Category Archives: Archives

Looking at fragments

The exterior of Utrecht Univrersity Library, location Utrecht Science Park

In December bloggers face the perennial challenge of the seasonal post. In my view 2020 has hardly had any regular season. The world has changed in many ways. What seemed certain has become the object of doubts, and uncertainties have come into the spotlights. I will not pretend to see things better here than anyone else. My Dutch view is no cure for everything!

Like someone standing outside Utrecht University Library you cannot look directly into what’s inside. Our visions are often fragmented, and thus it seems appropriate to look here simply at some fragments of charters and manuscripts I could recently study at the Special Collections of Utrecht University Library. Reporting from field work may not have the same status as presenting glorious final results, but it is in a way closer to tangible objects. Fragments offer a glimpse of a larger whole, and sometimes they are a kind of time capsule. Faithful readers know about my penchant to bring in here every now and then a very particular location, but this time it comes just briefly into view, perhaps only as a possible sequel in 2021.

History in fragments

Once upon a time it was clear a library contained books and an archive archival collections, but this nicely organized world seldom existed in real life. Archives can have a substantial library collection, and a research library can have important archival collections in its holdings. The history of a number of archival collections from medieval institutions and manuscripts held at Het Utrechts Archief and Utrecht University Library is a good example. Generally archival collections can be found now at the combined municipal and provincial archive, and most manuscripts are held at the university library, but some remarkable exceptions exist. Luckily Utrecht University Library created an online repertory for its archival collections. The manuscripts at Het Utrechts Archief can be found in the online library catalogue. Some of these manuscripts have been digitized.

Sometimes there is another explanation. The Wttewaal van Stoetwegen family brought the papers of the Wickenburg estate (‘t Goy, now part of Houten) into the care of Het Utrechts Archief [toegang (finding aid) 254], but other papers and charters are kept since the early twentieth century at the university library. Its inventory lacked descriptions of the charters, After a frst foray it became only natural to describe these charters as a sequel of the fruitful cooperation between both institutions in recent years, in particular for the exhibition and essay volume Perkament in stukken [Parchment in pieces] (2018).

Fragments of charters came also into view in my project which thus goes beyond the eighty charters of the Wttewaal family. A number of charter fragments had been described summarily in Latin in the manuscript catalogue [P.A. Tiele, A. Hulshof and B. Kruitwagen (eds.), Catalogus codicum manu scriptorum Bibliothecae Universitatis Rheno-Trajectinae (2 vol., Utrecht-The Hague, 1887-1909; online, UB Utrecht, vol. I and II)]. The manuscript catalogue and later additions have been integrated into the online library catalogue; a guide for special materials helps you to use the catalogue and other resources efficiently. A substantial number of fragments has been taken from the bindings they once reinforced, some of them without due reference to the host volume, others with clear references to their origin.

Other fragments can in particular be found in situ in bookbindings made for Hubert van Buchel (1513-1599), a canon of the collegiate chapter of St. Mary’s at Utrecht. In 1569 Buchel fled to Cologne. In his will he donated his books to the parish of St. James’ at Utrecht, but no doubt the church wardens must have influenced the final decision to add them to the collections of the city library founded in 1584, the nucleus of the university library founded in 1636. My project was restricted to charter fragments. Vito Santoliquido (ENNSIB, Lyon) recently looked for Fragmentarium at the entire corpus of maculature fragments in books with a Van Buchel provenance, a collection with some 1,000 relevant volumes. I dealt with just over one hundred charter fragments.

For strengthening the bindings of his books Van Buchel provided the bookbinder with parchment and paper from books which might have belonged to the chapter of St. Mary’s. He even jotted down the costs of many bindings. Few manuscripts from this collegiate chapter survive nowadays. The fragments might offer a kind of window on the books held and read by the canons of St. Mary’s at Utrecht. At Fragmentarium Vito Santoliquido gives a sketch of his research project Maculature in the Van Buchel Collection.

It is tempting to continue here with a paragraph about the aims of fragments research. In the past years it has become a discipline with a name of its own, fragmentology, and even a journal with this title, thus claiming its own distinct place next to codicology and palaeography. In the second part of this post I will look at some fragments with a clear connection to legal history. At my blog Glossae. Middeleeuwse juridische handschriften in beeld I published a few days ago a succinct account of these fragments in German, ‘Utrechter Fragmenten und Urkunden’. At Glossae you can find also an overview of projects and catalogues concerning medieval manuscript and charter fragments.

Some legal fragments

Two parts of fragment Hs. fr. 6.92 reunited

Two parts of fragment Hs. fr. 6.92 reunited – Utrecht UB, Hs fr. 6.92

Legal history is the focus in the second part of this post, but it is necessary to remember other perspectives can be equally interesting and important. I would like to start with Utrecht UB, Hs fr. 6.92, coming from a Van Buchel volume (108 O 12), not just one fragment, but two sets of cuttings, group A with ten larger and one small scrap, and group B with ten cuttings. Of course I started trying to fit the parts of group A together, but this did not work. Combining the two sets was the obvious solution, but actually they still are kept as distinct sets, with a notice on the combinations I worked out for them.

Looking at fitting underlinings and dates proved to be clues to find adjacent parts of the cuttings. Here the data helped me to find the right parts, January 13, 1528. Other parts contain information about a case concerning a house in Cologne, the question of the validity of a mandate, and a letter from the official of the archbishop of Cologne, his ecclestastical judge, to the plebanus of Bonn. Some of the acts in these cuttings have marginal annotations about an act. One of the questions around these cuttings is their nature: Are they part of a kind of trial file or are we looking at a legal consultation (consilium)? As for now I opt for the first interpretation. Apart from two dates in 1527 and 1528 the names of some lawyers appear. At least one of them, Bernhardus de Harderwijck, can be traced in the Repertorium Academicum Germanicum and the Repertorium Germanicum for papal registers at the Romana Repertoria portal (Deutsches Historisches Institut, Rome). He started his studies at Cologne in 1486 and got his doctoral degree in law in 1510, the year he also joined the tribunal of the Reichskammergericht, then at Speyer.

There is a second set with sixteen similar cuttings, Hs. fr. 6.77, from F. oct. 76, another Van Buchel volume. The year 1522 is mentioned in them, and also the word Coloniensis appears within a very similar layout and the same cursive script, which suggests they could belong to the other fragment. However, these sixteen cuttings did not fit together when I tried to repeat my actions with them.

Trial document in Utrecht 108 N 9

A fragment of a trial document bound with Utrecht 108 N 9

In the volume 108 N 9, also with a Van Buchel provenance, I saw yet another cutting which seems to stem from the document cut into pieces and now kept as fragments 6.92 and 6.77. The handwriting looks very similar, although the interlinear space here is larger. It seems safe to assume at least a datation between 1520 and 1530. It seems logical, too, to locate its origin in the German Lower Rhine region. This fragment mentions a dean and a church without any further indication of a specific location. It would be wonderful to trace yet another fragment still in situ within one of the volumes once owned by Van Buchel or among separately kept fragments, but with possibly three witnesses of the existence of a legal document the harvest is already interesting in itself. One of the immediate challenges facing me is to try to fit pairs of these cuttings into single folia. As for now for each act there are only beginnings, parts representing texts halfway and endings, a tantalizing state of affairs. It is a sobering thought other fragments need to be described first consistently, too, before starting a miniature quest to reconstruct these acts.

A canon law fragment bound with the volume E oct. 122

A canon law fragment bound with the volume E oct. 122

The third example I want to present here concerns two fragments of a lecture on canon law, bound with the Van Buchel volume E oct. 122. On one side of the fragment with two columns the words per osti. in su., “per Hostiensem in summa”, stand for Hostiensis, the nickname of Henricus de Segusio, cardinal of Ostia (around 1190/1200-1271). The first version of his summa was completed in 1250-1251, which provides us with a terminus post quem for dating this text which seems to be a lecture on the Decretales Gregorii IX. On closer inspection you can read at the top of the right column Spec. in ti., which I read as “Speculum – or Speculator – in titulo”. Guillaume Durand (Durandus) (1231-1296) finished the first version of his Speculum iudiciale around 1271, a second terminus post quem for dating the text and these fragments. Alas both columns of the original page have suffered when cut into pieces, making the number of clues for identification much smaller. The fragment bound at the front in this volume shows an allegation no. Pe. de Ve., a medieval lawyer I have not yet identified.

A story of fragments and history in fragments

Normally a scholar would probably thirst for much more information, daring hypotheses and smashing conclusions. In my view it is wiser to start just getting things right for each fragment. Creating consistent descriptions might seem straightforward, but already the fact fragments and volumes did not arrive at my desk at Special Collections in numerical order should make you pause a moment. I took photos in the order of inspection, and my notes follow the same order. It is a nice job to combine my photos correctly with the normal order of the fragments. By sheer luck I could view side by side as the very first and second Early Modern editions I consulted two volumes with in their bindings corresponding fragments of a charter referring to Hubert van Buchel himself!

In a period with restricted possibilities for research on location I feel lucky and even blessed with all efforts of my colleagues of Utrecht University Library to bring fragments, manuscripts and printed books to the reading room. I am sure I will look back at these months with Special Collections as one of the most extraordinary periods in my scholarly life. I could arrange and photograph objects using as much space as I liked, but working often alone in a reading room was a strange experience. The collection of the reading room with books about book history, manuscripts, palaeography and other relevant subjects was within immediate reach. In a year where so many people were forced to work at home, under sometimes difficult circumstances, I had the privilege of working on location, touching even historical artefacts, the very traces of past periods, sometimes susceptible to quick reconstruction, but more often just sign posts of a larger whole lost to us. Describing charters and fragments is doing fundamental research. For me doing this is among the solaces, the comforting things and rays of light in a period darkened by the pandemic which cut into our world as sharply as the scissors cutting manuscript pages into fragments.

At the very end of this project I saw a number of references to manuscript with fragments turned out to be small and medium-sized archival collections with a number of charters, not just single fragments. It would not do to hastily create descriptions of these charters, even when using Tiele’s descriptions as a starting point. They deserve equal attention as the other charters and fragments I described this year. When I noticed in one case charters and deeds referring to houses near and atthe Janskerkhof square in Utrecht I knew I could complete the circle of this year for my faithful readers! Between 1584 and 1820 the Janskerk was home first to the city library and later to Utrecht University Library. Instead of lamenting unfinished work it is better to look at the things which against all odds did succeed. I am not the only one much more conscious how vulnerable life is, and how many obstacles can hinder the completion of any project now and in the near future. Hopefully the kind of research you dream of or do normally can become (again) reality in 2021.

Digital access to the slavery registers of Curaçao

Slavery register 57, fol. 636

Slavery register 57, fol. 636 – image: Nationaal Archief, Curaçao

On August 17, 1795 a slave revolt started on the Dutch Caribbean island Curaçao, some seventy kilometers north of Venezuela. Exactly 225 years after Tula’s Revolt the Nationaal Archief of Curaçao presented the searchable online version of the Slavenregister, eight slavery registers from the nineteenth century. Two years ago I wrote here about the launch of the digitized slavery registers from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in Latin America. The two projects invite a comparison. I will look also at other online resources for the history of the Dutch Antilles, six Caribbean islands with a history of Dutch colonial rule.

Researching Dutch Caribbean slavery

Logo Nationaal Archief, Willemstad, CuracaoThe announcement at the website of the Nationaal Archief, located in Willemstad, the main town of Curaçao, gives you some background to the project done in cooperation with scholars of the Radboud University Nijmegen, led by Coen van Galen, and the University of Curaçao. The late Els Langenfeld laid the foundation for the project with her transcriptions. Apart from eight slavery registers also two emancipation registers have been digitized and indexed. The Dutch Nationaal Archief, The Hague, helped with creating the database for the data and the digital images. In its announcement about the launch the Dutch national archives give more information. The slavery registers cover the period 1839 to 1863. The emancipation registers stem from 1863. You can find at the website in The Hague a video in Papiamentu about the project, and there is a message from the Dutch minister for Education, Culture and Sciences. The registers at Willemstad can also be searched at the website of the Dutch Nationaal Archief. By the way, recently the Dutch national archive integrated its search portal Ga het NA into its main website. The Dutch archive also provides a guide to these records. There is a version in rudimentary English of the search interface without a version in English of the guide; the Dutch version is not mentioned.

Logo Nationaal Archief, The hague

The search interface in Curaçao allows you to filter directly for a particular register. In the advanced search mode you can search six fields separately. Unfortunately I did not succeed in using the advanced search mode in three different browsers. Search results can be sorted by clicking on the respective headings of the columns, a quality that could perhaps be more visible with arrows. There is also a guide to assist your search questions. Its Dutch counterpart has only filters for the type of register, and there is only a simple free text search field and a choice for sorting the results for all fields except one field of the registers, by name, gender, the mother’s name, entry date and exit day (uitschrijfdatum), either the day of the emancipation or another date noted in an entry.

The search interface in The Hague does not show the name of the eigenaar, the owner of enslaved people, nor do you see them in the list with search results. Only when you click on an individual search result the name of the (former) owner becomes visible. Luckily the owners does show up in the uitleg (explanation) – in Dutch again – about the fields. You can download in The Hague a zipped file with the index to the registers as an XML file. The efforts for assistance and explanation are important, but at the moment of writing it seems some efforts are needed to get things working properly. It is good to note here the fields with subsidiary information about the owner. However, here, too, the presentation of search results in Curaçao is different, with two blocks of fields against a single column with the fields at The Hague.

Both the absence of the owner field in The Hague and the disfunction of the advanced search mode in Curaçao are substantial problems. Again as with the project for the slavery registers from Suriname only the Dutch version is complete. The very presence of a video in Papiamentu underlines the need for search interfaces, guides and explanation is this language and in English. In view of the Caribbean region a Spanish version would be most sensible, too. The archive in Willemstad calls itself on its website a Porta pa Historia, but that door needs to be open not just in Dutch. The Dutch national archives provide a searchable index of manumissions of enslaved people on Curaçao between 1722 and 1863. Even the heading Vrij van slavernij (manumissies) has not been translated in the English version of this index.

The Dutch and the Caribbean

If digitizing a resource is important for historical understanding and if you know the general public will appreciate your efforts, it is only normal to do a proper job. The two versions of this new resource can cause some frowns, but I will certainly not deny the importance of being able to use the database for the Curaçao slavery and emancipation registers. Let’s look briefly what other resources can be readily found online nowadays.

Curacao ISTORY - The Tual exhibit

In the Digital Library of the Caribbean Curaçao figures with only a few items. For the neighbouring island Aruba you can find some fifty items. Bonaire, a third island within the Dutch Antilles, is absent. In 2019 the Nationaal Archief of Curaçao, the Maduro Foundation and the National Archaeological and Anthropological Museum launched the history portal Curaçao | HISTORY with virtual exhibits on several subjects, You can use a timeline to choose a theme, for example Tula’s revolt. Surprisingly the abolition of slavery in 1863 is present only with a printed proclamation in Papiamentu. At the Dutch Caribbean Digital Platform are digital collections of institutions at Curaçao, the Dutch Royal Library and Leiden University. The Archivo Nacional Aruba has some digital collections, in particular audiovisual materials.

