Posts Tagged ‘documents’

Since we’ve run out of computers to use, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be organizing a collection of about 200 documents of various shapes and sizes that all deal with the Spanish Inquisition, from about 1500-1825. This sounds fantastic except for the fact that I don’t quite know Spanish… however, from a quick glance I can see it won’t be too difficult to ascertain what the documents are about (if I can read the words Hereticos and Inquisitores, I can figure out the gist of the documents!).

So far this seems to include everything from summaries of Inquisition trials, to commercial documents, to ledger books and receipts, to lists of heretical books confiscated by the Inquisition. Hopefully this will pan out to be as interesting as it sounds, although there’s only so much that’s fun about organizing old, disintegrating documents…

Our chief weapon is surprise!

Our chief weapon is surprise!


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While I, just like any other person, find holding a bunch of vellum leaves to be aesthetically pleasing, the faint scent of rotting animal that can hang around them puts me right off (and also brings me back to my middle school art room, where an animal died behind the wall and for weeks the room stank. I still associate the smell of rotting-animal-behind-the-wall with this art room).

This series of documents, from the late 14th-early 15th century in the Val d’Aosta, Italy, seems to have had some water damage, or simply damage from age. Some of them seem a bit moldy, and most of them seem to be a bit poorly made.

The hairs clinging to the vellum look a bit too much like the paper has grown a 5-o’clock shadow, which detracts quite a bit from the idea that vellum ought to be this lovely, soft parchment and reminds you that you’re touching old animal skins instead.

For more information on vellum, here are some links:

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Cataloging documents, compared to codices, is not overly complicated in itself. The worst part is generally the secretarial hands are nearly completely illegible to anyone who is not the scribe. The handwriting is crisp and clear, the ink well-preserved on the vellum, and you can almost see some 14th century Italian scribe whipping through this notarial document. If you could only figure out his abbreviations and cursive enough to figure out what is actually going on (I think it might involve property. Possibly cattle).

Here’s an example of this kind of documentary script. This one is a 13th century charter of the abbey of Wilton, in a chancery hand:


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