In our occasional series of posts about games in the HLS Library’s Historical & Special Collections, we’ve covered playing cards describing notorious trials and educational flash cards for students of civil law. With exams around the corner, it’s a good time to shine a light on mnemonic devices – centuries-old techniques that aid in learning and retaining information in memory.
We have a beautiful first edition of Johannes Buno’s (1617-1697) work, Memoriale Codicis Iustinianei (1674). It features elaborate fold-out engravings, each corresponding to one of the books in Justinian’s Codex. The Codex is part of the Corpus Juris Civilis, the codification of Roman law ordered early in the 6th century AD by Emperor Justinian I.
Buno, an educator and theologian, distilled this massive trove of Roman law into a brief 83-page study aid. Taken together, the summaries and the engravings helped students master the contents of the Codex by combining fables, images, and letters. Buno called this the “Emblematische Lehrmethode,” or “Emblematic Teaching Method.” Let’s give it a try.
Here is the engraving that helped students master Book 9 of the Codes, which covers criminal law and procedure.
A detail from Buno’s distillation of the text, Title 9.1, “Those who may not accuse,” (Qui accusare non possunt”) is shown here.
Presumably, a glance at the corresponding image in the upper left of the engraving, shown in detail here, would jog a student’s memory.
Or perhaps not. Things may have gotten lost in translation over time. At any rate, it is worth remembering that study aids for law students go back centuries, and that yesterday’s magnificently engraved book is today’s handwritten law student notebook, electronic casebook, or commercial outline. However you learn the law, good luck with your exams!
* with apologies to Vladimir Nabokov