Early Modern Moveable Texts and Minotaurs

Guest blog by Ross Macdonald 

Anyone studying early modern legal texts knows that the text, and its authorship, may be “moveable”; they may appear successively under the nominal authorship of different jurists, so that identifying the true writer may be difficult. One striking example arose in my recent study of collation, the procedural device whereby gifts made by parent to child are taken into account when the child later claims in succession to the parent’s estate.

The nominal author, in this case, was Marcus Antonius de Amatis, a jurist who was an assessor on the Rota of, successively, Genoa, Lucca, and the Marche, dying in 1624. His Decisiones Rotae Provinciae Marchiae appeared in various editions, in particular as part of a composite work issued in Frankfurt am Main in 1602 and (without apparent changes) 1662, Decisionum Libri II nunc primum in Germania…  Vicentii Carocii Tudertini et Marc. Ant. de Amatis.  At the end was appended a Repetitio L. si emancipati C. de collationibus  [= C. 6.20.9]; while no author was explicitly identified, Vinnius in his own book on collation quite understandably cited it under Amatis’s name. Besides its length – 58 dense pages –  the Repetitio fills the reader with gloom by its opening greeting: this topic is like Daedalus’s Labyrinth in Crete: once you enter, getting out is impossible or at least very difficult.

But the Repetitio was not by Amatis at all. The clue is in its concluding pages. These comprise a long eyewitness account of a famine riot in Lyon on 24 April 1539, written – it says – by “pater meus nobilis, et egregius vir Ludouicus de Laurentiis legum doctor” and addressed to François, Cardinal of Clermont and Papal legate in Avignon.  This suggests that the true original author – the “pater” – was Louis Laurenti (Nice, post 1467 – Avignon, post 1504; doctor legum in 1504, and one of a family of Avignonese jurists); biographical details taken from  Le Chesnaye-Desbois, Louis: Dictionnaire de la Noblesse (Paris, 1863-1876).  The son was Hieronymus de Laurentiis (Jerome da Avignon, 1517-1606): Coing, Handbuch II/2 (1976), p. 1181, 1183.

To complicate matters, the Repetitio was also published under the son’s name as an appendix to Decisiones Rotae sacri palatii apostolici Avenionis. … Auctore illust. &  Mag. D. Hieron. a Laurentiis, Avenionensi, Utriusque Iuris comite, & eiusdem Rotae decano  (Lyon, 1600). This version was cited in turn in Fontana’s  Bibliotheca Legalis (1688) and Burkhard Gotthelf Struve’s Bibliotheca iuris selecta  (Jena (6th edn), 1725).

So, back to the Labyrinth with Ariadne….

Ross Macdonald  is a  doctoral candidate at Edinburgh Law School