[GRASSUS, Antonius.]


[GRASSUS, Antonius.] Ars notariatus.

Rome, Stephan Plannck, c.1490


8vo. 6 unnumbered ll., [*] 6 . Large Gothic letter, initials heightened in red throughout. Faint marginal waterstaining, marginal ink marks to last two ll., marginal soiling to verso of last, first and last reinforced at gutter. A good, well-margined copy, in a leaf from Korenberg’s 1483 German Bible over modern boards, a.e.r.

Very good, well-margined copy of this scarce Roman edition of an extremely successful manual for notaries. First composed c.1400, it circulated extensively in ms. before reaching the press in Rome in 1474 and undergoing numerous reprints in Italy, Flanders, France and Germany, as well as a German translation, until the early 1500s. Its authorship is debated: although the Brescia edition mentions the name of the Bolognese Antonius Grassus, judge of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Sacred Rota, it has also been attributed to the French jurist Johannes de Gradibus or simply considered anonymous. The title ‘Ars notariatus’ was constructed a posteriori following a variation of the incipit found in some ms. copies—‘Notariatus [instead of ‘Notaria’] est ars scribendi et dictandi…’. It is a very simple and clear summary of a notary’s work which it introduces as follows: ‘the art of being a notary is the art of writing and expressing arguments in writing so as to straighten the complexities of human fragility and commit them to perennial memory.’ There follows a clarification of what a notary is by law and who can become a notary—a free man, not of peasant origins, not constrained by other ties (e.g., holy orders), a male individual compos mentis (e.g., he should not be prone to excessive anger), with good eyesight and hearing, sound reputation and character (still desirable). The rest of the work is concerned with what and how a notary should proceed in his everyday business dealing with contracts, obligations, customs, sales arbitrations and stipulations, and, most importantly, how to deal with last wills and testaments and the subdivision of inheritance (e.g., if a son refuses to ransom his father from the Saracens and the father dies in prison, his inheritance will go to the Church). A little jewel of early legal studies, from one of the most productive presses in late C15 Rome, shedding light on the professional role and individual character of the medieval notary.

Only Jacob Burns Law Library copy of this ed. recorded in the US.GW 2650; Proctor 3749; ISTC ia01129000. Rolandino e l’ars notaria da Bologna all’Europa, ed. G. Tamba (Milan, 2002).
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