It Has Been Done Before!

Reconstituting War-Ravaged Libraries

Although the brutality of the Serb nationalists and their wholesale destruction of cultural property has shocked the world, their actions are not without precedent. During World War I and World War II, the Germans also destroyed archives and libraries, often in retaliation for acts of resistance. In some of those instances, the civilized world united to rebuild the destroyed institutions, not only donating funds as well as books and equipment, but even recreating the destroyed collections on the basis of photographic, manuscript, or published copies.

Below are some articles describing two such efforts:

Andras Riedlmayer's Introduction to a Talk given by Enes Kujundzic, Boston Public Library, 21 October 1994

Good afternoon. I would like to thank the Boston Public Library for making this event possible and the Boston Library Consortium for helping us to publicize it. Thank you all for coming this afternoon.

Before I introduce our distinguished guest, I would like to recall an event that took place 80 years ago, the story of the burning of another great library and of its resurrection.

It was in the summer of 1914, in the opening days of World War I. The German Army had invaded neutral Belgium. Louvain, an ancient university town in Flanders, had been declared an open city and left undefended. It was occupied without incident. A week thereafter, on August 25th, in the dark of night with the city under curfew, shots rang out and several German soldiers were killed.

The German military authorities decided that the shooting must have been the work of civilian snipers. They decreed at once that Louvain must be punished, as an example to the rest of Belgium and to the world. Before the night was over, 200 citizens had been rounded up and summarily executed. Streets in the city's historic center were cordoned off by troops, residents were ordered out of their homes, and the ancient stone houses set ablaze one by one by German military engineers.

At the center of the condemned district lay the Catholic University of Louvain---the oldest in Belgium---and its library. The library's basement doors were broken open, flammable liquids were poured in and soon the building was engulfed in flames. The fire burned for several days, consuming over 230,000 books, some 800 of them incunabula, printed before the year 1500, and the library's famous collection of more than 900 manuscripts. Nothing was saved. The German high command telegraphed the news to the world---"Louvain is no more."

The reaction was not long in coming, and it was not what the high command had anticipated. Throughout Europe and America, the news was greeted with profound shock and indignation. Even in neutral countries, where there was considerable sympathy for the German cause, condemnation of the act was virtually unanimous.

In the United States, academics and librarians were among the first to rally to the idea of rebuilding the destroyed library. Less than a month after the fire, President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard University suggested that a fund drive be launched for the restoration of the Louvain Library. By the spring of 1915 an international Louvain Book Fund had been organized, with President Lowell among its 20 founding members. With Europe still engulfed in war, storage depots for donated books were set up in the Netherlands and other neutral countries.

At the conclusion of hostilities, the destruction of Louvain's library was not forgotten and the project of its restoration was incorporated into the terms of the Versailles Peace treaty. As part of reparations to Belgium, Germany was obliged to set up a trust fund of 10 million francs, the income of which was to be used to buy books for Louvain. To compensate for the 1,750 rare books and manuscripts destroyed in the fire, major libraries throughout Germany were compelled to donate an equal number of precious items from duplicates in their own collections to the library at Louvain.

However, the library itself was still a burned-out ruin. In America, a National Committee for the Restoration of the Library of the University of Louvain was established to raise the funds needed for reconstruction. The Massachusetts Committee, chaired by President Lowell and including leading philanthropists and civic leaders, was incorporated in January 1919. The restored University Library in Louvain, built in large part with American donations, opened its doors on July 4th, 1928.

In May 1940, the Germans once more invaded Belgium, and once more the library at Louvain was reduced to ashes. This time, the German authorities claimed the fire had been set by the fleeing Belgians. A commission of inquiry after the war declared otherwise---eyewitnesses had seen a German artillery detachment just outside of town lobbing shells at the distinctive tower of the University Library until the building went up in flames. Once again the aggressors were defeated, and after the war Louvain's library was rebuilt for the second time.

But now, as we near the end of the 20th century, the ideology that calls for the burning of libraries is on the march once more in Europe. On the 25th of August 1992, on the 78th anniversary of the very day Louvain was first burned, Bosnia's National and University Library in Sarajevo was bombarded by Serb nationalist forces and burned to the ground with most of its collections.

Like the Belgians back then, our Bosnian colleagues today have no intention of knuckling under. Carrying on under fire and under siege, they are working to rebuild their library. Let us hope that the generous spirit that rebuilds libraries also still endures in America, and that Sarajevo's library, like that of Louvain, will rise once again from the ashes.

