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October 7, 2020
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v2.1 Reference

Prefaces to Canon Law Books in Latin Christianity, second edition

Selected Translations, 500-1317

An updated and expanded version of the original edition, published in 1998. That original edition went up through 1245. This new version extends to 1317 and adds two important prefaces.

Praise for the First Edition

"Both students and specialists can be grateful to the authors for this major contribution in English to the study of medieval canon law. It is a clear statement—one emphasized by the late John Gilchrist-that because of its critical importance in medieval life and culture canon law should not remain the obscure domain of specialists, but should be shared with students and non-specialists alike." – The American Journal of Legal History

"[A] learned and useful book, which for the first time assembles a body of canonistic prefaces, presents them in an accessible form, and provides students of medieval canonical thought with a valuable new resource for study and teaching." – The Catholic Historical Review

"This volume is an important and welcome addition to a field of studies where translations into English are few and far between. The breadth of the works selected, the quality of the translations, and the attention to detail that has long characterized the work of both editors make this a valuable resource for specialist and student alike." – Church History

"A welcome combination: a text that is informative for students and professionals alike. The translations succeed in rendering accessible to a general audience some otherwise highly inaccessible material. Somerville and Brasington are to be greatly commended for undertaking this very original enterprise and bringing it to successful parturition." – Journal of Law and Religion

"Somerville and Brasington have chosen to let their compilers and commentators speak for themselves. In doing so, they have had to wrestle with often obscure Latin and frequently less than satisfactory editions. That they succeed in making these texts intelligible through translation and annotation is no small feat." – Sixteenth Century Journal

"This is a significant, elegantly presented contribution to the field of theology, cultural history, and canon law." – Theological Studies

About the Authors

Robert Somerville is Tremaine Professor emeritus of Religion, and Professor emeritus of History, at Columbia University. Bruce C. Brassington is professor of history at West Texas A&M University.


"Provides a gateway into the mentality, texts, and scholarship of medieval canon law. Professors Somerville and Brasington here re-issue their important work of historical commentary combined with accurate translations of prefaces to works of medieval canon law. They have expanded their treatment to include three more prefaces, including never-before translated papal bulls promulgating the decretal collections of 1298 and 1317...There is no better English introduction with translated primary sources to medieval canon law."—Atria Larson , author of Master of Penance: Gratian and the Development of Penitential Thought and Law in the Twelfth Century

"Church law addressed issues central to the Middle Ages, ranging from church hierarchy to penance and marriage. The prefaces to Church law collections provide rare glimpses into the nature of canonical collections without commentary, and into the motivations and concerns of their compilers. Somerville and Brasington introduce us to these often complex texts and enable a wide range of readers to consult these sources."—Greta Austen, author of Shaping Church Law Around the Year 1000: The Decretum of Burchard of Worms

"Indispensable for any serious student of medieval history or law, Prefaces to Canon Law Books provides fluent translations of notable legal thinkers of its period...This book is key for understanding medieval law and Christianity."—Anders Winroth, University of Oslo

"This is a work that belies its modest title. It's marvelously translated and perceptively introduced Prefaces to compilations of canon law, from the earliest days of the Church through the authoritative canonical collections of the thirteenth century, open a window onto medieval legal mentality and the connections jurists sought to draw between law and theology. Indispensable for all, whether scholars or students, seeking an entry into this complex, yet essential area of study."—Kenneth Stow , author of Anna and Tranquilio: Catholic Anxiety and Jewish Protest in the Age of Revolutions

"Professors Somerville and Brasington have provided for students of every level a convenient, tremendously useful avenue into the understanding of canon law, its sources, goals, and evolution. The second edition augments this usefulness by adding material from the later Middle Ages, as well as a bibliographical essay (including web resources) that will benefit anyone trying to till this tangled but fertile field."—Steven A. Schoenig, SJ , author of Bonds of Wool: The Pallium and Papal Power in the Middle Ages

9780813233413 : prefaces-to-canon-law-books-in-latin-christianity-2nd-edition-somerville-brasington
Paperback / softback
240 Pages
$39.95 USD

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Canon Law in the Age of Reforms (c. 1000 to c. 1150)

Christof Rolker. With contributions by Robert Somerville.
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Criminal-Inquisitorial Trials in English Church Courts

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Gratian's Tractatus de penitentia

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España Pontificia

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