Addenda and Corrigenda

Membra disiecta

Saturday 24 December 2022

"Nobody cares about your blog!"

[Edit, 26 Dec. 2022, 9am: For anyone reading this for the first time, please note that a lot happened yesterday (Christmas Day) on Twitter, with many people contributing new information and insights concerning RECEPTIO and Prof. Rossi. I will try to update the blog below later today [Edit: I have now done this], and will also aim to write another blog to document the reflect new revelations]

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"!

[Original]

[Edited]

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:


The image used here is clearly the same as the one on my 2016 blog, as is evident from a mark above the word "(Bourges?)":
Rossi, 2022, p. 19 fig. 5
 
Kidd, 2016 blog

[Update, 26 Dec. 2022: The online reconstruction and downloadable PDF have been edited to remove the mark shown in the images above; they now look like this:
]

As far as I am aware, this catalogue is not available online (Sotheby's catalogues from the 1950s are still within copyright), and although I cannot remember, I assume that I scanned this page from a hardcopy at Sotheby's Books Department, where I was working as a Consultant at the time.

Prof. Rossi continues (p. 21):
"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 bound manuscript is recorded as having 31 miniatures in 2009, and one more is known to have been separated at an early date. There is no mention in the Rossi book that I had already listed all the miniatures, and provided images of all except three of them, in my online list more than three years earlier.

I was personally only interested in the leaves with miniatures, so I did not actively collect text pages, though I did reproduce a few of them. In the 2016 blog I did note one textual detail, however (emphasis added):
"[...] 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 [4], 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:

And in the book:

[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:

This seems to me to be the intellectually honest thing to do. In Rossi's reconstruction, by contrast, missing leaves are elided, obscuring the extent of still-unidentified leaves. Here, for example, fol. 87v is shown facing fol. 91r, as if the text is continuous:
[Edit, 26 Dec. 2022: The online reconstruction has been edited to add the words "digital fragments missing":
 

The RECEPTIO-Rossi reconstruction has often involved cropping off the real margins around a miniature or text, and replacing it with phoney vellum from another source. This phoney vellum is usually "blank", but sometimes has water-stains or other marks, and in one case has the show-through of a heraldic shield:
[Detail]
[Edit, 26 Dec. 2022: The offending page has been removed and substituted with a blank one:
]

The implication of the RECEPTIO-Rossi reconstruction is that this leaf, with this heraldry, comes from the manuscript being reconstructed, but this is not the case. Where does it come from?

Around the edges of each leaf in the reconstruction are visible the edges of the boards of the binding (as in the double-page images above). The front and back covers are also shown in full as part of the reconstruction:

This intrigued me. Before being broken up in 2009, the manuscript was described as being bound in "early 18th-century full black morocco" with the Elmhirst crest in gilt on the upper cover, but in the reconstruction it has been given a binding of 16th-century English red velvet with metal fittings. In fact, the Rossi reconstruction has used the binding of a completely unrelated manuscript, now in the Free Library, Philadelphia:
[Source]
And this manuscript contains the "blank" leaf used in the digital reconstruction:
 

Searching the PDF of the Rossi book I find no occurrence of "Philadelphia", "Free Library", or even "binding". 
[Edit, 26 Dec. 2022: More editing has taken place in response to my comment:
[Before]
 
[After]
 
[Detail; click to enlarge]

Personally, I would have thought that two of the defining characteristics of scholarly texts, published by reputable academic publishers, should be that they cite their sources and do not misleadingly alter visual information.

34 comments:

  1. The repeated mentions of lawyers indicate to me that they want to silence you from taking action over what they stole from you. Everything about this is enraging, and their 'work' is sloppy in the extreme. I am sorry someone who presents themselves as 'a scholar' (professor or doctor, it really doesn't matter) is doing this with your work, on top of the insults.

    (azteclady, blogging at HerHandsMyHands in wordpress))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thinking further, I wondered whether the 'secretary' existed at all, and a comment further down seems to confirm that such a person was created exclusively to add as a buffer between you and the person claiming credit for your work.

      I agree with those who suggested bringing the plagiarism and unauthorized use of the images from your blog, as well as their response to your communications, to the attention to the institution purportedly funding RECEPTIO.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for having the courage to write this. You have done us all a service. I am very much afraid that the responses that you got may not be in good faith. I was myself once taken advantage of. I complained to the university and got back replies written in the same gratuitously truculent manner. The urge to defend the home team was more important than doing the right thing. Well done to going to print. Blogs may not be important, but they are most certainly widely read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whether something is important depends on the content, not the form.
      And quite a few blogs (mine included, I would hope) are more reliable sources than some books, newspapers or magazines.

