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.
- Article by:
- Joanna Frońska
- History and learning
The study of law in medieval Europe was revitalised in the 12th century. Joanna Frońska explores the production of legal works and their use by scholarly communities in this period.