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Administrative knowledge and material practices in the archive

Binding and rebinding in late medieval and early modern Sicily
Anna Gialdini et Alessandro Silvestri

Résumés

Composante de la réalité étendue et diverse que constituait la Couronne d’Aragon, l’administration sicilienne du XVe siècle connut une période de changements importants pour faciliter le gouvernement à distance. Ce changement inclut non seulement l’établissement d’un nouvel office (le conservator regii patrimonii), mais aussi le développement de nouvelles pratiques de production et d’enregistrement des documents, qui se reflètent dans les structures des reliures d’archives et dans d’autres traits matériels encore visibles de nos jours. Par l’analyse d’éléments matériels comme la mise en page des documents, les systèmes temporaires de fascicules et la structure des volumes reliés, cet article étudie la relation entre texte et paratexte dans la Sicile du bas Moyen Âge et l’intérêt témoigné de façon continue par les autorités pour la forme matérielle du document. L’étude du cas sicilien démontre que ces aspects apparemment simplement matériels jouèrent en fait un rôle crucial dans la domination transméditerranéenne exercée par la Couronne d’Aragon, car ils permettaient aux monarques et à leur personnel bureaucratique de classifier et d’organiser une quantité croissante d’information selon leurs besoins gouvernementaux.

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Notes de l’auteur

We would like to thank Olivier Canteaut, Liesbeth Corens, Filippo de Vivo, Nicholas Pickwoad, Randolph Head, and Caoimhe Whelan for their valuable advice and comments. This research has been funded by the European Research Council under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007‒13), ERC Grant Agreement no. 284338, research project AR.C.H.I.ves ‒ A comparative history of archives in late medieval and early modern Italy (2012-16), and by the Irish Research Council, Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship 2016, Project ID: GOIPD/2016/488. The illustrations are published under the authorization of the Soprintendenza Archivistica per la Sicilia – Archivio di Stato di Palermo, Autorizzazione n.°2/2016.

Texte intégral

Introduction

1The materiality of historical documents is the first and most evident aspect which the researcher encounters when studying them in situ. It is therefore paradoxical that this element has for so long been largely invisible to the eye of the historian, especially as material features are a priceless source of information regarding the processes and practices that underpin the creation of the records therein contained.

  • 1 Farge 2013, p. 66.
  • 2 On the use of material culture, see the case studies presented by De Clercq – Dumolyn – Haemers 20 (...)
  • 3 Considine 2015.
  • 4 Nicol 1994, p. 43.
  • 5 Hobson 1999, p. 4.

2The rich layers of textual meaning are revealed when text is analyzed alongside the material objects which carry them, and which were used to redact and preserve them. Mundane observations such as the texture of a writing support, the cutting of a pen, or the width of margins are aspects of the physicality of the written word that have long been considered part of the captivating “tactile memory in the archive”;1 yet, if understood on both a technical level and in its proper context, such materiality can and should be used to demystify the processes of knowledge, authority, and memory, that have for a long time been perceived as purely abstract.2 Oral and textual channels complemented each other in local and global networks of information; textuality is closely interconnected with materiality.3 In book history, this means there is a connection between economic and social factors and the transmission of texts. In the Middle Ages, for instance, bookmaking activities were contingent upon the availability of parchment, which in turn was seasonal, as it depended upon both the yearly cycles of slaughtering livestock and various religious indications; parchment could be harder to retrieve during Lent, to give one example.4 Similarly, the order and the organization of information, as expressed through record-keeping, both carry important meanings and are intrinsically physical practices. Note-taking, one of the most basic forms of knowledge organization throughout history, often physically took place in the margins of books, yet these were not neutral spaces; rather, their width and appearance contributed to both the message conveyed and the value of the item itself.5 In this article, we seek to demonstrate how the organization of units of documentation, of which binding is one neglected element, reveals how the producers and users of documents understood their interaction with both the texts themselves and the authority that the written word supported.

  • 6 See for example, the recent monograph by Pierre Chastang on the role of writing, including its soc (...)
  • 7 A similar system of knowledge management has been highlighted by Ann M. Blair in her work, with a (...)

3Material practices can pose a specific challenge to historians, as they will not be decoded without an interdisciplinary effort combining an insight into techniques, materials, and practices with the ability to translate those into a bigger picture.6 As this article will show, the analysis of the record-keeping and binding practices of archival material requires just that, but in turn it illuminates the strategies that facilitated the processes of consultation, conservation, interpretation, and retrieval of information in an unprecedented way.7


  • 8 For an overview of the evolution of book history in different schools, see Janssen 2013.
  • 9 Febvre – Martin 1958. On the “material turn” in book history, see the following pivotal works: Eis (...)

4Our approach can be considered the latest development of book history, and namely of its increasing interest for wider social and cultural analyses that consider material aspects as valuable elements for understanding the production and consumption phases of the book trade. Throughout the twentieth century, the English-speaking school of the discipline has been traditionally concerned with so-called “analytical bibliography”, in which material aspects are brought under examination for philological purposes, while French book historians triggered a debate in the 1950s by bringing social processes into focus.8 Starting with Febvre and Martin’s L’apparition du livre, the field has expanded to include the social and economic aspects of the production, distribution, acquisition, and circulation of books, and a new vision inevitably emerged of books as physical and material objects at the center of networks of exchange. Bibliography, philology, paleography, codicology, and art history have since been opened to collaboration in this way.9

  • 10 Foot 2004.
  • 11 Genette 1987. See mainly Foot 1998; Hobson 1975; Hobson 1989; Pickwoad 1995; Pickwoad 2008. See al (...)
  • 12 See the “Language of bindings” Thesaurus, a project led by Nicholas Pickwoad, at the URL www.ligat (...)
  • 13 De Marinis 1960; Quilici 1998; Legature 2002; Dalla bottega 1990.

5Even in this climate, however, the subfield of bookbinding history has struggled to obtain academic recognition. Only in recent decades has the study of the book as an object begun to incorporate binding as a particular consideration.10 In 1987, Gérard Genette’s Seuils, whose writings launched the concept of “paratext” did not include bookbindings; yet around the same time, the work of Mirjam M. Foot, Anthony Hobson, and Nicholas Pickwoad began exploring the methodological challenges and potential of the study of bookbindings, not only by virtue of their decorative language, but also as an important part of the interaction between books, their makers and users.11 The Ligatus Research Centre, in particular, have brought materials and structures into focus and developed tools for typological description.12 This was a significant step forward compared to the rich, but narrowly focused, Italian tradition of studies on fine binding, from which archival bindings and those made using less expensive materials have often been excluded. Research on the history of the book in Southern Italy, by contrast, has focused predominantly on the fine bindings of the Neapolitan aristocracy.13

  • 14 See for instance Scholla 2003; Ceccoli 2000; Clarkson 1982; Vianini Tolomei 1993; Kriche 2010.

6As the history of bookbinding finds its place in historical research, largely unexplored areas of the discipline urgently need attention. One such topic is that of so-called “parchment bindings”, a term encompassing a variety of structures and techniques. As the history of bookbinding up to the late twentieth century effectively equated to the history of binding decoration, parchment-covered books fell through the cracks, and those in archives especially so, except for the work of conservators.14

7Yet paradigm shifts in historical research, and most notably the material and archival turns, have created a favorable conjuncture for the study of bindings as an important facet of administrative history and, more generally, political history.

