Brokers of Public Trust
Notaries in Early Modern Rome
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Writing has a history. We know that story: how the ancient Mesopotamians etched marks on clay tablets, the Egyptians drew figures on walls, the Phoenicians invented a phonetic system of signs, and the Greeks added vowels. We know how the Latin alphabet originated, how its various scripts developed and were copied first in lead as movable type and then in electrical charges fired within our computers. We know,...
CHAPTER 1: The Jurists: Writing Public Words
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While public writing as a practice dates back to the dawn of written records, the notion of public words, scriptura publica, was a legal fiction crafted by the jurists of medieval Europe and handed down to their early modern successors. ...
CHAPTER 2: The Profession: Defining Urban Identities
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Roman notaries must have been there earlier, but we see them at their work for the first time only in the fourteenth century. This is late by Italian standards. It is also paradoxical in a place where Europe’s earliest corps of notaries was writing for the popes by the year 600.1 The elusiveness of Roman notaries does not end in the...
CHAPTER 3: The Laws: Shaping Notarial Pages
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Was there something incongruous, even contradictory, about the way the notary straddled the boundary between personal gain and public duty, between profit and truth? In the medieval universe that had created him, the answer was no. The notary was like so many in that world who bore in their persons some small share of...
CHAPTER 4: The Archives: Creating Documentary Spaces
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From the late sixteenth century, the Capitoline notaries presided over a notarial archive of a limited sort, as we saw in chapter 2, and a hundred years earlier had been the first public body to take any responsibility at all for the preservation of notarial acts in Rome. Though they did not sustain this initial effort, both the papal and...
CHAPTER 5: The Office: Building Scribal Lives
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Public writing depended for its existence on a robust apparatus of legal principles and, increasingly, an array of disciplinary mechanisms. Without the bedrock of Roman legal conventions, ideas of proof and public office would not have taken the forms that they took in Italy’s notarial regimes, and without the attentions of those...
CHAPTER 6: The State: Policing Notarial Practices
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Public authority had always had a crucial, indeed a constitutive, relationship to scriptura publica, but the changing forms of what the twentieth century called state power over the period 1350 to 1650 had profoundly altered the ways public writing was made, consumed, and preserved in Rome. Whether through doubling jurisdic-...
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The notary of modern Italy is a recent construction. Until the 1920s the profession was in disarray, rent by regional and economic inequalities, struggling to find its footing in the new conditions of a unified nation.1 Loosed from their moorings in the duchies, republics, and ecclesiastical kingdoms that had depended on and nurtured them for half a millennium, Italian notaries in the late 1800s found they had...
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Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2009