Short history of the Vatican Catalogue Project

Catalogue of Canon and Roman Law Manuscripts in the Vatican Library, volume III resuscitated
(Provisional publication by G. R. Dolezalek in collaboration with Martin Bertram)

Previously published on the internet server of the University of Aberdeen, yet cancelled when the undersigned left the university in 2009.
The University of Leipzig kindly provided facilities to republish the Catalogue there.

The project "A Catalogue of Canon and Roman Law Manuscripts in the Vatican Library" started on 15 February 1971 with an agreement between the Vatican Library and Stephan Kuttner, President of the Institute of Medieval Canon Law, then located at the University of California, Berkeley. The agreement was announced in 1 BMCL [Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law, new series] 1971, p. 1.

For fifteen years a frequently changing team of young scholars under the guidance of Stephan Kuttner analysed microfilms of Vatican manuscripts and produced detailed descriptions for the Catalogue. In the first four years this was done in a conventional manner. The descriptions were typewritten and many hundreds of file cards for provisional indexes were produced by hand.

This first phase ended in September 1975 when Stephan Kuttner entrusted to the undersigned the task to implement at Berkeley for the Vatican project the computer algorithms which he had programmed for his "Verzeichnis der Handschriften zum roemischen Recht bis 1600", published in 1972. From there onward all descriptions of manuscripts were entered into an electronically stored master file, with keynumbers to mark the different categories of information. From time to time the undersigned's computer programs would read the steadily growing master file and compose from its data a typeset-ready file for the text of the Catalogue - along with provisional indexes.

The members of the team at Berkeley changed as time went on. Their names (as well as those of many occasional contributors) are listed in the prefaces to the Catalogue's volumes I and II, published in 1986 and 1987. From 1979 onward the project was aided by the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rom, then under the directorate of Reinhard Elze. Under his guidance Krystyna Bukowska-Gorgoni inspected the original manuscripts in the Vatican Library to ascertain codicological data and verify readings that remained uncertain on microfilm. In later years, coordination of the work at Rome and liaison with Berkeley were entrusted to Martin Bertram.

The computer programs at Berkeley were last run in the early 1980s. As always, the computer read the keynumbered master file and produced from it one electronic output file to steer the university's typesetting machine (to print galley proofs) and another electronic output file containing indexes of authors, titles, incipits, explicits, possessors, scribes, and centuries of book production.

As far as Codices Vaticani latini 541-2746 were concerned, the computer's galley proofs were manually refined and emended and finally sent to the Tipografia Vaticana for printing in two volumes (Studi e testi, volumes 322 and 328). The computer file of indexes, however, was left behind to await the publication of volume III, supposed to cover the remaining Codices Vaticani latini: 3137-15204. Scholars were informed that "a preliminary index for Vols. I-II will be made available at the Institute" (16 BMCL 1986, p. xi), and "information from the provisional computer entries for the index is available upon request" (17 BMCL 1987, p. xi).

The computer had produced galley proofs and index entries for whatever was stored in the master file by that time - and thus also for volume III (as far as the pertinent manuscripts had been taken care of). Yet, there remained many gaps because not all the pertinent manuscripts in the series Vat. lat. 3137-15204 had been analysed in time. In addition, the existing descriptions of manuscripts still needed control and emendation.

We have evidence that several persons worked towards emendation of the galley proofs for volume III. They scribbled corrections and notes in the margins and between the lines - in English and in German. After 1988, however, the work came to a standstill. Stephan Kuttner, now over eighty years old, could no longer bear the burden of his many tasks. In 1991 he resigned his presidency of the Institute, and he passed away five years later. Peter Landau was elected to succeed. As he held a professor's chair at the Law Faculty of Munich, the Institute was transferred there. The Institute's research materials were shipped to Munich in instalments from 1991 to 1996. An announcement in 1998 told scholars that volume III "is being completed in Munich" (22 BMCL 1998, p. 8).

At the end of the year 2000 the undersigned asked Peter Landau for permission to review the unprinted material of the Vatican Project. The main concern was, of course, to retrieve the electronic master file on which the entire project hinged. After months of investigations, however, it turned out that at Berkeley only paper work had been saved and shipped to Munich. No one had cared to save the electronically stored material. So the master file and the files derived from it and all other computer files were discarded! The crates from Berkeley only contained a printout of the computer-produced indexes and some handwritten or typewritten descriptions of manuscripts for volume IV (= Fondi Minori) - in various stages of elaboration.

In this desperate situation it was very fortunate that Martin Bertram had in wise forethought preserved a photocopy of the galley proofs for volume III. It was overcast with scribblings - as mentioned above. The Institute at Munich had obtained a photocopy of this photocopy. So the undersigned undertook to re-digitize the text from there: students at Leipzig under his supervision partly scanned and partly re-typed the text.

Martin Bertram, who was still in Rome, joined in the work: he organised proof-reading of the re-digitized text against his photocopy of the galley proofs. Thereafter Krystyna Bukowska-Gorgoni, also in Rome, cared for insertion of the marginal and interlinear scribblings. She had been familiar with the project since 1979 (see above).

The Gerda Henkel Foundation at Duesseldorf generously financed the re-digitizing and the proof-reading. This sponsor had already financed the work at Berkeley since 1985. The Foundation's financial aid was also used to re-constitute a master file with essential data for indexes to the entire series Vat. lat. and the extant descriptions of manuscripts of Fondi Minori. Furthermore, students at Leipzig went through many volumes of legal-historical periodicals and Festschriften and standard manuals, extracting bibliographical notes about references to legal manuscripts in the Vatican Library.

Much more work of the kind needs to be done, however. The students at Leipzig and the two proof-readers have done their best, but their work must be controlled. The students' bibliographical notes must be verified and inserted at the pertinent places in the Catalogue. Martin Bertram has supplied a bibliography of further literature which should also be excerpted and mentioned in the descriptions. He has furthermore checked the completeness (or incompleteness) of the now reconstituted draft for volume III, establishing a list of pertinent manuscripts which still lack a description in the Catalogue.

Neither Martin Bertram nor the undersigned can shoulder the necessary work load within the next couple of months. Furthermore, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana has been closed for refurbishing for years. (It is now known that the library will reopen in September 2010). This is why all parties concerned (the Gerda Henkel Foundation, Peter Landau, Martin Bertram and the undersigned) have agreed to publish the present draft for volume III on the internet for the time being. Despite the draft's gaps and present inconsistencies it is nevertheless a valuable tool for researchers. May the provisional publication encourage other scholars to help remedy the deficiencies.

Aberdeen, 30th July 2008 (revised at Leipzig, 15th August 2010).

Gero R Dolezalek


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