Startscreen portal The Dutch in the Caribbean World

The Huygens Institute / Institute for Dutch History launched some years ago the portal The Dutch in the Caribbean World, c. 1670- c. 1870 with a guide to archival sources, legislation and ordinances. In fact the West Indisch Plakaatboek edited by J.Th. de Smidt, J.A. Schiltkamp and T. van der Lee  (5 vol. in 3 parts, Amsterdam 1973-1979) is its very core. At the Delpher platform you can find digitized official gazettes for the Netherlands, the Antilles, Indonesia and Suriname. Leiden University has created a separate entrance for Caribbean Books, some 950 in total, but only 200 are available in open access. Within its Digital Special Collections you can find a number of collections owned by the KITLV / Royal Dutch Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies. Four Dutch ethnological museums, among them the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, have created a shared collections portal (interface Dutch and English). Recently the Tropenmuseum showed the exhibit Afterlives of Slavery. The old website of the Foundation for Dutch ethnological collections does still function. The Tropenmuseum has a digital collection on slavery with some 1,700 items at the heritage portal The Memory of the Netherlands.

In January I visited De grote Suriname tentoonstelling, a truly major exhibit on the history of Suriname at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the church next to the royal palace on the Dam Square. This exhibit succeeded in showing an overview of Suriname’s history with the widest possible variety of subjects and themes, thus enabling you to get a more integrated view of this country and its history. Let’s hope the digitized slavery and emancipation registers for Curaçao, too, will help to foster a better understanding of a crucial period in the history of this island. The aftermath of slavery continues up to today. Its story needs to be told not just in Dutch.

A postscript

Some remarks here about the quality of the search interfaces for this project might seem harsh, but a few things make them at least understandable. Knowing about the (former) owners of enslaved people is perhaps the most asked question when using these registers. Depending on the name of the owner freed slaves often received their name. The general public wants to know also about the background of the owners. Many of them lived in the major towns of the Netherlands. Their wealth was to a considerable extent built on the fruits of slave labor. Finally I think both archives should realize they could create the database thanks to the research and efforts of the late Els Langenfeld. It is not just a question of presenting material in your own holdings online, but also acknowledging the fact this has become possible thanks to a person whose memory should be honored by using her transcriptions and index to the fullest possible extent. Perhaps it is only a question of changing the layout to make the owners more visible from the start. The current layout should not be a stumbling block to having the data in full view.

Finding Early Modern notarial records in Mexico


The Ex Templo Corpus Christi, Ciudad de México, home to the Archivo General de Notarias - image: Wikimedia Commons

The Ex Templo Corpus Christi, Ciudad de México, since 2005 home to the Archivo General de Notarias

Using guides to archival collections can be most helpful when searching particular records which might help you in anwering your research questions. Sometimes the records themselves are the subject of research. When I read recently a blog post about notarial records in Mexico it was not completely surprising to read a story about a number of obstacles in getting access to registers from the eighteenth century. However, for other periods some projects exist which help scholars in approaching other historical records at the same archival institution, the Archivo Histórico de Notarías del Distrito Federal in Ciudad de México (Mexico City), also abbreviated to Archivo General de Notarías. In this contribution I will look at the two blog posts by Andrea Reyes Elizondo about her research and at online guidance to archival institutions in Ciudad de México.

Book history and archives

Last year I connected book history and archives in a post reviewing the study of Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen on the role of the book trade in the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century. Until last month I had not often visited the website of the Nederlandse Boekhistorische Vereniging, the society for Dutch book history. One of its features is the section De Boekenmolen (The Book Mill) with blog posts by scholars introducing their research and telling about the start of their interest in book history.

On June 9, 2020 Andrea Reyes Elizondo contributed a post concerning a subject with a fair distance to Dutch book history, an inquiry into the degree of literacy and scribal capacity in eighteenth-century Mexico. Her search for a continuous series of documents with signatures led her to notarial records. Doing research in Mexico is not as straightforward as you would like as a scholar. Much paperwork is needed, to mention only one aspect. Only at the notarial archive Reyes Elizondo can use the finding aid and a list of notaries for this period. At this point I was at first somewhat amused, because using the word list for a finding aid for notarial registers, after all indeed a series of similar records, seemed a bit misplaced. My second thought was a question: How can you find out about notarial records in Mexico, and more generally about Mexican archives? As a matter of fact, I knew about a number of online resources helping me to answer this question. Finding archives was not the greatest challenge, finding specific information about their holdings was a bit more difficult, and in my view worth a report here.

It is no bad thing to start searching archives in Mexico with the Censo-Guía de Archivos de España e Iberoamérica, a searchable database for archives and their collections in Spain and Latin-America. However, the notice on the Archivo General de Notarías de Distrito Federal (AGNDF), seems at first a bit disappointing, with an old link to its website and lots of empty fields or negative answers, but luckily it does show the titles of some guides and inventories. In particular the series of inventories for nineteenth-century records is mentioned. At the heading Fondos y otros colecciones custodiadas a link leads you to the Inventario Dinámico, a tree structure with the fondos, in this case three main collections, the Fondo Antiguo, the [Fondo] Consular and the Fondo Contemporaneo. By clicking on the link Fondo Antiguo you will go to a detailed notice about the history of this section. For the subsection Reservada the names and years of notaries are given, from 1524 to 1697. The eighteenth century is part of the subsection Antigua (1614 to 1902). The notice ends with substantial information about guides and finding aids, some of them unpublished, in particular the Inventario general del acervo histórico del Archivo General de Notarías del Distrito Federal, Ana Lucía Tlahuech Rivera and José Luis García Estrada (eds.) (2006) and Verónica Zárate Toscano, Guía Cronológica de Notarios 1750-1850 (1992). The 2006 inventory is the most recent work mentioned in this notice.

Finding archives in Mexico

I had hoped to find more about this archive in the Sistema de Información Cultural, an online directory for cultural institutions in Mexico which counts nearly 1,300 archives, fifty of them in Ciudad de México. The notice on the AGNDF gives you only the location, a phone number and an e-mail address. The Archivo General de la Nación provides a Directorio Nacional de Archivos, but on the page for Ciudad de México the information is similarly succinct, although even more archival institutions are listed. In the web directory for archivos iberoaméricanos of the Fundacion Mapfre the page for Mexico has disappeared. Sadly the Latin America Network Information Center at the University of Texas had to stop updating its information in 2015, and now even the links have disappeared in its archival directory. The Internet Archive has a capture from 2015 of the page in English with eleven Mexican archives, but not the AGNDF. The Spanish version of this resource is still up and running.

Since many years the online journal Nuevo Mundo / Nuevos Mundos runs the series Guía del investigador americanista, with for Mexico an updated version from 2018 of a Guía del investigador en la ciudad de México by Felipe Castro Gutiérrez; the 2009 version can still be consulted and compared with his new version. Castro Gutiérrez fails to mention the web pages of the AGNDF, but he does include a link to the online inventory of sixteenth-century notarial registers. With some luck – by going one level higher on the web portal of the legal department of Ciudad de México – I could reach a second web page of the AGNDF with this link and yet another online resource for the records of notaries. This second web page provides you with some twenty web links for more information.

Before going to the notarial registers of the eighteenth century I would like to present briefly the existing online projects for the AGNDF. The Catálogo de protocolos del Archivo General de Notarias de la ciudad de México – Fondo Siglo XVI, created in 2016 at the Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México (UNAM), provides you with an inventory of records from the sixteenth century. The images linked to the searchable inventory can only be viewed at the AGNDF. The website of this projects provides you also with the link to the sequel for the seventeenth century, the Catálogo de protocolos del Archivo General de Notarias de la ciudad de México – Fondo Siglo XVII, launched in 2014 by the UNAM. The main difference with the first project is a more detailed search interface and the absence of images. The third project, launched in 2012, has been created by the Colegio de México. It brings you to the Actas Notariales de México, a searchable database for nineteenth-century notarial acts between 1817 and 1919. The search results bring you to summaries of the acts.

Dealing with notarial acts

Andrea Reyes Elizondo wrote her contribution about her research for her Ph.D. at Leiden University on the website of the NBV in Dutch. At the blog Leiden Arts in Society she has contributed a number of posts in English. In 2018 she wrote a post in English about her experience in three Mexican archives, Monk’s Nun’s Works’. The first remarkable thing in this earlier post were for me her pictures of the Archivo General de la Nación, housed in a former prison. Her remark about having to wear gloves and a dust mask when reading archival records from the colonial period has these days received another connotation.

Reyes Elizondo does not say much about the AGNDF in this earlier post, but nevertheless I quote her words for you to ponder them yourself: “In contrast, the notary archive does not have a catalogue at all but two different printed guides which give little information about its contents and could not be photographed but only be copied by hand. For an archive catalogue to be truly useful to a researcher, it should mention how many books or documents were produced by the same person, the length of the collection, the period it covers, and a breakdown of the type of documents. The AHAGN guides only gave a summary of how many books a notary had (guide 1) and which books were for which years (guide 2).” She repeated this statement in her 2020 post in Dutch. If she had stated these things as facts only once, I would have hesitated to set things right, but after two similar statements some corrections are clearly needed.

Banner Censo-Guía

The notice in the Spanish Censo-Guía contains clear information about the time range and physical dimensions of the records within the AGNDF, good for 1,235 meters shelf length, and 5,637 volumes in the Fondo Antiguo for the period 1525-1909. Archivists may call a finding aid or inventory a catálogo but it remains a finding aid. I fail to understand how one can think that a finding aid for notarial records will contain information about acts in each register apart from the notary and the time range. Notarial registers have similar contents, and it makes sense to describe them as series, also in view of their sheer number.

A quick comparison might be helpful. The Stadsarchief Amsterdam has 3,5 kilometer shelf length with notarial registers from the Early Modern period, probably the largest series in its holdings. With indexes and a crowdsourcing transcription project they are being made more accessible. Recently I searched notarial registers in the holdings of two Belgian archives, the Rijksarchief in de provincie Antwerpen and the Felixarchief, the municipal archive of the city Antwerpen. The finding aids for both institutions have the usual succinct form. Detailed access is provided by an index or a more detailed finding aid, called by Dutch archivists a nadere toegang. At the Felixarchief notarial registers have been digitized. Reyez Elizondo wants to be able to use repertories of acts. Thus the AGNDF provides you with a finding aid for the registers and a list of notaries, but in fact more has been done, as I will show here below. To all appearances it seems the two blog posts reflect a confusion between the nature of a library catalogue, an archival inventory, an index, a repertory or any other kind of more detailed finding aids. Surely a book historian will use library catalogues more often than finding aids, but a scholar should be able to see the substantial difference in their nature and character.

The second web page of this archive gives you a number of links, some of them broken, but luckily the link to a most relevant M.A. thesis functions. Fernando Pérez Celis completed in 2011 at the UNAM his thesis with the title Catálogo de las escrituras notariales de siglo XVIII. Notarías 22, 25 y 352 de Fondo Antiguo, Sección Ordinaria, del Acervo Histórico del Archivo General de Notarías de ciudad de México (PDF, 2011). Pérez Celis described the registers for three notarías. At p. XVIII of this thesis he notes there are 329 notarías for the eighteenth century, good for a total of 1,689 volumes, only 137 of them catalogados. In my view Pérez Celis created a repertorio, a word that should appear in the title of his study. Surely this still leaves large parts of the eighteenth century uncovered for the purposes of Reyes Elizondo, but much more has been done than she supposed. The very presence of the three projects each dealing with whole centuries seems to have gone unnoticed. It would do justice to the AGNDF to include them in both blog posts.

Logo El Colegio de Mexico

When you study Mexican history it is difficult not to encounter various projects of the UNAM and El Colegio de México. The latter institution is home to the Comité Mexicano de Ciencias Históricas which offers a very useful commented list of online resources for Mexican history. The library of El Colegio de México has on its web pages a list with twenty digital projects of this institution. Among the publications of the Colegio de México are the guías de protocolos, guides for notarial acts at the AGNDF for the nineteenth century. For each year a volume will be published. In the colecciones digitales of UNAM’s libraries you can select Tesis eTESIUNAM and quickly find nine relevant titles concerning the AGNDF, among them yet another thesis with a repertory of acts for some eighteenth-century registers, again without the word repertorio in its title. In view of these studies, the guides for nineteenth-century notarial records and the three online projects for notarial registers for other centuries choosing the eighteenth century shows at least courage. Reyes Elizondo certainly has this courage, but her two blog posts do not tell you at all what else can be readily found and has been done for the rich record series of the AGNDF.

Working in Mexican archives

Of course researching reading and writing capacities is a good subject, and I cannot say anything against Reyes Elizondo’s approach to this subject. A remark about another archive in Mexico invites me to add some comments. Reyes Elizondo would have preferred to find the notarial acts in the holdings of the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN). Lately the website and other services of the AGN has been redesigned, and in many respects services have deteriorated. The digital collection with mapas, planos y ilustraciones has vanished. The fact that you can now consult both the new and the 1990 version of the Guía general de los fondos makes you almost smile about the operation which is probably motivated by political aims. The thing to note about the AGN is the absence of online finding aids. For the near future it is wise to keep in mind many scholars will want to visit the AGN, and perhaps you will not succeed easily in having a seat in its study room. Simply having more space and more chance to work at the AGNDF is something to relish, even if you have to face a number of other restrictions.

For this post I was able to use the information I gathered on my legal history website concerning digital archives all over the world. On this page I put links and information about archives, archival guides and about digitized archival collections. Without archival guides research would be very much hampered. A number of online overviews and archival guides has already been decommissioned. Using just a single resource for any purpose is only recommended by companies pretending to be The One and Only Firm. Another thing became clear, too: Thinking you know all about archives in your own country is not the most useful attitude. It pays off to take sufficient time to review and adjust your knowledge about archives by using relevant guides, to note carefully their content and to reflect about possible implications for your research. Knowing about the difference between an archival finding aid and a library catalogue should be part and parcel of doing research with original sources in the humanities or in the vast fields of legal history.

What’s in a word? Two ways of legal inquiry in the medieval common law

Startscreen Mapping the Medieval Countryside

Sometimes the name of a website can be deceptive. When I encountered the website Inquisitions post mortem with the subtitle Mapping the Medieval Countryside. Properties, Places & People my first thought went to the coroners’ inquests into the causes of unnatural deaths, a very rich resource telling us much about society in late medieval England. However, soon it becomes clear inquisitions post mortem (IPM) are something else, inquiries into the property of deceased tenants of the crown. In this post I will look both at these inquiries and at the medieval coroner and the sources documenting his inquests, and I will look at some other project websites as well.

What’s in a name?

My interest in the medieval coroner stems from the research for my master thesis in medieval history focusing on late medieval Utrecht. I used a rich resource in the holdings of Het Utrechts Archief, the registers for the Vechtkeuren (finding aid 701, Stadsbestuur van Utrecht, 1122-1577, 234) from 1477 to 1528, now all digitized, with sometimes quite long and detailed descriptions about incidents concerning wrongdoing, verbal abuse and fighting. Even digitized transcriptions of these records are now available (finding aid 1128, Verzameling fotokopieën en transcripties, inv.nos 3055-3060). They can offer you invaluable glimpses of much else around incidents. Likewise the inquests of the English coroners can show you in the description of accidents much about late medieval society, as in the study by Barbara Hanawalt, The ties that bound. Peasant families in medieval England (Oxford, etc., 1986) where coroners’ inquests are the only archival resource she used. She used inquests from London as one source among other records in her study Growing up in medieval London. The experience of childhood in history (Oxford, etc., 1993).