Let us give a warm welcome to Dr. Enes Kujundzic, director of the National and University Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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Boston Globe, October 25, 1994

Saving the Soul of Sarajevo

by James Carroll

Erasmus, who defined happiness as "the wish to be what you are," was the head of the University of Louvain in Belgium. Under him Louvain was an incubator of humanism, and its library, preserving more than 800 books printed before 1500 and 900 illuminated manuscripts, was a birthplace of the modern world.

In 1914, the Germans swept into neutral Belgium, occupying undefended Louvain. Avenging the deaths of a few German soldiers and to demonstrate the cost of resistance, they set fire to the library of the university on the night of August 25. Those who tried to put the fire out were shot. The fire burned for days, and everything in the library was lost.

"Louvain is no more," the Germans boasted, but the world's reaction was not what they expected. Librarians and academics in England, Scotland, Portugal, France and America launched a movement to restore the Library of Louvain. Within weeks of the fire, an international fund drive was proposed by Harvard's President Abbott Lawrence Lowell. Even while the war raged, his idea took hold and grew. The importance of American funds to the restoration of the library is reflected in the fact that the day on which it finally opened in 1928 was the 4th of July.

What might be called the spirit of Louvain is alive today in the effort to restore the library of Sarajevo, which was burned by Serb aggressors on Aug. 25, 1992, the 78th anniversary of the torching of the Belgian library. I heard the story of Louvain last Friday from Andras Riedlmayer, part of his introduction at the Boston Public Library of Enes Kujundzic, director of the National and University Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Riedlmayer himself made the relevance of President Lowell's initiative palpable because he is a librarian at the Fine Arts Library of Harvard and, with his colleague Jeffrey Spurr, links Louvain with Sarajevo.

I asked Kujundzic what the main sources of materials would be in his effort to rescue the historical record of Bosnia's multiethnic society? He replied, "Four sources: for our medieval and Renaissance periods, the libraries of Italy; for the Ottoman period, the libraries of Istanbul; for the Austrian period, the libraries of Vienna and Budapest; and for oral history---the texts of Bosnian epic and lyric poetry---the Widener Library at Harvard."

Amazingly enough, more than 60 years ago, two Harvard classics scholars, Milman Parry and Albert Lord, studying patterns of Homeric form, compiled the largest oral collection of Bosnian poetry in the world, consisting of 3,500 recordings and 12,500 individual texts. Access to this treasure will form a crucial part of the preservation of Bosnian memory, the very thing Serb aggression intends to destroy.

We Americans continually wring our hands about our inability to influence the Balkans war. In recent weeks the Serb siege of Sarajevo has intensified. The aggressors now boldly loot even the UN relief convoys. A Kurt Schork dispatch in Sunday's Globe reported that Serb forces are confiscating half of all the fuel moving toward Sarajevo as humanitarian aid---fuel intended to keep civilians alive this winter. Meanwhile the United Nations and NATO bicker over minor military initiatives and Washington sets deadlines for the spring. And what can the rest of us do?

Not ignore it, that's what. Librarians have given us an image of what is required, how not to wait for governments or intemational agencies to provide channels of response. Just because we can't solve the Balkans crisis at a stroke does not mean an accumulation of small interventions could not be decisive.

What if other professional and cultural groups established specific and useful connections with their struggling counterparts in Bosnia? Boston doctors are doing exactly that, especially under the leadership of Dr. Jane Schaller, head of pediatrics at the Floating Hospital. Next month she is convening a second meeting of American pediatricians with pediatricians from all parts of ex-Yugoslavia to consider ways to protect the health of children.

One key way of doing that, of course, is to protect the health of their doctors. Last week Schaller brought a wounded pediatrician from Sarajevo to Boston. On Friday, while Kujundzic was speaking of the Sarajevo library at the BPL, surgeons at the New England Medical Center were removing a sniper's bullet from the lung of Dr. Esma Zecevic, chief pediatrician in one of Sarajevo's last hospitals. By the next day Zecevic was doing well, and at her request, I brought Kujundzic to visit. They had never met but they spoke easily of friends they had in common, and they agreed to meet again in Sarajevo soon. His library. Her hospital. Their city. What struck me most, as I watched from a corner, was the exuberance of their bond, their absolute assumption that they were together, their fates entwined.