  • 15 See, for instance, Head 2003 and de Vivo 2010. Bibliography originating from the ‘archival turn’ h (...)
  • 16 See, for example, Head 2016, and bibliography therein cited. Specifically, on buildings, see Ferná (...)
  • 17 Scholarly interest for record-keeping not just as a mere technicality, but as practical and helpfu (...)

8Material considerations are the very lifeblood of the archival turn, which regards practices of organizing and ordering information as not simply a technicality, but rather as an illustration of how governments managed an increasing amount of political and administrative knowledge. This was made possible thanks by the expertise of clerks, archivists and other individuals engaged in the process, and by new practical technologies for retrieving information, such as the indexes and inventories describing the physical order of registers and of archives themselves.15 Moreover, historians have recently become more aware of the importance of the buildings and spaces where the archives were created, or the furniture (trunks, cases, armoires) in which documentation was stored; as well as material aspects of record-keeping, such as the writing supports for documents or their decoration on the page. 16 In this respect, the study of record-keeping is crucial for institutional history as a tool for understanding what types of information the state preserved or discarded, and for what reason.17

  • 18 For some considerations on the future of the field and the “codicologie des documents d’archives”, (...)

9So far, a fully developed codicology of archival documents is still lacking and archival bindings have remain a largely unexplored area, despite the fact that they are a rich and abundant source with exceptional potential, especially as although many of these functional bindings were discarded as soon as they wore down, institutions still preserve them in their thousands.18 The State Archives in Palermo, which reflect the century-long activities of the chanceries of the Kingdom of Sicily, are one such institution, marked as they are by a unique stratification of different practices (both administrative and material) that is strikingly well preserved.

Case Study: Late Medieval and Early Modern Sicily

  • 19 On late medieval Sicily at least D’Alessandro 1963 and Corrao 1991. On the Crown of Aragon and its (...)
  • 20 On late medieval Sicilian economy, see Bresc 1986 and Epstein 1992.
  • 21 On the Aragonese distant government see Lalinde Abadia 1960 and Ryder 1965.
  • 22 Silvestri 2016a. The well-known monograph by Koenigsberger 1969 explored the Spanish rule over Sic (...)
  • 23 On the administration of the Kingdom of Sicily in the fifteenth century, see Silvestri 2018.

10At the beginning of the fifteenth century, after around a century of independence, Sicily became part of the Crown of Aragon, a complex monarchy whose components were scattered across the western Mediterranean, from the Spanish peninsula to Italy.19 The new royal dynasty of the Trastámaras, who had replaced the House of Barcelona, took particular care over their administration of the island, since it was located in a strategic position at the center of the Mediterranean, very close to Italy and only a few kilometers from the Angevin Kingdom of Naples, as well as being a mandatory stop-over for commercial routes to the Eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, Sicily was a highly valuable possession for the Crown, since monarchs controlled a large demesne, including its most important cities and abundant economic resources.20 King Ferdinand I (1412-1416) and his son and successor Alfonso the Magnanimous (1416-1458) therefore promoted the development of a new governmental system which, in anticipation of the Spanish imperial domination which was to follow, allowed them to rule the island from a distance. On the one hand, they introduced the vice-regal system for governing the island in lieu of the absentee monarchs;21 on the other, they took control of Sicilian institutions in order to secure royal oversight of local finances.22 This process resulted in the development of new methods for producing and recording documents, a change which is visible in their new textual and material forms. This was a crucial means through which medieval and early modern authorities in general sought to exercise their power, controlled their subjects, and ruled the territories under their jurisdiction.23

  • 24 Concerning the conservatoria, see Baviera Albanese 1992, esp. p. 102-104 for the transcription of (...)
  • 25 ACA, Real Cancillería, Registros, no. 2430, fol. 76v.
  • 26 It should be noted that the administrative year corresponded to the indictional year. The indictio (...)

11In Sicily this is especially evident in the establishment of the new financial officer known as the conservator generalis regii patrimonii (the general conservator of the royal patrimony; henceforth conservator for the officer and conservatoria for the office). Influenced by the Castilian contadurya mayor de hacienda, this office was in charge of preserving royal income on behalf of the distant king.24 On the one hand, its officers monitored all incomes and rights concerning the sovereign, preparing a budget at the beginning of each year, “per ço que lo dit senyor puxa saber com sta son regne” (“so that the lord king could know about the state of his realm”).25 On the other, they checked the accuracy of all expenses dealing with royal patrimony, namely pensions, salaries, rights, as well as debts and other payments due to their subjects. Finally, in collaboration with the centuries-old financial office of the magna curia rationum (the great court of the accounts), the conservatoria dealt with formal audits at the end of each administrative year (running from 1st September to 31st August).26 This process interested both the treasury and the various offices in charge of collecting public money and making payments. In addition, the conservator, because of his broad range of tasks, also assumed an important political role, since he checked and undersigned the decisions of the viceroys on behalf of the Aragonese kings.

  • 27 Elliot 2002, p. 43-44.

12Despite its weaknesses and economic crises, especially from the late fifteenth century onwards, the Crown of Aragon would make a crucial contribution to the Union with Castile, since it provided not only an invaluable knowledge in administering and ruling over a composite state, as noted by John H. Elliot,27 but also significant experience of managing and storing information. In this respect, the Kingdom of Sicily was the training ground in which the Aragonese experienced the accumulation and use of information as a crucial governmental tool for ruling distant territories from afar.

Forming the archive: record-keeping

  • 28 It should be noted that the term libro was – and is – used indifferently for certain categories of (...)

13In order to carry out the responsibilities of the conservatoria, its officers developed an innovative and complex system of libri [books], which followed a very different administrative-technological logic than the record-keeping system used in Sicily up to that point.28 Such change can be observed, from a material point of view, in several features presented below: the organization of items on pegs; the use of margins; and the making of copies.

  • 29 Silvestri 2016a, p. 364-365.

14From the beginning of the fifteenth century, other local magistracies such as the royal chancery or the prothonotarius office normally produced one register for each administrative year (sometimes more than one by the end of the century), transcribing royal and viceroyal letters in chronological order with no thematic classification. On the other hand, for navigating the registers and finding information, the chancery clerks provided each volume with an index listing all the documents included in the registers, as well as the folios in which the letters were recorded. In the case of the conservatoria, by contrast, its staff produced multiple parallel series of volumes every year, one for each specific field of interest, including fiefs, debts and payments for castles, each covering one administrative year. These were not compiled in chronological order, but instead were organized into different thematic sections, in which the conservatoria’s clerks transcribed the documents under the headings of each beneficiary.29 They therefore followed an administrative logic that deeply differed from the methods traditionally used by Sicilian administration, to the extent that they did not use reference tools such as indexes, or numbered the folios of the books they arranged. As we will see below, those books were not mere devices for recording and preserving the memory of the state, but dynamic tools that adapted themselves and changed according to the bureaucratic and practical needs of authorities.

  • 30 On the rise of the state in late medieval Europe, see Watts 2009.
  • 31 Harriss 2008. Financial planning was in use also in the fifteenth century Duchy of Milan. In this (...)