Doing English history can mean dealing with a wide variety of rolls, now kept at The National Archives (TNA). The general description at the website of the TNA of the coroners’ rolls and files for the JUST 2 record series reminds you the medieval coroner dealt also with matters such as deaths in prison, outlawries and felon’s confessions. One of his duties was to ascertain whether any object was involved in the death under scrutiny, because such objects were due to the crown as deodands. This record series contains 286 rolls for the period 1228-1426. Later rolls figure in other record series. You should note the use of both Latin and French. The earliest surviving rolls have been edited by Roy Frank Hunnisett, Bedfordshire coroners’ rolls (Streatley, Bedf., 1961) and used in his study The medieval coroner (Cambridge 1961). On my web page on the history of the common law you can find other editions by Hunnisett and also older calendars and editions of coroners’ rolls, a number of them available online. The TNA has a helpful concise guide How to search for coroners’ inquests indicating also other records series with inquests.

Logo Anglo-American Tradition

The coroners’ rolls are not available in digital form at the TNA’s website, but you can use photographs online at the portal Anglo-American Legal Tradition hosted by the O’Quinn Law Library of the University of Houston. On its startpage you will find at first a division of materials in several periods of English legal history. The AALT wiki helps you to navigate the digital materials, and it brings you for instance to lists of Anglo-Norman words in the digitized records. Citation Finder 1 helps you to find quickly the right items in eight record series organized by calendar years. A second Citation Finder gives for four record series, among them JUST 2, links to digitized single records. Due to their form you will find for each roll two image series, one for the recto side, the other for the verso (back). It is wise to consult the AALT’s PDF on navigation.

TNA, JUST 2/1, start verso side

The start of the verso side of the very first surviving coroners’roll – The National Archives, JUST 2/1, verso

It takes time to get adjusted to viewing the originals of these rolls, but adjusting to the handwriting might be another matter, as does for me refreshing my memory for the exact years of the reigns of English kings used by the TNA to indicate the time range of each roll. The AALT provides you on its index page with tutorials in English, German and French, three paleography exercises with Latin texts and three with English texts.

Among recent projects using coroners’ inquests is Everyday life and fatal hazard in sixteenth-cnetury England (University of Oxford). In particular the idea to present here every month a telling case helps to gain insight into cases of misadventure. The bibliography at this website is most useful. In 2014 two studies on medieval coroners appeared, by Rab Houston, The coroners of Northern Britain, c. 1300-1700 (London-New York 2014), and Sara M. Butler, Forensic medicine and death investigation in medieval England (London-New York 2014).

A different inquiry

The website Mapping the Medieval Countryside. Properties, Peoples and Places offers a compact startscreen with both search and browse functionality, a concise introduction, a news section and a blog section. Alas there is no additional information about the remarkable Boarstal Map from 1444, but it illustrates certainly the theme of places and properties. Mapping the Medieval Countryside is a project of the University of Winchester and King’s College London.

On the project website you can find not only a general introduction to the inquisitions post-mortem, but also a most useful series of articles headed Backgrounds on various aspects of the IPM. This type of inquest happened either with a special writ, or with the standard writ diem clausit extremum devised for inquisitions upon someone’s death. The escheator was the officer acting at a IPM, instructed by this standard writ or another. The written report of an IPM contained a number of standard elements, most often presented in a fixed order. With the inclusion of the time and place where the inquest was held, the names of jurors, the name of the escheator, information about the extent, value and location of lands, the date of death of the deceased, the name and age of the heir, and when necessary information about other royal rights involved, an IPM is a most valuable record. However, an escheator did not always note everything. Sometimes he was decidedly partial or he deliberatedly hid or altered information. On the website the place of the IPM within the process of inheriting is described, a fairly lengthy and complicated affair. A more detailed introduction to IPMs by Christine Carpenter merits your close attention. Her footnotes mention the main relevant scholarly publications.

Apart from the record of an IPM made for the Chancery a copy was also made for the ExchequerMapping the Medieval Countryside provides you with background information about both series of records, pointing also to the enduring importance of the early nineteenth-century Calendarium inquisitionum post mortem sive escaetarum (4 vol., [London], 1806-1828) for tracing IPMs. In some cases the document in the Exchequer series is the draft of the IPM. You will need to work with the tables of references as a concordance between old locations and modern designations. Some documents are missing, others may well be held as a part of other record series in the TNA or are kept elsewhere.

You might want to consult also the concise guide about IPMs on the TNA’s website. It mentions for example the existence of separate series of IPMs for a number of counties. This guide mentions also an article and two books for further guidance. The Wikipedia article on the IPM shows a global concordance between the reigns, calendars and relevant record series (C 132 to C 142 and E 149-150) without any indication of gaps and other record series. However, it does show clearly the uncalendared periods 1447-1485 and 1509-1660. The IPMs were held in Early Modern England as well. The Wikipedia entry scores with a nice number of references to historical literature about the IPM.

The article on IPM’s and historical research concisely shows the wide variety of subjects for which the IPMs contain information, for example family and inheritance, landholding and land use, demography and jurisdiction. In view of this rich material it is good to have here also a glossary of recurrent terms in these records. It reminded me of the glossary at the website of the project Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law (University of St. Andrews).

Mapping the Medieval Countryside focuses on medieval inquisitions post mortem (IPM), held between the mid-thirteenth century and the early sixteenth century, and within these centuries on the period 1399 to 1447. In the IPM the holdings of deceased tenants to the crown were registered. The two different periods mentioned at the start page make you curious about this difference. Here the history of research into IPM’s plays a large role. Printed calendars exist for the periods 1236-1447 and 1485-1509. A page about these calendars explains the development of the editorial policies between 1888 and 2010. The earlier calendars focused on the inheritance. The extent of lands and valuations were omitted, as were the names of jurors and the escheator. Many elements in an IPM document are repetitive, and thus it is alluring to summarize the contents in view of the enormous mass of archival records to be processed. For Mapping the Medieval Countryside it was logical to start with the latest published calendars for the period 1422-1447, and to add in a second phase an enhanced version of the calendars dealing with the period 1399-1422. The modern calendars note for each IPM both the record in the Chancery series and the copy in the Exchequer series.

At the portal British History Online you can find digital versions for almost every relevant calendar of inquisitions post-mortem. Two calendars for IPMs concerning London, too, have been digitized. Mapping the Medieval Countryside offers more search facilities, and it has the great asset of some 48,000 names of jurors entered for the period 1399-1422.

An IPM - source: Mapping the Medieval Countryside

Mapping the Medieval Countryside provides us on the page about the documents with some images of IPMs, however, without any reference. I show the largest image here above. It proves to be quite a task to find some images elsewhere. In the virtual exhibition Shakespeare Documented of the Folger Shakespeare Library you can look at an IPM from 1599 mentioning the Globe theatre [TNA, C 142/257/68]. The Bodleian Libraries show in their digital collections the IPM concerning John Paston, dated around 1466 [MS Don c. 93]. I had almost overlooked the exercise with an IPM from 1489 [C 142/23/116] in the TNA’s Latin paleography tutorial. Surely a tour of digital collections of county record offices will bring you more results.

It is perhaps good to mention here explicitly we can use images for a number of record series at the portal Anglo-American Legal Tradition thanks to great efforts of volunteers who did their best to create a clear presentation of digital images. When you realize how much work goes into this website, you will not start complaining about the absence of images of IPMs at the AALT website, nor feeling miserable about missing some other record series. At British History Online you can find many digitized guides and calendars, but not calendars with coroners’ inquests, with as the main exception four volumes with Middlesex County Records. The English Medieval Legal Documents guide of the Gould School of Law, University of Southern California, helps you to find the titles of relevant works and bibliographies.

Visiting medieval London

Logo Medieval Londoners

With Shakespeare you think also of London, and because I mentioned London already here for the coroners it is only fitting to end in this town. A few days ago Fordham University launched the portal Medieval Londoners with a database to search for late medieval Londoners. This portal has also a very detailed resources section. In the subsection for written sources you can find a substantial commented list of legal records. On the page for resources concerning property the IPMs are mentioned. The virtual exhibition Medieval London created by students of Fordham Unirersity in 2015, 2017 and 2019 with exhibits about medieval objects and locations in London can be found at the portal under Pedagogy. Among the links at Medieval Londoners you can find the London Medieval Murder Map (Manuel Eisner, Violence Research Centre, Cambridge University) based on coroners’ rolls for nine years in the first half of the fourteenth century. The map brings you to some 140 murder cases.

Maybe you want to immerse yourself into the history of medieval London and Londoners with a recent book. The volume of essays Medieval Londoners, Elizabeth New and Christian Steer (eds.) (London 2019; hardcover, ePub and PDF) can form your starting point. If I had not already started writing about the medieval coroner and the inquisitions post mortem I could well have decided to devote a post to this very interesting portal concerning medieval London. Combining both resources for your research is certainly challenging, but at least I could tell you here something about a number of medieval legal records wtth very particular qualities.

A postscript

At the website Medieval Genealogy you can benefit from abstracts of coroners’ inquests in Northampshire created by Stephen Swailes and an overview of digitized editions, calendars and abstracts of inquisitions post mortem.

Retracing looted and lost art after 75 years

IRP-logoAmidst the current situation around the COVID-19 virus worldwide commemorations take place of the end of the Second World War, 75 years ago. After two generations work continues on retracing objects of arts and other objects belonging to a shared cultural heritage which were taken from Jewish people by the Nazi regime or stolen by others. The process of giving back such objects is often as difficult as retracing art objects at all, not in the least because legal matters impose themselves, too. In this post I will look at a number of relevant projects, in particular at a web portal with a central function. The International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property (shortened to IRP) is a branch of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI), with a portal concerning archives and their holdings as another branch.

Combining resources

The situation in the occupied European countries during the Second World War had similarities and major differences. After the war national institutions were founded for doing research on a dark and deeply troubling period, first of all by bringing together relevant documents and archival records. Tracing the fate of Jews and other persecuted people was a most important research motive, but other themes, too, called for attention. Survivors of the concentration camps often found little help from authorities and judges in regaining possession of their belongings. In the years of reconstruction their appalling situation was often simply ignored. Research along national lines has inevitably limits.

In 2014 the movie The Monuments Men, based on the book by Robert Edsel (London-New York 2009) brought the work of curators, archivists, art historians and others near the end of the Second World War and its aftermath to rescue works of art in Europe to the attention of the general public. The website of The Monuments Men Foundation informs you about its activities. However, in this project the focus is on works of art taken from galleries and museums, not so much on private collections. Nowadays The Art Loss Register helps both individuals and institutions to recover stolen works of art.

The IRP is a special portal supporting the recovery of cultural heritage stolen, confiscated or in whatever way taken away during the Second World War. Things get complicated in the face of museums and even nations acquiring items from the collections of Jewish art dealers and collectors. In fact I have to state my explicit wish not to comment on the outcome of legal cases such as the Goudstikker case and the case of the Koenigs collection. Perhaps it better to admit we now see things from a distance, and we should be aware we can see only some parts of a chaotic period which does not allow for easy extrapolation of conclusions, apart from fearing things were grim, grey or indeed beyond imagination.

At the IRP portal you can search in the databases of eleven institutions. Some of these databases cover several countries, but you got to be aware you cannot search every database of these institutions with one search interface. For this reason the IRP portal rightly states it is a demo. The Deutsches Historisches Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Mémorial de la Shoah, the British National Archives, the Nationalfonds der Republik Österreichs für Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, the Belgian State Archives, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American National Archives and Record Administration are included in the central search function of this portal.

It is remarkable the resources of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Amsterdam), home to the IRP portal, are not yet included in the central search interface. Thus the list of resources – under the heading Institutions – with ample information about accessing databases elsewhere is most important. The tab Collections brings you either to the central search interface or to the resource notices. Sometimes you do not land directly at the right section for a particular collection. In my view you can currently skip the Collections tab. The search interface has an advanced mode where you can enter terms for artist, location and techniques, but a notice alerts you this works only with some of the databases. Mentioning exactly for which it works or not would be a welcome addition, and a clear order of the institutions, be it by alphabet or by country, would be helpful, too. However confusing this may seem, it has the major benefit of shaking you clear of the idea to find something with just one search action at a single central resource, and it helps you to confront the fact things have been entered into databases in different ways. The IRP does help you to go in the right direction when you use its information carefully.


One of the obstacles in approaching these databases is the need for the use of standards, and not just at the interface level. The NIOD has helped creating with other Dutch archives a thesaurus for terms around the Second World War and the Netherlands. This thesaurus is a key element of the portal Oorlogsbronnen [War resources]. At the IRP portal the NIOD mentions only its archival collection concerning the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, the unit of the Nazi regime looting Europe for works of art and other objects of European cultural heritage.

On its website the NIOD has created a section Expert Centre Restitution (interface in Dutch and English). This centre hosts the database Herkomst gezocht / Origins unknown. Its core is information about works of art either taken form Jewish people or acquired in dubious other ways and at some time – or still – present in the governmental Netherlands Art Collection (Nederlands Kunstbezit). Here, too, there are warnings about the completeness of the information. The NIOD point also to the website Museale verwervingen vanaf 1933 with information about works acquired by Dutch museums between 1933 and 1945 in suspicious ways such as theft, sale under pressure and confiscation. At the IRP portal is currently no indication whether such resources will be included in the future or not. The database of Museale verwervingen, accessible in Dutch and English, has not been updated since December 2018. Its overview of links and the succinct bibliography with mainly Dutch studies are worth mentioning. While preparing this post I noticed the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History has very recently digitized seven archives of art dealers between 1850 and 1950. In its holdings the RKD has archival collection of nine art dealers, among them the art firm Goudstikker. Although I am not unfamiliar with art history I have not conducted special research concerning the Dutch part of the history of stolen, looted and lost art around and during the Second World War, but these digitized archives are valuable new resources, accessible with an English and Dutch interface.

The Dutch websites figure here for a clear reason, not just to honour my regular Dutch view as a recurring element of my posts. It is perhaps wise to mention briefly some of the databases not yet included in the central search layer of the IRP Portal. In some cases the IRP’s overview makes clear an institution has not just one relevant database. Several institutions have archival collections concerning the Einsatzgruppe Reichsleiter Rosenberg. Only the database Cultural Plunder of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is directly included in the IRP one-step search. On the website of this project you can also find archival guides for a number of countries, and a section on looted libraries. Lost Art is a database of the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, with an interface in German, English and Russian. The WGA-Datenbank of the Landesarchiv Berlin can be consulted in German and English, and there is a useful introduction on the website of this institution concerning the Wiedergutmachungämter (restitution offices). The University of Heidelberg is mentioned at the IRP portal for its project German Sales 1901-1945 with nearly 10,000 auction catalogues. The website with the database at ArtHistoricum contains much information besides the database. The portion of this project with German Sales 1930-1945 is included in the provenance databases of the Getty Research Institute.

