Introduction to Pseudo-Isidore

A Brief Introduction to the Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries


By Eric Knibbs[1]


No early medieval canonical collection has attracted more interest than the laws collected by an otherwise unattested canonist named Isidore the Merchant. In part this is because Isidore’s collection enjoyed broad circulation and wide influence in the Middle Ages. In part it is probably also because Isidore’s lawbook is deeply unusual. For centuries now, scholars have recognized that nobody named Isidorus Mercator ever existed, and that the collection bearing this name contains many forged and falsified texts. Almost all of these Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries masquerade as letters written by the earliest bishops of Rome, and they address a wide range of issues. They rail against Arianism, prohibit the laity from handling altar vessels, fret over contact between clergy and women, defend church property, attack the chorepiscopate, and quote the Bible—especially the Gospel of Matthew—at great length.

Above all else, however, Pseudo-Isidore defends the rights and prerogatives of bishops. According to Pseudo-Isidore these bishops are the pillars of the Christian church, and they deserve every protection from the interference of the laity and the intrusion of metropolitans. False witnesses and biased judges pose grave threats to bishops, and so every accused cleric has the right to appeal his cases to the papal court. In the world conceived by Pseudo-Isidore, though, it is hard to imagine any case progressing that far. The forgeries surround the clergy with enough convoluted and contradictory protections to make any judicial process against them essentially impossible.[2]

Today, everyone agrees that these false decretals were assembled in the ninth century by ecclesiastical reformers in the archiepiscopal province of Reims. Isidorus Mercator’s collection was only one of several forgeries that these active and imaginative legal scholars produced. Their other products include a long series of fake capitularies that circulated under the pseudonym of Benedictus Levita, a much shorter series of forged capitulary texts that Bishop Angilram of Metz is supposed to have received from Pope Hadrian I, and a collection of reworked extracts from the Council of Chalcedon. Pseudo-Isidore’s collection appears to have been the final, crowning achievement in this small library, as it incorporates and builds upon most of its fellow forgeries. It also received much wider circulation, and exercised much deeper influence, than any of its companion texts.[3]

Thanks to Klaus Zechiel-Eckes, we can be certain that at least some of the forgers behind Pseudo-Isidore worked at the Frankish monastery of Corbie. Various pieces of evidence have long suggested that Corbie might have been involved, but Zechiel-Eckes proved the case beyond all doubt in 2000, when he identified two different Corbie manuscripts with curious marginal annotations. A third manuscript carries similar annotations, but cannot be shown to come from Corbie (it is possibly from Lorsch). These annotations, he showed, mark off passages that were used to build the text of the forged decretals at the heart of Isidore’s collection. These passages were sometimes revised or expanded in situ, which means that among the marginalia in these manuscripts we have Pseudo-Isidore’s autograph, or at least the autograph of his secretaries.[4]

Zechiel-Eckes advanced further arguments about the date of Pseudo-Isidore. Previous scholars had placed the origins of the forgery in the middle of the ninth century and ascribed them to the opponents of the notorious archbishop Hincmar of Reims. Zechiel-Eckes, however, sees the false decretals as an earlier phenomenon. He points out that some of the forged laws were plainly crafted to defend Ebo of Reims from the legal jeopardy he faced for his role in the failed coup against Louis the Pious in 833, and to protect bishops from depositions like those that the newly restored Louis imposed on his episcopal opponents at Thionville in 835. More and more scholars thus believe that some kernel of the forgery complex must have been complete as early as 837, a full decade earlier than previously supposed. Zechiel-Eckes further suggests that Paschasius Radbertus, a vigorous opponent of Louis the Pious and later abbot of Corbie, was the key visionary behind the forgery enterprise.[5]


Pseudo-Isidore and His Sources

 The men behind Isidorus Mercator and Benedictus Levita were compilers as well as forgers. They did not freely compose the fake decretals and capitularies that they produced, but instead constructed them with passages lifted from a wide variety of patristic, biblical, and legal texts. In addition to forgeries, they also filled Isidorus Mercator’s lawbook with the genuine acta of church councils and many perfectly authentic papal decretals. Some of these additional genuine pieces come from the Dionysio-Hadriana, the standard canonical collection of ninth-century Francia; a few others come from the late-antique Collectio Quesnelliana. The vast majority, however, have been borrowed from the seventh-century Collectio Hispana, a chronological collection of canons from Spain that also saw significant circulation in Carolingian Europe. In fact, the lawbook of Isidorus Mercator includes the entirety of the Collectio Hispana within itself, so that scholars have long characterized Pseudo-Isidore as an “enlarged Hispana.”[6]

