Digital collections


Facing the rich variety of digital collections it has a certain advantage to group them into several main categories. Books, archival records and images have each been put here into a category: digital libraries, digital archives and digital image collections. The sheer number of digital libraries is sufficient reason to present them separately, notwithstanding the fact that some libraries hold archival collections as well. Many digital collections present a great variety of sources. It is true one cannot separate books from documents and images. However, in my opinion even an incomplete survey of digital archives is certainly useful. A better understanding of and growing insight to digital collections for legal history will surely be reflected in their representation on this website, and thus virtual exhibitions appear on a separate page. This part of my website is updated frequently. Any constructive support is most welcome!

This page offers an overview of image collections, starting with a number of national portals for digital heritage collections; for some countries I have added a few regional portals. Commercial projects and licensed databases have not been included, the exceptions are clearly marked. The classic collections for legal iconography are present here, too, and special subjects such as the Sachsenspiegel, emblem booksportraits and festival books.

Digitization and cultural heritage is a theme at yet another page, as is also Digital Humanities.

National digital heritage portals – in alphabetical order of country, with also some regional portals

At the page for digitization and cultural heritage you can find links to a number of Dutch regional portals for cultural heritage and cultural history.

Databases for legal iconography

Let;s mention here also the Internationale Gesellschaft für Rechtliche Volkskunde. Among the tools helping iconographic research one should mention for example the Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte, now renamed RDK Labor and searchable online. Since July 1, 2023 the online database of the Index of Medieval Art at Princeton is free accessible online. You can consult more at the few institutions with a complete copy (Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC; Getty Research Center, Los Angeles; Institute for Art History, Utrecht).

Iconclass offers a systematic classification of subjects in art, now avaialable in six languages. This website is free accessible, but in practice it is useful to get acquainted first with Iconclass viewing an image database using this classification system. The Art and Architecture Thesaurus of the Getty Center is another classification system which can support your research. The Iconographic Database of the Warburg Institute in London is also most interesting. The Spanish Ministerio de Cultura offers a number of online thesauri and dictionaries for cultural heritage.

General historical image collections– organized in alphabetical order by countries

For research in the field of art history one can find support at the following websites:

Some firms producing software to create digital collections provide overviews of institutions using their software. Sometimes it can be very helpful to look also at these overviews, shown here in alphabetical order:

Thematic image collections

A rather special place in legal iconography is traditionally given to the codices picturati, the illuminated manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel, the influential thirteenth-century book on customary law in Saxony written by Eike von Repgow:

Emblem books form a particular Early Modern source of images. Andrea Alciato (1492-1550), himself a legal scholar, founded the genre with his Emblemata (1531). Emblems are images with a motto and a poetic explanation. Here some collections with digitized emblem books which can be searched using Iconclass. Emblematica Online points to other digitized collections.

Portraits of lawyers have always enjoyed interest. Some databases can help you to find images of them:

Festival books is the generic term for occasional publications, often no longer than a pamphlet, published around the crowning of kings, their Joyous Entries into cities, princely marriages and funerals, and the signing of peace treaties or other major events. These works convey representations of power and images of justice and law. They are also a source for legal iconography because they are often wonderfully illustrated by artists.