Sunday 7 April 2024

The Origin of the Carla Rossi Plagiarism Accusations

A couple of weeks ago I said on social media that I would blog about the very earliest origin of the  plagiarism accusations against Carla Rossi, so here it is.

In several of her many attempts at self-defence, Rossi says that the only basis for my accusation of plagiarism is the borrowing of a few lines (describing the Office of the Dead in the manuscript she calls the De Roucy Hours), e.g. here:

[Click to enlarge] [Source]

But let's look at the context in which I first mentioned plagiarism. (At the time I had no idea that it would turn out to be such a small tip of a very large iceberg!). Note that I was writing to Nancy Impellizzeri, who had emailed me and introduced herself as "research fellow at the Research Centre for European Philological Tradition, based in Switzerland (", i.e. RECEPTIO.

Here is the start of my email to her:

What I want to highlight today is the second paragraph:

"Considering how often you use the "©" symbol on the website, I find it extremely ironic that you have now taken Erik Drigsdahl's intellectual property (which, since his death, is only available because I host it on my website: e.g. this page has material taken from here or the archived copy here) -- but you have removed his copyright statement from the bottom of the page, and have not acknowledged it as his work!"

Of course the RECEPTIO page has now been deleted, and someone (we all know who) has also had all trace of it removed from the Wayback Machine a.k.a. The Internet Archive, so the first link above does not work, but the other two links are still live, so you can see what I am referring to in my email.

Erik's pages all have a copyright notice at the bottom, as shown at the top of this post, like this: 

Rossi had taken a screenshot of this page, removed Erik's name and copyright notice, and put the image on her own RECEPTIO page for the De Roucy Hours. 

This is a large part of the reason I wrote in my email, "I have never seen such a blatant example of plagiarism."

[For the sake of transparency I reproduce the whole email message below]





Hello again!

An Italian colleague alerted me to the article at a couple of days ago, which caused me to look again at your website.

Considering how often you use the "©" symbol on the website, I find it extremely ironic that you have now taken Eriks Drigsdahl's intellectual property (which, since his death, is only available because I host it on my website: e.g. this page has material taken from here or the archived copy here) -- but you have removed his copyright statement from the bottom of the page, and have not acknowledged it as his work!

I also note that in the studies of the Roucy Hours here and the "Rosenbaum" Psalter-Hours here, there is no acknowledgement of the fact that both are heavily dependent on my work, and both use images from my blog without permission or acknowledgement.

I have never seen such a blatant example of plagiarism. Quite apart from failing to cite my work, compare passages like these:

"the first lesson of the Office of the Dead, "Milicia est vita hominis" (on the leaf with the miniature of Job) is extremely rare and, according to K. Ottosen, The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, 1993, p.74, is only found in sources from Châlons, so this is one possible origin." (Kidd)

"the first lesson of the Office of the Dead Milicia est vita hominis (fol. 105r), included in our BoH is extremely rare and, according to K. Ottosen [4], is only found in manuscript sources from Châlons-en-Champagne." (Rossi)


"The only two other saints who are identifiable are St Catherine, to the left, holding a fragment of a wheel, and St Lawrence, to the right, more obviously holding his grid-iron." (Kidd)

"The two other identifiable saints in the miniature are Catherine, to the left of Stephen, holding a fragment of her instrument of martyrdom, the wheel, and Lawrence, holding his grid-iron." (Rossi)

I intend to share some comparisons such as these on my blog, but first I will give you and Dr Rossi an opportunity to explain/apologise.



Saturday 11 November 2023

Sydney Cockerell on the Value of Provenance in Catalogue Descriptions

I have just encountered, for the first time, this letter from Sydney Cockerell [Wikipedia] to the Editor of the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 30 no. 169 (April 1917), p. 154 [click the images to enlarge them]:

Sunday 29 October 2023

An Unpublished Illuminated Calendar from the Abbey of Montier-la-Celle

This and the following images are used
Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Interesting manuscripts can be found in unexpected places. At the CULTIVATE MSS conference in London a year ago [PDF programme], there was a presentation about the collection of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust [Wikipedia], which was interesting but had very little to do with medieval manuscripts. One partly-medieval volume was mentioned and very briefly shown on screen, however, and after several months of emailing I was eventually able to get a complete set of images of the relevant part of it. One detail is shown above.

