|Abstract as per original application
This project provides new insight into English manuscript culture and the history of English law (c.1280-1520) via analysis of manuscripts containing common-law statute collections. It demonstrates the importance of legislative text to the growth of English written culture, and reveals the diversity and depth of early public engagement with the common law.
Approximately 200 manuscripts of England’s ‘Ancient Statutes’ (Statuta Vetera) survive from the late thirteenth to the early sixteenth centuries. They generally contain Magna Carta and other major thirteenth-century statutes, along with a more variable collection of additional statutes, tracts and treatises. Statuta manuscripts were among the most popular secular books in medieval England. They were produced commercially in large numbers for a diverse audience: landholders and ecclesiastics, merchants and public officials, judges and common lawyers.
These manuscripts witness a significant burst of English legislative production and represent the single most common technology through which late medieval readers interacted with written law. They thus record public engagement with the common law at a formative stage in its development as a national legal tradition. The manuscripts also stand as an important part of English written culture: they were an early and influential model for English book production, often contain all three of England’s languages (Latin, Anglo-French and English), and reveal a busy network of private book commissioning, production, distribution and use.
Yet these manuscripts have been little studied—especially compared with the enlightening scholarly attention devoted to (for example) literary manuscripts and lavishly decorated medieval prayer books. No comprehensive study of the format and content of Statuta manuscripts has been undertaken; their practical function within the legal system remains without detailed clarification; and they are often overlooked or elided in accounts of English manuscript history.
To address this gap in knowledge, I ask two complementary questions. How can the Statuta advance our understanding of the history of late-medieval English law and legal culture? And what do these legal collections reveal about the development of the English book before the advent of print? This research (conducted comprehensively here for the first time) will involve examining the manuscripts as physical objects, and collecting and analysing evidence of their production, ownership, circulation and practical use. Dissemination via scholarly articles and an online research resource will establish new knowledge about the influence of this medieval legal bestseller on the English common law in its formative years, and on the growth of English book culture.
該研究項目透過分析包含普通法文本的手稿，提升我們對英國手稿文化及英國法律歷史（約 1280-1520 年）的認知。項目不僅展示法律文本對英語書面文化發展的重要性，而且揭示早期公眾對普通法的參與之多樣性和深度。
現時大約有二百份英格蘭 “古代法典”（Statuta Vetera; 十三世紀晚期至十六世紀早期）手稿倖存下來。它們多數包含《大憲章》和其他十三世紀的主要法規，但亦會包含不同類型的法律文本。 古代法典手稿是中世紀英格蘭最受歡迎的通俗書籍之一。它們的讀者種類甚廣，包括土地擁有人、神職人員、商人、公職人員、法官和律師。
然而，相比起文學手稿和中世紀祈禱書， 古代法典很少被研究。在英國手稿歷史的記載中，它們經常被忽視。而且，現時學術界並沒有對這些手稿的格式和內容進行全面分析，亦沒有探討它們在法律體系中有甚麼實際功能。為了填補這些研究空白，本項目將集中探討兩個問題： 古代法典如何促進我們對中世紀晚期英國法律歷史和法律文化的理解？及這些法律文本如何增加我們對英語書籍發展 （尤其在印刷術出現之前）之認知？本項目將全面考查手稿實物，分析其生產、擁有者、流通和實際使用之狀況，並通過學術文章及網上平台發佈研究成果，提升我們對古代法典、英國普通法發展以及英語書籍文化發展的知識。