The resources overview at the IRP portal is precious, and exactly for this reason you would expect explanations about the way more databases will be integrated into its search function. The differences between databases are a challenge to scholars and the IRP team dealing with them. It is sensible to view the portal as a tool supporting the use of these databases, and not, or not yet, as a complete replacement of searches to be conducted in individual databases. On purpose I indicated the languages used at other project websites. It would be helpful to have at least some elements of the IRP portal in various languages. In fact not only English is used in the IRP resources overview.

An unfinished history

Among websites and projects that deserve at least mentioning here, but perhaps also inclusion at the IRP portal, are other projects concerning looted and lost art. The most often mentioned projects are the Claims Conference and Looted Art of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe. The art library of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz has a succinct commented list – available in German and English – with the main relevant projects and databases. The Swiss Federal Office for Culture has a section on its multilingual website for looted art from the Nazi period, with a list of links. I would like to mention here two websites not included in these overviews. Auction Catalog Segmentation is a French resource created by the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art with a focus on the auction catalogues of the Parisian firm Drouot between 1939 and 1945. The Landesarchiv Berlin and the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin have created a website Bergungsstelle für wissenschaftliche Bibliotheken focusing on books taken from research libraries. This library participates with five other institutions at Looted Cultural Assets, with currently some 31,000 provenance records and information about 8,000 persons. Not just libraries work here together, but also the Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin-Centrum Judaicum and the Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden in Hamburg.


How can the memory of the twelve years of the Nazi period and its history of violence, genocide and other atrocities be kept alive? The EHRI project is one of the efforts of scholars to help studying the darkest part of this period. In Berlin one of the memorials is named Topographie des Terrors. Many German memorials and other websites can be found in the extensive links list of the Gedenkstättenforum. The portal Gedenkorte Europa 1939-1945 helps you to find more places of memory in Europe. However, I will not try to answer this question with only information about initiatives for remembrance. The actions to retrace, recover and restitute objects to their owners or successors, and the efforts to entangle legal questions about the rightful ownership of such objects are part of the aftermath of the Second World War and form in a way part of its remembrance. Sometimes the stories about looted art form a painful part of the aftermath when they brought further appalling humiliation to survivors and their families. Acts and places of remembrance should not hide the ways the stories of the Second World War have also been ignored, kept silent or made invisible. Sorting things out legally about objects is one thing, bringing some kind of justice to people in the face or irreparable human and material loss and injustice done to them is another challenge. Behind these objects is the history of persons with for each her or his individual history and the history of persecuted groups during a terrible period of human history.

A city in distress: Dordrecht and the 1352-1358 interdict

Bull of pope Innocent VI for Dordrecht, 13

Bull of pope Innocent VI with his sentence to lift the interdict from Dordrecht, 1355 June 2 – Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, finding aid 1, Stadsarchieven 1200-1572, no. 274-6

Among the most frequent comments about the COVID-19 virus is the remark this situation is totally new. Historians will remember the 1918-1919 pandemic and the Black Death around 1348. In recent decades my own country faced at least three contagious diseases, some of them badly controlled by the authorities. Whatever our views of current regulations, cities and countries have been confronted with other situations with normal life severely hampered. Events have been cancelled and churches are closed for services. The latter theme prompted me to search for information about and examples of a medieval ecclesiastical punishment, the interdict. What did this mean and how did it work? It was only logical to combine this with a search for online historical resources.

These days I looked in particular at digitized sources held by Dutch archives. There is a wide variety of ways in which they present digitized materials. When I bumped into a bull of pope Innocent VI in the online gallery of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht I found a charter dealing with an interdict touching the largest and most important city of the medieval county Holland. In this post I will look in particular at the rich set of sources for this period under an interdict in this archive, but also at other resources, the historiography about this interdict and at medieval canon law.

This rather long post has five sections. After looking at the character and impact of an interdict the case in Dordrecht comes into view. The third section deals more in general with archival records and the history of archiving in Dordrecht, followed by a section on online records concerning the medieval papacy. In the fifth section you will meet a very active medieval lawyer with a Dutch origin and international connections. At the end I offer some conclusions.

Defining the medieval interdict

The interdict suffers from the far greater fame of another ecclesiastical punishment, excommunication. Excommunicated persons were cut off from the body of the Christian faithful, and the examples of kings facing excommunication made an impression on contemporaries. Elisabeth Vodola’s Excommunication in the Middle Ages (Berkeley, CA, 1986) still is the classic modern study on this subject. Fred Kloek, my own history teacher, wrote a book about papal excommunication and medieval politics, De pauselijke banvloek. Een geestelijk wapen in de middeleeuwse politiek (Amsterdam 1987). He refused to view excommunication as a weapon that became blunt over the centuries. In his view the power of this punishment was initially due to the relative weakness of kings, and thus the popes were able to ensure support from powerful allies, but this balance clearly shifted. Strategies and tactics were different things.

For a definition of the character and impact of an interdict I follow the explanations of Hartmut Zapp in his lemma ‘Interdikt’ for the Lexikon des Mittelalters 5 (1991) col. 466-467. An interdict meant withelding the administering of the sacrament and a halt to church services (cessatio a divinis). Apart from the interdictum personale the interdictum locale could pertain to entire communities, cities and regions, or just one particular place. It became possible to lessen the harsh impact of an interdict, for example by getting papal dispensation for celebrating mass behind closed doors. Religious orders could receive exemptions from interdicts. Only seldom an interdict led to repentance of culprits. An interdict became increasinlgy only a nuisance, not an effective spiritual punishment.

Peter Clarke wrote the most recent full-scale study on the interdict, The interdict in the thirteenth century. A question of collective guilt (Oxford, etc., 2007). For the Low Countries an article by Marian de Smet and Paul Trio offers a good starting point, ‘De verhouding tussen Kerk en stad in de Nederlanden in de late Middeleeuwen, onderzocht aan de hand van het interdict ‘, Jaarboek voor Middeleeuwse Geschiedenis 5 (2002) 247-274. In the absence of research for the entire Low Countries De Smet en Trio focused on local and regional cases. Their article helps to see the interdict on Dordrecht in perspective. They disagree with Hartmut Zapp about the diminishing impact of the interdict in the fifteenth century.

Not just one charter

The interdict led on Dordrecht by Jan van Arkel, bishop of Utrecht from 1342 to 1364, came in a period of political strife. After the death of count William IV of Holland in 1345 his sister Margaret, married to emperor Louis of Bavaria, claimed the succession and wanted her son William to act as a governor in her absence. Parties formed quickly around both Margaret and William. During a coup in 1351 William was taken hostage and imposed as the new count. Supporters of Margaret were exiled. This unlashed a chain of events. The influence of aristocratic families, officials of the count and cities with their own interests, and growing interest from other counts and dukes, not to mention the prince-bishops of Utrecht, set the scene for a period of more than a century of endemic conflict between the two parties.

Understanding the meaning of the charters about this interdict and their relations is much helped by the clear paragraph on them in the Geschiedenis van Dordrecht tot 1572, Jan van Herwaarden et alii (eds.) (Dordrecht 1996) 97-101. Innocent VI’s bull of June 2, 1355 states the interdict dured already thirty months, so it seems to have been inflicted before the end of 1352. Henric Scoutate, a former schepen (échevin), had been excommunicated for murdering three citizens of Dordrecht, among them the bailiff of Dordrecht and another schepen. Henric and his complices sought sanctuary at the main parish church, the Grote Kerk, but an outraged mob entered the church and the churchyard and killed them. This shedding of blood was enough reason for bishop Jan van Arkel to place Dordrecht under interdict. Meanwhile the party strife between the supporters of both claimants developed, and on top of that a war started between Holland and Utrecht.

The bull from 1355 is indeed part of an archival context. A quick search for Innocent VI (Etienne Aubert, pope from 1352 to 1362) in the collections of the archive at Dordrecht brings you to the very first archival collection, toegang 1, Stadsarchieven: de grafelijke tijd, 1200-1572, 274, the archives of the medieval city Dordrecht. This inventory number contains 24 documents created between 1354 and 1358, mainly charters but also letters, all of them with digitized images; one item contains seven charters. The papal bull is described under 274-6. In the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, the portal for charters in the holdings of Dutch archives, you will find currently 90 charters concerning interdicts.

Only one document from the set at Dordrecht, without indication of the year, 1354 according to the inventory, tells us directly something of the moves made by count Willem. In his letter he urged the city Dordrecht to cancel their verdict on two men, Aper Scoutate and his nephew Henric, to be sent on a punitive pilgrimage (no. 274-1). The count said his mother Margaret did not want to let this happen. We can follow the interdict closely only from 1355 onwards. The letter was written in Quesnoy, the main castle of the counts of Hainaut. The medieval notice on the verso is simply wrong. The city empowered on March 27 three men, Johannes de Zeelandia, Petrus de Leeuwenberch and Henric Prijs, one of the four parish priests of Dordrecht, to deal with the bishop to end the interdict ( 274-2). On the back of this charter you can dimly see some remarks concerning the actions of procuratores – proctors or agents – at the papal curia in Avignon using this mandate when introducing this case. Among the names is a magister Johannes de Cloetinghe, a place in Zeeland. A day later Henric Prijs was promised financial recompensation by the city Dordrecht for any trouble with the bishop; he received also a letter of credit for 400 guilders (no. 274-3), but this has only been written on the back of the former document. On May 11, 1355 Petrus Majoris, an auditor causarum in Avignon, confirmed that notwithstanding the delay for an appeal Henric Prijs is allowed to appeal in this case (no. 274-4).

Surely we miss other documents from Avignon of the case, but in three letters Henric Prijs told in 1355 something about his troubles and matters around the legal conflict, in particular in his letter sent on May 22 ( 274-5). Gerard van der Veen, the chancellor of Jan van Arkel, was in Avignon and gave to the cardinael van Bolongen 2000 guilders to act on his behalf. This cardinal was in some way a relation of the count of Holland. Guy de Boulogne (1313-1373) was indeed one of the most important cardinals with many connections. Prijs also noted that Ricardus de Anglia, the second advocatus of the Dordrecht case, had a positive attitude towards Maud (Matilda, Machteld) of Lancaster, the spouse of count Willem V. Henric’s letter of credit had not been accepted, and therefore he begged the eldermen for another one from the Lombards or caoursins in Dordrecht. Henric Prijs seems to have perceived rather quickly the importance of (political) connections and the way things worked in and around the curia.

On June 8, 1355 Prijs announced the bull in which the bishop of Cambrai will act as a iudex delegatus (no. 274-7). A month later (July 8) he complained about magister Johannes de Zelandia, the other advocatus who took thirty écus from him (no. 274-8). This letter seems to indicate also some of the tarifs for actions and acts at the papal curia. In yet another letter without a date Henric repeats his plea to send him money (no. 274-9). On August 12 Petrus Maioris, the auditor causarum, confirms the protest of Henric Prijs and the three other parish priests (Wilhelmus de Lantscroene, Wigger Gerardi and Johannes de Tympel) against the accusations of the representants of Jan van Arkel on May 15 (274-10). On August 15, 1355 bishop Peter of Cambrai [Pierre d’André] sealed two charters, one adressed to Ludolphus Abolensis, clearly a kind of auxiliary bishop, and the other to Jan van Arkel, with the text of Innocent VI’s bull (nos. 274-11 and 12).

A procedural note about the relaxation of the interdict - Ra Dordrecht, toegang I, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, no. 274-14

A legal consultation about the relaxation of the interdict – Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, toegang I, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, no. 274-14

Below I will tell you about editions of the majority of these texts, but I can already show here an unedited text which sheds some light on the use of canon law in this conflict. No. 274-14 is an undated note with a splendid number of abbreviated words, fit for any examination in medieval palaeography! Halfway the text a decretal is mentioned, de offi. del., pointing to the Liber Sextus (VI. I.14, the title De officio iudicis delegati). Does it read ix after decretalis or scilicet? This text ends with the conclusion the bishop of Utrecht would have to start a new procedure that could start only in the papal consistory. At the end it also becomes clear Ludolphus Abolensis wrote a consilium to this effect which is joined here by an anonymous lawyer.

Seal of Ludolfus Abolensis

The seal of frater Ludolfus episcopus Abolensis – RA Dordrecht, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, 274-17

It is not clear for which diocese Ludolphus Abolensis was the bishop. J.F.AN. Weijling, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de wijbisschoppen van Utrecht tot 1580 (diss. Nijmegen; Utrecht 1951; online, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen) mentions him as a bishop who just happened to be in the diocese Utrecht (pp. 185-186). On September 29, 1355, he signed a charter in which he announced in Dordrecht the lifting of the interdict ( 274-15). A few weeks later he reassured the city this relaxation was effective notwithstanding any action of the bishop of Utrecht (1355 October 14, 274-17). Meanwhile the city had already asked a priest, heer Arent, den grauwen priester, to go to Avignon to instruct Henric Prijs to ask for the absolution of the perpetrators of the murders in the church (1355 October 7, 274-16). No. 274-21 is a copy of a papal letter dated January 6, 1356 to the abbot of the Norbertine abbey Mariënweerd whom Innocent VI ordered to view the earlier bull as null and void after a succesfull complaint by the bishop of Utrecht about the lifting of his interdict. This letter tells us the names of the three murdered victims, taken from the 1355 bull. At the back of this document is a letter dated May 5, 1356, by Johannes de Zelandia who wrote to the city of Dordrecht he thinks this papal letter is per se legally sound, but he will continue to get the interdict lifted. On the same day Petrus de Leeuwenberch, too, wrote to the city of Dordrecht about the actions by the bishop of Utrecht to cancel the relaxation of the interdict ( 274-22). According to this letter the cardinalis Boloniensis helped very much to reverse the earlier lifting of the interdict.

For brevity’s sake I would have skipped the three charters of Francesco degli Atti, bishop of Florence, to the city Dordrecht and the dean of Geertruidenberg (nos. 274-18 to 20) about the absolution for citizens of Dordrecht, but it is interesting to note how this bishop refers thrice to the fact he acts as a vice-regens for cardinal Aegidius, Gil Albornoz (1310-1367), clearly the most important cardinal in this period. Almost at the end stands the set of seven transfixed charters, with as the main document the foundation of a chapel at the Grote Kerk by Aper and Henric Scoutate ( 274-23, 1356 May 10). In my view it seems this could well be the new gesture of reconciliation replacing the earlier pilgrimage. The very last document concerning the interdict is a charter issued by bishop Jan van Arkel and Henricus Mierlaer, archdeacon of Utrecht and provost of the St. Martin’s cathedral on December 6, 1358 ( 274-24) announcing finally the end of his interdict. In this very short charter all attention should go to the words about dilectus noster consanguineus Arnoldus de Iselsteyn, a nephew of the bishop who had been the bailiff of the city Amersfoort and keeper of the castle Stoutenburg. Earlier Arnoud of IJsselstein had been involved in financing the policies of his uncle. In 1358 he was a councillor of count Willem. A mental illness ended Willem’s short reign.

