Studied jurisprudence at Toulouse.
- Professional Experience:
Prof. law, Cahors, 1554-5; Bourges, 1555-6; 1559-67; Valence, 1556-9; 1567-90; counselor to Parlement, Grenoble, 1573.
Observationum et emendationum libri XXVIII (1556-95; books 25-8, ed. F. Pithou, 1595); Corpus iuris civilis. Paratitla in L. libros digestorum (Lyon: 1570); Opera omnia ed. Charles Annibal Fabrotus, 10 vols. (1658-1783; repr. 1996)
Cujas, known also as Jacobus Cuiacius and Jacobo Cuyacio, brought Renaissance humanism to the study of Roman law. In Sandys’s words, he “was the founder of the historical school of jurisprudence.” An autodidact in Greek and Latin, he was taught law at Toulouse by the lawyer and diplomat Arnaud du Ferrièr (1508-85). Medieval study of Roman law had reached its peak with the postglossators or commentators, the European school (mos Italicus) of legal scholarship that developed in France and Italy in the fourteenth century. In much the same way that the church authorities sought to create One Word, a set of laws that would govern across all of Catholic Europe. The Commentators sought to bring the principle of Roman law as one code that extended across the European world to Medieval Europe. Legal humanists (mos Gallicus), led by Lorenzo Valla (1407-57) in Italy and Andrea Alciato (1492-1550) who taught at Bourges from 1528 to 1532, sought a return to the principles of Roman law, but relied on assumptions and speculations that in many cases lacked textual authority. Cujas brought philological rigor to recension of the best manuscript (the Florentine) and stripped the text of its many editorial accretions. Moreover, he attempted to set the law into its appropriate social context. His specialty was the Paratitla, or summaries of Justinian’s Digest and codex in which he laid out in simple sentences the principles of Roman law. He edited the Codex Theodosianus
After a year at Cahors, he was invited to Bourges by the French statesman Michel de l’Hôpital (1507-73), but was met with resistance there from the professor of law, François Duaren (1509-59). Cujas retreated to Valence where he stayed until the death of Duaren. He stayed for eight years before returning to Valence. By now he was widely known. His lectures on law, and particularly Justinian, drew students from across Europe, including the Dutch scholar Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609) and Jacques Auguste de Thou (1553-1617). His chief value was to rely on the actual words of Justinian rather than the opinions of his commentators, as so many had done before him. In his Paratitla he gives summaries of the Digest, decocting themost comples principles into readily intelligible axioms. While his chief focus was on Justinian, his research extended to legal works nearly up to his own time. He acquired over 500 manuscripts for his personal library and recorded many more in his travels, including a manuscript of the Basilika, the collection of laws assembled around 892 CE in Constantinople. He also edited portions of the Theodosian Code, the Consuetudines Feudorum from 1170, and on a portion of the letters of the pope on ecclesiastical law known as the Decretals. His collected notes, Observationes et emendationes shows a customary Renaissance tendency to over-emend, not only in the author of his specialty but in other authors Greek and Roman outside his field. Named counsellor to the Parlement at Grenoble by King Charles IX (1550-74), he was given a pension in the next year by Henri III (1551-89). At the instance of Margaret of Savoy (1589-1655) he moved briefly to her hometown of Turin in 1575, but quickly returned to Bourges. Cujas refused to take a side in the religious wars feeling that they little affected his duties as scholar and teacher. Displaced by the religious wars, Cujas decamped to Paris at the invitation of the king to lecture both at Parlement and the university on civil law. In 1584 Pope Gregory XIII (1502-85) offered him a position at Bologna, but Cujas decided to remain at Bourges until his death in 1590.
Sandys, 2:193; Jean Papire-Masson, Vie de Cujas (1590); Coleman Phillipson, (1913); “Jacque Cujas,” in Great Jurists of the World ed. John Macdonnell & Edward Manson (London: John Murray, 1913) 83.