Monday, February 8, 2010

Creatures in Books & Verse in Canon Law

In dealing with old, antiquarian & rare books, we come across all sorts of odd bits and ends - the stain of a rusty pair of spectacles on the title-page of a Jansenist diocesan ritual of 1677; pressed plants and flowers (given their age, I sometimes wonder whether the species still exist); holy cards (of course, and scads of them!); squished medieval bugs (extinct?); sometimes money (the crispest, old US $20 bills I've ever seen, c.1950, were in an envelope in a set of Merkelbach's Summa theologiae moralis, a Thomistic classic); train, plane & automobile tickets; human hair; lots of notes, bookmarks, newspaper clippings, letters, incriminating evidence and fascinating associations; etcetera. We have come to call these objects BIBLIOSITES. For they are like parasites, surviving in or on books.

Now, an introductory overview having been furnished, here's the latest.

Pasted onto the title-page of a nice, 1661 printing of the Corpus iuris canonici (Code of Canon Law), are these two poetic clippets in Latin. Though in different typefaces, they are from the same poem. As best we can figure at present, it is, or is a variation of, a 11th - 13th century poem often attributed to Walter de Mapes, entitled variously: De Iudicio extremo / extremis / extreme, "The Final Judgement". It is something like the Dies irae in tone.

Here's a feeble attempt at a translation:

The universal Judge all other judges judges;
There royal prerogative shall amount to nothing!
Whether he be a Bishop or he be a Cardinal,
The accused shall be condemned, not so much as questioned.

There it will not advantage anyone to have recourse,
Neither him who makes exception nor him who replicates;
Nor him who would solicit the Apostolic See.

[Notes: The fourth line was difficult to render sensible; I believe the sense is that the accused shall be condemned without legal examination of any kind. The second to last line employs legal terms regarding making an exceptio and a replication.]

Now wasn't that fun!

By special request, the original Latin:

Judicabit judices judex generalis;
Ibi nihil proderit dignitas regalis!
Sive sit Episcopus sive Cardinalis
Reus condemnabitur nec quearetur qualis.

Ibi nihil proderit quidquam applicare
Neque quid excipere neque replicare;
Nec ad apostolicam sedem appellare.


  1. I survive on books too. I've not had to resort to actual ingestion (in the food sense) thank God, but I would be helpless without them.

    Thank God for eyes, for vision, for the ability to read, for paper and ink, for printing presses of all kinds - and for authors of five millennia! Let all that read and write give thanks and eternal praise to Him! Amen.

  2. Dear Albertus:

    Have you ever found any medieval foods in your books? I contend that the medieval mind had a concept of Cheetos, and the claim that they are a modern novelty is obsurd and as liturgical dance, although there is no archeological or textual evidence to support my thesis. So maybe you can help?

  3. Dear Well-Wisher,

    Foods...? I am fairly certain I have seen wine stains (or blood) as well as other liquids (probably coffee... medieval coffee, that is). There have been at times unidentifiable crusty bits in the books. I highly suspect these to have been medieval Cheetos.

    "Cheetos", as I am sure you are aware, comes from the Greek "Χητος", meaning "crusty cheesy bit". Thence it passed into Latin, the angelic tongue. But then the French abused it before passing it off to Englishmen.

    I shall keep an eye open for specimens.