Searching archival records in Dordrecht

Among the Topstukken [Highlights] at Dordrecht are more documents concerning legal matters, You can look at a charter from 1299 confirming the stapelrecht of Dordrecht which ensured traders had to unload their freights and bring them to the market before continuing their voyages, and at a manuscript from 1525 with municipal ordinances (keuren). For each item a short essay has been added explaining its meaning and importance. However, for these two items and for the 1355 bull no reference is given to the specific fonds or archival collection, as if nobody seeing these documents and reading the essays would want to see them in their archival context.

The set of charters and letters about the interdict at Dordrecht is without any doubt the largest surviving one in the Netherlands. Jacob van Oudenhoven noted them in his Oudt ende nieuw Dordrecht (…) (Haarlem: Vermerck, 1666; online, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) 357-359 as a part of the official inventory made in 1649 of the records in the IJzeren Kast, the iron chest with city records (pp. 339-367). P.H. van de Wall published the bull in his edition of sources concerning Dordecht, Handvesten, privilegiën (…) der stad Dordrecht (3 vol., Dordrecht: Van Braam, 1770-1777; 2nd ed., Dordrecht: Van Braam, 1790; vol. 1, online, Delpher) 247-249. In his opinion it was not necessary to publish other documents about this case because the case was well known. He mentioned drawer Q where this and other documents were kept, and noted in particular only a charter of September 29, 1355 (Q.12) in which the bishop of Cambrai lifted the interdict (inv. 274-15).

Theologian Guillaume Henri Marie Delprat (1791-1871) was the first to write again at length about this set of documents. He published the majority of them in his article ‘Dordrecht onder kerkelijk interdict, 1352-1356’, Kerkhistorisch Archief 3 (1862) 1-64 [online, Internet Archive]. Delprat did not edit the papal bull, but only referred to Van de Wall, because large parts of the papal bull are repeated in another document (no. XVII). Delprat was a pioneer of research into the fourteenth-century religious movement of the Devotio Moderna. In the same journal he published an article about another interdict, ‘Het bisdom Utrecht en het graafschap Holland onder kerkelijken ban in de jaren 1280 tot 1283’, Kerkhistorisch Archief 3 (1862) 321-397. In both articles Delprat looked at the history of the interdict and at cases in medieval Europe.

The city archives of Dordrecht have rich holdings and a long history, charted by P.J. Horsman in his study Abuysen ende desordiën : archiefvorming en archivering in Dordrecht, 1200-1920 [Abuses and disorder: the formation of archives and archiving in Dordrecht, 1200-1920] (PhD thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2009; online). The oldest surviving medieval municipal accounts from the Northern Low Countries stem from Dordrecht. In the inventory by P. van den Brandeler, Inventaris van het archief der gemeente Dordrecht (3 vol., Dordrecht, 1862-1869; online, Hathi Trust Digital Library) the documents about this interdict had been placed in a separate rubric (I, 56-63) with twenty items. Van den Brandeler gave also the old signatures for these documents, most of them kept in the Iron Chest, and he referred when possible to the edition by Delprat. The inventory by J.L. van Dalen, Inventaris van het archief der gemeente Dordrecht (2 vol., Dordrecht 1909-1912) is basically still in use and searchable online in the search system of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, last edited in 2014. The references to Delprat have not been included in the descriptions. The current finding aid gives the documents concerning the interdict in chronological order. Horsman tells specifically Van Dalen added to each item the number given by Van den Brandeler and the old signatures. In my view references to editions are meta-data which enrich a finding aid. On closer inspection these references have been assembled by Van Dalen in the regestenlijst in the second volume of his inventory. These regesten give one-line summaries of the juridical content of documents in chronological order.

Photo of J.L. van Dalen at website Regionaal Archief Dordrecht

Jan Leendert van Dalen (1864-1936) is the man sitting at his desk on the website of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht. He wrote twice at some length about the interdict on Dordrecht. In his book on the history of the Grote Kerk [De Groote Kerk (Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerk) te Dordrecht (Dordrecht 1927; online, Delpher] he discussed the affair (pp. 30-34) and he gave the text of the four letters by Henric Prijs [ 275-5 to 8, pp. 171-174], followed by summaries of the pieces not published by Delprat. Perhaps this explained his somewhat fatigued tone in the second volume of his history of Dordrecht a few years later [Geschiedenis van Dordrecht (2 vol., Dordrecht 1931-1933; vol. I, vol. II, Delpher]. Van Dalen devoted just one paragraph (II, 687) to the interdict in a distinctly tired tone, as if alread all that could be said had been written. Perhaps he was thinking about the study by G.D.J. Schotel, Een keizerlijk, stadhouderlijk en koninklijk bezoek in de O.L. Vrouwe-Kerk te Dordrecht (Amsterdam 1859; reprint Schiedam 1987; online, The Memory of the Netherlands) where you can find editions of five documents (pp. 94-98). Four of them had just been published by Delprat. In the fifth document Schotel succeeded in missing twice a crucial word, and his indications of gaps are wilful. Before I saw his edition I had already transcribed this document, the letter of count William, and you will find it in an appendix to this post.

It is ironical to see how Van de Wall not only edited the bull, but gave its exact signature in the IJzeren Kast (Q.5), how Delprat omitted it in his edition, and how Van Dalen put his references into regesten, as a kind of end notes. At that time it was a long standing tradition for Dutch archivists to create such short summaries which focused on the legal actions documented in archival records. If you think this is too much irony, you should ponder the sentence in the accompanying essay on the website of the archive at Dordrecht stating the papal bull should have been returned to the diocesan archive of Cambrai, because this bishop was ordered by pope Innocent VI to lift the interdict. The information has been condensed from the volume of essays about the archives of Dordrecht, Van ijzeren kast tot hamam. Topstukken uit het archief van Dordrecht, Jan Alleblas et alii (eds.) (Zwolle-Dordrecht 2011), with on pp. 23-24 the papal document, and on pp. 10-11 an article about the Iron Chest.

Papal records

Whatever you think about the chequered history of these records in Dordrecht, you will have to consider also I could at the moment of writing not visit a library to consult a number of important resources. I had no access to a copy of the Suppliques d’Innocent VI (1352-1362), U. Berlière (ed.) (Rome 1911; Analecta Vaticano-Belgica, V) nor to the Lettres d’Innocent VI (1352-1362), G. Despy (ed.) (Brussels, etc., 1953; Analecta Vaticano-Belgica, XVII, 1) or Innocent VI (1352 – 1362). Lettres secrètes et curiales, publiées d’aprés les registres des Archives Vaticanes, Pierre Gasnault, M.H. Laurent, Nicole Gotteri (eds.) (5 vol., Paris 1958-2006). Through the services of the bibliographic database of the Regesta Imperii you can quickly consult online the entry for Innocent VI by Pierre Gasnault for the Dizionario Biografico Treccani (2004).

Thus finding online resources was not just a question for the resources of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, a regional archive because it holds also archival collections of other cities and villages around Dordrecht, but also for finding access to more general sources and editions, in particular for papal documents. I could not access the database Ut per litteras apostolicas which covers the editions of medieval papal registers, nor did I have access to CD-ROM’s with images of these registers. An article by Yves Renouard, ‘Les minutes d’Innocent VI au Vatican’, Archivi d’Italia e rassegna internazionale degli archivi 2 (1935) 12-26 – online, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Rome – taught me an object lesson how difficult it is to approach the papal registers from the period in Avignon. Even having them in front of you does not make things a straightforward task, because acts of Innocent VI have been mixed with those of other popes.

You can find digitized images of Van Dalen’s regesten within collection 131, Archiefdienst van de gemeente Dordrecht, 1851, the archival collection of the archival service at Dordrecht. In my view they would become more useful when added as an appendix to finding aid 1 for the early municipal records until 1572. I created a concordance between the works of Van den Brandeler, the old signatures in the IJzeren Kast, Delprat’s edition, Van Dalen’s inventory and his regesten. Among the digitized resources which I could use is the Bullarium Trajectense for papal charters until 1378 concerning the medieval diocese Utrecht, edited by Gisbert Brom (2 vol., The Hague 1891-1896; online, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, vol. I and II). Brom, Bullarium, no. 1548, gives a summary of the charter of January 6, 1356 ( 274-21) registered in Reg. Av. t. 12, fol. 534. The bull of 1355 is summarized in Brom, Bullarium, no. 1533 (p. II, 71), present in Reg. Av. t. 11, fol. 496v.

It would have been wonderful to use also the riches of the Repertorium Germanicum, but this resource starts only for the period from 1378 onwards. However, with some luck I could use an edition of supplications to the pope from the diocese of Utrecht in the fourteenth century. The edition of Supplieken gericht aan de pausen Clemens VI, Innocentius VI en Urbanus V, 1342-1366, R.R. Post (ed.) (‘s-Gravenhage 1937) has not yet been digitized, but it appeared also in the journal Archief voor de geschiedenis van het Aartsbisdom Utrecht 60 (1936) and 61 (1937), accessible at the Trajecta Portal for Belgian and Dutch ecclesiastical history.

Some supplications give you reason to think they did came into existence with a particular background, or they contain precious information about some persons. Wigger Gerards was a parish priest in Dordrecht, but also a chaplain of count William V [Post, no. 19 = Brom I, no. 1058 and Berlière I, 302, 1343 February 10]. Nicolaas de Stuyc from Dordrecht, a canon of the cathedral chapter in Utrecht acted in 1355 as a messenger for the clergy of the diocese Utrecht at the papal curia [Post, no. 14, 1342 Oct. 16 = Berlière I, no 251, and Post no. 458, 1355 Nov. 9 = Berlière II, no. 724]. He had been a councillor of countess Johanna of Brabant who was married to William IV of Holland [1349 March 26, Post, no. 213 = Berlière I, no. 1537]. Peter van Leeuwenberch was a baccalareus in canonibus and dean of St. Mary’s chapter, Utrecht [Brom, II, no. 1465, 1353 Feb. 6]. Chancellor Gerard de Veno comes into view in the supplications, too. Post noted he obtained numerous canonries during his career, starting in 1347 with a canonry of the cathedral chapter in Utrecht [Post, no. 153, 1347 July 3]. Johannes de Zelandia is first mentioned as a legum doctor and iudex curie vestre temporalis civitatis Avinionensis [Post, no. 502, 1358 April 6], and slightly later also as a vestri sacri palatii advocatus [Post, no. 506, 1358 May 22]. In a later request he used also the title advocatus fiscalis [Post, no. 523, 1359 Jan. 26]. In this request he tried to obtain a canonry at the St. Peter’s chapter in Utrecht for his brother Wisso, a cleric in Zierikzee, a town in the province Zeeland.

Not only priests did ask favors from the popes. On December 10, 1353, Margaret, duchess of Hainaut, received papal permission to have masses read in locis interdictis and the same day she gets also permission to enter cloisters with six women, to be able to have mass celebrated before sunrise, and to use a portable altar [Post no. 413 = Berlière II, no. 371; Brom, II, nos. 1494-1497]. The duchess clearly reckoned it would be wise to be prepared encountering interdicts anywhere. William V and his wife Maud of Lancaster, and John of Blois, too, requested only much later such a similar permisson [Post, nos. 473-474, 1357 April 30].

Some older source editions and studies relevant for the papacy at Avignon have been digitized, too. Among them are works such as Die päpstlichen Kollektorien in Deutschland während des XIV. Jahrhunderts, Johann Peter Kirsch (ed.) (Paderborn 1894; online, Internet Archive) and Claude Faure, Étude sur l’administration et l’histoire du Comtat Venaissin du XIIIe au XVe siècle (1229-1417) (Paris-Avignon 1909; online, Gallica). Most instructive is also a formulary with models for supplications created by a papal procurator from Hamburg working at Avignon, Das Formelbuch des Heinrich Bucglant. An die päpstliche Kurie in Avignon gerichtete Suppliken aus der ersten Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts (…), Jakob Schwalm (ed.) (Hamburg 1910; online, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Hamburg). As for late medieval accounts, you might want to look at digitized accounts from four French regions and the papacy at Avignon in the project Ressources comptables en Dauphiné, Provence, Savoie et Venaissin (XIIIe-XVe siècle) with for example seven registers Introitus et Exitus of the Camera Apostolica between 1334 and 1342 held at the Archivo Apostolico Vaticano. I mention some of these resource on purpose, becaus they figure also in a most interesting article which provides crucial clues in the next section. The relevant chapters and the select bibliography in the History of courts and procedure in medieval canon law, Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington (eds.) (Washington, DC, 2016) are of course the first place to look for more resources.

Back of document 274-2

The note on the verso of the mandate issued by the city Dordrecht, May 27, 1355 – RA Dordrecht, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, 274-2 (enlarged and contrast enhanced)

In view of the large number of documents concerning this case edited by Delprat it seems only natural to supply here transcriptions of those documents that have not yet been published. I decided to edit the papal bull of 1355, after all the very document which prompted my investigations, and three other documents, the letter of count Willem, the short legal consultation and the charter of the bishop of Utrecht that ended in the interdict in 1358. I hesitated to edit also the rather long letter with the mandate for the agents of the city Dordrecht ( 274-2), but perhaps I had better leave something to do for others, too! For those wanting to start I placed here an enlarged and sharpend image of the notes made in Avignon on the verso of the mandate as an invitation to look at the documents yourself.

Focusing on Johannes de Zelandia

One person in the Dordrecht documents, magister Johannes de Zelandia, stands out for his functions and legal degree. While contemplating his faits et gestes I could luckily use a scanned version at the website of the MGH in Munich of an article by Knut Schulz, ‘Bemerkungen zu zwei deutschen Juristen im Umfeld des päpstlichen Hofes in Avignon im 14. Jahrhundert. Johannes Henrici (von Seeland) und Wilhelm Horborch’, in: Formen internationaler Beziehungen in der Frühen Neuzeit. Frankreich und das Alte Reich im europäischen Staatensystem. Festschrift für Klaus Malettke zum 65. Geburtstag, Sven Externbrink and Jörg Ulbert (eds.) (Berlin 2001) 159-178. The complaints by Henric Prijs about Johannes’ need for money have some ground indeed. Johannes not only reached high offices, but later on possessed several houses in Cologne. Schulz thought there was no biographical notice about Johannes, but in fact there is a very short notice “Henrici (Johannes)” by J. van Kuyk in the Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek III (Leiden 1914; online, Huygens Institute for Dutch History) col. 579. The article of L.Ph.C. van den Bergh, ‘Aanteekeningen over de geschiedenis der advocatuur in Holland’, Nieuwe Bijdragen voor Regtsgeleerdheid en Wetgeving 5 (1855) 486-505, is from 1855, not 1885 as wrongly indicated by Van Kuyk [online, Hathi Trust]. Van den Bergh mentioned Johannes just once (p. 489), and I will come back to this reference.