15This ostensibly bureaucratic innovation in record-keeping was of pivotal importance in carrying out the affairs of the conservatoria, and in particular its tasks in budgeting and monitoring finances. As a result of the growth of the state in the late medieval Europe, authorities had developed a growing interest towards financial systems, as they required increasing revenues for supporting war and maintaining their burgeoning bureaucracies.30 Although a number of governments quickly began implementing structures for controlling public income and expenditure, the preparation of a budget for facilitating the allocation of resources seems to have been less common. One early example, emerging in the fourteenth century, can be seen in the financial planning of the English kingdom, yet these were still exceptional and irregular, usually enacted only in extraordinary circumstances.31 However, in the case of Sicily there developed from the early fifteenth century a standardized, regular budgeting procedure, which was strictly intertwined with a constant monitoring of expenditure in relation to financial planning. So far neglected by historians, this accurate system of financial planning clearly emerges through examination of not just the bureaucratic practices and the record-keeping systems, but also its material aspects.

  • 32 This is a different system compared to the so-called filza, which was used widely across Italy. In (...)

16In essence, the Conservatoria’s clerks developed an innovative structure for their books, as well as a new page layout for facilitating the organization and retrieval of information. Before binding the material to form each book, the conservatoria’s clerks prepared loose gatherings composed of 1-3 sheets of paper each (for a total of 4-12 pages). In the upper-left corner of each leaf, the clerks cut a hole around 2 centimeters in diameter, which they used to stack the gatherings on a peg in order to keep them together.32 The careful distribution of the writing around the holes (fig. 1) shows that this preparation took place before any content was added. So far neglected both by Sicilian historians and diplomatists, apparently mere material aspects such as the holes that marked the conservatoria’s books were instead crucial devices for organizing and ordering information, as well as, more broadly, for analyzing and understanding the administrative practice of a Renaissance bureaucracy.

Fig. 1 – Layout of the text in a document (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 30, fo. 213r, 9 January 1449).

Fig. 1 – Layout of the text in a document (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 30, fo. 213r, 9 January 1449).
  • 33 The Sicilian currency system in Middle Ages worked as follow: 1 onza was equivalent to 30 tarì; 1 (...)
  • 34 ASPa, Conservatoria di registro (henceforth: CR), no. 1013 (unpaginated), 1 September 1431.

17Since one of the main tasks of the conservatoria was to prepare a budget at the beginning of each administrative year, the clerks updated the documents in the books with useful information relating to the financial conditions of Sicily. At this stage, the conservatoria clerks divided each book into different sections. For instance, in the series focusing on the demesne castles known as libri castrorum [the books of castles], which allowed rulers to control the important network of fortresses of Sicily, they marked the folios in the upper-left corners with three different recurring running-heads: provisiones castrorum [payments for castles], reparaciones castrorum [repairs of castles], and fornimenta [supplies]. The clerks subsequently added headings on the folios for each of the castles recorded in the section provisiones castrorum, following a standard order which, starting from the castle of Catania, circumnavigated the entire island and culminated at the castellammare [sea-fortress] of Malta. This provisional section included fixed expenses, such as the payment of the salaries of the officers employed at each castle, and it allowed the conservatoria staff to estimate annual figures for the expenses incurred in maintaining demesne fortresses. They summarized this information under a heading, indicating the salary of the castellanus [castellan] and of the number of servientes [soldiers], which varied according to the size of the castle itself. The castle of Agrigento, for example, employed a castellan entitled to a salary of 18 onze33 and twelve soldiers who received 4 onze and 24 tarì, for a total amount of 75 onze and 18 tarì.34 Separated on the page by a vertical line, this amount was added onto the right margin (fig. 2). This form of record-keeping enabled a comprehensive forecast of maintenance expenses for the demesne castles before the beginning of each administrative year. During the course of the year, the financial office known as magna curia rationum prepared the mandate for payment in favor of the castle, indicating the actual amount to be paid and the office in charge of this payment. Before proceeding with the assignment of salaries, the conservatoria verified the accuracy of the payment mandate, and transcribed it under the pertinent heading.

Fig. 2 – The mandate for payment in favour of the castellan and the soldiers of the castle of Agrigento (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 1013 [unpaginated], 1 September 1431).

Fig. 2 – The mandate for payment in favour of the castellan and the soldiers of the castle of Agrigento (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 1013 [unpaginated], 1 September 1431).
  • 35 See respectively ASPa, CR, no. 1011, fo. 8r-9r, 15 April 1423 and ibid., fol. 13rv, 10 May 1423.
  • 36 Ibid., fol. 20r-21r, 21 January 1423.
  • 37 ASPa, CR, no. 1013 (unpaginated), 16 June 1432 and 6 July 1432.
  • 38 ASPa, CR no. 1013 (unpaginated), 28 October 1435.

18The hallmark of this new information technology management was the flexible structure of the book, which allowed the conservatoria clerks to add new documentation depending on the events that occurred during the year. As suggested before, this procedure was crucial since it allowed for a review of the budget according to unexpected variations and discrepancies in either the allocation of resources or incomes, thus providing the government with a prodigious tool of knowledge regarding its own finances. In practice, the clerks temporarily removed one or more gatherings from the peg and inserted new folios before repositioning the material, thereby maintaining the correct order. This material operation had significant consequences on an administrative level. Thanks to this method of record-keeping, the conservatoria’s clerks could add other documents to the libri whenever it was needed for administrative purposes: for example, by transcribing new appointments (such as that of Iulianus Atherio as chaplain of the Ursino castle of Catania or of Gomes de Quadro as castellan of Mola);35 extensions of rights (such as the salary increase granted to Rainerius de Signorino, castellan of the Matagrifone castle in Messina, together with the right to leave the position to his son);36 legal documents (such as those writings pertaining to the dispute between Carraffello Carazulo alias de Carrafa and Gispert des Far for possession of the office of castellan of Agrigento in 1432).37 The conservatoria clerks also used the margins to make observations and annotate useful information. In the multi-year conservatoria book no. 1013, which includes documents of four different administrative years (1431 to 1435), a marginal annotation explains that, from 1st November 1434, the number of officers in the castle of Agrigento was reduced from 12 to 8, in order to save money for restoring the castle. This decision derived from a vice-regal order, which is transcribed a few pages later.38

  • 39 In this respect, see Silvestri 2016a, p. 368-371.

19Marginal annotations played a particularly crucial role in the series of the libri quictacionum [books of salaries], which included records of the payments made to the officers of Sicily’s central administration. The conservatoria was responsible for monitoring the activity of these officers by verifying whether they had worked and when, or whether they had been absent and why. This information was regularly annotated in the left margin of the folios over the course of the year. All these annotations clearly demonstrate that the conservatoria’s clerks did not simply record documents in the libri, but rather used and re-used them as crucial administrative tools during the year (or years), before binding them into books.39 As such, marginal annotations functioned as signposting, served as a visual aid to finding and managing information, and were an integral part of administrative practices.

  • 40 ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. 66r, 4 September 1443.
  • 41 ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. 43r-44v, 12 June 1444.
  • 42 See, for instance, the inventory concerning the castle of Pantelleria in ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. (...)

