Urban Collections of Sea Law
By studying the development and dissemination of the different law compilations and their manuscript copies in the first chapter, it was established that no single sea law compilation was available throughout northern Europe at any time during the Middle Ages. In this chapter, this will be investigated further by considering the manuscript collections of each of the five towns in order to determine which sea laws were at the courts’ disposal and from what date. A comparison of the urban collections will allow us to establish whether there was any communality in these and, if not, to explain why they were different.
None of the manuscripts containing any of the Scottish translations of the Rôles d’Oléron can be linked to Aberdeen directly.1 The relatively unified character of Scottish burghal law suggests, however, that those laws available in manuscript form in one burgh would have been known elsewhere too, either in writing or orally, and there is no reason why a collection of Scottish laws should not have been available to the Aberdeen government and courts. A description of the extant manuscripts from the whole of Scotland and the texts they contain is therefore relevant, especially because these text have received little attention from scholars up until now.2
Nine manuscripts are presently known to include a translation of the Rôles d’Oléron. Six of these are kept in the National Library of Scotland.3
1 Some of the manuscripts cannot be placed at all as regards the Middle Ages, but it is unlikely that any of the manuscripts now extant is from Aberdeen. The copies from the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were mostly written for private use.
2 They are not, for example, mentioned in the Introductory Survey of the Sources and Literature of Scots Law. Only Angelo Forte has named some of the manuscripts. Forte, ‘“Kenning be kenning”’, 57. Gero Dolezalek listed the sea laws as part of the contents of the six NLS manuscripts, but not of the other three, in his recent Census of manuscripts of legal literature in Scotland, 47, 52, 69, 70.
3 NLS, Bute Ms. 21246; Adv. Ms. 25.4.15 (formerly Adv. Libr. W.4.ult.); Adv. Ms. 25.5.7 (formerly Adv. Libr. A.1.32); Adv. Ms. 25.5.6 (formerly Adv. Libr. A.1.28); Adv. Ms. 25.5.9 ‘Bannatyne’ (formerly Adv. Libr. A.7.25); Adv. Ms. 7.1.9 ‘Malcolm’ (formerly Adv. Libr. A.3.22). Forte, ‘“Kenning be kenning”’, 61, mentions another manuscript (Adv. Ms. 24.6.3.