The Hunt for the King 28) Two professors discuss the transcription of the Fieschi Letter

Elena Corbellini and Stefano Castagneto, together with myself the principle researchers of the historical side of the Auramala Project, are two old friends of mine who, however, had never been in touch with one another over the last three years. I had intentionally maintained a ‘double-blind’ between them in order to have two separate interpretations of the Letter from two experts with different backgrounds, to keep the overall work of the Auramala Project as sharp, critical-minded and objective as possible. The ‘double-blind’ between Elena Corbellini (EC) and Stefano Castagneto (SC) was recently interrupted, first when Stefana Castagneto read the complete analysis of the Fieschi Letter to date and sent me six pages of notes and observations on it, and then by an animated, 90-minute-long phone call between the two. In the next few posts we report the gist, the essential outcome of their conversation (a full trasncription would be dozens of pages long!). This first part regards the transcription of the Fieschi Letter we posted some months ago, and which will soon be updated slightly as a result of this debate. What follows are extracts of Elena Corbellini’s transcription of her conversation with Stefano Castagneto.

Ivan Fowler [Ed.]

1. Doubtful readings

SC – Your analysis is excellent in general, with the descriptions of the codex and the hypotheses. The new transcription which corresponds line for line is very helpful. I had seen a previous one full of mistakes, and with strange numbers inserted…

EC – Thank you. The transcription you had seen was derived from that of Cuttino and Lyman, but with mistakes introduced perhaps by during copying, or during the printing of the article (…), just as those ‘strange numbers’ were actually the notes inserted by the authors… And yet that transcription gets around… The other one used seems to be Germain’s original, but even that contained a few errors; and in both of them I found ‘solutions’ for doubtful readings that were, in my opinion, a little too casual. That is why I created a new transcription, though bearing in mind the previous two, especially where they were in agreement and I had no alternative solution. Let’s talk about your observations and readings that differ from mine [in bold in the text below, Ed.], that you recently posted to Ivan.

l.2 : ad vestram, instead of ad vestri; intimare, instead of intimari. I absolutely agree with both of these. I accepted Germain’s and Cuttino and Lyman’s solutions by distraction (facilitated by the vestri in the line above for the former, and by the frequent use of the passive tense in this expression): real copyist’s mistakes!

l.8: perhaps fuiste (coronatus) [“you were crowned”, Ed.] instead of fuistis, a form already in use in documents of this era. I have some doubts about this: the abbreviation seems to me the same as that for the definite cases of ‘-us’ and ‘-is’. We’ll come back to the following words (in proximiori festo) [“in proximity to the feast”, in other words, the day(s) before the feast, Ed.] later.

l. 10: the ‘o’ in Gornay appears to have a circumflex above it. That would be interesting, but to me it looks more like a flourish of the pen, as other cases of apparent final abbreviations. You, too, hypothesised as much for l.32-33 for Alamania(m) [“Germany”, Ed.] and Lombardia(m) [“Lombardy”, Ed.], but it’s definitely better, as you say, to remove the brackets from the desinences.

At l.12 you suggested to signal the use of notis instead of noctis [“night”, Ed.] in the expression hora quasi noctis [“at the hour almost of night”, in other words at dusk, Ed.] but it doesn’t seem at all strange to me either from the spelling or the phonetic point of view, considering the era the Letter was written. Was there a particular reason?

SC – Yes, in my opinion it shows the influence of the Genoese tongue, rather than the copyist’s neglect. You find the expression Quasi de note [“almost at night”, Ed.] already in 13th century Ligurian documents… just as I believe the expression supra mare [“over the sea”, Ed.] in l.5 also shows the influence of the Genoese tongue. In eastern Liguria, from Chiavari on, we say supra o maa, or similar.

EC–….. And the Fieschi homeland was just inland from Chiavari… But we’re getting distracted with the historical and linguistic analysis of the text. Our historical considerations have already been mostly published [see posts 27, 25, 9, 8, 6, 5, 4, in the sequence ‘The Hunt for the King’, Ed.], while the linguistic analysis will be the subject of a future post. In any case, your suggestions are extremely useful.

SC– And then there is l.28, dato uno floreno [“having given a (or one) floren”, Ed.]: I read it as dato uno florenum, because I see an abbreviation. Therefore, dato uno intended as an adverbial locution, without declension. But I’m not sure.

EC – I interpreted that as a flourish, not an abbreviation, because it seems unlikely that a notary (or a copyist/notary like that of Maguelone) could make a mistake in such a frequent grammatical construction as the absolute ablative. We can mention it in a note.

