The title of my blog today is a quotation from an email I received yesterday from Noemi De Santis of RECEPTIO, the Research Centre for European Philological Tradition (website here).
It comes at a very opportune moment, because this week marked the 10th anniversary of the week I started blogging fairly regularly: since December 2012 I have posted an average of about 45 blogs per year, and I was wondering how to mark this milestone. I hope that the following blog will provide some entertainment for the Christmas holidays!
Earlier this week, I found that a book has been published online by RECEPTIO (its front cover is shown above) about a manuscript that I called the The Courtanvaux-Elmhirst Hours. I first blogged about this manuscript in 2016 (here), in which I traced much of its provenance, including auctions in 1782, 1954 and 2009, after which it was dismembered. I returned to the manuscript with another blog in 2017 (here) making more suggestions about its provenance. In 2019 I provided a "Membra disiecta" page on this site, with images, of all the leaves known to me that include miniatures (here).
The book published by RECEPTIO, by Prof Carla Rossi, can be downloaded as a PDF from the bottom of the page here. Having a PDF makes it very easy to search the entire text for search terms such as "Kidd", "blog", and "mssprovenance", none of which occur.
[Edit. 26 Dec. 2022: The download link I used has been removed, but the PDF is still currently available using the download icon on the interactive version of the reconstruction:
Interestingly, Creative Commons 4.0 statement has now been removed, and despite the active download link, it is now "forbidden to download this book"!:
The Courtanvaux-Elmhirst Hours (here re-baptised as the De Roucy Hours) is used as a demonstration of the "WayBack Recovery Method (henceforth WBRM)", which "envisages working with a particular type of fragments: namely the digital ones", to reconstruct dismembered manuscripts. This is presented as a new and innovative approach, but seems to be a lot like what other people have already been doing for two decades, either as plain web-pages, e.g. by the late Erik Drigsdahl here (he collected thousands of images of leaves of Books of Hours from eBay, although for copyright and bandwidth reasons put very few of these images on his website); or, more recently, using tools such as Omeka, of which Lisa Fagin Davis's reconstruction of the Beauvais Missal is undoubtedly the best known; and on the Fragmentarium platform (e.g. here).
Chapter 1 of the book explains that the study was prompted by the acquisition of a single leaf earlier this year (p. 16). The provenance that I had already established is then traced, starting from a Sotheby's sale on 14 June 1954, lot 32:
|Rossi, 2022, p. 19 fig. 5|
"In applying the WBRM to my search, I have scoured the web [...] I recovered over two hundred digital fragments, and practically 99% of the illustrative cycle."
"[...] 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"
This bears more than a passing resemblance to an observation made by Rossi (p. 21) (emphasis added to phrases which are identical):
"[...] 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 , is only found in manuscript sources from Châlons-en-Champagne."
Interestingly, the only liturgical observation made by Rossi in this chapter is the same as the only liturgical observation made by me in my blogposts.
In my 2017 blog I tried to strengthen the association with Châlons by examining the All Saints miniature, which has St Stephen prominently in the centre: I pointed out that Stephen was the patron saint of Châlons cathedral. I also describe how:
"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."
Describing this miniature, after making the same point about St Stephen and Châlons cathedral, Rossi notes (p. 250) (I have put in bold words that appear in the passage above):
"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."
I attempted to contact Prof. Rossi this week to ask for an explanation of the fact that she had apparently used so much of my work, and images, without acknowledgement. (I have only cited a couple of examples above; there are many others). Perhaps there was a genuine explanation, such as an "Acknowledgements" page being omitted from the PDF of the book? I always try to assume an innocent mistake rather than malice or intellectual dishonesty in such situations, because I hope that people would give me the opportunity to make amends if I failed to acknowledge their work appropriately.
This precipitated a correspondence with Noemi De Santis, who explained "I am Professor Rossi's secretary, who is not aware of our correspondence. I manage her mail account."
I pointed out the remarkable similarity of the wording of the two passages quoted above, and her response was that:
"If you and professor Rossi came to similar conclusions, I do not think we can speak of plagiarism, but I can forward your e-mail to our lawyer for a more detailed answer if you wish."
I pointed out that a number of images seem to have been taken from my blog, to which the response was (emphasis added):
"As for the images, we have not taken anything from your site, but as you can verify from the books and reconstructions, these are images obtained from dealers, retrieved via WayBack Method from auctions and sales, as well as from paper catalogues and in one case (De Roucy, fol. with the miniature of St Paul) from the collector who bought it."
I contacted the private collector who since 2012 has owned another miniature depicting St Mark (of which he kindly sent me an image for my blog), asking if he had given permission to RECEPTIO and Rossi to publish the image; he replied:
"I never gave permission to anyone other than you to use the image and I never heard of the publisher or author."
It is therefore very difficult to understand how the image could derive from anywhere other than my blog. Here is his miniature in the reconstruction on the RECEPTIO website:
[Edit, 26 Dec. 2022: The online reconstruction and downloadable PDF have been edited and the colour images replaced by a black and white one. The image of the verso of this leaf has been removed completely:
I pointed out that the image of the 1954 Sotheby's auction catalogue (shown above) in "Dr" Rossi's book also appears to come from my site, and got this response (emphasis added):
"First of all you are talking about a professor not a doctor. She does not even know your site. Evidently you both took the image from a common source. The sources are quoted in the Professor's edition. I forward these delusional e-mails of yours to the lawyer who will, if appropriate, reply to you. I have to work and have no time for your ramblings."
[Edit 26 Dec. 2022: It was pointed out on Twitter yesterday that Prof. Rossi cites my blog in a previous online article, published earlier this year]
The insistence that no images had come from my site was reiterated in another email:
"Every image of the De Roucy manuscript was obtained through the WayBack method, from collectors and dealers."
It is worth noting that a simple Google search on terms such as "Courtanvaux-Elmhirst", "Courtanvaux leaf", "Courtanvaux manuscript", and "Courtanvaux hours", all return my blog among the very first hits, so the "WayBack Recovery Method" must be pretty useless if it failed to locate my blog!
Eventually we got to the crux of the matter, when I received this statement:
"I regret to inform you that blogs are not scientific texts, published by academic publishers, so their value is nil!"
Here we have another possible explanation for why my work was not cited by Rossi. It is not only because "She does not even know your site", but also because, even if she did know the site, she would not need to cite it, because its "value is nil".
The irony is that if she had contacted me I would have willingly shared all my images, including higher-resolution ones of those that appear online.
This blog is already long enough, but I will finish with three observations about the scholarly (sometimes called "scientific", especially by Europeans) standards of the Rossi reconstruction.
In reconstructions such as the Fragmentarium ones mentioned above, missing leaves are indicated clearly, so that the user can easily see which leaves have, and have not, been identified, e.g. here:
[Edit, 26 Dec. 2022: The offending page has been removed and substituted with a blank one:
[Edit, 26 Dec. 2022: More editing has taken place in response to my comment: