Decorated copy of Gratian’s Decretum


The Decretum, an encyclopedia of Church or canon law compiled by the Bolognese scholar, Gratian, in around 1140, became the most popular legal textbook in the Middle Ages. Copies were soon produced and widely circulated in France and England, and included glosses, commenting on and explaining Gratian’s text. In this volume, copied in England around 1170–1180, decoration is used to make the complex legal material more accessible to the user. 

Decorated initials and colours are used to mark the ‘distinctions’ or sections of the text. The commentary written between the lines and in the margins is easily distinguishable from the main text as it is written in a heavily-abbreviated, cursive script.

This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Full title:
Decorated copy of Gratian’s Decretum
1171–1180, England
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Latin 3888

Full catalogue details

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