How the hell…
…did anyone ever decide there were rules of charter construction? Given the eschatacols (eschatacoloi?) that I’ve been dealing with, one of several things seem to be happening:
People trying to follow formulae and rule-books but not getting the underlying principles
People deliberately being vague
People assuming that everybody knows who the people involved are, so you can stick their names any old where
People making shit up
Or some combination thereof.
I swear, if I had money, I’d go find myself a nice medieval studies institute and fund side-by-side facsimile/edited editions of every cartulary we can get our hands on.
Back to this later, because I have questions that are either good or incredibly stupid. Like, “Given a charter that reads,
Actum in X coram testibus inferius scriptis. [Name] qui hanc kartulam donationis fieri atque firmare rogavit. ✝ [Name] matris suae ✝[Name] filie eius consentientis ✝[Name]filiae eius consentientis ✝[Name] soror eius ✝[Name] ✝[Name] nepote suo ✝[Name] ✝[Name] ✝[Name] ✝[Name] ✝ ego [Name] rogatus scripsi et notavi diem et tempus quo supra
how do we decide where the witness list starts?” Right away after ‘scriptis’? doesn’t make sense. After the daughters? possibly, because giving consent is not the same as being a witness. So… with the sister? But she’s a woman, and they can’t witness. So it has to be after her. But she’s not giving consent, so why put her name down at all? Who’s the guy between her and the nephew? because it’s probably not his nephew. Probably the donor’s nephew. Because of the ‘relative importance and proximity’ rule.
More importantly, how did we decide how we should decide?
I’m ridiculously tired at the moment, but when I look at this stuff, it amazes me that any of us can say with confidence that our understanding of the parts these people played, and of how they understood the meaning of these documents, are anything like the same thing.
In response to H.o.t.Edge’s comment that starting after ‘scripsit’ makes sense. Yes. Yes it does, sort of. That is, it makes sense that the part that we call the witness list is everything after that. And that’s how I’ve always read them. But here’s the sticking point: if it’s a witness list, doesn’t that imply that the people on it are witnesses?
Perhaps I’m overcomplicating, but this comes after reading through a bunch of papers — papers I’ve given, and no one has ever argued about it — where I mention people witnessing their own charters. Bzuh?? I had been saying this because their names are on the witness lists. But obviously, that’s not what they are doing. They are attesting, or confirming, or something. And what about people who are giving consent? Ok, they are also probably acting sort of as witnesses, but they are also releasing claims — signing off on the charter, if you will.
So my point is, I think, that “witness list” implies, or can imply “the people who actually witnessed the document.” In a legal sense, I think this should mean “people who can be called upon to testify that this charter represents a valid agreement.” My feeling from talking to people at conferences and from reading older Rechtsgeschichte stuff is that this is a common understanding.
But from a functional standpoint (and this is where my initial reading seems to agree with H.o.t.Edge’s), many of these lists seem to be “people who were there and saw this happen.” To me, this seems to get at a central interpretive issue. I’m having problems articulating it as clearly as I like, but it’s a theory/practice thing with many layers. It’s … sort of analogous to trying to explain to my students that you can have a patriarchal society even where women seem to have a huge amount of authority within their own homes. I need to think about this.
I’m not making any particular claims to originality here, either. But what I think is going on in my pea-sized brain is that this is an example of one of the areas that rests between an understanding based on laws and formularies and even the forms of charters on the one hand, and one based on all the theories of recording and constructing ritual/performance stuff on the other. And that space is filled with the sort of social and contextual negotiation that people do in real life, so we should be asking more about what it says.
Except that I’m not sure how to really formulate the questions in ways that we can give them real historians’ answers.
Or, possibly, I’m just embarrassing myself by rambling on when over-caffeinated and medicated and under-rested. In which case, just tell me to delete this 🙂