This recognition stands at the head of Friedrich Maassen’s 1885 “Pseudoisidor-Studien,” which—along with Zechiel-Eckes’s discovery—constitutes one of the single greatest advances in modern knowledge of the forgeries.[7] By the later nineteenth century, thanks in large part to the editorial work of Paul Hinschius, scholarship had finally achieved a finer understanding of what, exactly, Pseudo-Isidore’s collection contains and in what versions it survives. Yet scholars had still not come to terms with the Collectio Hispana at the core of the Pseudo-Isidorian collection. They knew only that the forgers had based their work on a corrupt recension of the Hispana that circulated in eighth- and ninth-century Gaul, known as the Hispana Gallica. Maassen was able to show that the men behind Pseudo-Isidore prepared their Gallican Hispana before adding their forgeries to its pages. They repaired many problematic readings, in part with help from the Dionysio-Hadriana, and they also contributed a variety of interpolations and revisions designed to align the Hispana more closely with their agenda. The forgers even added three inauthentic letters to the genuine decretals of the Hispana.[8]

Maassen did not tax the imagination of his readers by deploying this interpolated Hispana as a theoretical concept or as a philological reconstruction. He showed that this prepared Hispana actually has a separate manuscript existence in Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vat. lat. 1341 (hereafter V1341), which carries the Collectio Hispana as modified by Pseudo-Isidore without any Pseudo-Isidorian expansions.[9] Earlier scholars, convinced that V1341 came from Autun, have referred to this manuscript and the text that it carries as the Hispana Gallica Augustodunensis. Yet V1341 was copied at the monastery of Corbie, and the distinction between the manuscript itself and the legal collection within it is a useful one. We should accordingly either write specifically of V1341 or more generally of the interpolated Hispana to which it attests.[10]

Maassen’s article amounted to the discovery of a further forgery in Isidore’s library, and one that is particularly interesting because it appears to have priority over some of Pseudo-Isidore’s other inventions. Maassen himself realized that a text from the interpolated Hispana was used to compose the preface to Pseudo-Isidore’s collection, and Emil Seckel built upon his work by noting that the false capitularies of Benedictus Levita also draw upon the interpolated Hispana.[11] With the Hispana as modified by Pseudo-Isidore and represented by V1341, we are thus deep into Pseudo-Isidore’s workshop. Only Zechiel-Eckes has taken us deeper.

Maassen limited his analysis to the relationship between V1341 and the A1 recension of Pseudo-Isidore, one of several early versions of the forgeries. Whether the same interpolated Hispana underpins the entire Pseudo-Isidorian tradition, and whether the interpolated Hispana itself experienced development alongside the forged decretals, were questions left for later generations. Joachim Richter addressed them in 1978 with a lengthy article on “The Levels of the Pseudo-Isidorian Forgery.” Richter’s primary and enduring achievement was the discovery of another recension of the interpolated Hispana in Eton, College Library, Ms. B.1.I.6 (James 97) (s. XII, hereafter E97). This recension is striking for providing a text that differs significantly from that in V1341. Richter’s conclusions about the implications of these multiple versions of the interpolated Hispana are highly complex. He argues that two different Hispana recensions lie at the core of two different early Pseudo-Isidore recensions, and that the interpolated Hispana continued to exercise influence on the text of Pseudo-Isidore even after the fully expanded collection had been produced. Unfortunately, Richter’s results have never been fully received and, they have recently faced serious challenge.[12]


Unresolved Problems

 The interpolated Hispana is not the only problem confronting modern research on Pseudo-Isidore. Like Maassen’s work, Zechiel-Eckes’s discovery has opened a new era in Pseudo-Isidorian scholarship and raised a wealth of new questions. Among the most important surrounds the matter of dating. While there are indeed powerful reasons for placing the forgeries in the 830s, the evidence cited by other scholars for later dates is equally weighty. The earliest manuscripts and the earliest citations of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries do not predate 850, and a chance remark shows that the prefatory material to the false capitularies of Benedictus Levita must have been composed after 847.[13] While the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries do indeed appear to be documents drafted by Louis the Pious’s ecclesiastical opponents, we nevertheless have to ask why they were only packaged, circulated and cited years after Louis the Pious’s death in 840.

