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Visigothic script charter coming up at Christie’s auction

4 years ago written by
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Earlier last week an Academia.edu colleague, Peter Kidd –thanks also to Ed van der Vlist for his reminder– let me know about a charter in Visigothic script coming up at Christie’s auction next November (lot 15). Quickly, thinking that perhaps it might have an affordable price [I know, but we are allowed to dream…], I ran to check Christies’s catalog and this is, briefly, the information the piece has:

Charter of Aznar García to the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja, Spain), dated December 15th, 1069.

Charter of Aznar García to the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja, Spain), dated December 15th, 1069.

Provenance:

(a) The upper abbey at San Millán de la Cogolla was founded in c.574 on the site used by St Emilianus (who is named in lines 4 and 9 of the document). The reverse has a contemporary endorsement in Latin ‘Carta de sancti mikaeli de granione’, and one of the late 13th or 14th century in Spanish ‘Carta de la heredades de la iglesia sant migel de granano’, and others of later centuries, in different positions representing the different ways in which the document has been folded and stored.

(b) The property of a gentleman, sold at Sotheby’s, 8 July 1970, lot 41. The preceding lot in this sale was another grant to San Millán de la Cogolla, of the monastery of St Martín in Grañón, which was resold in the Beck sale at Sotheby’s, 16 June 1997, lot 5; it is inscribed with the 18th(?)-century archive reference ‘E.5.11’, while the present document is inscribed ‘E.5.12’ in the lower left corner. (c) Mark Lansburgh, Colorado, by 1990.

Content:

The charter is a grant by Aznar García to Abbot Peter and his brethren, for the honour of San Millán de la Cogolla, of the monasteries of San Miguel and San Tom, both in Grañón … signed by the scribe Sancho: ‘Ego Sancius scriptor huius operis extiti exarator et testes’ (lower margin). The names of 19 men who confirm the document are listed … The charters of San Millán were edited in 1930 by L. Serrano, Cartulario de San Millán de La Cogolla, 1930, pp. 201-3, no 194…

Price: US$76,000-120,000

Recovering breath…

The charter was written in minuscule Visigothic script, probably at the same monastery. Checking the bibliographic reference (pp. VIII-X), it is known that it was kept within the holdings of San Millán until, at least, the second half of the 18th century when, according to the Collection gathered under the name ‘Colección P. Minguella’, the original charter was already missing. (note: the archive reference E.5.12 must be, therefore at the latest, from that century). The text of the document was preserved because it was copied at least in one of the two diplomatic codices of San Millán –the ‘Becerro gótico’ (in Visigothic script, lost circa 1883), and the ‘Becerro galicano’ (fol. 76, no 244; Carolingian script, still in the monastery)-, and from them to the aforesaid Collection (no 219).

‘Becerro galicano’ (fol. 76, no 244), its digital edition was launched a couple of weeks ago.

‘Becerro galicano’ (fol. 76, no 244), its digital edition was launched a couple of weeks ago.

Thus, somehow the charter disappeared from San Millán in the 18th century and arrived to private hands, when, in 1970, it was sold at Sotheby’s together with a close younger brother. While the other charter was sold again in 1997 (where is it now?), this one arrived to the Mark Lansburg Collection in 1990 (? I don’t know this collection) before returning to be, now, on sale.

Several things come to me mind:

  • I understand that not so many years ago the idea we have now regarding the importance of preserving medieval sources was not the same. But now, I cannot understand that the people who have something like this on their own collection do not want to share it to allow its study. Ok, it is money, a lot of money… but the charters should be in their proper place, or, at least, in a good Library in which all of us can appreciate them. I cannot wait to know who buys it.
  • I do not want to think about all the hidden treasures scattered around the world, and the explanation of this distribution… Of course we had wars (check older post), that is sad in any way, but I also remember that a long time ago a friend of mine told me a story: X was working with several manuscripts at the X very-big Library in the early 80′s. Of course, going to the Library every day was annoying so X, close friend of the correct person, took the sources home. Later, Y wanted to consult the same documents for another investigation but they were missing. Curious.
  • US$120.000??? Really? Ok, the charter is beautiful, it was well written, the conservation is almost perfect, but does it worth it? The text is not unknown. I can think in other better examples of this script, more specific and important that worth the price but, this one? if I had the money, I would not invest on it. Would you?

 

– by Ainoa Castro

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