Publication – Paul Bertrand, « Documenting the Everyday in Medieval Europe. The Social Dimensions of a Writing Revolution, 1250–1350 »

This book explores the complex relations between the written word and medieval society by focusing on the proliferation of administrative and business documents during the so-called ‘long thirteenth century’. It deals with northern France and the area covered by the historic Low Countries, but places these regions in a broader European context and in the general history of literacy.

Based on an exhaustive first-hand analysis of numerous archives and many document types, and featuring over a hundred illustrations, this book presents the reader with a large sample of documentary sources. But it also presents important hypotheses regarding literacy and the sociological dimensions of writing in the Middle Ages. Using codicology, palaeography, and diplomatics, it offers a general outline of a key period in the history of literacy which, with hindsight, can be shown to have transformed the Middle Ages.

Further, as the documents that are discussed were used in everyday life, they also have a significant social dimension. At first, these documents were not backed by a clear legal authority; there were no extant rules, formulas, or structural frameworks to which they needed to conform. Thus they shed new light on the men and women who had to learn to make, keep, and use them.


Table des matières :


List of Figures and Graphs

Map of the Southern Netherlands and Northern France (Beginning of the Fourteenth Century)




Chapter 1. The Life-Expectancy of Documents

The Longer Term
Sanctuary Status; Diplomas, Royal Ordinances, Papal Letters; Acts of Foundation and Charters of Freedoms; Placing in the Treasury (Sacralising the Royal Charter: The Role of the Treasury of Charters; An Era of Treasuries)
The Shorter Term
Wax Tablets: Ephemeral Writing (Analysis by Type of Function, 1250-1400; Models of Tablets); Leases and Schedules (Leases; Schedules and Notelets)

Chapter 2. Living Documents

Re-Appropriation: Born-Again Charters
Parasited Documents
Mutating Documents

Chapter 3. Compiling, Abridging, and Compacting


and Abbreviatio

Compilation before 1200; ‘New’ Compilations; Books as Tools; An Example of Evolution of the Compilation Type during the Thirteenth Century: The Legendary; The Deploying of Compilation; Compilation the Fight against Heresy

Compacting (Reducing the Size of Documents)

Codicological Downsizing: Biblical and ‘Literary’; Manuscripts; Codicological Downsizing: Archival Documents; Codicological and Palaeographical Downsizing: A Semi-Quantitative Analysis of an Archive of Schedules

Chapter 4. Ordinatio

Page Layout
Justification and Ruled Lines; Blocks and Blanks; Long Lines and Columns
Presentation of the Text
The Data; Categories; Numerical and Alphabetical Order; Subclasses
: Innovations
From Colour to Black-and-White; The Modest Triumph of Headwords and Titles; Accessibility Tools: Indexes and Tables

Chapter 5. Graphical Signs

Signs and Symbols
Tally Sticks; Signs, Symbols, Marks, and Abbreviations; Scribal Abbreviations
Roman Numerals
Alphabetical Writing
Cursive Scripts; Ordinary Scripts; Textualis and Cursive Scripts: A Sociological Approach

Chapter 6. Documentary Networks and Lack of System: In Search of Everyday Documents

The Concept of a Documentary Network; An Example: The Rent- Based Documentary Network
Towns and Clerics: the Mass Use of Writings
The Written Record in Urban Communities: Tangled Networks; Clerical Documentation: The Gregorian Rigour of Synods
Writing Outside The System
Manuals of Reformers and Individual Workbooks; Schedules and Microcharters

Chapter 7. The Writers

Writers and Writings: From Institutions to Individuals
The Individual: Thierry d’Hireçon, Private Use and Recourse to ‘Professionals’; The Individual in the Thirteenth Century; Graphical Communities; Litterati and Illitterati; The Clerici – Clerks and Clerics; Learning to Write
Workshops, Departments, and Offices: Writing ‘Machines’
The ‘Lower chanceries’ of the Thirteenth Century; The Production of Documents in Towns
Graphical Communities and Micro-communities: The Case of the Count of Flanders’ Schedules
‘Graphical Communities’: The Questions We Need to Ask; The Social Dimension of the Flanders Quittance Collection and Its Producers

Conclusion: Functions and Questions

The Proliferation of Documentation
Growing Uniformity; Code is Law
Memory and Record
Interpretation, Monitoring, and Prediction
Improvisers and Poachers; Quickening of Pace
Final Summary



Informations pratiques :

Paul Bertrand, Documenting the Everyday in Medieval Europe. The Social Dimensions of a Writing Revolution, 1250–1350, Turnhout, Brepols, 2019 (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, 42). XXIII+493 p., 81 b/w ill., 39 b/w tables, 156 x 234 mm. ISBN: 978-2-503-57990-0. Prix : 120 euros.

Source : Brepols

Citer ce billet
François Otchakovsky-Laurens (2019, 17 juillet). Publication – Paul Bertrand, « Documenting the Everyday in Medieval Europe. The Social Dimensions of a Writing Revolution, 1250–1350 ». Registres de délibérations urbains au Moyen Âge. Consulté le 29 mai 2024, à l’adresse

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