We also have to wonder why a monastic center should have produced forgeries so wholly dedicated to protecting the Frankish episcopate­­—and, conversely, why Pseudo-Isidore, as a monastic creation, never addresses the rights and prerogatives of monasteries. Horst Fuhrmann observes that the problem is especially perplexing, because monastic issues were matters of serious discussion and controversy at precisely the time the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries were taking shape; and our prime suspect, Paschasius Radbertus, was himself both a monk and later abbot of Corbie. Both Fuhrmann and Karl-Georg Schon thus propose that some elements of the episcopate must have been complicit in the invention of Pseudo-Isidore. Yet how these episcopal collaborators might have been involved, or which elements they contributed, remains unclear.[14]

A final problem facing scholars of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries, not directly related to Zechiel-Eckes’s findings, is posed by the peculiar early manuscript tradition. As is well known, classical and medieval texts of all kinds developed multiple versions, or recensions, in the course of manuscript transmission. Increasing textual variation is simply the natural consequence of circumstance, scribal error and editorial intervention. Yet we expect this process to take time. As we will see below, the very earliest manuscripts of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries, all of them copied in several decades after 850, attest to three or four markedly different but well-defined versions of Isidore’s lawbook. When Paul Hinschius uncovered these early recensions, he spared no effort trying to determine which represents the earliest form and which are later derivatives. Although later authors have been willing to ascribe all to the atelier of the forgers, we must still ask why so many early recensions exist and what they tell us about the forgery operation.[15]

More specifically, Pseudo-Isidore’s current editor, Karl-Georg Schon, lists four Pseudo-Isidore recensions with manuscript traditions that stretch back to the era of the forgeries.[16] These include A1, which Paul Hinschius’s edition most closely reflects; A/B, which Hinschius considered to be a later development, but which modern scholars recognize to be contemporary with A1; the so-called Cluny Version, first noticed by Horst Fuhrmann, which is really just a variant form of A1; and A2, also known as the short version of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals.


The Recensions Described

             Both A1 and A/B offer a three-part canonical collection, introduced by a preface in which Isidorus Mercator claims to have assembled the laws that follow, explains that his fellow bishops requested the compilation, and describes its contents.[17] Part I of the ensuing collection consists of sixty forged decretals in the names of popes from Clement I (c. 96) through Melchiades (died 314). Part II, which corresponds to the first part of the Hispana, opens with the Donation of Constantine and includes all the conciliar acta of the Hispana collection, organized by region, beginning with Nicaea (325) and ending with the second council of Seville (619/619). Part III, which corresponds to the second part of the Hispana, contains decretals and synodal documents associated with popes from Sylvester I (died 335) through Gregory II (died 731). This third part has been expanded both with extra genuine material from other early medieval lawbooks, and with thirty-six further forged decretals.[18]

            A1: Paul Hinschius considered this the earliest and most original recension, and he constructed his edition to reflect its contents.[19] The A1 recension is thus the version that most post-Hinschius publications have addressed as the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries. A1 is distinguished by textual features that at points seem to precede the revised readings on offer in the interpolated Hispana of V1341, and Richter has argued in general that A1 reflects the Hispana Gallica more closely.[20] A1 is also the longer of the two early recensions, with a significantly expanded dossier of Leonine decretals and several other pieces not found in the A/B manuscripts.

The most complete early manuscript of A1 is Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Ottobonianius lat. 93 (O93), a ninth-century codex copied somewhere in northern France, perhaps around the year 860. Karl-Georg Schon has suggested that O93 might be a product of the forgery workshop, citing its high-quality text and the careful, contemporary corrections that it has received.[21] An equally early witness is Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France Ms. lat. 9629 (P9629). Probably from the diocese of Laon, P9629 consists of two originally-separate codices carrying copies of Parts I and III of Pseudo-Isidore respectively. Only Part III is from the A1 recension. Marginal notes may indicate that both parts of P9629 were likely consulted by Bishop Hincmar of Laon during his struggles with his uncle and metropolitan, Hincmar of Reims.[22] A final early witnesses survives in Angers, Bibliothèque municipale Ms. 367 (s. IX; A367), containing Parts I and II.[23]

            Towards the end of his monumental study of the “influence and dissemination of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries,” Horst Fuhrmann draws attention to what he calls a variant form of A1, consisting of Parts I and III of the full collection and distinguished by a series of minor anomalies. This variant form gave rise to as many as seventeen medieval manuscripts, including Paris, Bibl. nat. de France Nouv. acq. lat. 2253 (ca. 1000), copied at Cluny during the abbacy of Odilo (d. 1048); the archetype survives as New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Ms. 442 (s. IX 2/2; hereafter N442).[24] Schon places this Cluny Version alongside A1 and A/B as an early Pseudo-Isidore recension, and suggests that N442 has strong connections to the forgery workshop.[25] According to Bernhard Bischoff, the manuscript comes from either “the southern half of France” or “the ecclesiastical province of Paris,” or “western Francia,” and dates from the third quarter of the ninth century.[26] In my own work, I have argued that N442 appears to represent an early form of the A1 recension of Part III; it can therefore be taken as a further A1 representative, alongside O93, P9629 and A367.

