In keeping with one of TCI’s goals, namely, evangelical and Reformed retrieval and renewal of the past and its literature, I thought I’d write up a brief sketch of the Reformed jurist I mentioned in my previous post, Denis Godefroy (Dionysius Gothofredus). For the curious nonspecialist, among whose number I count myself, it’s more difficult than one might expect to gather the basics of Godefroy’s life and work – I say “than one might expect” because I would have expected a figure so important for the transmission, preservation, and reconstruction of Roman law to have gained a place in standard reference works. But, from my quick survey, he has no entry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, the Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (whose articles cover from about 1350 to 1618), or the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (though he, along with his two sons Jacques and Theodore, has a very brief entry in the Oxford Companion to Law, and there is a short entry on the Godefroy family in the new Encyclopædia Britannica).
To determine the chronology of Godefroy’s life, then, and the general contours of his work, one must go elsewhere: to, for example, the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica; the Penny Cyclopedia for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (what a title! – someone once thought of this stuff as useful), vol. 11 (London, 1838); and the Histoire littéraire de Genève (1786), vol. 2, by the Swiss pastor and botanist Jean Senebier. In this post, I shall synthesize and summarize the information found in these sources. There are sometimes discrepancies in chronology, in which instances I shall follow the dates given by Senebier. (The family is also discussed in the Dictionnaire biographique des Genevois et des Vaudois, vol. 1; and there is a book about them by Denys Charles Godefroy-Ménilglaise, Les savants Godefroy .)
Godefroy was born in Paris in 1549 and studied law at Louvain, Cologne, and Heidelberg, and thence returned to Paris. But, being Reformed, he was unable to settle there permanently on account of civil war and persecution, and so he went to Geneva, where he was given the freedom of the city and the chair of law in 1580. In 1589, however, Henri IV appointed him bailli (governor) of Gex, near Geneva. But that, too, proved short-lived, for he was driven out by the Duke of Savoy, who was at war with Henri IV, in which unrest he lost his library. Godefroy then accepted the chair of law in Strasbourg in 1594. In 1604, in response to the invitation of Frederick IV, Elector of the Palatinate, he went to Heidelberg, where he became head of the faculty of law. There he remained for many years, but war eventually drove him from there as well in 1621. He returned to Strasbourg, where he died on 7 September 1622. His most important and enduring scholarly work was his edition of the Corpus Iuris Civilis, first published in 1583. But he also worked on classical authors such as Cicero and Seneca and the ancient grammarians. (For a full list of his works, see below.)
Denis I Godefroy had two sons, both distinguished: Theodore (1580–1649) renounced his Reformed heritage and returned to France, where he worked as historiographer and diplomat and wrote an important work on royal ceremonial (1619); and Jacques (1587–1652), a Calvinist and distinguished jurist and scholar in his own right. In addition to being professor of law at Geneva, he served frequently in public office, being at various times Secretary of State and Syndic of the Republic. His most important work, published posthumously, was an annotated edition (1665) of the Codex Theodosianus (promulgated by the emperor Theodosius II in 438), a work important to and influential for Edward Gibbon in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Also significant was Jacques’s work on the Roman Twelve Tables (1616) (Senebier lists a work on the Twelve Tables under the entries for both Denis I and Jacques, but it belongs to Jacques and Denis has no work on the same subject as far as I have been able to surmise). But his range was much wider: for example, in philology he produced an edition of Cicero (1616) and worked on Libanius (1631, 1634); in patristics, notes on Tertullian’s Ad Nationes (1625) and an edition of the ecclesiastical historian Philostorgius; in theology, a work on the church and the Incarnation (1649); in topography, a work on the suburbicarian regions and churches of Rome (1618).
I now append a list of the works of Denis Godefroy (after Senebier) so that the titles of his œuvre (he was French, after all) may be more easily accessible online. (The Post-Reformation Digital Library has pages with some of the works of both Denis and Jacques.)
Caroli Molinei Commentarii in Parisiensis totius supremi Parlementi consuetudines ad novam consuetudenem redacta opera Dyonisii Gothofredi (Lausanne, 1576; Bern, 1603).