      Delete
    2. Agreed, take for example other scholarly focused sites like Dr. Roberta Mazza's Faces & Voices, Dr. Brent Nongbri's Variant Readings, or on some occasions ARCA's own art crime blog. To say in 2023 that blogs do not have scholarly merit is wildly, unreasonably, and illogically, inappropriate.

      Delete
  3. I did a reverse image search on the image of Mark and the only hit I got was from your blog. My understanding is that images from Wayback Machine posts show up in Google Image Searches, but more importantly the Wayback Machine does not always archive the images unless the page it's archiving is live.

    Based on your conversation with Ms. De Santis and these facts I find myself wondering if she wasn't tasked with finding the images and chose to do so the quick and dirty way rather than sourcing them properly. I know when doing initial research I'll get images from whereever and then go back and get permission when the time comes to publish my results.

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  4. An appaling disrespect to honesty, to truth, and to someone else's hard work. Truly disgusting, also, all the responses you got. Please sue them.

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  5. Seems a blatant disregard for the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences code of conduct and you should reach to to them and request an investigation.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed. Beyond the dishonesty and haughtiness, this isclear plagiarism and a severe breach of scientific ethic. This should to be reported and investigated.

      Delete
  6. Wondering if a lazy and inept or dishonest researcher, and also how much it reflects on the other work they produce

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  7. The clearest indication of substandard scholarship ii if people insist on certain titles like professor or doctor. Here we have someone who is not a doctor, but a professor? Laughable. It would be funny, if it was not the director of that institution who has obviouls no regard for ethics or decent behaviour. She should be fired immediately by those who fund RECEPTIO.

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  8. These people are shameless. Is there any recourse available?

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  9. I do not even know about your blog but this showed up on my HackerNews feed and I wanted to extend a few words of support !
    The behavior of these so called scholars is disgusting… I truly believe you should find a way to make things right !
    Good luck,
    Paul from France

    ReplyDelete
  10. What an appalling story. I'm sorry this happened to you.
    Christine Kooi

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  11. I see from their web site that they say they have recovered (or are in the process of recovering) some 50-odd dismembered mss., of which one other (The Whitney Hours; https://www.receptioacademic.press/product-page/the-whitney-hours) has been published. ("ad oggi, Carla Rossi e il team di frammentologi del centro di ricerca da lei diretto, hanno riassemblato una cinquantina di codici" - from the description of their "WayBack Recovery© Manuale").

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  12. This is like publishing a art history book based entirely on Pinterest boards. This should have no place in any setting, let alone one that pretends to be academic.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Cara Bradleigh Smith25 December 2022 at 17:12

    I emailed all members of the Board of Directors and Scientific Committee of RECEPTIO that I could find email addresses for (one is deceased since 2021) with a link to this blog post, as well as the office of the Research Integrity Ombudsperson of the University of Zurich.

    Hopefully at least one of them will recognise this academic dishonesty for what it is and do something about it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I see that she has recently and quietly updated the PDF of her book to give credit to the Free Library of Philadelphia.

    ReplyDelete
  15. On the Hacker News forum at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=34123302, someone in the comments has done some interesting sleuthing on the origin of the photographs of staff members at https://receptio.eu/operationalstaff - at least some of them are from stock photos.

    In particular, the photograph of your correspondent, Noemi Meyer, is "Portrait smiling, confident mature businesswoman sitting at table" from here: https://www.westend61.de/en/imageView/HOXF02330/portrait-smiling-confident-mature-businesswoman-sitting-at-table - photoshopped onto a background photo of a bookshelf.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The page https://receptio.eu/operationalstaff has now disappeared...

      Delete
  16. I agree, the mention of lawyers is a threat to silence you. Don't let the "author" and secretary steer the conversation, have it follow the money. Upon viewing the "De Roucy Hours", the sidebar says "This edition was financially supported by the the Swiss National Science Foundation and the University of Zurich Open Science Services." Report the academic fraud there. It's fraud because they benefit from the deception (plagiarism) financially, personally, and professionally. This is further bolstered by the fact that given objective evidence of the plagiarism, they ignored almost all of the claims and evidence, but did give credit where they could easily avoid any penalty - crediting the Free Library of Philadelphia, which was not aware of the plagiarism and could easily be seen as an oversight.

    Disclaimer: I am not an academic, but do understand the work that goes into finding and citing sources, which is minor compared to everything you've done on these blog posts - the the theft of which is unfathomable to ethical people. Prior to publishing to this website, I have written this reply and licensed it under the "CC0 1.0 Universal" license, linked below, because I want anyone to reuse, repurpose, or do whatever they want with this text without further consent because I can't be bothered to read the Terms of Service linked in the editor or site and don't see any reason to allow them to restrict your use - or disuse - of this content.