            A/B: Paul Hinschius misdated the key manuscript of this recension, misunderstood its text and placed it after the emergence of his B recension, which is attested only in high medieval manuscripts.[27] In fact both Hinschius’s later B and C recensions derive from A/B, which Fuhrmann and Schon agree must be broadly contemporary with A1.[28] Especially noteworthy is the close relationship between A/B and the interpolated-Hispana recension on offer in V1341. As we have already seen, V1341 comes from Corbie, so it should be no surprise to learn that the earliest and most important A/B manuscript, Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vat. lat. 630 (V630), was also copied in the Corbie scriptorium in the second half of the ninth century.[29] The only other ninth-century A/B witness, Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek Ms. II.7, is unfortunately fragmentary and illegible in many places, but may also come from Corbie.[30]

            Whereas A1 is in some respects closer to the Hispana Gallica, A/B presents a fundamentally more correct text of the false decretals, as Fuhrmann has repeatedly emphasized.[31] Paul Hinschius was convinced that A/B was the result of later redaction, and this suspicion persists in the modern assessments of Richter and even Zechiel-Eckes. These scholars continue to suggest that A/B represents a revision of Pseudo-Isidore’s lawbook, and that it is thus a later product of the forgery operation than A1.[32]

A2: Since the middle of the 19th century, the highly anomalous A2 recension has captured the imaginations of Pseudo-Isidore scholars, for one simple reason: Behind the famous preface of Isidorus Mercator, all recensions of Pseudo-Isidore carry a fictitious exchange of letters between Bishop Aurelius of Carthage and Pope Damasus I (died 384). Aurelius writes to request that Damasus send him “the statutes that you can find from the death of blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, down to your [pontificate],” so that he can know what the apostolic see has decreed and recognize those who have violated the canons. Damasus responds that he is sending Aurelius the requested documents. The A2 recension, which consists of little beyond all the decretal forgeries in Part I of Pseudo-Isidore (from Clement to Melchiades) and the initial series of false decretals from Part III (from Sylvester through Damasus) is basically the collection described by this secondary Damasus preface. The only wrinkle is that A2 also has the Isidorus Mercator preface, which describes the full Pseudo-Isidorian collection in three-parts.

The early Pseudo-Isidore scholar Hermann Wasserschleben was inclined to see the A2 as an initial stage in the forgery process. Paul Hinschius, however, insisted on the priority of A1; Emil Seckel joined him in this view, and A1 held center stage until the last decade. In 2001, Zechiel-Eckes found that A2 appears closer to the readings on offer in one of the Corbie source manuscripts that he discovered than either A1 or A/B. In later articles Zechiel-Eckes broadened his case for A2 as an early constituent of the forgery complex. While some of his arguments are compelling, they have not convinced everyone. Karl-Georg Schon, in particular, has recently identified three omissions that recur in all the A2 manuscripts that he has collated, but that the longer recensions do not share. A2 may therefore represent an earlier stage in the forgery process, but the A2 recension itself is not the source of the early decretal forgeries in A1 and A/B.

While the early A1 and A/B manuscript traditions are quite manageable, too many early copies of A2 survive, and their relationship to one another is too poorly understood, to rely on representative codices. Almost all the earliest A2 manuscripts are either from northern Italy or Sankt-Gallen, and five of them were copied in the latter half of the ninth century. Zechiel-Eckes has argued that the decretals in A2 may have been used as early as 837 by Amalar of Metz, though scholars have so far rejected the possibility.