Notae in quatuor libros institutionum (Geneva, 1583).
Fontes juris canonici (Lyon, 1583).
Canones Apostolici (Lyon, 1583).
Corpus juris Civilis cum notis Dyonisii Gothofredi (Lyon, 1583).
Opuscula varia juris seu Epitome Feudorum Novellarum Institutionum Titulorum quae sunt in Pandectis et in Codice (1586).
Paratitla variae lectiones & Nomenclator graecus ad Constantini Harmenopuli promptuarium juris, graece & latine (1587)
Notae in M. Tull. Ciceronem (Lyon, 1588).
Conjecturae variae lectiones & loci communes sive libri aureorum in Senecam (Basil, 1590).
Antiquae historiae ex XXVII Authoribus contextae libri VI (Basil, 1590).
Praxis civilis ex antiquis & recentioribus Auctoribus qui de practica scripserunt (Frankfurt, 1591).
Pro conjecturis in Senecam brevis ad J. Gruterum Responsio (Frankfurt, 1591).
Disputatio ad lib. II Codicis de rescindenda venditione (Heidelberg, 1591).
Index Chronologicus legum & novellarum a Justiniano Imperatore compositarum (Strasbourg, 1592).
Dissertatio de nobilitate (Strasbourg, 1592).
Maintenue & défense des Empereurs, Roys, Princes, Etats & Républiques contre les censure, monitoires & excommnications des Papes (Geneva, 1592).
Authores latinae linguae in unum redacti corpus cum notis Dyonisii Gothofredi (Geneva, 1595).
De interdictis, seu appellationibus extraordinariis (Strasbourg, 1596).
Consuetudines civitatum & provinciarum Galliae cum notis (Frankfurt, 1597).
Quaestiones politicae ex jure communi & historia desumptae (Strasbourg, 1598).
Synopsis Statutorum Municipalium Bituricensium Aurelianensium ad Pandectarum methodum & ordinem digesta (Frankfurt, 1598).
Centuriae quaestionum ex materia contractuum (Strasbourg, 1599).
Problemata de obligationibus ex contractu & quasi contractu (Strasbourg, 1601).
Conclusiones de emptione & venditione (Strasbourg, 1601).
Notae in Varronem, Festum & Nonnum, sub titulo veterum Grammaticorum collectae (Geneva, 1602).
Dissertatio de nove operis nunciatione (1602).
Dissertatio de jurisdictione (1603).
Controversiae de pactis & foederibus (Strasbourg, 1603).
Disputationes ad digestum Justiniani (Strasbourg, 1604).
Questiones selectae (1604).
Cujacis Paratitla in aliquot libros Codicis, a Gothofredo aucta (Frankfurt, 1605).
De Tutelis electoralibus testamentariis legitimas excludentibus Libri septem (Heidelberg, 1611).
Statuta regni Galliae juxta Francorum, Burgundorum, Gothorum, Anglorum, Gentium Germanicarum in ea dominantium consuetundiens cum iure communi collata & Commentariis illustrata (Frankfurt, 1611).
Avis pour réduire les monnoies à leur juste prix & valeur, & empêcher la surhaussement & empirance d’icelles, par Denis Godefroy (Paris, 1611).
Prodromi adversus Zeschlini vindicias tutelares (Heidelberg, 1614).
Calvini Lexicon juris, cum Praefatione (1619).
Other works for which Senebier was able to find no date:
De Jure Paganorum.
De personis sui juris in tutorem potestate constitutis.
Libri octo Basiliorum, cum Praefatione.
Commentaria in Accursii corpus juris civilis.
Commentaria ad Alexandrum ab Alexandro, dies geniales (reprinted Leiden, 1673).
Commentaria ad Constitutiones Normanniae.
Compendia juris civilis.
Disputationes de Arbitris.
Disputationes de Dote.
Disputationes de Legibus & Consuetudinibus.
Institutiones in Novellas.
Metator contra Fridenreichium.
Prodromus Fridenreichio missus.
Disputatio de regalibus Imperatoriis.
Disputatione de Usurpationibus & Praescriptionibus.