|Manuscript(s)||Six manuscript classes:|
|1. BL, Cotton MS Domitian viii, fos. 96r-110v
2. Manchester, John Rylands Library MS Lat 420
3. BL, Royal MS 11.B.ii, fos. 103r-166v
4. BL, Additional MS 49366
5. BL, Cotton MS Titus A.xxvii, fos. 89r-174v
6. London Collection:
6a. Manchester, John Rylands Library, Lat MS 155 (+ BL, Additional MS 14252)
6b. BL, Cotton MS Claudius D.ii
6c. Cambridge, CCC, MSS 70 and 258
6d. Oxford, Oriel College, MS 46.
The title Quadripartitus refers to an extensive legal collection compiled during the reign of Henry I, king of England (1100–1135). The work consists of Anglo-Saxon legal materials in Latin translation as well as a number of Latin texts of legal interest that were produced after the Conquest. It ranks as the largest surviving medieval collection of pre-Conquest law and is the second to have been produced during Henry I's reign, after that contained in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 383. First compiled for the use of Henry I's jurists and administrators, the Quadripartitus enjoyed immense interest for a considerable time afterwards and was consulted by legal scholars, including Henry de Bracton in the thirteenth century and John Fortescue in the fifteenth.
No original manuscript is extant, but copies survive in six classes of manuscripts:
- 1. BL, Cotton MS Domitian viii, fos. 96r-110v. Incomplete. The manuscript has been tentatively dated to the 1120s and stands out as the oldest witness of the Quadripartitus. It is the only manuscript to preserve both prefaces and gives the text for only two law-codes, after which the manuscript breaks off.
- 2. Manchester, John Rylands Library MS Lat 420. Mid-12th century. According to a 16th-century note on the flyleaf, the first 20 folios are lost.
- 3. BL, Royal MS 11.B.ii, fos. 103r-166v
- 4. BL, Additional MS 49366
- 5. BL, Cotton MS Titus A.xxvii, fos. 89r-174v
- 6. The London Collection is represented by four copies. It incorporates later material up to Henry's reign, such as the Leges Henrici Primi and the Genealogia ducum Normannorum.
The compilation of the Quadripartitus was an ambitious project which took many years to complete. The first preface, the Dedicatio, which may have been present only in the first draft of the work (see below), shows no intrinsic sign of having been written later than 1100, and neither does the first volume. This suggests that the work was well underway by the beginning of Henry's reign. The second preface, known as the Argumentum, frequently refers to Henry's succession as heralding the return of law and order to English society. The second volume contains material composed during Henry's reign and refers to a royal council held at London in May (Pentecost) 1108, attended among others by Urse d'Abetôt (d. 1108). Liebermann assigned the completion of the work to a date between 1113 and 1118, basing this terminus ante quem on the mention of Henry's victories over the "rages of the Bretons" in Argumentum § 16, which he took to refer to the king's claim of sovereignty as recognised by King Louis VI of France in 1113. Richard Sharpe, however, argues that the wording of the text is too general to allow for any such historically specific interpretation. He dates the completion of the first draft to between 1108 and 1118, with a date nearer the early part of this range.
According to Patrick Wormald, the anonymous author continually worked on and revised the collection. Since copies were made and sent out during the process, the author's shifting perceptions and intentions are reflected in the numerous amendments to and rearrangements of the texts which are encountered in the various manuscripts.
The author's Latin is at times notoriously opaque, which some scholars have ascribed to lack of training and skill. However, Richard Sharpe has argued that the author was proficient in Latin and well at home with classical literature, but shows a preference for rhetorical flourish which often makes his writing difficult to penetrate. In spite of these difficulties, it is the use of Latin rather than an archaic form of English which has contributed to the pre-eminent position of the work in later ages and in effect to its survival to the present day.
Authorship and purpose
The author is unknown, but the work was presumably prepared by the same jurist who was responsible for drafting the Leges Henrici Primi. He was not a native English speaker, and often struggled to grasp the sense of his originals, although a learning process can be detected in several manuscript versions, which reveal that he occasionally corrected his translations. The history of transmission may also suggest that the discovery of new manuscripts changed the author's mind about the appropriate order in which the legal texts were to be arranged.
The title Quadripartitus ("Divided into four") has been used by historians since Felix Liebermann adopted it in his edition and studies of the work near the start of the 20th century. The title, which is found in a 16th-century note on the flyleaf of John Rylands Library MS Lat 420, reflects what the author set out in his Argumentum (clause 32), namely that his original design was to produce four volumes. However, the surviving collection only comprises the first two volumes, while plans for the remaining two, one on lawsuits and their proceedings and the other on theft, never came to fruition. The two prefaces, Dedicatio and Argumentum, show that the collection was not merely intended to serve as an antiquarian encyclopedia of obsolete laws and customs.
Two prefaces are appended to the work. The Dedicatio, which survives only in Cotton MS Domitian viii, is a dedication addressed to an anonymous patron and friend of the author. It may have been written at an early stage of the work and was presumably omitted from later drafts. The second preface is the Argumentum, which sets out the argument of the work, with reference to the contemporary state of affairs in the kingdom. Its sole preservation in Cotton MS Domitian viii, Cotton MS Titus A xxvii and a transcript from a Worcester manuscript suggests that it was omitted after the second draft. The author here deplores the moral decay that has marked the reign of William (II) Rufus and expresses some hope that Henry's rule will bring about changes for the better.
The largest assembly of texts is contained in the first part of the work (I). This material includes a good portion of the law-codes that were issued by Anglo-Saxon kings, from King Ine of Wessex (appended to King Alfred's domboc) to King Cnut, all in Latin translation. A couple of these do not survive elsewhere. In addition, the author included legal treatises on a variety of topics, some associated with Wulfstan, Archbishop of York. The second, briefer part of the work is devoted to documents of legal interest written (in Latin) at a later date, such as Henry I's Coronation Charter and his writ on Courts.
