Tuesday, 27 December 2022

The RECEPTIO-Rossi Affair, Part V: "Alleged Plagiarism"

The last couple of days have been a bit crazy, and I now realise that I have not written anything here about the first PDF added to her Academia.edu page by Prof. Rossi, entitled "Alleged Plagiarism". 

When I first read it, I tweeted that:

"It would take considerable time and effort -- and would probably  be pointless -- to write an item-by-item commentary on this document, but if people have specific questions that it raises, I will do my best to answer them."

What follows may seem a bit pedantic and nit-picking, but for those with the stamina to read it, it may help explain why I have absolutely no worries about a legal threat.

Before anything else, I invite her, or any other reader, to show me where I have "alleged plagiarism": I have simply provided evidence and allowed readers to draw  their own conclusions. If she believes I am alleging plagiarism, that is itself quite revealing.

Of course it is true that I might be taking her words (or mine) out of context to distort the true situation. According to Rossi, I "started sending to members of the research centre I run various e-mails, containing a series of offensive, intimidating messages, with the aim of discrediting my work."

If she would like me to publish the full email correspondence, I would be very willing to; she only has to ask.

In return, I think it would be reasonable for me to ask for:

  • evidence that Noemi De Santis exists
  • evidence that her book on the De Roucy Hours received proper scholarly peer-review, as required by the rules of the body that provided 20,000 CHF funding for its Open Access publication:

(I am not suggesting that this should be made public, only that it should be made available to someone impartial, with an adequate knowledge of medieval manuscripts and Fragmentology, and in a position to assess its scholarly value and rigour.)

Let us assume for now that peer-review did take place. I will write a separate blog with a list of some of the things that the peer-reviewer apparently failed to notice, or if they were noticed by the peer-reviewer, Prof. Rossi failed to incorporate into her text.

Back to the "Alleged Plagiarism" document (from which quotations are in bold). In explaining why she did not acknowledge or cite the main sources she used, she writes:

"I would have had no reason to mention that blog, which provided no different information from what one gets from the websites of German antiquarian galleries or the catalogues of British auction houses."

Auction catalogues are often written by highly regarded scholars. In the world of medieval manuscripts, Christopher de Hamel is the best known [Wikipedia]: he wrote most descriptions of manuscripts sold at Sotheby's from 1975 to 2000. Kay Sutton worked at Christie's full time from 2000 until her untimely death a few years ago [Obituary on my blog]. One is, the other was, a scholar of international reputation.

Auction catalogues often contain original research, and often contain descriptions and images of manuscripts that are otherwise completely unpublished. Their value  to scholarship is immense. Prof. Rossi appears not to know this.

"Also, perhaps worth remembering, blog posts do not have a DOI number and it can happen that the information provided is scientifically unreliable."

Whether or not one or the other has a DOI is rather irrelevant, in my opinion. Information provided in peer-reviewed academic publications (as she has abundantly demonstrated) can also be "scientifically unreliable".

"The blogger, for instance, misidentified the manuscript in an eighteenth-century auction catalogue, thus making unlikely assumptions."

In the 18th-century auction catalogue, Rossi identifies the manuscript as lot 36. In my 2016 blog, by contrast, I wrote: "there are at least two lots, 36 and 40, whose descriptions might very well refer to the present manuscript". Lot 36 is certainly the more obvious match, but not necessarily the correct one. I do not see what "unlikely assumptions" result from my caution.

On the contrary, in her book she writes:

"I believe this BoH lost its initial miniature very early on, probably along with the handwritten calendar (which had become obsolete), in the 17th century. This calendar was later replaced with a printed one. With this structure, the manuscript it is listed under number 36 in the 18th century catalogue."

So she has made a series of assumptions (expressed as beliefs), based on the assumption that the manuscript was lot 36.

She next writes:

"He considered the coats of arms in some of the miniatures to be retouched [...]"

I cannot find anywhere in my text where I suggested that any of the heraldic arms are retouched. I challenged Twitter to find such a statement, and as yet no one has done so. Rossi's assertion therefore appears to be invention or error. (But I am still willing to be corrected).

"He has only identified around twenty folia fugitiva, while I have recovered over a hundred [...]"

In this context "folia fugitiva" is just a fancy way of saying single leaves (unnecessary Latin always sounds more impressive, doesn't it?). Rather than "around twenty", the actual numbers I found are: 36 leaves, represented by 59 images. (You can count them for yourself, here). My limited aim, as stated at the top of that page, was to locate images of the leaves with miniatures, not every leaf, and I succeeded in finding images of all except 3 of them.

"through a historical and philological study, I have proposed to identify the manuscript's addressee and the possible atelier where the codex was produced."

Rossi may have identified the "the manuscript's addressee" correctly: I do not know, because I have not checked the evidence. I can confidently say, however, that she has not identified the "atelier where the codex was produced": she is not an art historian, and the politest way I can describe her attempt at stylistic analysis is "naive".

"Nevertheless, distorting the evidence of the facts, he attempted, in the Christmas post, to slander me (https://mssprovenance.blogspot.com/2022/12/nobody-cares-about-your-blog.html), going so far as to claim that I had 'stolen' some images from his blog without his permission and had even plagiarised him"

If anyone can find evidence of "slander", please point it out to me. Note that the word " 'stolen' " used by her here is in inverted commas: if anyone can find me using this word, please point it out to me. If I did not use that word, then who is slandering whom?

"the blogger's unjustified anger towards me, who turned to a handful of his friends and associates, who began sending me intimidating anonymous emails"

You will have to take my word for it that this is not true. If anyone sent "intimidating anonymous emails" it was not as a result of me turning to a "handful of friends and associates".

"Moreover, he informed of the alleged offense in not being quoted, a US professor of fragmentology [...]"

Rossi then reproduces a (private) email from the relevant "professor of fragmentology" -- you can read it for yourself and see if you agree with Rossi's characterisation that it is written in "a rather threatening way [...] trying to intimidate me [...]". Personally, I think it seems factual and more polite than it needed to have been.

Rossi then reproduces more "anonymous e-mails" in which the names and email addresses are clearly visible!

Look at the evidence, and draw your own conclusions.

1 comment:

  1. Saw #receptiogate on Twitter, and did a double-take when I recognized the name... This is pretty trivial in comparison to what's already been uncovered, but several paragraphs of "A proposal for the interpretation of the inscription on the British Museum sword", available on Rossi's academia page, appear to have been taken from http://www.castlewales.com/lincoln.html.

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