Legal Document by Bartolomeo Lelii (1537-1543)

Bruce Niebergall
Kody Walker
Jordan Conlin
Mike Emery


This is a legal document written between the years of 1537 to 1543 by Bartolomeo Lelii. It is written on parchment, most likely taken from lamb, goat, or calf skin. This type of parchment was common during the time it was written. The cover of this legal document appears to be taken from another legal book. Normally on a palimpsest the previous ink is taken off, but on this particular document’s cover, Bartolomeo Lelii wrote over the previous ink. This signifies that he cared about the contents of the cover page to the extent that he would keep the text rather than scrape off the old writing, perhaps for aesthetic appeal or to convey a message. Upon researching this legal document, not knowing Latin or having any language studies background we were a little slow to start this project. At first we tried to translate this book using various resources, including Latin-speakers. This was not successful since the text is not always legible, and hence reading enough words to form a sentence was not practical. So rather than trying to translate this book we decided to look at it as a whole object instead. To look at it as an object, we first wrote down questions we could research. Some of these questions were: What is a palimpsest?How was the parchment and ink made? How was the book bound? What is the significance of the cover and why was it preserved? What specific tools were used to write the book? The answers to these questions paint an interesting picture about this document, and about documents from this era in general. Despite not knowing the exact nature of the contents, there is still much this book has to tell us.