20As previously mentioned, the libri castrorum had two more sections in which the conservatoria clerks recorded documents into two specific categories: one for repairs of castles and the other for their military supplies. Each castle was entitled to receive 3 onze every year for ordinary repairs, such as in the case of a payment in favor of the castle of Sutera in 1443.40 These expenses, however, were not always predictable, but varied from year to year according to the needs of each fortress. In 1444, for example, in order to renew the old castrum ad mare of Palermo, the viceroys assigned a large sum of money (18 onze) for its restoration.41 The sums which the viceroys allocated for military supplies also varied in different cases in accordance with the needs of each castle: among the folios of the libri castrorum, inventories can be found listing all of the weapons and munitions stored in each fortress. This information allowed authorities to assess the amount needed in each specific case.42

21The material structure of the book therefore had a significant role in the administration of the office. By adding these expenses to his fixed budget, the conservator could oversee the entire spending for the management of Sicilian demesne castles in a single volume. The monitoring activities of the conservatoria were not limited to this field, but covered all the aspects of royal finances, from pensions and rights granted to Sicilian subjects (libri mercedum) to the payment of salaries to the officers (libri quictacionum), from the debts of the Royal Court (libri debitorum) to money collection (libri commissionum) and commercial business (libri negociorum), and so on. Despite the specificities of each area of interest, the record-keeping system in use was common to all the conservatoria series, enabling the authorities to accumulate and easily retrieve an unprecedented amount of information. Unsurprisingly, this series of books became a key tool of government in a trans-regional state such as the late-medieval Crown of Aragon.

  • 43 ASPa, CR, no. 844, fol. 15r (undated).

22In this sense, the series known as libri computorum [accounts-books] is extremely significant. Whenever the conservator received information about expenses and income, he not only transcribed each document into a specific series of books, but also took note of information in the libri computorum by adding a brief summary of the event. For example, in the 1439-40 book, among the records of Treasury incomes, a clerk of the conservatoria noted in the annotations that the Treasurer had received an amount of 100 onze by Rogerius de Paruta “ut patet in debitis” (“as it is evident [in the book] of debts”).43 These notes, indicating the series in which each document had been transcribed, allowed the conservator to retrieve information easily, monitoring at the same time the activity of the Treasury. In all, the paratextual composition of these volumes was crucial for organizing and managing administrative knowledge, as was their material order, as we will show in the next section.

The material life of records: temporary structures44

  • 44 “Permanent” and “temporary” can be ambiguous terms when referred to bookbindings, as a temporary s (...)
  • 45 On the idea of interaction of documents during their lifetime, see for instance Guglielmotti 2014.

23The engagement of producers and users with these series over their lifetime reflected various different ways in which documents could be physically organized, stored, and preserved.45 During their first three hundred years of its existence, the Conservatoria di Registro series (henceforth CRS) went through various phases – from creation to formal audit, through a decreasing demand to add material to each year's file and yet a resolute will to make the records available for future reference. It is only natural, therefore, that the documents would undergo the most convenient form of binding in accordance with each of these stages in their lifecycle.

24Fortunately, the volumes of this series retain enough traces of their previous structures to allow for a tentative assessment of how they had been bound at specific times. Determining the previous binding structure of a library book can be tricky; even more so with archival volumes, whose bindings are considerably less studied and whose leaves, dissimilar in both format and organization from those of books, have been handled more frequently and are thus much worse for wear today. In addition, there may have been some phases in the material life of the CRS which we are simply unable to reconstruct today, due to lack of extant structural evidence.

  • 46 This is not, of course, a universal truth: blank volumes were sold by stationers in the Middle Age (...)

25The phase in which the documentation was produced constitutes an ‘unbound’ status.46 Stacking documents on a peg ensured that their consecutive order – as well as the physical documents themselves – would not be lost. This system is similar in its functioning to modern-day ring binders.

  • 47 See above, Forming the Archive: Record-Keeping.

26At the end of the administrative year, however, the leaves were ready to be placed in a form that would lend itself to both subsequent additions and reference use.47 The only evidence of this step is in the form of a series of small holes along the spine of the gatherings in their current structures, although these do not preserve any of the thread that once would have run through them. The holes vary in size, position, and direction (sometimes placed on the left side, other times on the right) across single volumes and even gatherings, and are spaced irregularly. These elements indicate a structure which was only intended to support small units of documents. The positioning and inconsistencies in the characteristics of these holes indicate that groups of documents were collected in gatherings, rather than whole volumes, which were kept together by quire tackets.

  • 48 On quire tackets, see Gullick 1996. See also Gumbert 2011.
  • 49 Alternatively, and perhaps more frequently, the loops of thread could be passed through a hole in (...)
  • 50 See for instance Wellcome Institute Library, 4.f.2, a copy of Peter Lombard, Glossa in epistolas P (...)

27The use of quire tackets was a relatively common practice in Europe across the Middle Ages and into the fifteenth century.48 They were a relatively low-cost option, as a needle and thread were the only instruments required, and the process itself was simple enough to carry out without any specific training in the craft of bookbinding. The technique involved pricking a quire at a short distance from the fold, taking the thread through all individual leaves to the opposite end of the quire, and finally tying the thread in a loop (fig. 3).49 This operation could be repeated at several additional stations (quire tackets are often found in sets of two to four) further down the spine with other individual pieces of thread. Quire tackets were frequently employed in manuscripts to keep bifolia from going missing or being misplaced while the scribe was at work copying the text; a particularly helpful practice when the leaves were neither paginated nor foliated. The thread was later typically removed when the bookblock was sewn or stitched together, but on occasion it has survived, and the quire tackets can still be seen in their pristine condition.50

Fig. 3 – Possible quire tackets in the Conservatoria di registro volumes.

Fig. 3 – Possible quire tackets in the Conservatoria di registro volumes.

28Quire tackets seem to have become less and less common with the advent of printing in the mid-fifteenth century, although some examples of printed books with quire tackets do exist. There are virtually no published discussions about the use of quire tackets in archival practices, although its easy application and intuitiveness must have made it a convenient option in many circumstances, as it certainly was in the Sicilian financial offices of the fifteenth century, since all of the volumes surveyed showed evidence of such practice.

29One important distinction between the quire tackets normally employed in medieval books and those featured in the CRS lies in the nature of the gatherings they held together. While library books were most commonly copied on gatherings composed of sheets which had been folded and combined (“folded gatherings”), this is not always true for archival volumes. In the CRS, the aim was to collect previously loose documents, which formed so-called “bookbinder's gatherings” (i.e. gatherings made of whichever organizational structure was available in the unit, especially individual leaves and bifolia).51 With bookbinder's gatherings, the need for quire tackets (or any other type of sewing or stitching) is even greater, as the chances that an element of the gathering will be lost are notably higher. Quire tackets provided a particular benefit for the volumes of the CRS, which were composed of various combinations of individual leaves and bifolia – never foliated, never paginated, and with no index. Preparing the annual budget, and verifying it during the year, was a matter of primary importance, which did not allow for any mistakes. Tackets enabled the clerks to ensure that the internal order of the individual volumes (which, as seen above for the libri castrorum, followed a geographical route around Sicily) remained intact, thus assuring the correct management of bookkeeping and, ultimately, effective information organization for the management of the territory.52

Using the archive: (semi)permanent structures

30As with stacking documents on pegs, quire tackets offered a flexible, yet only temporary accommodation of gatherings. This was ideal during the administrative year, because the groups of documents with quire tackets were easy to open and reorganize, and adapted well to the needs of the clerks, who frequently added marginal annotations onto previously-created documents (e.g. in the left margin of figures 1 and 2).

  • 53 Documentary evidence proves that “old volumes” were stored away in trunks: see de Vivo – Guidi – S (...)
  • 54 See for example ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. 28r (7 March 1444).

