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Tabula Picta
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Tabula Picta
Painting and Writing in Medieval Law

Marta Madero. Translated by Monique Dascha Inciarte and Roland David Valayre. Foreword by Roger Chartier

160 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 2009 | ISBN 9780812241860 | $47.50s | Outside the Americas £38.00
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A volume in the series Material Texts
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"Madero's book is a contribution both to the history of the property rights to artistic works and to the history of ideas about material things. . . . Tabula Picta demonstrates, in effect, that the category of the materiality of the text is . . . subject to historical variations that depend not only on the availability of particular techniques or materials. Perhaps even more, it is subject to the variable and plural categories that enable us, in different registers of experience and practice, to provide names, order, and attributions to things."—from the Foreword, by Roger Chartier
To whom does a painted tablet—a tabula picta—belong? To the owner of the physical piece of wood on which an image is painted? Or to the person who made the painting on that piece of wood? By extension, one might ask, who is the owner of a text? Is it the person who has written the words, or the individual who possesses the piece of parchment or slab of stone on which those words are inscribed?

In Tabula Picta Marta Madero turns to the extensive glosses and commentaries that medieval jurists dedicated to the above questions when articulating a notion of intellectual and artistic property radically different from our own. The most important goal for these legal thinkers, Madero argues, was to situate things—whatever they might be—within a logical framework that would allow for their description, categorization, and placement within a proper hierarchical order. Only juridical reasoning, they claimed, was capable of sorting out the individual elements that nature or human art had brought together in a single unit; by establishing sets of distinctions and taxonomies worthy of Borges, legal discourse sought to demonstrate that behind the deceptive immediacy of things, lie the concepts and arguments of what one might call the artifices of the concrete.

Marta Madero is Professor of Medieval History at Universidad Nacional de Gerneral Sarmiento in Argentina.

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