SC – As with what you wrote for l. 30….. that when considering the possible reading of post tractatus diversos consideratos [“after considering various discussions”, Ed.] which would also make sense, it was better to maintain the formula consideratis omnibus [“all things considered”, Ed.], and read the addition in the interlinear space as an omnibus [“all things”, Ed.] and not as a sibi [“for himself”, Ed.] to be linked with the following recepta licentia [“received licence”, Ed.]

ECl.8 :in proximiori festo. At the beginning and at the end of the notes you recently posted, you devoted a great deal of time to the interpretation of this sintagma, making various observations. I, too, harboured doubts about it, but Germain and Cuttino and Lyman were in agreement on this form, and it seemed possible from the historical and linguistic point of view, with the comparative use of proximus, whose original value of a superlative preposition had long since been lost. And so, Manuele Fieschi was reminding Edward III that he had been crowned soon after his father’s deposition on the feast day proximiori, in other words ‘closest’ or ‘close to’ Candlemas. However, the doubts you expressed brought my own doubts back to mind. Which is only natural in this kind of research, where easy solutions are few and far between.

SC – Reading from the photocopy I had, the in seemed too close to the p/pro-, and so I read it as a single word, perhaps a participle, an impro(p)ente festo/impropenti festo… In proximity to the feast of Candlemas (monday 2 February, 1327).

EC – However, the English sources are clear and in agreement about the date of Edward III’s coronation. And if one magnifies the text using the computer, one can see the ‘x’ clearly attached to the abbreviated ‘pro-‘. Proximiori or proximo, I would say.

SC – Looking at it with that contraption Ivan brought, I read something like that myself…

EC – Contraption? You mean his tablet? I see you’re even less technological than me…

SC – I’m still using a typewriter, but I prefer to write by hand. By the way, did you know that the Genoese were given the right to celebrate the feast of Candlemas already in one of Charlemagne’s capitularies? Pavia 856, if memory serves, and then…

(After a long stream of dates documents and references to studies from the 19th century…)

EC – … And what do you read at the beinning of l.34? Milasci or Milasti? And would you identify it as Melazzo di Acqui or Mulazzo in Lunigiana?

SCMilasci, but even if it was Milasti it would still have become Milazzo or Melazzo in Italian. I would investigate further in the acts of the diocese of Acqui, which are well preserved and easy to consult.

EC – Excluding the identification with “Milazzo” in Sicily, which the early researchers proposed (from Lombardy to Sicily???) there is still the possibility of another location in north-western Italy with this name, that we have not yet discovered. The hypothesis of Mulazzo was first proposed by Ian Mortimer. Within the Auramala Project, it is firmly sustained, as you know well, by Ivan.

SC – I on the other hand would exclude Mulazzo on the basis of the reading and linguistic evolution: an “I” cannot become a “U”. And then, just a month ago, I chanced to read that Muratori [a famous collator of Italian Medieval and Renaissance chronicles, Ed.] corresponded with a Marquis of Mulazzo… if there was something concerning Edward II in the latter’s archives, he must surely have mentioned it. And then there are the wars… Robert of Anjou, the Marquis of Monferrato… [According to the Fieschi Letter, “Milasci” was overrun by war two and a half years after Edward II’s arrival, and this must be taken into consideration in identifying this location, Ed.]

After talking at length about the historical context, the main players in the story, the historical sources form the period and such, we came back to the text of the Fieschi Letter to discuss the corrections present in the text, but that will be the subject of the next post in the series.

As far as the transcription of the Letter is concerned, readers of this blog, experts and non, are more than welcome to comment and inquire. At a later date we will proceed to update the transcription, taking into account all the comments and observations that have been made.

Elena Corbellini.


One thought on “The Hunt for the King 28) Two professors discuss the transcription of the Fieschi Letter

  1. Not sure whether this is useful. The Camilla family seem to be closely related to the Fieschi. Theodosius de Camilla was said to be a cousin of Ottobuono de’ Fieschi (Adrian V) and held a number of benefices in England, including Wingham in Kent. In particular he was dean of Wolverhampton, a royal appointment, under Henry III and Edward I. He seems to have installed a number of relatives who persisted as prebendaries well into the 14th century. As Wolverhampton was a royal free chapel or peculiar jurisdiction, these do not show up in Fasti for Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield. However, he is easily found in the Fasti as an unsuccessful candidate for archdeacon of York in 1266 and a prebendary of Hereford and Salisbury subsequently. As dean of Wolverhampton he was involved in a long-running feud with Archbishop Peckham over jurisdiction, pluralism and absenteeism and called in help from Benedetto Caetani (Boniface VIII). Both he and his relatives were constantly given safe conduct to travel to the Papal court and elsewhere overseas, apparently acting as envoys. I’ve included references in the Wikipedia article on St Peter’s Collegiate Church.

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