[1] What follows is (hastily) adapted from my forthcoming article, “The Interpolated Hispana and the Origins of Pseudo-Isidore,” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Kanonistische Abteilung 99 (2013).-- See also my blog Reading Pseudo-Isidore,

[2] The best English introduction to Pseudo-Isidore is Horst Fuhrmann, “The Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries,” in Detlev Jasper and Horst Fuhrmann, Papal Letters in the Early Middle Ages (Washington D.C., 2001), 137–195, though it was written too early to be informed by the recent discoveries of Klaus Zechiel-Eckes (for which see just below). See also Furhmann’s monumental Einfluß und Verbreitung der pseudoisidorischen Fälschungen (Stuttgart 1973–1974), 3 vols; and the ever-important overview by Emil Seckel, “Pseudoisidor,” Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 16 (1905), 265–307. For some of Horst Fuhrmann’s final statements on the Pseudo-Isidore problem, see “Stand, Aufgaben und Perspektiven der Pseudoisidorforschung,” in Wilfried Hartmann and Gerhard Schmitz, eds. Fortschritt durch Fälschungen? Ursprung, Gestalt und Wirkungen der pseudoisidorischen Fälschungen (Hannover, 2002), 227–62. There is an edition-in-progress of the decretals by Karl-Georg Schon at, with complete bibliography through 2006. Until Schon’s edition is complete we must still use the older edition of the forged decretals by Paul Hinschius, ed. Decretales Pseudo-Isidorianae (Leipzig, 1863). Abigail Firey, “Codices and Contexts: The Many Destinies of the Capitula Angilramni and the Challenges of Editing Small Canon Law Collections,” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Kanonistische Abteilung 94 (2008), 288–312 at 289, proposes that the “scandalous nature” of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries has driven scholarly interest. On the contradictory nature of Pseudo-Isidore’s episcopal protections see, for example, Schon, Die Capitula Angilramni: Eine prozessrechtliche Fälschung Pseudoisidors (Hannover, 2006), 5–9; and also, from a somewhat different perspective, Gerhard Schmitz, “Die allmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Fälschen: Unausgegorenes und Widersprüchliches bei Benedictus Levita,” in Fortschritt, 29–60. On the pseudonym “Isidorus Mercator” see Paul Hinschius, “Der Beiname Mercator in der Vorrede Pseudoisidors,” Zeitschrift für Kirchenrecht 6 (1866), 148–52 and Emil Seckel, ed. Horst Fuhrmann, Die erste Zeile Pseudoisidors (Berlin, 1959). The name is an amalgam of Isidore of Seville and Marius Mercator. For full bibliography current through 2006 see Schon, Capitula Angilramni, xiii–xix; and online at For the period before 1999, Lotte Kéry, Canonical Collections of the Early Middle Ages (ca. 400–1140) (Washington D.C., 1999), 100–122, is also indispensable. On Pseudo-Isidore’s use of Matthew see Klaus Zechiel-Eckes, “Politische Exegese und falshes Recht: Zu Rezeption und persuasiver Verwendung des Bibeltetes in den pseudoisidorischen Dekretalen,” in Patrizia Carmassi, ed. Präsenz und Verwendung der Heiligen Schrift im christlichen Frühmittelalter (Wiesbaden, 2008), 117–37, at 124–5. For more on Pseudo-Isidore’s use of the Bible, Abigail Firey, “Lawyers and Wisdom: The Use of the Bible in the Pseudo-Isidorian Forged Decretals,” in Celia Chazelle and Burton Van Name Edwards, eds. The Study of the Bible in the Carolingian Era (Turnhout, 2003), 189–214.

[3] For a summary of the forgeries associated with Pseudo-Isidore, see Fuhrmann, “Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries,” 144–53. The capitularies of Benedictus Levita are best consulted in the edition of E. Baluze, Capitularia regum Francorum 1 (as repr. and ed. by P. de Chiniac, Paris, 1780), 801–910; reworked (with problems) by G.H. Pertz in MGH LL 2.2 (Hannover, 1837), 17–158, alongside a list of sources by F.H. Knust (19–39). An online edition-in-progress of the false capitularies, led by Gerhard Schmitz, can be found at, along with important digitized primary and secondary sources, including Emil Seckel’s crucial “Studien zu Benedictus Levita,” which appeared in the Neues Archiv between 1901 and 1917. The Capitula Angilramni have recently been edited by Schon, Capitula Angilramni, who also discovered and edited the related Collectio Danieliana (Unbekannte Texte aus der Werkstatt Pseudoisidors: Die Collectio Danieliana [Hannover, 2006]). Both studies are also online at For the Excerptiones de gestis Chalcedonensis concilii see Klaus Zechiel-Eckes, “Verecundus oder Pseudoisidor?” Deutsches Archiv 56 (2000), 413–46. For the difficult question of the internal chronology of the forgeries, see Schmitz, “Die allmähliche Verfertigung,” 30–32.

