European universities, starting with Bologna in the 11th century, the 'Pandects' became valued as basic legal texts. The need for huge textbooks like the Codex Justiniani fuelled the development of workshops to produce books outside of monasteries. In England, Oxford became a manuscript producing centre, turning out books like this one, which was owned by Merton College. The manuscript has the sophisticated layout that was developed to present glossed textbooks (textbooks with explanatory notes in the margins and between the lines): the main text in the centre, arranged in two columns, with a wide margin all around to hold the glosses. Blank space was left free for masters to add glosses, as can be seen here from the differing handwriting in the glosses. Beginnings of subsections are highlighted with red titles and, in the margins beside them, the various components of a hunt scene, which probably also aided study breaks.

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