This treatise on Roman law is relatively rare, with about twenty copies of this edition owned by libraries worldwide. This copy, however, is unique. Rather early in its history, this smallish volume (20.5 cm) was bound with larger-format blank sheets (26 cm) interleaved between each page, specifically to facilitate the process of notetaking. About twenty of the leaves feature handwritten notes by an early owner, perhaps Alexander Speirs, a member of the Scottish gentry whose armorial bookplate graces the inside front cover of this book. Heineccius’ text is in Latin; the notes were written in English with a little Latin. In some annotations, like the one shown here, the printed text seems to have served as a jumping-off point for the note-taker to ruminate on issues and problems of his day. This long annotation on political systems and theories of punishment begins:
The severity of punishment is a proof [of] the corruption of manners. To restrain a degenerate people from the commission of enormous crimes the severest punishments are employed. The intended effects are not produced – The mind gradually becomes habituated to them. Horror is diminished and the number of crimes is not lessened.