DRQEdit - Deutschsprachige Rechtsquellen in digitaler Edition

DRQEdit is a project which developed out of work on the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch. It is being carried out jointly by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory and the Chair of Historical and Cultural Information Processing at the University of Cologne, under the leadership of the former head of the Deutsches Rechtswörterbuch research unit, Dr. Heino Speer. The goal of DRQEdit is to make the German-language legal literature of the 15th and 16th centuries available on the Internet. The subject matter comprises the reception of Roman law and the adoption of the Ius commune taught at universities into normative texts and everyday legal literature. These works are generally very difficult to access, very few being available in modern editions. Only a few remaining copies exist, the use of which requires attendance at the manuscript reading room where they are kept. Even though scans of some of these works are meanwhile available in digital libraries, they can only be found by searching for specific authors or titles. The project therefore aims to make these sources available as a corpus that is searchable by a variety of metadata. A series of criteria have been defined in order to arrive at a manageable corpus of sources:

  • Time span: From the start of printing until the year 1600
  • Language: Only those works that at least partially written in German (including Low German)
  • Only printed works
  • Only first impressions and later issues with significant changes
  • Normative texts (but not church or police ordinances). Important groups of tests include:

    • Gerichtsordnungen und Malefizordnungen
    • Town law (Stadtrecht) reforms
    • National law (Landrechte) and national ordinances
    • Imperial law (Reichsrecht), especially edicts of the Imperial diet

  • Popular legal literature, in particular
  • Translations and interpretations of Roman law
  • Editions of German law books (with commentaries)
  • Formularies and other instructions for legal practice

Research to date has resulted in a corpus of around 450 works and some 90,000 printed pages. In addition to being available as digital facsimiles, where possible the works are also transcribed. The full text version can then be searched word for word. Specific passages can also be supplemented with additional information to facilitate further research and commentaries. Inter-text referencing is an essential aspect. On the one hand, the popular legal literature contains a large number of references (allegations) to passages in the Corpus iuris civilis and the related medieval commentaries. These allegations presuppose a fundamental familiarity with this literature including the modalities of citation and are very difficult today, even for a legal historian, to understand. On the other hand, the normative texts have frequently to be understood in the light of earlier texts, but without explicit mention being made of this dependent relationship. It is however only partially possible within the scope of the project to clarify the relationships between the texts included in the corpus and written manifestations of Roman law.

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