Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Notes from the archives

I'm writing from an undisclosed location in the land of research. And I was just fondly remembering back before I got my (now not-so-new) job, when I actually used to talk about the subjects of my research on this blog. Ahhh. 

I've been looking at a register of episcopal letters to see what sorts of letters the bishops sent to nuns. Some observations I found interesting:

--Usually the bishops write in Latin, but when writing to nuns (and some lay men and women) they often use the vernacular instead. 

--In the case of one community, when the bishop writes to a particular nun in that house, he writes in Latin, but when writing to the nuns collectively, he writes in the vernacular.

Further, I think the register may actually be the originals of the letters. There are emendations in the text (words crossed out, others added in the margins) which suggests to me that a clean copy was made to send off afterward, rather than the register being a copy of a letter composed separately.

A few letters deal with disciplinary issues, which the bishop says are very scandalous. I find it interesting that those letters have a LOT of emendations. Dare I think this suggests some emotion on the author's part--agitation or anger at the scandalous behavior, perhaps? 

The content of the letters is interesting, too, but I need more time to ponder it.


tenthmedieval said...

That's really interesting, both the bishop disciplining the nuns and the scribe losing it, and the preservation. Presumably the scribes here are not the bishops, so the composition is by dictation, or from formulae with notes? And they then clean it up and use it as a master for the actual issued documents, I suppose. Do you have any such copies from elsewhere?

I guess that scandal is just difficult to phrase around, anyway; it nay not be outrage so much as second thought. Still indicates disturbance of mind, though, I would agree with that, But mainly--predictably--I am interested in the preservation. And envious of the archive time of course! Good luck.

clio's disciple said...

I would assume the letters are dictated. I do not, unfortunately, have copies of the sent letters to compare.

These are 14th-century registers of letters; this bishopric has volume after volume of letters written one after another, often several short ones on the same folio. The opening formulae and ending dates are often highly abbreviated. I think the letters were composed in quires were subsequently bound into volumes (large volumes, at that). I'm not positive of that, but quires may occasionally be out of chronological order.