Reading Medieval Latin Charters (Palaeography)
The continuation of the Fall Term’s palaeography course gives an introduction to the deciphering and understanding of medieval Latin manuscripts, mainly legal, administrative and economic documents, through the reading of selected charters from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. The main emphasis will be on developing practical skills: recognizing characteristic forms of script, resolving abbreviations, understanding special local usages of medieval Latin. Beside these, the basic concepts of diplomatics, as well as the social, topographical or political contexts of the given charters will also be discussed. The texts will be made available beforahand and students are expected to prepare for each class by consulting dictionaries and handbooks. The course in the Winter Term puts special emphasis on late medieval scripts which usually get less attention in handbooks and education, but have remained in greated quantities and are largely inedited. Within this spectrum, the individual research interests of the course participants will also be accommodated. Thus students are encouraged to propose for common reading documents which are connected to their MA thesis or PhD dissertation. The precondition of participating in the course is the knowlegde of Latin on at least intermediate level.
The goals of the course
Students will gain famliarity with various types of handwriting (diplomatic hand) from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, including specific forms of abbreviations, interpunction and dating methods. Special attention will be given to elements in the vocabulary of medieval Latin that are different from Classical and literary texts. The contents of the course also include a basic knowledge of diplomatics and familiarity with the historical conditions of the creation and preservation of the documents. Finally, students will get advice how to start and successfully conduct archival research in modern archives.
- Ability to analyze primary source materials: Ability to read hand-written primary source material in the source language (Latin). Assessment: oral feedback during common readings and in-class transcription and translation of a selected document towards the end of the course.
- Ability to use reference works and auxiliary materials (dictionaries, finding aids, chronological handbooks, databases, critical editions of documents).
Introductory source reading: royal document, 14th century. Assessment of reading level of course participants.
Forms of Gothic script; abbreviations and punctuation.
Charter reading: royal document, 15th century.
Reading: Bischoff, Bernhard, “Latin Handwiring in the Middle Ages. Gothic cursive and bastarda” and “abbreviations,” in Latin Palaeography. Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. pp. 138-145, and 150-168.
Materials of Writing: parchment and paper in the Late Middle Ages.
Charter reading: monastic document, 14th century
Royal chanceries as issuers of documents
Charter reading: monastic document, 15th century.
Reading: János M. Bak, “Non-verbal transactions in medieval Hungary and its environs”, in Marco Mostert, Paul S. Barnwell (eds.), Medieval Legal Process. Physical, Spoken and Written Performance in the Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols, 2011, 233-245.
Urban chanceries and archives.
Charter reading: urban document, 15th century.
Reading: Marco Mostert, “Medieval Urban Literacy: Questions and Possibilities” in: Medieval Urban Literacy I, ed. Marco Mostert and Anna Adamska (Turnhout, in preparation)
The concept of authentic documents; means of authentication.
Charter reading: Episcopal document, 14th century.
Recommended reading: T. Kőfalvi, “Places of Authentication” (loca credibilia), Chronica (publ. in Pécs) 2 (2002): pp. 27-38.
The setup and work of tha papal chancery in the late Middle Ages.
Charter reading: Papal document, 15th century.
Recommended reading: Boyle, Leonard E. A survey of the Vatican archives and of its medieval holdings, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2001.
The function and documents of notaries public in the Middle Ages
Charter reading: Notarial document from the 14th or 15th century
Recommended reading: a selected article on notarial signs in Graphische Symbole in mittelalterlichen Urkunden. Beiträge zur diplomatischen Semiotik. Ed. Peter Rück. Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1996.
Humanistic script and the impact of printing.
Charter reading: Last will or private letter, 15th or 16th century
Reading: Bischoff, Bernhard, “Latin Handwriting in the Middle Ages. Humanistic script,” in Latin Palaeography. Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. pp. 145-149.
Principles and practice of charter editing.
Charter reading: Royal charter, 16th century
Recommended reading: Diplomatique medievale. Olivier Guyotjeannin, Jacques Pycke et Benoit-Michel Tock, eds. Turnhout: Brepols, 1993. pp. 402-413.
Final test (transcription and interpretation of a charter)
Visit to the Budapest City Archives of the Budapest University Library, inspection of original documents
Regular attendance (at least ten classes out of twelve) and preparation is required. Photocopies/digital images of charters to be discussed in class will be made available in advance. Students are required to read and try to transcribe and interpret the texts before the class. Preparations form an integral part of the assessment, in questionable cases the notes will be checked (20%). Since the course puts a strong emphasis on practical skills, presence and activity in classes is essential (30 %). The course ends with an examination when students are required to transcribe and interpret (translate or summarize in English) a charter in the classroom (50 %).
September 15, 2014
September 12, 2014
July 31, 2014
09/24/2014 - 18:00Eszter Spät
10/24/2014 - 09:30
11/04/2014 - 17:30
11/10/2014 - 09:00
11/24/2014 - 10:00