Year after year, with mute impotence, we have witnessed the outrageous assault on Bosnia. The illusion that has enabled us to keep the distance on which Serb aggressors have come to depend is not that our fates are independent of the fate of Sarajevo, but that there is simply nothing we can do. The Library of Louvain is an image of something else, however. In 1940, a mere 12 years after it finally reopened, invading Germans burned Erasmus' library to the ground again, as if to prove Abbott Lawrence Lowell and all the others wrong. But you cannot burn our wish to be what we are, and as if to prove that, after the war, once more largely by American aid, the Library of Louvain was restored again.

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The American Archivist, vol. 7, no. 4 (October 1944), pp. 252-255

Report on the Destruction by the Germans, September 30, 1943, of the Depository of Priceless Historical Records of the Naples State Archives (1)

by Count Riccardo Filangieri, Royal State Archives at Naples

By order of the Ministry of the Interior, with the object of removing them from the dangers of aerial attacks, I arranged and attended to the transfer of the most valuable historical documents of the State Archives of Naples to the Montesano villa near San Paolo Belsito, about thirty kilometers from Naples. In the halls of that solid building were thus deposited more than 30,000 volumes and about 50,000 parchments, for the most part contained in 866 cases.

When the Allied Army was already near, in the afternoon of September 28, there appeared at Montesano villa a squad of three German soliders in search of calves. For some weeks already the country in the Nola region had been infested with these squads, of three soldiers each, well-armed with sub-machine guns; some were stealing hens and eggs from private homes, others were taking cows and pigs, some were seizing able-bodied men, others were plundering houses and robbing them of objects of value. In these last days other squads composed of wreckers joined them; some mined the public buildings and the best private houses, others set fire to industrial establishments, mills, warehouses, railway stations, workshops, etc.

When the soldiers of the squad that came to the Montesano villa did not find with the peasants the calves which they knew existed, they entered with violence the ground floor of the villa, where they saw the great pile of cases containing the documents. When asked what those cases contained, the archives personnel living in the villa informed them of the presence in that depository of the historical documents of the State Archives of Naples. Having learned this, they went away without saying anything.

The next morning, September 29, there appeared at the Montesano villa an oficer and another soldier, who, after asking the director of the depository, Comm. Antonio Capograssi, for a valise, wished to visit the rooms where the documents were. He had one of the cases opened and they examined the volumes, The director informed them of the importance of these documents, furnishing them all suitable explanations to demonstrate the purely cultural character of that depository. After having examined everything, the oficer said: "All right," and left.

As I was in my villa in Livardi, a little distance from that place, I was immediately informed of what happened by the business manager of the archives, Lt. Col. Guiseppe Basile, who was also living at Montesano villa. But since as far as I knew no hostile act had been committed up to that time by the Germans against cultural institutions, I was not worried. Neither was I worried by the killing of a German soldier a few days before in the square at San Paolo Belsito, because, although the destruction of the public buildings and some country houses by mines had been threatened, nothing had come of that threat.

In the morning of the thirtieth I was informed by the mistress of the villa, Signora Santamaria Contieri, that in the late afternoon of the previous day another squad of German soldiers had appeared at the Montesano villa and had entered the cellars underneath the rooms and had hung around for some time. This had aroused the suspicion that they had mined the villa.

Although the collapse of the villa would not represent a serious danger to the manuscripts enclosed in solid cases piled up in four rows, one above another, still I thought it fitting to call attention of the local German commander to his responsibility. I therefore addressed a letter to him in which I described in summary the contents of that depository, the fact that it belonged to the Naples state archives, and the exclusively historical character of the manuscripts. I also listed for him the series of documents which even concerned the history of the various countries of Europe, including Germany, adding that various German students had studied them and inviting the said commander to report the nature of that depository of documents to the German Historical Institute in Rome.

One of the archives guards who took my letter to the Montesano villa at about 9:15 met a squad of three German soldiers on motorcycles armed, as usual, with sub-machine guns, who were going towards the villa. They had hardly arrived when they announced that within fifteen minutes they would set fire to the whole depository of documents. Then my letter was handed to the man who was commanding the squad and who had formed part of the squad brought there the day before. And as this man did not understand Italian the letter was entirely translated for him into French by Director Capograssi and Signora Contieri, who happened to be there. After the German had listened to the letter he brutally snatched the letter and the lists of documents and throwing them into the air, shouted: "Commander know everything, order burn."