[4] The best overview of Klaus Zechiel-Eckes’s discoveries and their implications is his article “Auf Pseudoisidors Spur, oder: Versuch einen dichten Schleier zu lüften,” in Fortschritt, 1–28. See also his last (and posthumously published) overview of his discovery: Fälschung als Mittel politischer Auseinandersetzung: Ludwig der Fromme (814–840) und die Genese der pseudoisidorischen Dekretalen (Paderborn, 2011), 22pp (I am grateful to Jörg Müller for this reference). His groundbreaking articles are “Ein Blick in Pseudoisidors Werkstatt: Studien zum Entstehungsprozeß der Falschen Dekretalen mit einem exemplarischen editorischen Anhang,” Francia 28 (2001), 37–90 (with a critical edition of one decretal, Ps. Julius, JK †196); and “Verecundus oder Pseudoisidor?”, where he finds the marginal annotators contributing interpolations and other revisions in the margins of a key manuscript. For evidence pointing to Corbie before Zechiel-Eckes’s discovery, see Horst Fuhrmann, “Pseudoisidor und die Bibel,” Deutsches Archiv 55 (1999), 183–91, who finds a passage of Isidore’s preface echoing a line from the Matthew commentary by the Corbie scholar Paschasius Radbertus. Also Fuhrmann, “Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries,” 159 with note 91, who points out that the forgers used the Liber contra Varimadum as it exists in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms. lat. 12217, an eighth-century Corbie manuscript. And finally Joachim Richter, “Stufen pseudoisidorischer Verfälschung: Untersuchungen zum Konzilsteil der pseudoisidorischen Dekretalen,” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Kanonistische Abteilung 64 (1978), 1–72 at 36 note 201, who observes that a preponderance of early Pseudo-Isidore manuscripts are associated with Corbie.

[5] Horst Fuhrmann, “Stand, Aufgaben und Perspektiven,” 254–6 note 67, is more cautious about Zechiel-Eckes’s attempt to draw the decretals into the environment of the later 830s, though he admits the possibility. Other scholars, including Johannes Fried, Donation of Constantine and Constitutum Constantini (Berlin, 2007) 101–103; Karl-Georg Schon, Capitula Angilramni, 1, and “Pseudoisidor und die Opposition gegen Ludwig den Frommen” given at the Berliner Mittelalter-Colloquium on 1 January 2009 (available at; and Rudolf Schieffer, Die Zeit des karolingischen Großreichs (714–887) (Stuttgart, 2005), 159; accept the earlier date.

[6] On the Dionysio-Hadriana see Kéry, Canonical Collections, 13–20. The best complete edition is F. Pithou, Codex canonum vetus Ecclesiae Romanae restitutus (Paris, 1687). For the Collectio Quesnelliana, see Kéry, Canonical Collections, 27–29; it has been edited by the brothers Ballerini in their Appendix ad S. Leonis Magni opera (Venice 1757), 3, 1–472 (reprinted in PL 56, 359–746). On the Collectio Hispana and the Hispana Gallica: Kéry, Canonical Collections, 61–68. Gonzalo Martínez Díez has produced an incomplete critical edition of the Hispana that covers only the councils (La colección canónica Hispana [Madrid, 1966–2002], 6 vols.). The last complete edition by Francisco Antonio González, Collectio Canonum Ecclesiae Hispanae (Madrid, 1808–1821) (repr. in PL 84, 93–848) is thus still necessary.

[7] Maassen, “Pseudoisidor-Studien I: Die Textesrecension der ächten Bestandtheile der Sammlung,” Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie 108 (1884) 1061–1104 at 1061: “Die pseudoisidorische Sammlung ist, wie bekannt, eine vermehrte Hispana.” The second part of Maassen’s study is “Pseudoisidor-Studien II: Die Hispana der Handschrift von Autun und ihre Beziehungen zum Pseudoisidor,” Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie 109 (1885), 801–860.

[8] Maassen, “Pseudoisidor-Studien I,” 1061 with note 1, on Hinschius’s edition. For an overview of Pseudo-Isidorian alterations to the Hispana see “Pseudoisidor-Studien I,” 1066–88; Richter, “Stufen,” 58–72; and Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung, 151–61 (esp. 156–7) See also the brief discussion by Martínez Díez in Colección canónica Hispana 1, 355–7.

[9] This is the object of the second part of Maassen’s study, “Pseudoisidor-Studien II.” V1341 has been carefully transcribed by Annette Grabowsky and is available online at Maassen’s essential discovery about V1341 had been anticipated over a century previously by the Ballerini, De antiquis collectionibus et collectoribus canonum, repr. PL 56, 232–3. See also the intriguing remarks of Friedrich Heinrich Knust, De fontibus et consilio Ps.-Isidorianae collectionis (Göttingen, 1832), 6-7; speaking of the fictive exchange of letters between Stephan and Damasus, present in both Pseudo-Isidore’s full collection and the interpolated Hispana (ed. Hinschius, Decretales, 501–8; and Schon, nn. 143-4), he writes: “Ps.-Isidoriana collectione antiquioribus deprehendantur codicibus, Isidorum illas tanquam primitias et praecursores tali codici intulisse et sic viam ad scopum sibi patefecisse, haud immerito dici potest. ...” Cited by Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung, 153 with note 28.