31Yet as the documents began to be used less frequently, the need for more semi-permanent solutions arose.53 Late-medieval and early modern governments were faced with the challenging issue of optimizing preservation and access, i.e. allowing for both safe storage and easy retrieval of the data necessary for the functioning of the administrative machine. From a material point of view, this means that the same gatherings which had been assembled via quire tackets were subsequently collated by stitching them together through a process known as ‘primary stitching’, i.e. by running pieces of cord throughout the entire block. This cord occasionally runs through an area of the page which contains writing, thus confirming that any annotations had already been added, and thus the administrative process already completed, at that stage.54

  • 55 Primary and secondary stitching differ in that the former is used to hold a bookblock together – a (...)
  • 56 Language of bindings, s.v. Primary stitching through a cover (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/1518).

32Primary stitching was a widely employed technique, much for the same reason that quire tackets were popular: they are very easy to produce.55 Whilst the resulting structure can be crude, stitched bookblocks are also durable, as is demonstrated by the many volumes of the CRS still held together by their stitching. These structures are quite refined, as they have thick parchment covers (“primary stitching through a cover”),56 which are protected by washers made of tanned and tawed skin around the places in which the cord used for the stitching enters them (fig. 4).

Fig. 4 – Primary stitching as seen from the spine.

Fig. 4 – Primary stitching as seen from the spine.
  • 57 See above, Forming the archive: record-keeping.

33As the primary stitching passes the textblock, endleaves, boards (made of a thick paper board), and parchment covers, all at some distance from the spine, it also prevents the volume from opening completely if the cords are tightly knotted at the end (fig. 5). The cords employed for stitching in the volumes of the CRS, however, were left unknotted, or loosely knotted. This had a double advantage: on the one hand, it allowed some slack to the block when open; on the other, it did not prevent the addition of records or supplementary material.57 Noticeably, this ostensibly material operation was of paramount importance for the conservatoria office – a practical expedient which was necessary for modifying the budget of the realm according to all the modifications in bookkeeping procedure made throughout the year.

Fig. 5 – Primary stitching as seen in the open volume (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 841, fols. 185v-186r).

Fig. 5 – Primary stitching as seen in the open volume (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 841, fols. 185v-186r).
  • 58 Aglets could be found at the ends of laces and on shoes. Decorative, elaborate gold aglets were cr (...)

34If new data had to be added to an old record – that is, if a gathering had to be supplemented – all an archivist needed to do was remove the cord from the block, add the new material (into which he had already cut holes as well), and run the cord through the entirety of the volume again. This procedure also made it possible to read annotations on the margins more easily. Annotations, as suggested above, demonstrate the ongoing use of the conservatoria books across the years, mirroring at the same time the material practices employed in their management, as well as in the organizing and re-organizing of information. To facilitate the easy re-stitching of the book, and to prevent the cord's ends from fraying, metal (copper alloy) caps were added to the strings (see above, fig. 4), most of which are now lost. In both shape and function, these resemble the aglets used in early modern Italy and England to tie clothes and shoes (eventually aglets mostly took on decorative functions in both male and female dress).58

35For further protection, the cords could also be carefully drawn back into the inside of the cover and knotted. Taking this extra step ensured that the cords would not get in the way, or else be damaged by the volumes rubbing against each other when one was removed or put back onto the shelf.

  • 59 The volume has also been restored in more recent times, but parts of previous structures have been (...)
  • 60 On the use of imperial emblems and of the eagle in particular, see Leydi 1999, p. 33-38.

36There is some evidence that this phase was likely a continuous work-in-progress. In the case of several volumes, two different sets of holes created for this purpose are visible, the former closer to the fold of the gatherings, and the one in use safely positioned further away from the spine. The operation was thus carried out twice. The structure of this primary stitching, it has to be noted, would make the replacement of boards and coverings extremely straightforward. Initially, covers would likely have taken the form of simple parchment wrappers, which sometimes survive under subsequent coverings (possibly dating to the eighteenth century). One such wrapper can still be seen at the end of CRS, no. 1075 (1490-91).59 Another is at the beginning of no. 116 (1526-27); as this cover is decorated with the Habsburg coat of arms (fig. 6), it could be suggested that there was an aesthetic reason for its survival.60

Fig. 6 – The early Habsburg coat of arms in a parchment wrapper (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 116).

Fig. 6 – The early Habsburg coat of arms in a parchment wrapper (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 116).
  • 61 Interfoliation is a process by which blank leaves are inserted between (normally) printed leaves t (...)

37As the need to access and increment a specific year's records decreased, the volumes of the CRS took more permanent forms – the ones in which they can still be found today. Some books had only their boards and coverings replaced, as mentioned above, whilst their stitching remained untouched. By contrast, many others received new bindings with different structures. The primary stitching was removed, after which the individual binder's gatherings were sewn together through a technique known as oversewing. Achieved by sewing together groups of loose leaves onto sewing supports, oversewing proves particularly convenient for archival records, although it has also been used in library in cases of interfoliated texts or maps (fig. 7).61 Compared to stitching, oversewing had both advantages and disadvantages: while it does not permit any significant modification of the volume in terms of pages, it does allow the book to open more easily since the thread passes each page at a smaller distance from the spine, and it also reduces the possibility of damaging the leaves when turning them.

Fig. 7 – Oversewing in preparation for secondary stitching.

Fig. 7 – Oversewing in preparation for secondary stitching.
  • 62 Laced-case bindings are defined in the Ligatus Thesaurus as "[b]indings in which a cover in the fo (...)

38In these new, more permanent structures, the gatherings were sewn onto supports made of tanned skin or, more frequently, alum-tawed skin, which were then laced into the new boards and laced-case bindings.62 The sewing supports were left uncut and protected with paper pastedowns (that is, the leaves pasted onto the inner face of boards). Adding or removing a gathering from a volume bound with oversewing and a laced-case binding was not as easy as with quire tackets. We may therefore conclude that such a series was considered closed and in no need of any future modifications.

39Occasionally a gathering is misplaced and compromises the internal order of the volume. This indicates that the meaning of the documents, or the script itself, made little sense to those who bound the volumes of the CRS in this phase, in turn suggesting that they were not archivists, but rather professional bookbinders or stationers to whom the task had been outsourced.

40The involvement of such specialists was required on account of the less intuitive nature of this new structural solution. In fact, we can clearly identify some clumsy imitations of the same structure, perhaps crafted by one of the archivists. For instance, most gatherings (from fo. 30 to the end of the book) of no. 1063 of the CRS are kept together via primary stitching that does not include the first thirty folios, the boards, and the coverings. A piece of cord was used for those elements and knotted at both ends, creating two bulges in the bookblock. In order to attach the first gatherings (fos. 1-30) alongside the boards and coverings, additional stitching (“secondary stitching”) has been inexpertly deployed (fig. 8).63 The result, a specific type of structure known as “joint stitching”, is formed awkwardly in combination with the partial primary stitching at some distance from the spine. Much of the writing on the leaves is obscured by the subsequent opening angle, and the stability of the volume is unquestionably compromised.

Fig. 8 – Attempt at primary and secondary stitching structure (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 1063).