Schulz doubts rightly whether Johannes was an auditor sacri palatii. Post records one request presenting him as a vestri sacri palatii advocatus [Post, no 506, 1358 May 22]. In one of the documents in Dordrecht Johannes calls himself in Romana curia advocatus [ 274-21, 1355 May]. Schulz shows him foremost as one of the procuratores at the curia for the city Hamburg, in particular for an interdict case richly documented in the edition of sources by Richard Salomon und Jürgen Reetz (eds.), Rat und Domkapitel von Hamburg um die Mitte des 14. Jahrhunderts (3 vol., Hamburg 1968-1975). You can read the accounts of the Hamburg agents with payments to Johannes online in the edition of Th. Schrader, Die Rechnungsbücher der hamburgischen Gesandten in Avignon 1338 bis 1355 (Leipzig 1907; online, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg). In a safeconduct issued in 1359 Johannes is mentioned as a legum doctor and causarum fiscalium patronus [Brom, Bullarium II, no. 1624, 1359 June 20]. With three other lawyers he contributed a legal consultation on a conflict between the clerics and the city of Speyer in 1373, and here, too, he is a sacri pallacii apostolici advocatus. I could trace not only the manuscript Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 277 Helmst., fol. 211r-213v, but you can even look online at his consultation in another manuscript, Frankfurt am Main, Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek, Ms. Praed. 88, fol. 34r-36v. Schulz noted Johannes became in 1357 with four other magistri at the curia an advocatus for the dean and chapter of Trier. Among them was a Richardus de Anglia who earlier on had acted also for Dordrecht. The image of the papal curia as a busy beehive where people circled around the pope and cardinals for their favor and money comes readily to your mind. The multiple tasks and charges, and the money coming with them, give his note “Vester totus”, yours truly or literally “completely of you”, in his letter of May 5, 1356 to the city of Dordrecht a hollow ring [ 274-21].

Schulz’s main scoop was the rediscovery of an article by Léon-Honoré Labande, ‘Liquidation de la succession d’un magistrat pontifical du XIVe siècle, l’Allemand Jean Heinrich (1375-1376)’, Annales d’Avignon et du Comtat Venaissin 1 (1912) 177-199 [online, fascicule 2 and fascicule 3, Gallica]. Labande edited the last will of Johannes de Zelandia; unfortunately only half its text has been preserved. A charter published in the Oorkondenboek van Groningen en Drenthe, P.J. Blok et alii (eds.) (2 vol., Groningen 1896-1899), searchable at Cartago, mentioned Johannes with the nickname dicto Lalaman, which definitively sounds as a phonetic rendition of the word l’allemand. No. 458 (1358 May 14) contains a verdict in a case heard by Petrus Majoristhe auditor sacri palatii we already met, concerning Gerardus de Veno, yet another figure in the documents at Dordrecht, who had to surrender his income from a prebend in Groningen. The first witness to this charter is our Johannes de Zelandia, in Romana curia advocatus. In his will Johannes donated his manuscript of the Lectura Codicis by Cino da Pistoia to another lawyer, Pons de Lagnes (Lecturam Chini super Codice, Labande, p. 185).

Johannes de Zelandia was also twice a temporal judge for the city Avignon. In an article by Louis Duval-Arnould, ‘Les registres de la Cour temporelle d’Avignon à la Bibliothèque Vaticane (Vat. lat. 14761-14781)‘, Mélanges de l’école française de Rome 92 (1980) 289-324, he is signalled as Johannes Henrici Alamanni in 1359 and 1375, the last year of his life. The manuscript Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 14774 (description), documents his activity in 1375. In the same issue of this journal Jacques Chiffoleau, too, mentioned Jean de Zélande in a paragraph on the wide variety in background and the difficulties to retrace people at Avignon [‘La violence au quotidien. Avignon au XIVe siècle d’après les registres de la Cour temporelle’, MEFR 92-2 (1980) 325-371, at 330].

Foto van Janskerkhof 18, Utrecht - foto: D.C. Goosen, Het Utrechts Archief, 2011

The former claustral house Janskerkhof 18 – image: Het Utrechts Archief, 819349, photo by Dick Goosen, 2011

Much to my surprise Samuel Muller Fzn., the famous archivist at Utrecht, wrote a century ago about a claustral house of the St. John’s chapter in Utrecht sold to meester Jan van Zeeland in 1364 [S. Muller Fzn., Over claustraliteit: bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van den grondeigendom in de middeleeuwsche steden (Amsterdam 1890; Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde, vol. 19; online, Internet Archive) 137; Utrecht, Het Utrechts Archief, toegang 222, Kapittel van St. Jan, 135-4, 1364 Aug. 31]. Muller supposed Johannes was a lay person. Thanks to the study about the jurisdiction on immovable property in the medieval city Utrecht by Martin de Bruijn, Husinghe ende hofstede. Een institutioneel-geografische studie van de rechtspraak over onroerend goed in de stad Utrecht in de middeleeuwen (Utrecht 1994) 194, we can even identify this house at the present Janskerkhof square no. 18, located somewhat backwards.

It would not help to bring together here all possible bits of information about Johannes de Zelandia, but some of them make you think again about this most interesting figure. Labande shows for example he was married to Amantia. If you think he was only active in Avignon in these years, the safeconduct I mentioned points in another direction. You will be less surprised by a charter from 1356 showing Johannes Heynrici de Zelandia at the abbey of Egmond, an institution under the protection of the counts of Holland [Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief, toegang 356, Abdij van Egmond, 127 (1356 Dec. 17)]. This charter was copied into a cartulary ( 3, fol. 67v), a thing noted only in a regest (no. 367). It has not been included in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, because the description is only given in a regest. It is the very document Van den Bergh noticed in 1855 in the Egmond cartulary. Johannes acted as the procurator of this abbey, too. Brom recorded him paying in 1357 for abbot Hugo the yearly sum to the papacy [Brom, Bullarium II, p. XXXVIII, also in G. Brom (ed.), Archivalia in Italië belangrijk voor de geschiedenis van Nederland I.1 (The Hague 1908); online, Huygens Instituut for Dutch History) p. 389, no. 1092].

Robert Fruin, the founding father of Dutch historiography in the nineteenth century, mentioned him appearing in an account of the counts of Holland in 1356 [R. Fruin, Verspreide geschriften I, P.J. Blok, S. Muller Fzn. and P.L. Muller (eds.) (The Hague 1900; online, Internet Archive) 137]: Item gegeven Meester Philips van Leyden voor sinen cost, die hi dede tutrecht met Meester Jan van Zeeland om den zoene te verclaren . . . , “given to master Philips of Leyden for his costs when was at Utrecht with master Jan of Zeeland to explain the reconciliation” [The Hague, Nationaal Archief, toegang 3.01.01, Graven van Holland, registers 221, EL 22, fol. 64, and 223, EL 27, fol. 100]. Philips of Leyden (1326/27-1382) is famous for his treatise on the care for the common good and the power of princes, De cura reipublicae et sorte principantis, first published in 1516. I searched in vain for any reference to the interdict for Dordrecht in his work. The reconciliation is surely the one between count Willem V and the bishop of Utrecht. Anyway, it shows Johannes again in action within the diocese of Utrecht. In 1357 Philips was sent to Avignon as an ambassador for count Willem.

Apart from a lack of access to archival records and printed editions, I had to find out things without the help of the most important scholarly literature. Two fairly recent volumes concerning the papacy in Avignon are accessible in open access, Offices et papauté (XIVe-XVIIe siècle) (Rome 2005; online, Open Edition) and Offices, écrits et papauté (XIIIe-XVIIe siècle) (Rome 2007; online, Open Edition), both edited by Armand Jamme et Olivier Poncet, provide very interesting articles and also a number of lists of functionaries for a good deal exactly at Avignon during the fourteenth century.

As for Dutch sources I acutely felt the need to look at accounts of the counts of Holland. The editions by H.G. Hamaker, De rekeningen der grafelijkheid van Holland onder het Henegeouwsche huis (3 vol., Utrecht 1875-1878) cover mainly the first half of the fourteenth century. The sequel edited by H.J. Smit, De rekeningen der graven en gravinnen uit het Henegouwsche huis (3 vol., Utrecht 1924-1939) is not available online. I could check one relevant volume of other accounts, De rekeningen van de grafelijkheid van Holland uit de Beierse periode, I, De hofrekeningen en de dijkgraafsrekeningen van de Grote Waard, I: 1358-1361, D.E.H. de Boer and J.W. Marsilje (eds.) (The Hague 1997; online, Huygens Institute for Dutch History). It would expand this post too much to give here a survey of relevant digitized sources at the portal of the Huygens Institute. I looked rather closely at some of them, but to no avail. However, you can benefit form the digitized guide by M.J. van Gent and M.-Ch. Le Bailly, Gids voor de landsheerlijke archieven van Gelre, Holland, Zeeland en het Sticht. Bestuurlijke, economische en sociale geschiedenis vóór 1500 (The Hague 2003).

Local history and European history

The Dordrecht city archivist Van Dalen was decidedly a man doing local history. Despite its great length my post has indeed the purpose of showing wider connections which come together at a particular place in a particular period. While researching this post I was also reading the Wereldgeschiedenis van Nederland, edited by Lex Heerma van Voss and others for the Huygens Institute for Dutch History (Amsterdam 2018). The aim of this book to show world history inside the history of one country holds a strong appeal for anyone who likes to transcend the borders of your usual territory. I am woefully aware that my foray into papal history has been hampered by not having access to a number of vital printed editions and modern works about the papal curia in Avignon, and I could not investigate other persons and subjects sufficiently. I would dearly want to check relevant registers and accounts of the counts of Holland at the Dutch national archives (Nationaal Archief, toegang 3.01.01, Graven van Holland) and similar sources for the bishops of Utrecht held at Het Utrechts Archief (toegang 218-1, Bisschoppen van Utrecht), even if the period 1340 to 1380 is only partially covered in the latter.

A significant catch in this post is insight in the way regests can both be helpful and most irritating. Putting information about document both in descriptions and in regests goes against the principle of a single point of definition. When the regests are not clearly and actually connected to the documents they describe, and in the case of a digital finding aid, literally and preferably linked directly and correctly to each other, you can miss crucial information. When you check for example for the abbey of Egmond the charters of this abbey held at the Noord-Hollands Archief Haarlem in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland you will find 811 charters in this database, but the regestenlijst added to finding aid 356 contains some 1,550 summaries. If this random example is only one occurrence of a serious problem, this database needs serious tuning and updating. In some cases rather old regesten currently get a new lease of life, even as additions to refurbished and reorganized inventories, but this cannot be done properly by just copying and pasting. The problem with these old summaries is not their focus on legal matters, but the way they can form a second information layer which should be consistently connected to finding aids and the items within them. The example of the regesten in Dordrecht surviving as part of another collection is rather extreme.

Originally I had planned a rather concise post with just some notes on an interesting papal bull, but the documents around it contain much more than had surfaced until now. The paragraph on Johannes de Zelandia became almost an independent post, but I decided to put it right in the centre of this contribution. Johannes was not just a proctor for one particular case. He put his mouth where the money was, in Trier and Hamburg among other places, and he did have other important functions as well. His possessions included houses in the Provence, in Cologne and Utrecht. The variant versions and spellings of his name and his nickname make him difficult to trace. Nearly forty years ago Wybe Jappe Alberts wrote an article ‘Tussen Keulen en Parijs. Overpeinzingen bij vijftig jaren bisdomgeschiedenis’, Jaarboek Oud-Utrecht 1981, pp. 26-34 [online, Utrecht University Repository], where he looked at the importance for Utrecht of the archbishops of Cologne in the first half of the fourteenth century. Between Cologne and Paris runs the road to Avignon and Rome. This post shows some rather curved parts of that road, and some of the wider views you might encounter. It is definitely possible to view a local interdict in a much wider context.

A postscript

I would like to point here to the bibliography on medieval ecclesiastical punishments at the blog FULMEN: Excommunication et autres censures spirituelles de l’Anqituité à nos jours.

As a fruit of ongoing digitization of manuscripts in the digital Vatican Library the register (latarium) Vat. lat. 14774 has now been digitized, too. From f. 35v onwards in this register Johannes Henrici Alamani acted for a brief period as a temporal judge in Avignon.

Searching digitized Dutch archival collections

The archives and records are accissibleThe crisis around the COVID-19 virus has stopped normal life in many countries. Many people work at home using digital connections to their office. Public institutions are closed, including archives, libraries and museums. Websites offering easy access to cultural heritage resources and other platforms for their virtual presence with digitized resources and open data have become quite important for everyone who wants to know about the holdings of archives, libraries and museums, let alone for scholars wanting to do research about subjects connected with resources in these institutions. For them having access to online finding aids and catalogues is one thing, being able to investigate sources using indexes, transcriptions and digitized images is a second much valued matter.

Some institutions are rightly famous for their clear presentation of digitized resources, others present some highlights, others have digitized materials, but these are not always easily found. In this post I report from my own experience in March 2020 in finding and accessing their resources. Of course I will focus here on resources for legal history. I could have reported a bit earlier but for the pleasant reason at least one Dutch archive seduced me to start researching some very interesting documents. However, in this case is perhaps better to report from work in progress, and to help first people wanting to start doing research with materials from Dutch archival institutions. The other post will follow soon.

Visible and hidden treasures

When creating a website or digital platform one can design it mainly with a view to the own institution or much more with current and new visitors in mind. I have seen many websites with two menus, one at the top aiming more at the expected public and the other with often practical things such as office hours and background information. In view of their rich holdings many archives face the challenge not to focus too much on famous collections, but to offer also a general introduction.

In this post I will scarcely mention the guides and help offered for genealogical research. Registers for baptism, marriage and burials and the modern civic registration have almost everywhere been indexed and even digitized. Searching for persons is often made easier by using the personen view which enables you to search for persons in several archival collections with one search action. Dutch archives often have a beeldbank (image gallery) for digitized drawings, prints and photographs. Building plans, a particular kind of drawings, can not always been shown at websites due to copyright reasons. Archives increasingly put a special button or link on their homepage with an explanation how to get access to building plans. Historic newspapers (kranten) are often displayed on a separate website. The archival systems and the choice of software play a role here, too, in deciding where to place specific materials. In January 2019 I wrote a post about the launch of the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, a portal presenting medieval and later charters in Dutch holdings, a project which literally was built using the system of the firm behind the Archieven portal.

There are several ways to put digitized archival records online. In some cases there is a dedicated platform for particular resources, or they are presented at a subdomain. Other options are a partnership with other local or regional institutions for cultural heritage with its own platform or international cooperation with other archives. In a fairly large number of cases digitized items are connected directly with the online finding aids of Dutch archives. Depending on the system an icon appears either at the collection level or at the series or item level signalling their presence. Digital library catalogues often offer the choice to search only for digitized items. It is amazing to see Dutch archives only rarely offer a similar search facility.

At this point it is maybe wise to point to my own experience of the past week. A showcase at the website of an archive made me curious about a particular document which was presented without a reference. Even though the image suggested it might indeed been digitized, I had to start with a general search action, not with entering a special digital entrance. The point is that in some cases you will find out about things, however difficult the way to find something you might want to call a hidden gem. However, when offering finding aids archivists most certainly give access to their collections. “Hidden” can be a relative matter, not pointing to obvious ways and entrances is something else.