Saturday 21 October 2023

A.C. de la Mare and Neil Ker on Describing Script


Anyone who has ever attempted to describe a manuscript will have faced the issue of terminology for describing script. Over the course of the last 75 years numerous books and articles have been written, and conferences held [1], discussing the issue, and yet we have still not arrived at any real consensus.

I think that two main drivers lay behind these publications and conferences, especially the earlier ones. One was to try to make palaeography more "scientific" (with implications of reliability and accuracy), and the other was to compensate for a lack of reproductions. It seems to me that the former was somewhat misguided [2], and the latter is now outdated [3].

If a series of Books of Hours are described as being mid 15th-century French, Flemish, Spanish, Dutch, German, and Italian, then the knowledgeable reader will have a very good idea of what the script of each of them looks like, and how they differ from one another, without a formal description of their script. The same goes for an 11th-century biblical text, a 12th-century patristic text, a 13th-century academic text, a 14th-century legal text, a 15th-century Humanistic one, and so on. The date and place of origin, plus the type of text, is usually enough to indicate in general terms what the script looks like. No amount of description can ever convey its precise appearance  any attempt to do so is at best futile, and at worst misleading [4].

Saturday 14 October 2023

Minor Initials from the Murano Gradual: Two More 19th-Century Albums


In March last year ago I wrote a blogpost about the minor (i.e. small foliate, not historiated) initials cut from the Murano Gradual. For a long time I had been very sceptical that they were indeed from the Murano Gradual -- because their style was so unlike the style of the minor initials that occur on the back of a few of the cuttings of historiated initials -- but when I eventually took the time to look closely at their script and musical notation, the relationship became plain.

I therefore compiled a list of all the Murano Gradual's minor initials known to me: my hope is that, one day, someone will be able to emulate the exercise of reconstruction done by Margaret Rickert in the 1930s ("Fragmentology" is not a new field of study!), which resulted in three publications:

Margaret Rickert, ‘The Reconstruction of an English Carmelite Missal’, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 67 no. 390 (Sept. 1935), pp. 99-113 (available to those with access to JSTOR here)

Margaret Rickert, ‘The Reconstruction of an English Carmelite Missal’, Speculum, XVI no. 1 (1941), pp. 92-102, pls. I-V (available to those with access to JSTOR here)

Margaret Rickert, The Reconstructed Carmelite Missal: An  English Manuscript of the Late XIV Century in the British Museum (Additional 29704-5, 44892) (London: Faber & Faber, 1952)

It is a masterclass of reconstruction. Not only did she work out the original sequence of the major, historiated initials (a comparatively straighforward task), but was also able, astonishingly, through a painstaking examination of the tiny portions of text preserved on their backs, to put hundreds of the small, minor, initials into their relevant places:


Saturday 7 October 2023

"Inclitus" Identified

A miniature in the Wildenstein collection (shown above), the largest surviving work by the Master of the Murano Gradual, has usually been identified as depicting "Mission to the Apostles". In a previous blogpost, I suggested that the subject is instead The Selection of St Matthias (as an apostle, to replace Judas).

Even if my suggestion is correct [1], there is still an oustanding puzzle about the miniature: it appears above a single line of text and music, and the text consists of a single word "INCLITUS":

No one has ever been able to identify the text this comes from.

Saturday 2 September 2023

The Calendar from a Recently-Broken Italian Breviary


I have just noticed that Forum Auctions have a calendar in a forthcoming sale (28 September, 2023, lot 24), with a short description and a two-page opening reproduced in the online catalogue (shown above). 

The description tells us that it is a six-leaf quire, bound in "19th century vellum-backed marbled boards", which suggests it was removed from its parent manuscript at least a century ago.