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13th-century manuscript containing Books 1-24 of the 'Digestum vetus' of Justinian, with glosses in several hands.

Identifier: Adv.MS.18.1.8

Scope and Contents

Roman law manuscript, possibly written in Italy, containing Books 1-24 of the 'Digestum vetus' of Justinian. The work is not complete, with leaves missing in several places and the lack of the introductory constitution 'Omnem'. The manuscript was probably written in the early part of the 13th century; Dolezalek has suggested a date of circa 1200 for its production.

The main body of text is written in littera textualis in double columns of 47 lines each.

Folio iv is a flyleaf repurposed from a 15th-century liturgical manuscript containing settings for the mass.

The 'Digesta' then runs from folio 1r to folio 185r. On folio 185v is an index to the contents of the manuscript, which Dolezalek suggests was supplied by a later hand.

Dolezalek has further identified several layers of glosses to the main text which reference the works of Irnerius, Martinus Gosia, Albericus, Rogerius, Johannes Bassianus, Pig., Azo Portius, Ubertus de Bobio, and others.

The first layer of the gloss was written by a professional scribe around 1200 in a dark ink with blue and red initials for notabilia. The second layer of glosses is written around the same time, but in a lighter-coloured ink and with some text-explaining glosses introduced with a paraph sign.

The third layer of gloss dates from the first half of the 13th century and contains mostly text-explaining glosses by several different hands. The glosses here are longer than in the previous two layers.

The fourth layer of gloss was written around the middle of the 13th century, in a small hand with a golden-toned yellowish ink. Dolezalek suggests that these might be extracts from the apparatus by Hugolinus de Presbyteris, or notes which were used by a student.

Towards the beginning of the manuscript Dolezalek has noted that several glosses have been erased and in part filled with the 'Apparatus ad Digestum vetus' of Accursius. It is possible that an owner of the manuscript started to erase the extant marginal glosses, preserving only the notabilia, in order to supply the complete apparatus by Accursius, but this was not completed.

At the start of each book a space has been left for an illuminated initial, but this was never completed. The rest of the phrase is completed in large multi-line letters coloured blue and red alternately. Litterae notabiliores are coloured red and blue and paraphs are in red. There is a running title for each book number in the upper margin which consists of plain penwork Roman numerals.

There are several marginal drawings, including maniculae, faces, and animals.

Each folio has been lined recto and verso within a frame.

Pricking is evident throughout the manuscript, predominantly for the horizontal lines and occasionally for the vertical lines.

Horizontal catchwords are present on the following folios: 8v, 26v, 52v, 60v, 68v, 76v, 86v, 97v, 123v, 139v, 155v, 165v, and 175v.

There is evidence of both contemporary and modern repairs to the vellum.

There are several sets of modern foliation running throughout the manuscript. The only consistent set is that in the middle of the lower margin. The set in the upper right corner does not correspond correctly until folio 48.

At the front of the volume is a 19th-century insert of a leaf which has notes on the foliation, possibly for use during rebinding.


  • Creation: 13th century.


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1 Volumes ; 25cm x 35.6cm x 4.7cm

Language of Materials



i-iv + 187 + v folios.

There is a loose insert at the front of 1 sheet, foliated as 'Adv.MS.18.1.8 (insert)'.

There are 12 folios missing in all at 3 different places. Their places have been supplied during rebinding by blank vellum leaves. This occurs at folios 130, 131, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 160, 161. Folios 186 and 187 have also been inserted later and foliated, although these were probably meant to stand as flyleaves, as with the 2 modern vellum flyleaves to the front.

Collation as recorded by Catherine Borland: ab⁸, cd¹⁰, e-i⁸, k¹⁰, l¹¹, mn⁸, o¹⁰, p¹⁰ (7 and 8 blank inserted), q⁴, r¹⁰ (3-8 inserted blank), s⁸, t¹⁰ (5 and 6 blank inserted), v¹⁰, x¹⁰

Custodial History

The manuscript belonged to James Muirhead (d. 1889), advocate, according to a note on the inner cover which reads: 'This MS belonged to Mr. James Muirhead, Advocate, Professor of Civil Law in the University of Edinburgh.'

The manuscript was then in the possession of Cecil Robert Gillies Gillies-Smith (d. 1896), and presented to the Library of the Faculty of Advocates by his father in 1897, as attested to by a note on the recto side of the third flyleaf to the front which reads: 'This MS. of Justinian's Digest, which belonged to Cecil-Robert-Gillies Gillies-Smith M.A., Advocate, born 12 September 1870, died 7th November 1896, is presented by his father to the Faculty of Advocates' 7th February 1897'. His father was Adam Gillies Smith (d. 1900), a chartered accountant.

There is an ex libris inscription for the Library of the Faculty of Advocates on the recto of the first flyleaf, and the old shelfmarks assigned to the volume by the Library are on the inner board: '35.1.11' and '10.1.10', since superseded.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited, 1925, by the Faculty of Advocates.


Borland, C. R. 'Catalogue of the Mediaeval Manuscripts in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh', 4 volumes (Unpublished manuscript, 1906-8), Volume II, folios 340-342. NLS Reference: F.R.196a/2.

Dolezalek, G. 'Verzeichnis der Handschriften zum Römischen Recht bis 1600' (Frankfurt am Main, 1972).

Dolezalek, G. 'Manuscripta Juridica', online resource provided by Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte:

'Folio Catalogue of Manuscripts: Law' (Unpublished manuscript, Edinburgh [18??]), folio 5. NLS Reference: FR.185.

'Summary Catalogue of the Advocates' Manuscripts' (Edinburgh, 1971), page 67, number 820; page 109, number 1414.

Walters, D. B. 'Civilian Manuscripts in the Advocates' Library (National Library of Scotland), Edinburgh', Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Romanistische Abteilung, Volume 89, Number 1 (1972), pages 376–378.

Physical Description


The binding is of the mid- or late 19th century, and is dark brown leather covering cardboard. The binding is by Zaehnsdorf, as evidenced by his gold-tooled stamp on the lower margin of the inner of the front board. The front and back boards have extensive blind-tooled borders with floral designs. The three edges of the boards and the turn-ins are tooled in gold. There is a single leather and metal clasp in the centre of the boards, still intact. The three edges of the leaves are gilt.

The spine has raised bands, blind-tooled floral designs, and a gold-tooled title over two panels which reads: 'DIGESTUM VETUS JUSTINIANI. / M. S. IN MEMBRANIS SAEC. XIII.'.

National Library of Scotland Catalogue of Manuscripts
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Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

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