[10] On the relationship between V1341 and Autun see Maassen, “Pseudoisidor-Studien II,” 4–5. The manuscript may well have found its way to Autun after it was copied, but its Corbie origins (for which see note 37 below) are far more significant.

[11] See, for example, Massen, “Pseudoisidor-Studien I,” 1085, for use of the interpolated Hispana in the Isidore preface. For Benedictus Levita’s use of the Hispana see Emil Seckel, Pseudoisidor, 294. A systematic examination of the Hispana texts employed as sources by the false decretals remains a desideratum.

[12] For a summary of Richter’s conclusions with respect to the Hispana, see “Stufen,” 56–8. On the limited reception of Richter’s arguments see Nicolás Álvarez de las Asturias, “On the So-Called Second Version of the Hispana Gallica Augustodunensis,” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte 93 (2007), 34–44 at 35. We will see below that Álvarez’s research raises many questions about Richter’s conclusions.

[13] Fuhrmann, “Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries,” 152, on the terminus post quem for Benedictus Levita; and 173–7 on the earliest citations

[14] Fuhrmann, “Stand, Aufgaben und Perspektiven,” 257–8: “Der Täterkreis bedarf in Tun und Interesse zumindest der Ergänzung über Corbie hinaus.” Also Schon, Capitula Angilramni, 4–5; and more emphatically, “Zur Frühgeschichte der falschen Dekretalen Pseudoisidors,” in Peter Erdö and Sz. Anselm Szuromi, eds. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law (Vatican, 2010), 139–48 at 147–8, with a proposal that Rothad of Soissons should be the leading candidate. For this possibility compare note 114 below.

[15] Hinschius describes these recensions at Decretales, xvii–lxxii. On the early recensions see also the remarks of Schon at; and those of Fuhrmann, “Reflections on the Principles of Editing Texts: The Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals as an Example,” 11 (1981), 1–7.

[16] See also Schon’s remarks on the early recensions in Capitula Angilramni, 10–20, and especially at “Da alle vier genannten Formen der Fälschung bereits mit handschriftlichen Zeugen aus dem dritten Viertel des 9. Jahrhunderts vorliegen, wird man damit rechnen müssen, dass alle vier Formen in dem Sinne authentisch (sit venia verbo) sind, dass sie alle gleichermaßen unmittelbar auf die Fälscher selbst zurückgehen.” For further remarks on the early recensions see Fuhrmann, “Reflections,” 2–5.

[17] The preface is ed. Hinschius, Decretales, 17–21; and trans. in Robert Somerville and Bruce C. Brasington, Prefaces to Canon Law Books in Latin Christianity: Selected Translations, 500–1245 (New Haven, 1998), 82–91. Schon has also posted a preliminary edition on his website, at For the sake of brevity, subsequent citations of Schon’s online edition will reference only the numbers he has assigned to each of the Pseudo-Isidorian texts on his webpage. These three-digit numbers are part of the web address for each text, which is always as above; only the underlined numbers change, depending on the Pseudo-Isidorian text in question. The preface is n. 001.

[18] These parts are ed. Hinschius, Decretales, 1–247; 247–444 (unfortunately a reprint from González, Collectio Canonum Ecclesiae Hispanae [Madrid, 1808], vol. 1); and 445–754. Schon has also provided preliminary editions for the three parts at,, and, respectively.

[19] Hinschius describes A1 in Decretales, xvii–xli; see also Richter’s discussion of A1, as embodied in O93, in “Stufen,” 42–6.

[20] Richter, “Stufen,” passim.

[21] Schon at “Ein enger Zusammenhang der Handschrift mit der Fälscherwerkstatt ist ... nicht auszuschließen.”  On O93 see Richter’s useful description in “Stufen,” 42–46 with note 223. Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung (1, 175 note 81), reports that, according to Bernhard Bischoff, the manuscript was at Chartres in the early eleventh century. On this manuscript see also Schafer Williams, Codices Pseudo-Isidoriani: A Palaeographico-Historical Study (New York, 1971), 60–61.

