THEODOSIUS II et alii Imperatorum Theodosii, Valentiniani, Maiorani, Anthemii novella constitutiones xlii

Paris, Robert Estienne, 1571


4to, ff. [4], 47, [1]. Predominantly Roman letter, little Italic; printer’s device on title, foliated initials; tiny wormtrails to lower blank gutter of initial gatherings; very light dampstain to outer upper corner and fore-edge in first half. A good copy in early vellum, recased; remains of ties; bookplate of the LA Law Library on front pastedown; mid-seventeenth-century ms ex libris, autograph and motto of ‘G. Colletet’ at head and foot of title.

Comprehensive and accurate edition of the Codex Theodosianus, the ground-breaking collection of Roman laws setting the ground for the Justinian Codex and first published in Basel in 1528. Theodosius II was the second Roman emperor of the East, ruling after his father Arcadius from 408 to 450 AD. A pious Christian, he founded the university of Constantinople and undertook a vast reform to gather and revise the laws issued over a hundred years since Constantine’s reign. Finally, in 438 Theodosius and the emperor of the West, his distant cousin Valentinian III (419-455), jointly promulgated the new codex. This edition includes the few adjustments introduced by the Western emperor Majorian (420-461) and Anthemius (420-472). The editor, Pierre Pithou (1539-1596), was a prominent French lawyer and scholar, in the service of the later Henry IV during the wars of religion. Along with his activity as a Calvinist pamphleteer, he published a considerable number of sources for the history of Roman and French law. This book is dedicated to the greatest of the French legal humanists, Jacques Cujas (1522-1590), who taught, i. a., Joseph Scaliger and Jacques-Auguste de Thou and had edited the Codex Theodosianus in 1566.

This copy belonged to Guillaume Colletet (1598-1659), French poet, founding member of the Académie française and bibliophile. Before devoting himself to poetry, he acted as lawyer in the Parisian parliament – hence, his interest in Roman law. Colletet wrote extensively in verse and prose, including an unpublished collection of biographies of French poets. In inscribing this book of his he used the same Latin motto (‘Quo me fata [vocant]’: to any place destiny calls me) as Philip Sidney (e.g., CELM *SiP 224: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Cod. 9689, f. 102r). The sentence had also been employed by Rabelais in the second book of Gargantua and Pantagruel, when the polyglot Panurge makes his entrance.

Not in BM STC Fr., Brunet or Graesse. Adams, T 545; Renouard, 172:1; Schreiber, 241.
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