Fig. 8 – Attempt at primary and secondary stitching structure (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 1063).
  • 64 ASPa, Tribunale del real patrimonio (henceforth: TRP), Numerazione provvisoria (henceforth: NP), r (...)
  • 65 ASPa, Real cancelleria (henceforth: RC), no. 223, fol. 298r (18 June 1508); ibid., no. 234, fos. 1 (...)
  • 66 Fava – Bresciano 1911-13, I, p. 166; Pinto 2001, p. 243.
  • 67 Battista De Sano is usually called either a libraro [bookseller] or a cartulario [stationer]. It w (...)
  • 68 ASVe, Consiglio di Dieci, Mandati al Camerlengo, b. 1, fol. 20v, fol. 43v, fol. 59r, fol. 73r, fol (...)
  • 69 See Trombetta 2014, p. 128: “Lo istesso barbiere liga libri, di modo che li giorni, che non tosa e (...)

41It is difficult to assess whether the craftsmen who bound the volumes of the CRS worked exclusively for the office or were hired whenever their services were needed, but a comparative perspective seems to point towards the latter. Recorded payments to external professionals for the binding of administrative material exist for early modern Sicily, Naples, and Venice, in a form that indicates outsourcing. In 1439, Chiccu di la Mantia was paid 8 tarì for creating two registers for the financial office of the magistri racionales.64 In 1508 and 1512, Iannotto Alexandrano, bookseller and binder in Palermo, received three payments for binding both several registers for the ordinary use of the chancery and a “multo bello” (“very beautiful”) book, including an investigation of the Sicilian royal patrimony, for King Ferdinand II of Aragon (1479-1516).65 Throughout the second half of the fifteenth century, Giovanni Vaglies, a Catalan bookseller and binder based in Naples, received several payments for provisions of stationery, but also bound administrative registers.66 In Venice, the Mandati al camerlengo subseries registered twenty-five payments to one Battista de Sano, bookseller, and to his son Domenico,67 for providing writing materials, supports and pre-bound volumes, as well as for binding existing documents over the course of twenty-two years (1522-1543).68 Religious institutions outsourced this service as well. In 1625, in Naples, a barber worked as a bookbinder for the Jesuits “li giorni, che non tosa et il tempo che l’avanza delli giorni assegnati di tosare” (“when he was not busy shaving”) his customers; he even owned binding tools, a fact that indicates that this was a common activity for him.69

42While much remains unknown about techniques, developments, and the individuals involved in the process, the analysis of material practices and documentary evidence both indicate an awareness, on the part of authorities, clerks, and binders, that the solutions to adopt needed to respond to needs that changed with time.

43To the eye of many historians, the current bindings of the CRS are just “parchment bindings”, yet they constitute the final phase of a complex historical process, the steps of which manifest themselves in the stratification of very diverse structures and uses. A number of officers and professional (and non-professional) figures engaged with the material developments of these libri, many of which, such as archivists, stationers and bookbinders, were essential to the preservation and transmission of knowledge but are still little frequently overlooked.

Conclusion

  • 70 On this reform, see Sciuti Russi 1983, p. 69-136.
  • 71 ASPa, Protonotaro del regno, reg. 340, fos. 232r-241r (1 February 1571).
  • 72 See, for example, the 1596-97 book of salaries (ASPa, CR, no. 1716). Interestingly, the individual (...)
  • 73 On government and information management in the Spanish Empire, see Brendecke 2016.

44In 1569, Sicilian rulers promoted an important reform of central institutions, which not only resulted in a complete reorganization of the financial system of the Kingdom, but was also mirrored, two years later, by significant changes in record-keeping and data management.70 For the conservatoria, the principal outcome of this was a series of regulations prescribing in detail the new record-keeping methods.71 The subsequent books of salaries, for instance, consisted simply of documents which the conservatoria staff had transcribed in chronological order. In order to facilitate navigation and information retrieval within these books, they began numbering pages and providing an alphabetical index at the beginning of each volume.72 From the second half of the sixteenth century, the late-medieval record-keeping system – orientated around running heads and headings – was finally abandoned. The administrative needs of the new Spanish rulers had changed, and a new form of information technology was needed for ruling over not just a Mediterranean monarchy, but now a worldwide empire.73


45This overview of archival and material practices demonstrates the close relationship between the record-keeping system and its physical manifestations, of which bindings were an integral part. This, however, was a relationship of mutual influence, to the extent that a full comprehension of the accounting management and budgeting can only be obtained after an analysis of its materiality. Despite the lack of interest within previous research towards cheaper and archival bindings, this study proves that not all “parchment bindings” are alike. The structures surveyed indicate that changes in the level and type of interaction and use of the documents led to different forms of organization and storage over time: whilst some structures allowed for an easier addition of material (such as inserting folios), others better facilitated the retrieval of information.

  • 74 ASPa, TRP, NP, reg. 815, fol. 3v (2 October 1451): “bisognu haviri dui boni risimi di carta per co (...)
  • 75 ASPa, TRP, NP, reg. 67, fol. 6v (31 October 1436) and fol. 83r (14 November 1438).

46The assumption is often made that historical documents were produced at a single, given moment, after which its users only recovered them for occasional consultation. This case study, however, reveals how a documentary series can have a rich material life for centuries after its initial drafting, and the ways in which that activity manifested itself in textual, para-textual, and material additions and modifications. This clearly attests to the continuing interest of authorities in the management of the records from the material point of view, so that their order and intelligibility were not compromised. For instance, we have evidence that new parchment and cord were periodically purchased not only for the preparation of new books, but also for replacing those that were rotting away.74 Moreover, new trunks were commissioned when needed to help preserve the books from humidity and pests.75

47Just as book history developed through the use of archaeological frameworks, the study of records and archival documents can also benefit from this approach. Alongside other new avenues of research, the field is now ripe for a united study of bookbindings and the bindings of archival ‘books’, the difference between which is often merely conceptual rather than physical. Record-keeping methods appear intrinsically intertwined with the physical structures through which materials are organized, and books and registers are crucial for a full understanding of the logic of organizing and classifying information by authorities. Hopefully, this study will be a stimulus for further research on archival binding practices, thus opening up new avenues of historical research, and providing further tools for new comparative studies.


Haut de page

Bibliographie

Archives

ACA = Arxiu de la Corona d'Aragó.

ASPa = Archivio di Stato di Palermo.

ASVe = Archivio di Stato di Venezia.


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Notes

1 Farge 2013, p. 66.

2 On the use of material culture, see the case studies presented by De Clercq – Dumolyn – Haemers 2007 and Ghignoli 2014.

3 Considine 2015.

4 Nicol 1994, p. 43.

5 Hobson 1999, p. 4.

6 See for example, the recent monograph by Pierre Chastang on the role of writing, including its social and material implications, in medieval Montpellier (Chastang 2013).

7 A similar system of knowledge management has been highlighted by Ann M. Blair in her work, with a specific focus on note-taking, page layouts, and the creation of reference works: Blair, 2010. A similar approach also in Wolfe – Stallybrass 2018.

8 For an overview of the evolution of book history in different schools, see Janssen 2013.

9 Febvre – Martin 1958. On the “material turn” in book history, see the following pivotal works: Eisenstein 1979; McKenzie 1986; Darnton 2007; Darnton 1991; Chartier 1996; Chartier 1993; Cavallo – Chartier 1997; McKitterick 2003. Chastang 2008 has instead stressed the connections between materiality and texts for the codex; on the same topic see Codicologie 2014, which focuses on the statutory legislation in the western Mediterranean.

10 Foot 2004.

11 Genette 1987. See mainly Foot 1998; Hobson 1975; Hobson 1989; Pickwoad 1995; Pickwoad 2008. See also Gillespie 2011.

12 See the “Language of bindings” Thesaurus, a project led by Nicholas Pickwoad, at the URL www.ligatus.org.uk/lob (accessed 9 November 2017).