[22] Since the work of Bernard Merlette (“Écoles et bibliothèques à Laon du déclin de l’Antiquité au développement de l’université,” Actes du 95e Congrès national des Sociétés savantes [Paris, 1975] 1, 32 note 61) we know that the quires today conserved as Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France Ms. lat. 1557 were once part of the same codex as P9629—a point confirmed by John J. Contreni, “Codices Pseudo-Isidoriani: The Provenance and Date of Paris, B.N. Ms. lat. 9629,” Viator 13 (1982), 1–14. Ms. lat. 1557, also from the late ninth century, carries a collection of papal letters and other canonical material that once followed the copy of Pseudo-Isidore in P9629; among this extra material is a letter in the name of Gregory IV (Divinis praeceptis, JE †2579) that was almost certainly authored by the Pseudo-Isidorian forgers themselves. On this latter point, see my forthcoming article, “Pseudo-Isidore at the Field of Lies: Divinis praeceptis (JE †2579) as an Authentic Decretal,” Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law n.s. 29 (2011). Contreni, “Codices Pseudo-Isidoriani,” tentatively identifies a marginal hand in P9629 as Hincmar of Laon’s, after the suggestion of Merlette in the study cited just above. Williams, Codices Pseudo-Isidoriani, 45–6 (no. 46), is wrong to describe the second half of P9629 as “probably eleventh century” (45). 

[23] Williams, Codicies Pseudo-Isidoriani, 34–5 (no. 32) and 4–5 (no. 2), respectively.

[24] Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung 3, 757–68. On Ms. lat. 2253, see Williams, Codices Pseudo-Isidoriani, 48–49 (no. 50); and on N442, 149 (no. 36A, among the Addenda). The catalog description is Barbara A. Shailor, Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Binghamton NY, 1987), 381–95. See also Charles McCurry, “On the Provenance of the Yale Pseudo-Isidore,” Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law n.s. 2 (1972), 61–7. For N442 in the context of the Pseudo-Isidorian tradition, see Schon, “Eine Redaktion der pseudoisidorischen Dekretalen aus der Zeit der Fälschung,” Deutsches Archiv 34 (1978), 500–511.

[25] Schon, “Die Handschrift steht in engem Zusammenhang mit der Fälscherwerkstatt,” a view supported in “Redaktion,” though in part because Schon mistakes what are in fact erasures for gaps left in N442 by the original scribes. For more on the corrections N442 has received, see Appendix 2.

[26] For the former see Schon, Capitula Angilramni, 28 with note 119, citing a letter from 29 October 1976. The latter is from Bischoff’s earlier letter to Charles McCurry from 16 April 1972, cited in McCurry, “Provenance of the Yale Pseudo-Isidore,” 62 note 3. In reporting Bischoff’s later judgment, Schon does not refer to Bischoff’s earlier letter. In both cases Bischoff dates the manuscript to the third quarter of the ninth century—also the date suggested by the papal list on fols. 2rb–2vb, which originally concluded with Pope Nicholas I (d. 867).

[27] Hinschius, Decretales, lx –lxvii. For Hinschius’s underestimation of A/B, see Fuhrmann, “Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries,” 156.

[28] On the derivation of B and C from A/B: Fuhrmann, “Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries,” 156; and more extensively, Schon, Capitula Angilramni, 19 and 36–43.

[29] On V630 see Williams, Codices Pseudo-Isidoriani, 63–5 (no. 67).

[30] Williams, Codices Pseudo-Isidoriani, 27–8 (no. 24).

[31] On A/B as the product of redaction, as Hinschius and Emil Seckel believed, see Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung 1, 172: “Hinschius, aber auch Seckel, nahmen den kuriosen Zufall in Kauf, daß der sich um eine bessere Sammlung bemühende Redaktor wieder an eine der gewiß auch im Mittelalter nicht zahlreichen Augustodunensis-Überlieferungen geraten wäre. In Wirklichkeit spiegelt die Klasse A/B einen frühen pseudoisidorischen Textzustand wieder....” Among modern scholars Fuhrmann has been largely alone—though, in my view, entirely correct—in his insistence on the importance of A/B.

[32] Hinschius suggests redaction in A/B in Decretales, lxiii; Richter elaborates similar arguments in “Stufen,” 35–42. Zechiel-Eckes, “Ein Blick in Pseudoisidors Werkstatt,” 69, though with reference to specific variants in a certain passage of JK †196: “Jedes Modell hat seinen historischen Ort: das konservativ-quellennahe (A2), das im Fluß befindliche [A1], und das redigierend geglättete [A/B].”