The following table of contents is based on that compiled by Patrick Wormald. Texts marked by an asterisk (*) are not originally part of the collection, while those placed between square brackets () were inserted into the manuscripts by other scribes.
|BL, Cotton MS Domitian viii||John Rylands Library MS Lat 420||BL, Royal MS 11 B ii||BL, Additional MS 49366||BL, Cotton MS Titus A xxvii||London Collection|
|I-II Cnut||I-II Cnut||I-II Cnut||I-II Cnut||Blaserum|
|Alfred ...||… Ine||Alfred-Ine||Alfred-Ine||Alfred-Ine||Forfang|
|I-II Æthelstan||I-II Æthelstan||I-II Æthelstan||I-II Æthelstan||Hundred Ordinance|
|Norðleoda laga||Episcopus||Norðleoda laga||Norðleoda laga||Alfred|
|Mircna laga||Norðleoda laga||Mircna laga||Mircna laga||Alfred-Guthrum|
|Hadbot||Mircna laga||Hadbot||Hadbot||Peace of Edward and Guthrum|
|Hundred Ordinance||Blaserum||Hundred Ordinance||Hundred Ordinance||Episcopus|
|III-VI Æthelstan||Forfang||III-VI Æthelstan||III-VI Æthelstan||Norðleoda laga|
|Ordal||Hundred Ordinance||Ordal||Ordal||Mircna laga|
|I and III Æthelred||III-VI Æthelstan||I and III Æthelred||Alfred-Guthrum||Að|
|Walreaf||Peace of Edward and Guthrum 9 ff.||Walreaf||Peace of Edward and Guthrum||III-VI Æthelstan|
|IV Æthelred||IV Æthelred||I-II Edward||Ordal|
|II Æthelred||II Edmund||II Æthelred||I-II Edmund||*Historical|
|VII Æthelred||Wifmannes Beweddung||VII Æthelred||Wifmannes Beweddung||*Historical|
|II-III Edgar||III Æthelred||II-III Edgar||I and III Æthelred|
|Alfred-Guthrum Appendix||Walreaf||Alfred-Guthrum Appendix||Walreaf|
|Peace of Edward and Guthrum||IV Æthelred||Peace of Edward and Guthrum||IV Æthelred|
|I-II Edward||II Æthelred||I-II Edward||II Æthelred|
|I-III Edmund||Dunsæte||I-III Edmund||Dunsæte|
|Wifmannes Beweddung||Iudex||Wifmannes Beweddung||Iudex|
|William I's On Exculpation||William I's On Exculpation||William I's On Exculpation|
|Rectitudines singularum personarum||*William I's Articles|
|Geþyncðu||William I's On Exculpation||Geþyncðu||Geþyncðu|
|Rectitudines singularum personarum||Rectitudines singularum personarum||Rectitudines singularum personarum|
|Praefatio||*William I's Articles|
|Henry I's Coronation Charter||Henry I's Coronation Charter||Henry I's Coronation Charter||*Leges Edwardi Confessoris|
|II 4-8:3, 18||II 4-8:3, 18||II 4-18||*Genealogia ducum Normannorum|
|Henry I's writ on Courts||Henry I's writ on Courts||Henry I's writ on Courts||*Historical|
|*[Tr. Winch.]||*[Pseudo-Ulpian]||*Instituta Cnuti||Henry I's Coronation Charter|
|*[Leis Willelme]||*Henry I's London Charter|
|*[Leges Edwardi Confessoris]||*Leges Henrici Primi|
- Wormald, Making of English law, pp. 237-8
- Wormald, Making of English law, p. 236
- Liebermann arrived at a later date, c. 1140, but on palaeographical grounds, Patrick Wormald considers an earlier date in the 1120s more likely. Wormald, "Quadripartitus", pp. 83-4
- Wormald, "Quadripartitus", p. 84
- Wormald, Making of English law, pp. 238-9
- Wormald, Making of English Law, pp. 237-8
- Sharpe, "The prefaces of Quadripartitus", p. ....
- Wormald, Making of English law, p. 244
- Wormald, Making of English law, pp. 238-9, 242-3
- Sharpe, "The prefaces of Quadripartitus", pp. 148-9
- Sharpe, "The prefaces of Quadripartitus", p. 149
- Wormald, Making of English law, p. 237
- Wormald, Making of English law, p. 243
- It is unclear whether the author himself coined this title. See Wormald, "Quadripartitus", pp. 84-5
- Sharpe, "The prefaces of Quadripartitus", p. 150
- Wormald, Making of English law, pp. 240-1 (Table 4.7) and Wormald, "Quadripartitus"
- Wormald, Patrick. The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1999. ISBN 0-631-22740-7
- Liebermann, Felix. Gesetze der Angelsachsen. 3 vols. Halle, 1903-1916
- Liebermann, Felix. Quadripartitus. Ein englisches Rechtsbuch von 1114. Halle, 1892. PDF available from the Internet Archive here and from Google Books, here and here (US only)
- Wormald, Patrick. "Quadripartitus." In Law and government in medieval England and Normandy: Essays in honour of Sir James Holt, edited by G. Garnett and J. Hudson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. pp. 111–47. Republished in: Legal Culture of the Early Medieval West. pp. 81ff
- Sharpe, Richard. "The prefaces of Quadripartitus." In Law and government in medieval England and Normandy: Essays in honour of Sir James Holt, edited by G. Garnett and J. Hudson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. pp. 148–72