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Biblical and Roman Law: Precursor of Footnotes; Early Uniform Pagination

Circa 350 CE to 450 CE
The Berlin Codex of the Collatio as reproduced by Hyamson, p.7.

The Berlin Codex of the Collatio as reproduced by Hyamson, p.7.

Of the Collatio legum Romanarum et Mosaicarum, a fourth-century legal treatise which argued that the laws of Moses were compatible with those of Rome, three primary manuscripts survive, of which the Berlin codex, dated by various scholars from the eighth to the tenth century, is considered the earliest and most authoritative.

"The expansion of Christianity and the codification of Roman law are two of the most significant facets of late antiquity. The Collatio Legum Mosaicarum et Romanarum, or Collation of the Laws of Moses and the Romans, is one of the most perplexing works of late antiquity: a law book compiled at the end of the fourth century by an anonymous editor who wanted to show the similarity between laws of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, and Roman law. Citing first laws from the Hebrew Bible - especially from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy which he believed were written by Moses - the anonymous Collator then compared corresponding passages from Roman jurists and from Roman laws to form discussions on sixteen topics such as homicide, adultery, homosexuality, incest, and cruelty towards slaves. While earlier scholars wrestled with dating the Collatio, the religious identity of the Collator, and the purpose of the work, this book suggests that the Collator was a Christian lawyer writing in the last years of the fourth century in an attempt to draw pagan lawyers to seeing the connections between the law of a monotheistic God and traditional Roman law." 

From the standpoint of book history this text is significant for its precise references to Roman laws, and the way in which these could be precisely cited.

"Fragmentary preserved notes on a legal lecture from the late fifth century C.E. reveal that professors referred students to their sources [in the Collatio] not only by book and chapter divisions, but also by the page number, in what were evidently uniform copies" (Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History [1997] 30).  

If valid, this would be one of the earliest references to maintaining uniform pagination in the copying of manuscripts. 

Hyamson, Mosaicarum et Romanarum Legum Collatio. With Introduction, Facsimile and Transcription of the Berlin Codex, Translation, Notes and Appendices. London: Henry Frowde. Oxford University Press, 1913.

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