13 De Marinis 1960; Quilici 1998; Legature 2002; Dalla bottega 1990.

14 See for instance Scholla 2003; Ceccoli 2000; Clarkson 1982; Vianini Tolomei 1993; Kriche 2010.

15 See, for instance, Head 2003 and de Vivo 2010. Bibliography originating from the ‘archival turn’ has considerably increased in the last fifteen years. See at least the following collections and special issues: Blouin – Rosenberg 2006; Blair – Milligan 2007; Head 2010. For a recent review on the ‘archival turn’ bibliography, de Vivo – Guidi – Silvestri 2016a, as well as the introduction of Walsham 2016. On bookkeeping expertise, see for example Theis 2006, and the special issue of Mélanges de l’École française de Rome – Moyen Age in which it appeared, as well as the essays collected in Mattéoni 2011. For a broader approach to the study of the tools produced by the chanceries in performing their tasks in the course of their daily work (the so called “écritures grises”, i.e. “grey writings”) see the results of the research project Écritures grises. Les instruments de travail administratifs en Europe méridionale (XIIe-XVIIe siècles), as well as the forthcoming publication: Fossier – Petitjean – Revest [2018].

16 See, for example, Head 2016, and bibliography therein cited. Specifically, on buildings, see Fernández – González 2016 and more broadly: Friedrich 2018, p. 111-138. On the writing supports and their artistic aspects, see respectively Gitelman 2014 and Berenbeim 2015.

17 Scholarly interest for record-keeping not just as a mere technicality, but as practical and helpful governmental tool has been the object of an increasing interest. In addition to the celebrated monograph by Clanchy 2013 (originally published in 1979), which focuses on the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century English realm, scholars researching Italian communes revealed the growing importance of documentation for ruling over increasingly complex societies and larger dominions, to the extent that Jean-Claude Marie used the label “Révolution documentaire” (Marie Vigueur 1995). In this respect, see at least Bartoli Langeli 1985 and Cammarosano 1991; Vallerani 2013. For a focus on Renaissance and Italian territorial states, see instead Varanini 2012 and Lazzarini 2016. Moreover, see the essays included in the following collections: Lazzarini 2008; Castelnuovo – Mattéoni 2011; De Vivo – Guidi – Silvestri 2015; Lazzarini – Miranda – Senatore 2017; Guyotjeannin 2018.

18 For some considerations on the future of the field and the “codicologie des documents d’archives”, see Bertrand 2009.

19 On late medieval Sicily at least D’Alessandro 1963 and Corrao 1991. On the Crown of Aragon and its expansion, see instead Ryder 1990; Abulafia 1997; Sabaté 2017 and bibliography therein cited.

20 On late medieval Sicilian economy, see Bresc 1986 and Epstein 1992.

21 On the Aragonese distant government see Lalinde Abadia 1960 and Ryder 1965.

22 Silvestri 2016a. The well-known monograph by Koenigsberger 1969 explored the Spanish rule over Sicily in the early modern era.

23 On the administration of the Kingdom of Sicily in the fifteenth century, see Silvestri 2018.

24 Concerning the conservatoria, see Baviera Albanese 1992, esp. p. 102-104 for the transcription of the act through which the King established the conservatoria. About this office, see also Silvestri 2016a; about the contadurya, see Ladero Quesada 2009.

25 ACA, Real Cancillería, Registros, no. 2430, fol. 76v.

26 It should be noted that the administrative year corresponded to the indictional year. The indiction was a cycle of fifteen years used in medieval Europe as the main time-keeping system, with local variations in the starting date. In Sicily, for example, the so-called Greek indictional year was used, and each year of the cycle ran from 1st September to 31st August.

27 Elliot 2002, p. 43-44.

28 It should be noted that the term libro was – and is – used indifferently for certain categories of administrative volumes and for library books.

29 Silvestri 2016a, p. 364-365.

30 On the rise of the state in late medieval Europe, see Watts 2009.

31 Harriss 2008. Financial planning was in use also in the fifteenth century Duchy of Milan. In this respect, see Leverotti 1981.

32 This is a different system compared to the so-called filza, which was used widely across Italy. In this system, documents were stacked on top of a peg or a needle, and thus pierced. On this topic, see also Silvestri 2016a, p. 367.

33 The Sicilian currency system in Middle Ages worked as follow: 1 onza was equivalent to 30 tarì; 1 tarì to 20 grani; 1 grano to 6 denari.

34 ASPa, Conservatoria di registro (henceforth: CR), no. 1013 (unpaginated), 1 September 1431.

35 See respectively ASPa, CR, no. 1011, fo. 8r-9r, 15 April 1423 and ibid., fol. 13rv, 10 May 1423.

36 Ibid., fol. 20r-21r, 21 January 1423.

37 ASPa, CR, no. 1013 (unpaginated), 16 June 1432 and 6 July 1432.

38 ASPa, CR no. 1013 (unpaginated), 28 October 1435.

39 In this respect, see Silvestri 2016a, p. 368-371.

40 ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. 66r, 4 September 1443.

41 ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. 43r-44v, 12 June 1444.

42 See, for instance, the inventory concerning the castle of Pantelleria in ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. 90v-91v, 22 May 1444.

43 ASPa, CR, no. 844, fol. 15r (undated).

44 “Permanent” and “temporary” can be ambiguous terms when referred to bookbindings, as a temporary structure is such only to the owner who can afford to have the volume rebound. Some characteristics, however, tend to be displayed in bindings not meant to be definitive.

45 On the idea of interaction of documents during their lifetime, see for instance Guglielmotti 2014.

46 This is not, of course, a universal truth: blank volumes were sold by stationers in the Middle Ages and early modern era for a variety of uses, among which the registration of archival documents. With the Conservatoria di registro, however, the holes and the use of binders' gatherings (for which see below) clearly indicate that this was not the case.

47 See above, Forming the Archive: Record-Keeping.

48 On quire tackets, see Gullick 1996. See also Gumbert 2011.

49 Alternatively, and perhaps more frequently, the loops of thread could be passed through a hole in the fold of the quire in proximity of the head or tail and over the adjacent head or tail edge. Both of these techniques are defined as one-hole quire tackets. Two-hole quire tackets, where the loop of thread goes through two holes at the fold of the gathering, also exist. See Language of bindings, s.v. One-hole quire tackets (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/1696) and Two-hole quire tackets (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/3392).

50 See for instance Wellcome Institute Library, 4.f.2, a copy of Peter Lombard, Glossa in epistolas Pauli, Esslingen: C. Fyner, not after 1473 (ISTC no. ip00475000), with two-hole quire tackets, briefly described in Pickwoad 2014; another example is Křenek 2013, p. 74 and fig. 6. In both cases, the books feature two-hole quire tackets along the fold and employ sewing guards.

51 See Language of bindings, s.v. Folded gatherings (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/3541) and bookbinder's gatherings (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/1209). Bookbinder's gatherings were also used for large-format books, or interleaved volumes. See Pickwoad 2014.

52 In this respect, see for example Lazzarini 2011.

53 Documentary evidence proves that “old volumes” were stored away in trunks: see de Vivo – Guidi – Silvestri 2016b, p. 261-262, no. 28 (b).

