Anyone who has read my Part IV "Accusations" blogpost may have wondered about this paragraph, quoting from an email I wrote:
"I was previously unable to find your email address, so I have sent a series of messages to [ name removed ] who contacted me in August, and to the general address at email@example.com, to which Noemi De Santis responded."
Perhaps it looks as if I might be hiding something, so in the interests of transparency I'll provide the backstory.
[This is a text-heavy blogpost, with hardly any images. You might want to skip down to the dividing line that looks like this: ~ ~ ~ if you just want to read the most relevant bit]
As far as I can recall, I had never heard of RECEPTIO or Prof. Rossi before 30 August 2022, when I was contacted by email by someone claiming to be a
"research fellow at the Research Centre for European Philological Tradition, based in Switzerland (www.receptio.eu/mainproject), engaged in a project entitled Biblioclasm and Digital Reconstruction."
Her name and image were on the RECEPTIO website (until removed yesterday), but I will not use them here.
"I am contacting you to see if you would be willing to write a few lines of preface to my reconstruction of the so-called Whitney Hours, which I discuss in the recently published issue of Theory and Critiism [sic] of Literature & Arts Journal, published in OA at the following link: https://www.receptioacademic.press/vol6nr1 (you can also browse through the manuscript I am reconstructing https://www.receptioacademic.press/whitneyhours).
The edition will be issued by Receptio Academic Press, which received some grants for the project from the Swiss National Science Foundation.
In the hope that I have not annoyed you with this e-mail, I look forward to your reaction and send you my best regards."
I followed the two links provided, downloaded a copy of the Open Access PDF publication, and had a look at the relevant article. I was not impressed by it. In particular, she suggests in her article that, before its dismemberment, the manuscript "was auctioned at Skinner, June 2, 2017" (p. 52) or, apparently contradicting herself a few pages later, it "was auctioned in Skinner's rooms, in May 2017, in Marlborough" (p. 59) (my emphasis added in both cases):
She does not give the location of Marlborough (I assume it is the the one in Massachessetts, not the one in England), or the lot number, so I had no easy way of finding the catalogue description to see how much of her work was her own, and how much was taken from the auction catalogue.
From what I could tell, she seemed to be a young and very inexperienced student of manuscripts, and while we all have to start from inexperience, I did not think that, in good faith, I could "write a few lines of preface" of the sort that she probably wanted. So I replied:
"Dear [ -- ],
Since I know almost nothing about your project (or you, or the Whitney Hours!), I think it would not be appropriate for me to write about it. I am also not able to check the accuracy of your work because, for example, you do not provide details of the 2017 Skinner description, so I cannot assess if your identification is correct."
"I have no reason to doubt that your work is good, but from what I have read on the Receptio website and Biblioclasm book, the overall project seems very strange. Why would anyone attempt to copyright a method for studying manuscripts, putting "©" everywhere?! This runs completely against normal academic practice, and against the principles of Open Access.
(I realise that my response might seem unduly rude/dismissive/abrupt to some readers, and I certainly could have edited it here to paint myself in a better light, but I am trying to be transparent).
She responded (her message in full):
"I apologise for bothering you. In academia, judgments are usually made after reading a book or learning a method. It is absolutely true, you know nothing about my book on the manuscript auctioned by Skinner in 2017 and then dismembered, nor about the method we are adopting (and which is protected by a patent) to reconstruct dismembered manuscripts, but yet you rudely judge me. I wish you more serenity_"
My response (also in full) was:
"Perhaps there is a misunderstanding, but are you saying I have judged you rudely? If so, how?
I wrote that "I have no reason to doubt that your work is good [...]" and made factual observations.
I have never heard of an academic/scholarly method being protected by a patent. Can you give me any examples?
I heard no more from her. You now know why the email at the top of this page includes:
"[...] I have sent a series of messages to [ name removed ] who contacted me in August, [...]
~ ~ ~
But it is really the next bit that is more relevant to our tale.
At least two other articles in the Biblioclasm and Digital Reconstruction publication concern manuscripts I know very well. One is therein referred to as "The Rosenbaum Psalter-Hours", and its author (another young and inexperienced student, it seems, also listed as a Fellow on the RECEPTIO website until yesterday), cites my blogs [such as this one] and hardcopy publications rather thoroughly, and provides a list of the URLs (including my blogs) from which she obtained her images. Brava! So even in a volume whose Editorial Director is Carla Rossi, the concept of citing blogposts properly is not unknown!
I searched the PDF of the entire volume for my own name, and I found one other occurrence.
In one of 8 (!!) articles all written by Carla Rossi (out of 10) is this line (p. 25):
"When I had finished my edition, I learned that Peter Kidd had also started a research similar to mine, which is reported in his blog mssprovenance.blogspot.com"
I was a bit annoyed that my work was dismissed in a single phrase and that neither of my two blogposts, nor my list of leaves, were properly cited. But her work and the publication in which it appeared were clearly of such low quality that I didn't think any serious scholars would pay much attention to it, and that there was no point pursuing it further. I could have written her a one-sentence email along the lines of "I am sorry if this seems petty, but I would appreciate it if you would cite my blog more fully in future", but it really didn't seem worth the effort. For the next four months I forgot all about Carla Rossi and RECEPTIO.
It was only on 21 December, when a friend emailed me about an online article by Rossi, that I had another look at the RECEPTIO website, and saw that the two new versions of "Rossi's" work did not mention me or my work at all, that I got annoyed, looked more closely, and found the various features detailed in my first blogpost on Christmas Eve.
As I mentioned in a previous post, if she had contacted me at the outset, I would have willingly shared with her all my images and scans of auction catalogues etc., as I have done with other people who take an interest in manuscripts I have studied. This is the whole point of my blogging: to share material that I do not intend to use myself in conventional "academic" publications. And if she had just left in a passing mention to my work in the new versions of her book ... who knows? I might, as I did in August, simply have briefly thought of her as a bad scholar and then forgotten all about her.