The initial publication of the documents of Frederick II (King of Sicily 1198-1250, King of Germany 1212-1250, and Emperor 1220-1250) by Jean-Louis-Alphonse Huillard-Bréholles (1852-1861), while an important achievement, missed approximately 40% of the extant and reported charters of this ruler. This substantial lacuna in the published documentary record long has been recognized by specialists in late Staufen history, and particularly by Frederick II's numerous biographers. However, it was not until the 1980s that serious work began under the direction of Walter Koch to bring together the necessary materials for a new edition of Frederick II's charters. This project saw its first volume published in 2002. The volume under consideration here is the fifth in the series, and is paired with the fourth volume to cover the period from mid-September 1220 until June 1226. These two volumes comprise the third portion of the reign to be covered by the team from the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, with a specific focus on the first six years of Frederick's reign as emperor. The first two groups of charters considered, respectively, Frederick's rule as king in Sicily, and the initial stages of his rule as king in Germany.
The fifth volume, which begins with a charter issued in September 1222, includes 270 documents. Overall, just 28% of the documents in volumes four and five were based on original surviving charters, which is a lower percentage than in the first three volumes of the series. Based in part on the small percentage of surviving originals as well as the references to now lost documents in the surviving texts, the editors argue that we are dealing with a very substantial, but ultimately unknowable, number of lost charters from Frederick's early years as emperor. As a consequence, the editors do not offer an estimate of these losses. Part of the explanation offered by the editors for the greater number of now lost original charters during the initial period of Frederick's imperial reign is that many of these texts dealt with routine business, and were not produced in the highly ornate style of documents that recorded substantial donations. In addressing the profile of the recipients, the editors emphasize that the period 1220-1226 saw an increased range of petitioners from throughout Italy, with a plurality of all charters issued to monasteries. The older edition by Huillard-Bréholles had just 309 of the 542 documents included in volumes four and five of the new series. Even within the relatively small sample size provided by these six years of Frederick II's reign, therefore, the necessity of this new edition is quite clear.
The editors also point out in the introduction to this volume, that in addition to seeing a changing array of recipients, the first years of Frederick's imperial rule also witnessed significant changes in both chancery organization and in the style of the documents produced in the imperial writing office. During Frederick's lengthy stay in Germany before 1220, many of the charters issued by the king were written by notaries from outside of the chancery, some of whom can be connected with the recipients of these documents. The office as a whole was administered by the chancellor and a protonotary. Both of these officials, however, drop out of the recognition clauses in documents issued by the king after his imperial coronation. Other officials of the chancery office, however, can be identified in charters. These include the keeper of the royal seal, and twenty-four notaries who are mentioned by name. The editors also discuss an additional sixteen notaries who can be identified on the basis of their distinctive hands.
The editors also observe that the layout of the charters underwent significant changes during the early years of Frederick's imperial rule. In the Sicilian period, the layout of charters followed the traditional Norman-Sicilian format. In the period of Frederick's sojourn in Germany, the chancery office adopted a mixture of the Sicilian and the traditional Staufen format. After Frederick took the court to Italy for his imperial coronation, the format became solidified in a manner that drew on both Staufen and Sicilian elements. In this context, the editors provide a very lengthy discussion of both the internal and external characteristics of the new imperial format, including the distinctive elements of the intitulatio, devotional formula, the dispositio, sanctio, corroboratio, and signature line. The editors also include a valuable discussion of the use of the cursus by the notaries of the chancery, pointing out that there were several different types of cursus, which were used in a variety of settings.
Overall, the two volumes comprising this latest edition of the charters of Frederick II meet the high standards that are expected from the Monumenta. Each of the charters in the first volume is provided with an extensive discussion of the manuscript transmission as well as connections with other charters in the edition. Each charter also is provided with critical apparatus that provides information about the editorial choices that were made. In cases of forged documents, the editors explain in detail their decision to exclude the document on the basis of both concerns about the layout and format, as well as content. The second volume provides a comprehensive index of names, places, and subjects, as well as a list of the recipients, and the places where the charters were issued. The bibliography as well as addendaand corrigenda are also included in the second volume, along with thirty-two beautifully produced plates of documents and seals. This most recent addition to the Monumenta's Urkunden series dealing with Frederick II's reign, and indeed, the series as a whole, are necessities for all research libraries.