Logo Dutch Digital Heritage Network

In 2019 Dutch archives themselves were called upon by the foundation Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland (Digital Heritage Netherlands, DEN) to contribute to visible, usable and sustainable digital heritage, and to participate in the efforts of the Dutch Digital Heritage Network, available in Dutch and English. For many years DEN presented the projectendatabank, a database for Dutch digitization projects on its website, but this did not return after a redesign of the website. In the section for visible digital heritage the envisaged users are divided into three kinds, the general public, education and professional users. Alas the English section is somewhat reticent about this matter. After a preparatory report on the situation in 2017 (Nulmeting digitaal erfgoed) reports have been made about behavorial profiles of users, the availability and usability of resources for education, and a report on customer travels (Klantreizen Digitaal Erfgoed, 2019). None of these reports is available in English. It seems a report about the specific wishes of professional users has not yet appeared. Eight profiles have been defined for potential users, ranging from people searching entertainment and gaming to persons wanting to search or experience. The ninth user, the visitor who goes to an institution in person, is not forgotten. Better visibility of highlights and treasures is a clear wish, but not the one most often expressed. The report on customer travels tells about the ways users find information and their comments on the experience to reach their goals. it is sobering to read the comment it was not encouraging having to search yourself when you finally arrived at the website of an archive or museum.

Surely archives are aware their holdings are not immediately visible and tangible as the objects in a museum and the books in a library, but on the other hand they hold the keys to surprises and research adventures. Items in an archival collection are part of a context which is every bit as important as the items. I must confess my shame when I saw the derelict website of an earlier combined effort of Dutch archives to present themselves at Ons DNA | De Nederlandse Archieven (Our DNA: The Dutch Archives), its ugliness crowned by a notice “© 2020”. Its initiative for a yearly prize for the most interesting archival item of the year, the Stuk van het jaar competition, stopped after four editions. The project for the yearly History Month supported this initiative, yet another platform that certainly can help to bring archives into view.

Against these negative results stands the appreciation of the biographical-genealogical tv series Verborgen Verleden, the Dutch version of Who do you think you are?, and the tv series Historisch Bewijs of the Rijksmuseum about historical objects put to the test. Forensic research and archival research are combined in this series that amounts to a kind of historical crime scene investigation, but it does shed light on some famous objects and periods in Dutch history. The episodes about the sword used to behead Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the question of determing which is the real book chest among three chests used by Hugo Grotius to escape in 1621 from castle Loevestein even have a legal history twist. It is not clear whether activities surrounding the commemoration of 75 years liberation can continue, but here Dutch archives certainly contributed successfully to the Second World War portal Netwerk Oorlogsbronnen. Its bilingual offspring Oorloglevens [War lives] just won a prestigious GLAMi Award.

However important the efforts led by DEN for a common approach and a national infrastructure for access to digitized cultural heritage in the Netherlands, these efforts will not led to immediate changes in the visibility of digitized archival records. In March 2020 DEN called for the creation of a national digital collection Coronavirus in Nederland, and many archival institutions quickly responded with initiatives which will eventually will be assembled in a central digital collection. The focus of Dutch Digital Heritage Network seems to be on access at thematic portals, portals for specific sectors and provincial heritage portals, as indicated in the recent report Organisatie van het aggregatielandschap (PDF). I looked at the portals Brabants Erfgoed and Collectie Gelderland where you will find from archives mainly their image collections.

Mapping digitized archives

Logo ICA

The heading of this paragraph would have been a fine title for this post, but it only came into view when I saw the new interactive map of digitized archives created by the International Council for Archives. The announcement by ICA (@ICArchiv) of the map and the invitation to join in this action comes with an online form to add your institution and fill in details about finding aids, digital collection(s) or a crowdsourcing project you would like to highlight. I cannot blame you for going immediately to the interactive map launched on April 1, 2020. This is serious indeed and not a joke for April Fools’ Day.

As announced my overview of digital collections in Dutch archives does not mention image galleries, projects for newspapers and digitized records for genealogical resources. Such digital collections luckily already exist for a couple of years, and publishing digitized finding aids is common practice. My overview aims at the levels following these services which have proved to be very helpful for many people, be they ordinary citizens, history aficionados or scholars.

Some archives use the trick to create a subset within their archival collections for those which have been digitized. Thus the Zeeuws Archief (Zeeland Archives) in Middelburg present fifteen digitized collections. You can view this website also in English. I had expected to find very quickly, within a few steps, the digitized archival collections of the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, but they were not immediately visible. I distinctly remember some years ago you could reach them quicker.

Clear overviews of digitized resources can be found for a number of regional archives, for example the Regionaal Archief Tilburg, with both images and transcriptions for charters on a subdomain, at the Streekarchief Langstraat Heusden Altena in Heusden, and at the Regionaal Archief Zuid-Utrecht in Wijk bij Duurstede with a special collection for digitized transcriptions and indexes. The Waterlands Archief in Purmerend has a section for digitized highlights. At the Historisch Centrum Overijssel (Zwolle and Deventer) you can find digitized microfiches and microfilms, including those for some of the medieval manuscripts in the Collectie Emmanuelshuizen.

Logo Koloniën van Weldadigheid

A number of archives works with separate platforms. In the three northern provinces Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe the regional archives have set up platforms with both digitized genealogical records and other resources. At Alle Friezen you can find by clicking on the tab Bron (Resource) for instance records of the nedergerechten, lower tribunals, and also notarial records and registers of other tribunals. For Groningen Alle Groningers offers in the field of justice and order access to acts of lower tribunals and inheritance taxation documents. The Drents Archief in Assen offers for the province of Drenthe not just resources at Alle Drenten, but also a nifty subset with records of Alle Kolonisten, the “colonists” of several nineteenth-century colonies for the poor with the collective name Koloniën van Weldadigheid. You can use indexes, browse images of original registers and also read letters. By the way, these three provinces all have a special website for its archival network, the Groninger Archiefnet, the Fries Archiefnet (interface Dutch. Frisian and English) and the Drents Archiefnet which offer searchable overviews of online finding aids and also thematic overviews. A good example in this category is also the municipal archive of Bois-le-Duc, Erfgoed ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which put notarial acts, a number of other collections and especially the famous scabinal registers of the Bosch Protocol on a dedicated platform.

Other archives offer good access to a number of digital collections. The Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum (BHIC) in Den Bosch offers access to criminal sentences between 1811 and 1930, and to the resources concerning the juges de paix (1811-1838). The central search page of the BHIC for archival collections contains rich digitized resoures for legal historians, in particular concerning the court of the Raad van Brabant (1586-1811), and also access to notarial acts, seals and permissions for having weapons. However, it is not immediately clear you will find here digitized materials. Only after starting searching in these collections icons indicate this. You might expect icons, too, in the Archievenoverzicht, the overview of archival collections. Perhaps the firm of this archival system used by many Dutch archive can quickly come with a simple additional icon within the archival overview. The West-Brabants Archief, Bergen op Zoom, indicates with icons in its browsing view for archival records the presence of scans; by clicking on Bron you can filter for particular document genres.

For the province Utrecht Het Utrechts Archief has several almost completely or partially digitized collections. At least one partially digitized collection, toegang 1128, Verzameling fotokopieën en transcripties [Collection photocopies and transcriptions] contains a number of digitized transcriptions of medieval and sixteenth-century records, mainly for the city Utrecht, but some also for the States of Utrecht. It seems inside knowledge is necessary to realize that the medieval materials of the Domkapittel, the cathedral chapter (toegang 216-1), and also the medieval records of the city Utrecht (1122 to 1577, toegang 701) have been digitized quite recently. A biblical proverb says your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing, but this does not hold true for the subject of digitization. Not just now, in a period of social isolation and virtual contacts, but generally such information should be communicated swiftly. It is a most natural thing to do, moreover because it has been financed ultimately by tax payers.

Let’s end here with an example from Limburg. The Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg in Maastricht has both a digitized collection on its own website, for notarial acts, and a collection on an external platform, the Early Modern visitation registers of the diocese Roermond held at the diocesan archive.

And now…

It would not bring very much here if I added here also information about the provinces Overijssel, Flevoland, Gelderland, Noord-Holland en Zuid-Holland. You might think I mentioned all regional archives in Brabant or Utrecht, but in fact I am not even close to presenting them all. I want to make one exception. When I saw the webpage with an overview of transcriptions at the Regionaal Archief Alkmaar I knew this would at some point return here in a post, because a substantial number of these transcriptions deal with legal records. It seems most practical to create a PDF with my current overview. Of course there are oversights and omissions, but this is natural for work in progress, to be updated as soon as possible.

A few months ago I read with great interest the study of Huub Sanders, Het virus der betrokkenheid. Het Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis 1935-1989 (Amsterdam 2019; online, OAPEN / AUP). Sanders tells us not only about the vital role of some of the early foreign staff members of the IISH in acquiring important collections. In general some staff members gained superb knowledge of materials, but they could be very reluctant to share information. It took a lengthy reorganization to foster the communication of such tacit knowledge (Michael Polanyi). Many people will simply know the Stadsarchief Amsterdam is most famous for its scanning on demand of archival records. The set of indexes with digitized images is justly famous, and the crowdsourcing project for Alle Amsterdamse Akten is one of the largest of its kind (access after free registration). However, the recently redesigned central website of this rich archive still lacks an English version, but when searching the finding aids you can tick a field for only results with scans. On the other hand, the page of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam about the approach and practice of digitization is very interesting.

Dutch archives have successfully digitized finding aids, genealogical records, images, newspapers and charters, and they offer quick and clear access to them. A number of other collections has been partially or entirely digitized, too. These efforts of archivists deserve our thankfullness and appreciation. The segment with these other collections should become more visible, either on the websites of archives or on a portal. The data about Dutch archives at the Archiefwiki can help in creating an interactive map or adding to the ICA map. In my view the most used archival system in the Netherlands allows for the quick creation of a subset of largely digitized collections, following the example of the Digitale Charterbank Nederland where you can filter directly for charters with or without images. I mentioned also the subset Alle kolonisten of Alle Drenten. Knowing this already exists makes its implementation elsewhere in the systems of the same provider more urgent.

It is up to archives to place the link to their subset at the startpage of their websites or at any spot they deem logical. Digitizing materials is one of the things archives now regularly do. I cannot see any good reason to hide this anymore. Excuses about communication strategies, difficult access to the layout of a website or the way to change the display and filters of the finding aids should no longer stop anyone doing this. One of the oldest firms for computer technology used the slogan “The difficult we do right away; the impossible takes a little longer”. Archives are now closed, but every bit as much open as normal, and archivists are busy helping the public. The hashtag #closedbutopen has a special dimension for any archival institutions with digitized collections.

Digitized Dutch archives – Indexes, transcriptions and images – March 2020 (PDF)

An addition

In my post I did not mention two most valuable projects helping you to find transcriptions and indexes. An important guide to indexes and transcriptions of archival records held by Dutch archives is offered at Digitale Bronbewerkingen Nederland en België, available online since 1997. The English version is no longer updated, but it still exists. In a number of cases digitized materials are noted as well. The same team has created more platforms. For legal historians Regelgeving in de Nederlanden offers an overview of transcribed resources ranging from ordinances to versions of the Dutch constitution since 1798.

As for actions concerning Dutch digital heritage, there is not just a manifesto issued in 2018 about the visibility and durability of collections, but even an interactive map where you can check which institutions signed their adherence to it. KVANBRAIN, since two years the platform of the Dutch Society of Archivists and the BRAIN initiative for archives, shows on its website a quality handbook, Kwaliteitshandboek voor de Nederlandse archieven, developed by BRAIN in 2013, with in particular on pages 19 and 20 statements about the visibility of digitized records and the duty to mention what has not been digitized. A kind of seven-year itch is not strange…

An update

The Dutch Nationaal Archief did not figure in this post because there were no clear indications on its website about digitized archival collections or parts of them. However, since September 2020 a new version of the NA website offers a clear choice to search for digitized materials, with even a filter for different file types. There is a list indicating which collections contain digitized materials (PDF), also as a .csv file. The announcement on this important changes is only available in Dutch. The Nationaal Archief is also the regional archive for the province Zuid-Holland

In Maastricht the Regionaal Historisch Centrum Limburg has created an overview of digitized archival records in an Excel file. The only quibble with it is the absence of admittedly sometimes very long names of the archival fonds, only the number of the finding aid is given. The digital collections of Tresoar in Leeuwarden for Frisia are currently offline. Luckily the Alle Friezen platform works normally.

Charters, cartularies and rolls

Startscreen ANR Rotulus

However fragmentary the transmission of medieval sources may be, the sheer number of charters and cartularies is still impressive. Some cartularies saving the text of charters were not made in the usual codex form of manuscripts, but as rolls. This phenomenon is the subject of the French research project ANR Rotulus at the Université de Lorraine and the accompanying blog, also called Rotulus. Looking at material evidence can help you to avoid looking at sources only as texts. In this post I will look at this project, and no doubt there are also examples of such roll cartularies or cartulary rolls outside France. One of the reasons to look at this subject now is an upcoming scholarly event in April.

A different form

The project ANR Rotulus that will run from 2019 to 2021 is an initiative of the Centre de Recherche Universitaire Lorrain d’Histoire (CRULH), based in Nancy and Metz. The project was prompted by the presence of some sixty cartularies in roll format (“cartulaires-rouleaux”) in the French database for cartularies CartulR – Répertoire des cartulaires médievaux et modernes at the Telma platform of the Institut de Recherche d’Histoire des Textes (Paris and Orleans). It was possible to add another sixty cartulary rolls to those already identified. The team of ANR Rotulus has created a very well organized bibliography on the use of rolls in medieval society. Eight years ago I wrote a post about the best known medieval use of rolls, for accounting purposes. In a post about heraldry and legal history I mentioned a number of heraldic rolls.

Logo Rotulus blog

At the Rotulus blog you can find announcement of scholarly events concerning medieval rolls. On April 3 and 4, 2020 a workshop will be held at Yale University on the theme “L’édition numérique et les manuscrits en rouleaux médiévaux” [The digital edition and manuscripts in roll form]. The workshop will deal with subjects such as the palaeography and cataloging of medieval rolls, and with the transcriptions of manuscripts and critical editions. There will be an introduction into best practices in digital editing, and the use of XML and TEI will come into view. The workshop will be hosted by the group of scholars united around the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the project Digital Rolls and Fragments. At the heart of this workshop will be a devotional roll written in Latin and Middle English, dated between circa 1435 and 1450 (Takamiya MS 56, digital version). Of course you can find more (digitized) rolls and scrolls at the Beinecke. You will forgive me mentioning here English Paleography and Manuscript Culture, 1500–1800 by Kathryn James, curator of Early Modern books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke Library, just published by Yale University Press. The website of ANR Rotulus mentions a meeting later this year on the theme Fonctions des cartulaires-rouleaux : approches sociales et contextuelles d’un genre documentaire [Functions of cartulary rolls: social and contextual approaches to a documentary genre], to be held at Metz on November 5-6, 2020.

A recent contribution at the Rotulus blog focuses on a cartulaire-rouleau held at the Bibliothèque Municipale of Angers from the abbey of Notre-Dame du Ronceray. This twelfth-century cartulary consists of six rolls, each of them measuring nearly six meters by 29 centimeters and containing six to eight parchment sheets (MS 844, 845, 846, 847, 848 and 848b). The library at Angers posted a somewhat longer and illustrated version of this post on its own blog. This roll cartulary is duly mentioned in the CartulR database (no. 1383), the material units have each its own description on the level called Exemplaire-tradition where it becomes clear it has the form of a roll (rouleau). The database CartulR has a useful glossary showing among other things the variety of cartularies.