    Best of luck.

    https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/legalcode

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  17. As someone trained as an historiographer, this kind of academic and intellectual dishonesty is beyond the pale. I urge you to ask for an investigation with utmost haste, if for n other reason than to limit the time available to shore up bogus defenses.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Truly appalling. Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for standing up to them.

    They must be brought to account.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Quite apart from the fact that your blog is interesting and peppered with otherwise inaccessible information, your generous scientific contributions have often enough been indispensable for my work. Whenever I have asked you personally about details, I have received detailed valuable advice. THAT is truly collegial behaviour. What you have experienced with RECEPTIO is the opposite, it is unfair and unscientific. But it is similar to an argument I once had with the same people, which was also characterised by intimidation and rude behaviour. Who are these people, anyway? And what obscure goal are they pursuing? But the most important thing is: many people are interested in your blog and are grateful for your contributions! Happy New Year, Peter!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I can only reinfoce the previous speakers. Bring transparency in such entangled affairs, seems to me the best way to deal with it.
    It has reached Zurich: https://insideparadeplatz.ch/2022/12/27/sturm-im-uni-turm-plagiat-vorwurf-gegen-zuerich-professorin/

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thank you for bringing this to light. I dealt with an egregious case of academic theft about a decade ago. A professor in an E. Asian country took the English-language dissertation of my junior colleague, translated it into his native language and published it under his own name so he could get tenure at his institution. He even used her title. He thought he could get away with it because she doesn’t speak his language. But a third researcher who read both his “book” and her dissertation alerted us. I got our school to hire a translator to document it, and we sent the documentation to the president of his institution. They fired him and the Ministry of Education in his country barred him from holding any additional teaching post for 5 years. My colleague felt bad, but I pointed out that he had stolen her life’s work and potentially made it impossible for her to publish it herself.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Picked up by NZZ:
    https://www.nzz.ch/zuerich/zuerich-vorwurf-des-plagiats-an-professorin-der-universitaet-ld.1718811

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NZZ failing to get the picture but eh didn't expect much anyways.

      Delete
    2. this is a disgusting, if expectable, attempt to downplay the scandal by harping on the medium. As a freelancer myself, I am especially appalled by the casual narrative: a "blogger" (sic) versus a "professor" (with whatever background) needs no further elaboration? Then, the fact that the discussion is carried out in social media is reason enough to put it off - are we supposed to publish it in print format? - Christine Jakobi-Mirwald

      Delete
  23. She recently changed the page https://www.receptio.eu/scientific-comitee-board to say, amongst other things, that "Effective 27 December 2022, RECEPTIO has a new steering committee".

    However, one of the scholars listed - Antoni Rossell (TCLA Board), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona - sadly passed away one year ago, per https://www.uab.cat/web/newsroom/news-detail/decease-of-researcher-antoni-rosell-i-mele-1345830290613.html?detid=1345852340282

    The previous version of this page, available on the Wayback Machine, which had a photograph of each member, confirms this is the same person.

    Including a researcher who has been deceased since December 2021 on this new steering committee of December 2022 is rather suspicious, I think.

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  24. Sorry- I forgot to put my name in my previous comment about the picture! I think the anon commenter is incorrect- the Wayback page from Jan of 22 shows a picture of the musicologist https://web.archive.org/web/20220125224809/https://www.receptioacademic.press/home - Mindy Kent

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  25. Extremely fascinating post and I appreciate your transparency. I teach college English, and what this "professor" did was knowingly pass someone else's work off as their own, ie plagiarism. I tell my students that citing sources is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. It shows you've done your research. Rossi didn't do research, she did copy and paste, and even my undergraduates understand the ramifications. The fact that elements you pointed out as copies of your blog were then changed in the book suggests consciousness of guilt. Beyond the plagiarism, this is just shoddy scholarly work. She, her institution, and her publisher should be ashamed.

    As a side note, do you mind if I link to this blog for my students next term? I want them to see how intellectual dishonesty unfolds real time and open up a conversation on the value of ideas and the need for citation.

    Cindy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OF COURSE you can use this blog for your students in any way that is helpful! I think that everyone who publishes in any electronic medium does so because they want their writing to reach a wide audience, but they hope for/expect/require acknowledgement or a proper attribution/citation.

      Delete
  26. Nice writeup from The Critic this morning: https://thecritic.co.uk/receptiogate-and-the-absolute-state-of-academia/

    ReplyDelete

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