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How to read a charter

29 June, 2009

how to read a charter — the quick and dirty way

Nota Bene: this may not be ideal; rather, it represents what my brain starts doing after about 20 of the things…

In Jesus/God’s name Donors!
Blah blah blah reason for donation!
Blah blah blah recipient!
Blah blah blah stuff donated!
Blah blah blah curses on you if you try to take this stuff away from those nice monks!
Blah blah date blah pathetic monk who wrote this down!
Witness list.

ETA: translation? me? Seriously, though — just ran into one where the blah blah reason is ‘ob metum gehennae aeternae et premium vitae aeternae seu pro remedio animae nostrae aut remissione paccatorum nostrorum’ and then a lot more blah blah fear blah blah reward blah. Not exactly the normal formula.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 June, 2009 2:52 pm

    very true. it's the tedious — and interesting — thing about charters that it's the differences that matter…

  2. 29 June, 2009 7:26 pm

    Amen ADM. I share your brain strain, as I guess you know.IONAThanus qui et si humilis academicus qui S+S+S die et anno quod subter

  3. 29 June, 2009 7:50 pm

    aargh! And meanwhile, I haven't booked my transport for Scotland, and it's pricey!

  4. 30 June, 2009 1:25 am

    Ignorant non-medievalist question: I took a little Latin in HS, and if I'm reading that correctly (which is a presumptuous clause, at best) it seems like a sort of early indulgence formula. How bad a reading is that?

  5. 30 June, 2009 10:19 am

    I think only vaguely, in the sense that one does good works in hopes of adding to the treasury of merit. The most common word in my charters is 'elimosinum', or 'alms', which is really where these sorts of donations fall.

  6. 30 June, 2009 10:53 am

    Perhaps this could be the foundation of "Charters for Dummies" (if such a work doesn't already exist).

  7. 30 June, 2009 11:27 am

    This is a great description of how you feel when you read lots of formulaic documents!

  8. 30 June, 2009 10:51 pm

    one does good works in hopes of adding to the treasury of meritIndeed, because 'the warnings of the preaching of the Holy Fathers tells us that alms may save the soul from death', a formula that turns up a lot in my stuff.There should be a Charters for Dummies. What there is is all too technically diplomatic and don't tell you what you can get out of them. Barbara Rosenwein's Neighbor of Saint Peter might be the best demonstration of it, but how accessible it is to outsiders, well, I have my doubts. I was supposed to write an article which was sort of `charters for suspicious people or those who should be' a while ago and never found time for all the reading. At this rate ADM will beat me to it 🙂

  9. 1 July, 2009 10:01 am

    Just because I've actually read all of the Stengel and Classen?Also — I just emailed you yesterday …

  10. 1 July, 2009 12:08 pm

    Well, that does actually make you quite unusual in my charter-geeking acquaintance… and, yes, you should now have a reply.

  11. 9 July, 2009 10:58 pm

    Interesting… but I suppose I enjoy anything with Medieval influence.

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