Henrik Brenkman, Jurist and Classicist

A Chapter from the History of Roman Law as Part of the Classical Tradition

When the Emperor Justinian promulgated the Digest in 533, he faced the task of providing the court and universities with texts of this part of his codification. Of over 70 manuscripts that must have been produced on that occasion, one may have survived: the so-called codex Florentinus, now in the Biblioteca Laurenziana.
Although itself imperfect, and despite doubts entertained by some as to its precise age, it is the principal source of our knowledge of the Justinian text.
Few scholars have devoted more time and energy to a study of this manuscript than the Dutch jurist Henrik Brenkman (1681-1736). His notebooks, the fruits of a lifetime’s work in preparation of a Digest edition on the basis of the codex Florentinus, have been preserved and are now in the State and University Library of Göttingen. Brenkman’s untimely death prevented the completion of that edition, but the notebooks offer an excellent view of his methods and results. As such their interest is twofold: they demonstrate the way in which the problem of editing a legal text was tackled in the early XVIIIth century, and they contain information still of importance for a present-day student of the Digest text.
This book studies Brenkman and his notebooks from these two points of view. It emphasizes the fact that we see philological work carried out by someone who had been trained to be a lawyer. It also deals with some questions that are still being asked by students of the manuscript tradition of the Digest. Its main purpose, however, is to try and place Brenkman in the history of scholarship, and it argues, as is to be concluded from the subtitle, that both jurists and classicists ought to be interested in Brenkman’s life and work.

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