Monthly Archives: May 2016

End of project, but research continues

On the last day of April 2016 the funding for my current research project came to an end (an Austrian FWF Lise-Meitner international mobility postdoctoral fellowship, project No. M1698-G21 entitled Lombard Law-Books in the Long-Eleventh Century). The project has been a marvelous experience, during which time I’ve discovered lots of new things, answered or refined many of the research questions I began with, and opened up a whole bunch of further questions. One major, and a I hope useful, output of the project has been to produce detailed descriptions of each of the main manuscripts investigated in this project and to make them freely available to the public. At the moment they are in polished draft condition, and final versions should hopefully be uploaded throughout the course of the summer. If you have any comments on them, please do contact me! The portal page can be found here.

In all, I would say that this has been an ideal outcome for a research project. Needless to say, there is still more to be done before and work progresses steadily. The main things on the current agenda are to continue writing the monograph from the project and finalise and submit a couple of articles that are pulling together. I’ll also be presenting some of the research findings at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds this year (am looking forward to seeing you if you’re there too!), and all while laying the foundations for the next research project.

But rather than talking about what comes next, I thought I would take a moment to review the case studies that I proposed at the start of the project, and how they evolved throughout. Originally I envisaged four case-studies in all, some of them more loosely connected than others, but all building on each other. I began by building on the research findings of my preliminary study in which I argued on codicological grounds that one manuscript of the Liber Papiensis, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek MS Cod. 471 had originally been produced as two separate volumes that were then bound together into a single codex. I was also able to demonstrate that it was the scribe of the second volume of the manuscript who reworked both parts into a united book. As one of the fundamental defining features of the Liber Papiensis is its unity, and the Vienna manuscript was first produced some three-quarters of a century after the Liber Papiensis was first redacted, this raised some interesting questions.

The first case study then sought to expand the focus from the Vienna manuscript to investigate the other six surviving manuscripts of the Liber Papiensis, produced between the second quarter of the eleventh century and the first quarter of the twelfth. The research demonstrated that five of the manuscripts in all were most likely or definitely produced originally as two volumes, while only one was conclusively produced as a single manuscript from the outset, Padua, Biblioteca del Seminario Vescoville, MS 528. Interestingly, and I would argue significantly, this was also the last of the manuscripts which was produced. The other manuscript, Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, MS 2751, is now only a fragment of 44 folios from what would have been the first part, which prohibits codicological investigation of how the two parts related. This is, to say the least a little frustrating, not least because as the second youngest of the manuscripts its production date of ca 1100 CE falls into the gap between when the last confirmed manuscript of the Liber Papiensis that was produced in two parts (Florence, Biblioteca Medicia Laurenziana, MS Plut. 89 sup 86, CA 1080-1100) and the Padua manuscript, of ca 1100-1125. Such is life. Regardless of the difficulties, this case-study, the findings of which throw into question all previous assumptions about the Liber Papiensis and the book culture of the Lombardist scholars in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, took a central role in the project, and spawned a follow up research query as to how the scribes and readers envisaged and used the book. In response to this, the focus of the other case-studies shifted to various extents.

The second case study, if I am to be honest, is probably the one which suffered the most from the revision of research objectives in light of the ongoing findings of the project. Originally I proposed a comparative study of the Vienna manuscript and its sister, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, as they were not only near contemporaries from the third quarter of the eleventh century, but also shared two scribes. One of these scribes was identified in an earlier study by the palaeographer Antonio Ciaralli, to be a notary named Iohannis, who was active in the vicinity of Pavia in the 1070s, and who produced a charter witnessing the sale of a vineyard. The case study initially intended to focus then on the book culture at Pavia in the period. However, beyond the charter written by Iohannis there is too little evidence to explicitly tie the two law-books to Pavia. Rather than remaining a narrow study of the book culture of just two of the manuscripts, the scope of the study expanded to include them all, but in a more abstract, north Italian setting. Looking back over the original proposal, and thinking back over the progress of the research this outcome seems to have been inevitable, and to have been hinted at from the outset. The joy of hindsight! Much still remains to be done in this area, although I can already see the threads coalescing as I progress through the first draft of the monograph and work on a couple of articles.

Case-studies three and four were closely related from the outset. Each proposed to study the mise-en-page of a section of the Liber Papiensis, the one examining the laws of Liutprand, the other the capitularies of Charlemagne. In practice, this expanded, to become a structured analysis of the mise-en-page of the entirety of each manuscript. One part of this focused on the peritext, and the way in which additions, glosses and diagrams were connected to the main text, which in turn fed into the second case-study. The second part of this focused on the construction of hierarchy for sub-clauses, and the treatment of prologues for the laws of individual kings and emperors. This latter part of the study allowed developments in the mise-en-page across the manuscripts to provide independent confirmation of the codicological arguments for the Liber Papinesis as being, throughout most of the eleventh century, a book of two volumes.

In all, then, the project has been a success, but also one which has developed organically and reflexively throughout its duration. One such point has been my transition from using the term Liber legis langobardorum to the Liber Papiensis instead. Originally, I rejected the latter term as it was only the name by which the laws were edited under in the 19th century edition published by the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Leges IV). Conversely, a few asides in the scholarship noted that some of the manuscripts were entitled as the Liber legis langobardorum which, as the attested medieval title, made it seem a far more appropriate name to use. However, on examination of the manuscripts, it was revealed that this latter title was only ever used for manuscript witnesses of other versions of the text, for instance in the twelfth-century version of the (so-called?) Lombarda redaction, now held at Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale Brancatina, MS I. B. 12 (note that, in the MGH discussion of manuscripts, this is given the wrong (or previous?) shelf-mark of MS II. B. 28 – Leges IV, p. lxi)

I am still pursuing and refining the implications of a lot of the project’s findings but wish to conclude with one general but important point. The use of the term ‘the long-eleventh century’. This was originally used as a short hand means of fitting the temporal focus of the project (which extended from the late tenth century to the early twelfth century) into a 60-character limit, including spaces. The term, however, received some flak from various quarters, including one of the anonymous reviewers of the project. As the project has progressed however, the inevitable conclusion has been reached that the eleventh century must be considered long. It does not matter that the following twelfth century may also be considered long, and it is certainly not an implication of that that the eleventh century must by needs be short. This period was one in which great changes happened, but changes which evolved from the previous.

Overall, the fact that extending the eleventh century to be a ‘long’ one has received such emotive (and sometimes vitriolic) responses, suggests to me that there is something worthwhile to be considered there. Something which people, perhaps, do not want to face. Significant changes did occur in that time, and they developed through continuous agency form the materials that came before, and rejecting a narrative that can incorporate that is to reject the agency of people in the eleventh century. Likewise, it seems to me little more than an attempt to cling on to the outdated and repeatedly disproven notion that the twelfth century was a time of revolution, in which ideas and approaches sprung from an intellectual vacuum. The book cultures of the eleventh century, along with countless other things, emphasise that enforcing a strict line in the periodization between the early and high middle ages is naïve, disingenuous and ahistorical.