Monday, July 23, 2007

Slate and Cakes

Two unrelated items:

In a post over at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe, the blogger* comments that most of the extant Visigothic charters are on slate. Now, he attributes this fact to them coming down to us from only two main caches, but it strikes me that it is just as likely the permanence of stone. In either case, I had no idea that such things as charters were ever written in/on stone. Does anyone out there know of other medieval cultures that did the same thing?

And, from Studenda Mira via Quid Plura?, this Sutton Hoo helmet cake was apparently featured on "Ace of Cakes," a show I've seen only once. Just in case anyone was wondering, my birthday is next month (*cough*cough*).

*I'm not sure whether he's supposed to be anonymous or not. I know the name, but it isn't on the blog, so I'll just call him "The Blogger." Sounds ominous, no?


  1. I think there might be stone tablets from Roman North Africa -- Tablettes Albertini?

    I'm wrong -- they are wood.

    See them here:

  2. Anonymous8:17 AM

    I need to come to some kind of policy statement about the identity of 'The Blogger' at tenthmedieval! I never intended it to be a secret--my homepage is linked from it after all, and I comment elsewhere under my own name without worrying about it; also, I regularly link to my own work, and yet had never actually said it out loud on the blog by the time someone else called me anonymous. I shall try and work out whether the obscurity I seem to have created is worth keeping.

    But anyway, just to clarify, when I say that most of the extant Visigothic charters are like this because they're from two well-represented archives, it's the 'most' that I'm qualifying. I quite agree that the medium is the reason they survived, though in one of the caches cases it was also stuffed in a cave and forgotten about... The reason 'most' are like this is because there's almost no parchment survival, so anything that survives in bulk immediately counts as 'most'. I don't think that 'most' charters were like this, though it's interesting that some things that definitely count as charters were. It's just that the real bulk is all gone. Professor Muhlberger is quite right to compare the Tablettes Albertini though, that's exactly the same sort of culture and the same level of administrative documentation.

    Hmm. People look for lost medieval documents in book-bindings; maybe we should also be looking on church roof slates...

  3. This is an area of paleography/codicology that I don't really know anything about. Fascinating!

  4. John, whose blog I know check regularly, makes a good point. Those of us who are Anglo-Saxonists in particular ought to be checking for stone and other media for the transmission of texts: we know all too well of the Ruthwell Cross, Bewcastle Cross, Franks Casket and some of us even know about Rune stones.

    Question for John: are there online images of the tablets?

  5. Anonymous7:32 AM

    Not as far as I know, alas, or I wouldn't have gone scanning stuff that may or may not be copyright still. Most of them are a lot less thrilling than the one I scanned though. As well as the references in my post you can also look for I. Velázquez Sorriano (ed.), El Latín de las pizarras visigóticas (Madrid 1988), 2 vols, which has texts of all of them including the ones found (a few) since the edition by Canellas. As far as I know the only images are in Gómez Moreno's study. Sorry!

    You may be able to tell from this that it is fairly easy to miss the work on these documents, because as far as I know that's it! Although Roger Collins does touch briefly on them in "Literacy and the Laity in Early Medieval Spain" in R. McKitterick (ed.), The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediaeval Europe (Cambridge 1990), pp. 109-133 at pp. 127-133.

    Not really sure for whom I'm spouting references now but there they all are for the robots to find :-)