54 See for example ASPa, CR, no. 1016, fol. 28r (7 March 1444).

55 Primary and secondary stitching differ in that the former is used to hold a bookblock together – and, in particular cases (as it does here), it passes boards and coverings as well; the latter is used to attach boards and/or covers to a bookblock held together by primary stitching, or (more rarely) to a sewn bookblock. See Language of bindings, s.v. Secondary stitching (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/1564). On primary and secondary stitching, see Todd Knight 2015; Scholla 2003.

56 Language of bindings, s.v. Primary stitching through a cover (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/1518).

57 See above, Forming the archive: record-keeping.

58 Aglets could be found at the ends of laces and on shoes. Decorative, elaborate gold aglets were crafted by goldsmiths; see Tiramani 2010 and Awais-Dean 2017. In Renaissance Italy, decorative aglets were sometimes called tremolanti, with reference to how they reflected light. In this respect, see McCall 2013, p. 465.

59 The volume has also been restored in more recent times, but parts of previous structures have been preserved.

60 On the use of imperial emblems and of the eagle in particular, see Leydi 1999, p. 33-38.

61 Interfoliation is a process by which blank leaves are inserted between (normally) printed leaves to agevolate, and provide space for note-taking. On oversewing, see most recently Pickwoad 1999. Oversewing should not be confused with overcasting: in oversewing, the same thread is used to hold together the artificial gatherings and to attach them to the sewing supports; in overcasting, a first length of thread is used to hold each gathering together (typically resulting in a helicoidal pattern along the spine of the gathering itself, and a second to attach it to the sewing support, similarly to how folded gatherings are usually dealt with. See also Pickwoad 2016.

62 Laced-case bindings are defined in the Ligatus Thesaurus as "[b]indings in which a cover in the form of a case is attached to a sewn or stitched bookblock by lacing the slips of the sewing supports and/or endband cores or the secondary stitching thongs through the joints of the case. The slips are therefore visible on the outside of the cover along the joints, unless hidden by a secondary cover” (see Language of bindings, s.v. Laced-case bindings (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/4103). They can either be limp (i.e. have no boards at all), in which case the bookblock is only protected by the parchment case, or have boards, which are added after the case has been attached to the bookblock. The Conservatoria di registro employed the latter system; the paper boards are kept in place both by the sewing supports passing through them and by the turn-ins of the cases, which have been folded over them.

63 See Language of bindings, s.v. Joint stitching (http://w3id.org/lob/concept/3833).

64 ASPa, Tribunale del real patrimonio (henceforth: TRP), Numerazione provvisoria (henceforth: NP), reg. 67, fol. 102r (7 September 1439): “però ki havimu facto fari dui registri necessarii pro anno presenti in officio magne curie racionum li quali fichi Chiccu di la Mantia et per factura et alibus rebus necessariis pro dictis regestris, su necessari tarì octo” (“We have therefore ordered to prepare two registers, needed for this year by the office of the magna curia racionum, which Chiccu di la Mantia made, and for their production [of the registers] and for other necessary things related to them, an amount of tarì eight is needed”).

65 ASPa, Real cancelleria (henceforth: RC), no. 223, fol. 298r (18 June 1508); ibid., no. 234, fos. 178v-179r (27 February 1512). On this, see Silvestri 2016b.

66 Fava – Bresciano 1911-13, I, p. 166; Pinto 2001, p. 243.

67 Battista De Sano is usually called either a libraro [bookseller] or a cartulario [stationer]. It was not uncommon for individuals to be both involved in both bookselling and binding to expand their revenues.

68 ASVe, Consiglio di Dieci, Mandati al Camerlengo, b. 1, fol. 20v, fol. 43v, fol. 59r, fol. 73r, fol. 99v, fol. 100r, fol. 106v, fol. 111v, fol. 119r, fol. 122r, fol. 124r, fol. 130v, fol. 136r, fol. 140r, fol. 141r, fol. 141v, fol. 152v, fol. 156r, fol. 141v, fol. 163v, fol. 169v, fol. 177v, fol. 182v, fol. 184v, fol. 177v.

69 See Trombetta 2014, p. 128: “Lo istesso barbiere liga libri, di modo che li giorni, che non tosa et il tempo che l’avanza delli giorni assegnati di tosare, lo spende a’ ligar libri, scritti et quel che li sarà ordinato […] A quest’effetto hà diverse tavolette, viti, etc. particolarmente lo martelletto da batter carta, lo tiene lui” (“the barber himself binds books, so that he uses those days in which he does not shave and his spare time in the shaving days for binding books, writings, and all that he is ordered […] For this reason he has a number of small boards, screws, etc., and especially he keeps a little hammer for beating paper”). For later examples, see de Vivo – Guidi – Silvestri 2016b, p. 245-248, no. 18-19, and p. 253-255, no. 22.

70 On this reform, see Sciuti Russi 1983, p. 69-136.

71 ASPa, Protonotaro del regno, reg. 340, fos. 232r-241r (1 February 1571).

72 See, for example, the 1596-97 book of salaries (ASPa, CR, no. 1716). Interestingly, the individual documents maintained holes in their margins until the end of sixteenth century, even after they had lost their function.

73 On government and information management in the Spanish Empire, see Brendecke 2016.

74 ASPa, TRP, NP, reg. 815, fol. 3v (2 October 1451): “bisognu haviri dui boni risimi di carta per componiri et spachari li libra di lu officiu di Conservaturi anni presentis XIIIIe indicionis, tri parchimini grandi et eciam fini ad trenta canni di cordella, tantu per opu di li dicti libri novi, comu per alcuni altri li quali havinu li cordelli frachidi et de facili se veninu ad rumpiri, di la qual cosa consequitiria confusioni” (“it is necessary to have: two good reams of paper for composing and preparing the books of the office of conservaturi for the present indictional year, the fourteenth; three large pieces of parchments; and also at least thirty canni of thin rope, in order to both prepare the new books and for those other [books] whose thin ropes are rotten and can easily break-up, therefore causing confusion”). Note that a canna (canni in Sicilian) corresponded to about 2.06 meters.

75 ASPa, TRP, NP, reg. 67, fol. 6v (31 October 1436) and fol. 83r (14 November 1438).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Layout of the text in a document (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 30, fo. 213r, 9 January 1449).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 4,6M
Titre Fig. 2 – The mandate for payment in favour of the castellan and the soldiers of the castle of Agrigento (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 1013 [unpaginated], 1 September 1431).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,9M
Titre Fig. 3 – Possible quire tackets in the Conservatoria di registro volumes.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 405k
Titre Fig. 4 – Primary stitching as seen from the spine.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 834k
Titre Fig. 5 – Primary stitching as seen in the open volume (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 841, fols. 185v-186r).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,8M
Titre Fig. 6 – The early Habsburg coat of arms in a parchment wrapper (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 116).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,0M
Titre Fig. 7 – Oversewing in preparation for secondary stitching.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Fig. 8 – Attempt at primary and secondary stitching structure (ASPa, Conservatoria di registro, no. 1063).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/docannexe/image/4922/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1019k
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Référence électronique

Anna Gialdini et Alessandro Silvestri, « Administrative knowledge and material practices in the archive », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge [En ligne], 131-1 | 2019, mis en ligne le 26 septembre 2019, consulté le 03 mars 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/4922 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/mefrm.4922

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Auteurs

Anna Gialdini

The Warburg Institute, SAS, University of London, anna.gialdini@gmail.com

Alessandro Silvestri

Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, alessansilvestri@gmail.com

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