Tomus primus, quo continentur institutionum libri quatuor, et digestorum siue pandectarum libri quinquaginta. Tomus secundus, quo continentur d. Iustiniani codicis, libri 12.

Amsterdam, apud Ioannem Blaeu Ludov. et Da. Elzeuirios et Lugduni Batauorum: apud Franciscum Hackium, 1664.


8vo. Two vols in one. pp. (xxiv), 1037, (iii), 820, (iv). Roman letter, some Greek, double column. Fine engraved architectural title page with figure of Justice above, small woodcut initials, vellum tabs at beginning of each chapter, eighteenth century engraved bookplate of “Bened. Guil Zahnii” on pastedown, autographs of three generations of Gurssen family of Gottingen dated 1825, 1869 and 1905 on fly, occasional underlining and marginal notes. Light age yellowing with some light foxing in places, minor water staining, a little heavier at end. A very good copy in contemporary blind tooled pigskin, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design with small heads in medallion rolls, blind ruled lozenge at centres, spine with blind ruled raised bands, all edges blue, edges tabulated in accordance with the book numbering of the text for fast and easy reference.

First Elzevir edition of this finely printed “Corpus Juris Civilis” with the text alone and no commentary, much sought after for the beauty and elegance of the printing and the correctness of the text, especially the incredibly small and fine Roman and Greek type. “Ces deux volumes sont imprimés avec une grande perfection et fort recherchés. Ils ne sont pas dus aux presses des Elzèvirs, puisqu’on lit a la fin du second volume, ex typographie Joannis Blaeu; cependant on a l’habitude de les leur attribuer, et ces habiles imprimeurs ont concouru a leur publications, du moins comme associes.” Simon Bérard, ‘Essai bibliographique sur les éditions des Elzevirs.’

The Corpus Juris Civilis is the most comprehensive code of Roman law and the basic document of all modern civil law. Compiled by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the first three parts appeared between 529 and 535 and were the work of a commission of 17 jurists presided over by the eminent jurist Tribonian. The Corpus Juris was an attempt to systematise Roman law, to reduce it to order after over 1,000 years of development. The resulting work was more comprehensive, systematic, and thorough than any previous work of that nature, including the Theodosian Code. The four parts of the Corpus Juris are the Institutes, a general introduction to the work and a general survey of the whole field of Roman law; the Digest or Pandects, by far the most important part, intended for practitioners and judges and containing the law in concrete form plus selections from 39 noted classical jurists such as Gaius, Paulus, Ulpian, Modestinus, and Papinian; the Codex or Code, a collection of imperial legislation since the time of Hadrian; and the Novels or Novellae, compilations of later imperial legislation issued between 535 and 565 but never officially collected.

Copies of this written body of Roman law survived the collapse of the Roman empire and avoided the fate of earlier legal texts—notably those of the great Roman jurist Gaius. With the revival of interest in Roman law (especially at Bologna) in the 11th century, the Corpus Juris was studied and commented on exhaustively by many scholars. Jurists and scholars trained in this Roman law played a leading role in the creation of national legal systems throughout Europe, and the Corpus Juris Civilis thus became the ultimate model and inspiration for the legal system of virtually every continental European nation. The name Corpus Juris Civilis was first applied to the collection by the 16th-century jurist Denys Godefroi.

Willems 1323. “Edition recherchée a cause de sa belle execution typographique.”


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