On November 14 and 15, 2019 a conference was held at Angers about the diversity of cartulary rollis. Both the material side of these documents as also their place within diplomatics, the historical auxiliary science for studying charters and related resources, came into view. Among the subjects to discuss was the need for creating a special database with a repertory of cartulary rolls. The second day of this event, held at the Archives départementales de Maine-et-Loire in Angers, ended with a presentation of some roll cartularies in the holdings of this regional archive.

The team of ANR Rotulus very sensibly looks at all forms of medieval rolls in order to understand their uses and development. Why did cartulary rolls come into existence? What role could they have? Who did benefit from this particular form? Is it an exclusively ecclesiastical or monastic format? Half of the cartulary rolls repertoried untll now stems from priories. Rolls from Cistercian monks and from nuns form a distinct minority. Approaches to uses of literacy and gender history, too, will have to be invoked to interpret and understand such facts. Of course I checked CartulR for the presence of cartulary rolls. One example among the 65 results is currently held outside France. The Rijksarchief in Bruges has a roll cartulary for the collegiate chapter of Saint Sauveur in Harelbeke (CartulR, no. 5213). The team of ANR Rotulus has not yet added to CartulR the sixty cartulary rolls which they spotted.

Beyond France

Startscreen Materiale Textkulturen

It is only logical to look beyond France for the existence and role of cartulary rolls. CartulR does contain information about some Spanish and Italian cartuiaries, but for these countries no cartulary rolls are mentioned. Recently Stefan G. HolzJörg Peltzer and Maree Shirota edited the volume The Roll in England and France in the late Middle Ages (2019; available in open access), a publication included in the bibliography of ANR Rotulus. This volume is part of a book series published for the Sonderforschungsbereich at the university of Heidelberg concerning Materiale Textkulturen. At the blog of this project you can read a post about this volume (Materiale Textkulturen, Band 28) which is a product of the subproject Rollen im Dienst des Königs [Rolls in the king’s service].

Among cartulary rolls outside France those of Margam Abbey held at the National Library of Wales are easily spotted. The Discovery portal of the National Archives in Kew brings you quickly to at least seven examples in various English archives, but not at the National Archives themselves. I was a bit troubled by the fact the Gaunt Roll held at the East Sussex Record Office (GLY 1139) did not show up at first at Discovery in a simple search for cartulary roll. In the Répertoire des cartulaires d’institutions religieuses médiévales sises dans l’espace wallon actuel (Pratiques médiévales de l’écrit, Université de Namur) you can find in its 2017 overview three examples kept in Tournai. It is tempting to add more examples to this post, but I am confident the interest of some of my readers will be kindled enough to find out more about this remarkable resource type.

An addition

At Archivalia Klaus Graf noted I could have mentioned examples of cartulary rolls from Germany. You could indeed start searching at Archivportal-D with terms such as KopialbuchKopiar and Rotul or Rotulus. Searching with the terms Urkunden and Rotul* brings substantial results.

The situation around COVID-19 led to the posponement of the meeting in November 2020. The new date and program is announced by ANR Rotulus in Metz, March 25-26, 2021: Fonctions des cartulaires-rouleaux : approches sociales et contextuelles d’un genre documentaire.

You might want to look at rolls and other forms of reading in roll form in other periods and settings. The online book of Jack Hacknell, Continuous Page: Scrolls and Scrolling from Papyrus to Hypertext (The Courtauld Institute of Art, 2020) contains twelve chapters on very different subjects connected with continuous reading.

Ten years of blogging

The former court of justice at UtrechtTen years ago I started this blog. Five years ago I wrote the post ‘Legal history with a Dutch view’ about my blogging experience, and much of it still holds true today. The experience of sharing ideas, pointing to interesting projects and websites, the way people comment on my posts, and of course my own perspectives continue to strengthen this blog. In this post I will also look at my work since 2016.

The last five years attention to digital initiatives has become one of the most prominent features of my blog. Some readers may have thought I spent too much time surfing the web! I can assure you I do look at old documents, too. This month I have finished working on the project started at Het Utrechts Archief by the late Kees van Kalveen (1938-2018) for a new and very detailed finding aid for the holdings of castle Hardenbroek. On December 19, 2019 the finding aid will be presented at the beautiful building in the inner city of Utrecht, the premises of the former Benedictine St. Paul’s Abbey, for centuries also home to the provincial tribunal of Utrecht. Last year the Procesgids Hof van Utrecht was published, a guide to the procedure of this court.

Huis Hardenbroek, Driebergen-Rijsenburg

In 2016 I started to assist Kees van Kalveen in his massive task to create a structure for the dispersed collections of castle Hardenbroek which had arrived at Het Utrechts Archief and the collections donated by members of the Van Hardenbroek family. This house and family archive is truly a conglomerate of archival collections. Van Kalveen decided to describe whenever possible important registers in much detail. He created extensive specifications for a number of heraldic armorials. The sheer number of letters was daunting. A more general approach had to prevail to describe and organize them. An example is a bundle with fifty letters by Christian Trotz, the first Dutch professor of natural law [Het Utrechts Archief, finding aid (toegang) 1010, Huis Hardenbroek, 689]. These letters formed essential materials for the PhD thesis of C. Korbeld, Over de vryheit van gevoelen en spreken den rechtsgeleerden eigen. Leven en werk van Christiaan Hendrik Trotz (1703-1773) (Nijmegen 2013).

During the project most of these collections could be consulted by all those interested, because for some parts inventories existed. A year ago my count of the total number of items stopped at at least 6300 items, but I did note also my thought it might be 6900 items, in the end a correct assumption. Next week we will add an online version of the new finding aid for castle Hardenbroek to the website of Het Utrechts Archief. Its presentation coincides with the farewell to Kaj van Vliet, for almost two decades chief-archivist and also the main collaborator on this project.

However, in my posts since 2014 the digital turn surely influences the choice of subjects and my approach to them. It is a change and a challenge to face squarely, because the ways we see legal history and the ways we deal with questions and problems have changed. The visibility, accessibility and durable existence of digital projects are matters of real concern. This autumn I added a page about digital humanities to my legal history portal Rechtshistorie, after launching it in August in a German version at my Glossae blog concerning a fragment of a twelfth-century manuscript with preaccursian glosses to Justinian’s Digest.

Another familiar figure at this blog, the walking historian, has indeed walked less often these years. Biking tours have not been frequent either. In some posts I did look at archival records from castle Hardenbroek, thus offering you a preview of for example a seventeenth-century decree of the Holy Office and the bill for the trials and administration of the actions against the Dutch statesman Johan van Oldebarnevelt and his closest supporters. Hardenbroek figured also in my post on manors, towers and castles in Utrecht. A post about the houses where members of the Van Hardenbroek family lived became a part of my series of seasonal posts around the Janskerkhof square in Utrecht, yet another traditional feature.

Legal iconography is another subject dear to me, but I have written less often about it in the last five years than before 2014. I suppose such developments follow patterns in time. I am sure I will return to legal iconography. One of the clearest aims at my blog since its start in 2009, concisely called “spanning centuries, cultures and continents”, remains a spur to look beyond geographical and cultural borders. Another aim, looking at themes such as injustice, violence and inequality in history and the way law dealt with them or was a part of the problem, should stay visible here, too. Hopefully you, my dear readers, will stay with me!

Seals as signs and objects of medieval legal history

Earlier this year I looked here at the portal Medieval Digital Resources, and even though I did not mention them, I looked there for the presence of particular telling objects. When I discussed here in January a new project concerning charters in Dutch archives one of the questions about this database is the visibility of and attention to seals. Lately I noticed there is a substantial number of recent projects around medieval seals. Two recent publications help to view seals in a larger setting than your might suppose at first sight. Seals represent also legal power, and the images on seals should have a niche in the field of legal iconography.

Seals make connections

Seal of the Roman King William, 1252 - Utrecht, HUA, Stadsbestuur 1122-1577, no. 47

Seal of the Roman king William at a charter for the city Utrecht, 1252 June 18 (OSU III, no. 1261; OHZ II, no. 931; MGH Dipl., Heinrich von Raspe und Wilhelm von Holland, no. 281) – Utrecht, Het Utrechts Archief, collection 701, Stadsbestuur van Utrecht 1122-1577, 47

Searching for a fitting image for this post I decided to put here an image of a seal fixed to a charter held at Utrecht by Het Utrechts Archief. The seal shown shows the figure of count William II of Holland, the only Dutch Roman king (1248-1256). A quick search in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland brings you at first to some twenty charters issued by William, only nine of them with images. In a few cases his seal has been disfigured by the way it was fixed to the charter. William’s charters figure in the oorkondenboeken for the diocese Utrecht and the county Holland, the critical editions of charters for these regions, and they have been edited by Dieter Hägermann, Jaap Kruisheer and Alfred Gawlik, Die Urkunden Heinrich Raspes und Wilhelm von Holland 1246-1256 (MGH Diplomata, Die Urkunden der deutsche Könige und Kaiser, 18; 2 vol., Hannover 1989-2006).

Let’s turn to the two new books. The book edited by Laura Whatley, A companion to seals in the Middle Ages (Leiden 2019) is actually a volume of essays on several themes around and with seals. Its price can seem formidable. In the same series Reading Medieval Sources appeared in 2019 a volume on Money and coinage in the Middle Ages, Rory Naismith (ed.) (Leiden: Brill, 2019) which can be viewed online in open access.

The second book to mention here is the volume Seals – Making and Marking Connections across the Medieval World, Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, (Leeds: ARC Humanities Press, 2019), available in hardprint and as an e-book. This book, too, comes at a very substantial prize. However, you can download the introduction.

Logo Sigillvm network

Instead of speculating about the policies behind the prizes of these works it is perhaps wiser to start with a tour of websites devoted to medieval seals. The presence of the international network SIGILLVM is a natural point of departure. This website provides basic information about research before and after 1800. In fact there is a concise PDF by Brigitte Bedos-Rezak on research perspectives. There is a section about collections of seals in archives and museums and also a section for seals created by individual persons.

The Sigillvm network does not provide a section with web links. The number of blogs about seals is a surprise. I might as well start with projects and websites in France. At the ARCHIM portal, the showcase of the French national archives, is a section with seals from Burgundy. The Bibliothèque nationale de France has created the blog Trésors de cire [Treasures in wax] where you can find among others things bibliographies about the conservation and restauration of medieval seals. In the Sigilla database you can find digital images of seals in French collections. The database can be searched for themes such as seals of for example Cistercians, the corporations of Bruges and the bishops of Paris, and for major collections, including those with seal impressions and casts of seals. SigiAl is a blog dealing with seals in the Alsace and Upper Rhine regions, territories with a place both in French and German history.

In Germany you might start with having a look at the Siegelblog with the subtitel Sphragistik als historische Hilfswissenschaft, sigilography as a historica auxiliairy science. The blog Verkörperung kommunaler Identität [Embodiment of communal identity] brings you clearly into the fields of legal history. Seals held at the Stadtarchiv Speyer are the focal point, and in particular the impressions made by fingers on the back of seals. Some seals have another seal on the back, but the beautiful seal of the city Speyer showing the mighty cathedral show also fingerprints. We will follow this track later on. Christian Lohmer has created a digital collection of casts held at the Monumenta Germaniae Historica in Munich, mainly for seals of German kings, emperors and princes. The digital collection links as far as possible for each seal to the work of Otto Posse, Die Siegel der Deutschen Kaiser und Könige (5 vol., Dresden 1909-1913), digitized at Göttingen. The Historische Kommission für Niedersachsen und Bremen has created a database for the Welfensiegel, the seals of the House of Welf, one of the oldest still existing aristocratic families in Europe. The database contains currently some 1,450 seals.

From Austria comes the project Siegel der Bischöfe der Salzburger Metropole [Seals of the bishops under the metropolitan see of Salzburg], a title meaning seals of the bishops within the archdiocese Salzburg and the archbishop himself, too. Thus you will find seals from the dioceses Gurk, Chiemsee, Seckau, Lavant, Innsbruck and Feldkirch, all in all some 750 seals.

Among the projects from the United Kingdom the Imprint Project clearly beckons for attention. This project aims at studying the fingerprints in multiple perspectives. They show not only the process of sealing charters, but also the ritual side of signing. The history of using fingerprints for identification and the development of methods for data capture are addressed by the project team. You can follow its activity also on the aptly named blog First Impressions. Durham University has created both a virtual exhibition about seals of Durham Cathedral and a catalogue for medieval seals with digitized images. While writing this post I looked in disbelief at an empty collection guide to seals at the website of the British Library. Seliau / Seals in medieval Wales is a virtual exhibition of the National Library of Wales, with an accompanying blog, Exploring Medieval Seals. You can download the exhibition catalogue Seals in context. Medieval Wales and the Welsh Marches (PDF). The Berkshire Record Office in Reading has created the virtual exhibition Small Objects of Power introducing you to and showing medieval seals.

Start screen Sigillvm Portugalliae

Let’s end this tour with some projects around the Mediterranean. El Sello Medieval is an already longer existing virtual exhibition about medieval seals, created by the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid. The second website is the home of the project Sigillvm. Corpus dos selos portugueses, a website you can view in Portuguese, English or French. Apart from project information and the database with an inventory of medieval seals in Portugal there is a small digital collection of recent relevant literature and a bibliography, and in particular a generous links selection. The inventory can be accessed only in Portuguese, but you can search with terms (Termos usados). Alas the section for virtual exhibitions is empty.

Of course basic guides to sigillography – sometimes the term sphragistics is used – have been around online now for two decades. The links collection for this theme at the portal Historische Hilfswissenschaften at the Universität München is still useful. You can consult online a PDF of the Vocabulaire internationale de la sigillographie (Rome 1990). Sometimes seal matrices have become objects of art, but more often personal seal matrices have been destroyed when their owners died. The survival of originals seals, the creation of seal casts and the interest to collect these combined with the study of matrices make the study of seals a field with several layers. The web directory of the Portuguese Sigillvm project is a fair attempt to present links for a variety of collections.

The approach of the Imprint project and the project at Speyer which bring fingerprints into view open questions about seals in a new way. Legal historians can note how modern forensic expertise can be applied also to historical materials. Who handled seals and matrices? Is the very act of sealing not just as important as attaching a beautifully looking seal which can indeed make an impression on contemporaries and future generations? It is only natural that disciplines such as semiotics, the study of signs, and cultural anthropology look rather differently at seals than medievalists, art historians and legal historians usually do. Visual culture, politics, government and art come together in seals. If my post looks as part of an object lesson in approaching seals as signs and objects – with not just a front side but also other telltale elements – my brief tour here serves its goal.

A postscript

Travis Baker kindly pointed to the volume Seals and their Context in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2015) with an important article by Paul Brand on seals and the law in medieval England.

Banner DigiSig

For some inexplicable reason I did not include the project DigiSig from St. Louis University in this post, but I had duly bookmarked this project dealing with seals from medieval England. It offers a database for searching seals in a number of British collections, and a search facility for the kind of figures represented on seals with a detailed classification scheme. Both tools are most valuable for sigillographic research.