The director vainly sought to obtain a delay in order to warn me and to send my letter to the commander; the three soldiers immediately began the work of destruction by placing paper, straw, and gunpowder in the four corners and, in the center of each room and by setting the fire in such a way that in a few minutes the whole villa became an immense pyre.

After assuring themselves that the fire could not be extinguished, they went away but returned an hour later to make certain that the work of destruction was complete.

After their first departure the guards and the peasants tried to save what they could; but the violence of the fire was so great that only eleven cases of notarial registers and ninety-seven cartons of the Farnese Archives could be dragged to safety.

From the investigations made afterwards, I found out that the German commander who was at Nola a few days before was already transferred to Cancello and that various squads of pillagers and wreckers were coming from Sarno---reasons for which I do not exclude the possibility that the orders to destroy the archives came from Naples. I have not succeeded in learning anything precise about the names of the higher oficials responsible for the crime. From some I have learned that a certain notice posted at Nola bore the signature Kellermann. Others have mentioned a Captain Sommerfield

The extent of the disaster is enormous. In that depository I had collected all the most precious series of documents coming from the various archives of the south of Italy. And their destruction has created an immense void in the historical sources of European civilization, a void which nothing will ever be able to fill. Among the most precious documents lost are the series of 378 registers of the Anjou Chancery (I265-I435), which was one of the most valuable historical sources of the Middle Ages, the registers of the Aragon Chancery, the manuscripts, codices, autograph collections, and original treaties of the kingdom of Naples, and famous political trials; and the greater part of the archives of the Royal House of Bourbon, of the Farnese House, of the Royal Summary Court, of the Collateral Council, of the Royal Chamber of Santa Chiara, of the Secretariat of the Viceroy, of the Superior Chaplaincy, of the Council of Sicily, of the Ministries of the Presidency and of Foreign Affairs of Bourbon, of the Order of Malta, of the Feudal Commission, of the Ancient Treasury, of the Conservatory Court of the Nobility, of the most ancient notaries, has been destroyed.

(1) The records destroyed in the wanton outrage described in this document represent the most serious loss to the historian yet reported from Italy. They comprised a selection of the more valuable holdings of the Royal Archives at Naples, removed to the Montesano villa, supposedly for greater safety. But slight damage was reported to the larger volume of less valuable material that was left in the archives building at Naples to take its chances. Count Filangieri, author of this account, is a member of an old Neapolitan family, an authority on medieval and modern Italian history and art, and author of books and articles in these fields. An article by him on the Naples archives, illustrated with photographs of the building, appeared in the Italian journal Archivi, for 1938 (Serie I, Anno V), 233-242. A copy of Count Filangieri's report was given to Fred W. Shipman, director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, when he was in Italy in April, by Fausto Nicolini, inspector general of the archives of state. This translation from the Italian was made by Arthur H. Leavitt and Salvatore D. Nerboso of the staff of the National Archives.

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Archivum, vol. 1, no. 1 (1951), pp. 135-137.


LE PRESIDENT: Le voeu est adopte. Nous en avons termine avec les voeux. M. Filangieri demande la parole.

M. Riccardo FILANGIERI: Un essai de reconstitution des Archives Angevines de Naples

La reconstitution d'archives importantes entierement detruites n'est pas une entreprise qu'on peut aisement tenter avec succes.

Lorsque ces actes sont perdus par dizaines ou par centaines de milliers, lors qu'ils appartiennent a des siecles recules, lorsque les actes correspondants d'autres archives sont tres limites, en raison de pertes constantes, tout effort de reconstitution est vain.

Les Archives angevines de Naples font une exception a cette regle.

Les chartes les plus importantes des Archives napolitaines furent detruites, comme vous le savez, le 30 septembre 1943.

Cette perte affecte plus de 50,000 parchements (a partir du VIIIe siecle) et presque 35,000 volumes ou liasses, contenant les sources historiques les plus precieuses que nous possedions.

Elle peut tout de meme etre attenuee, a condition que l'on effectue de tres longs et durs travaux. Si un grand nombre de documents a ete perdu, il n'en reste pas moins que les Archives napolitaines sont encore tres riches, grace aux series qui n'ont pas subi les degats de la guerre et qui sont bien plus nombreuses que les series perdues; mais elles ne possedent pas toujours des index ou des repertoires. Cette meme perte peut etre egaIement attenuee grace aux sources de toutes les autres Archives, non seulement de l'Italie, mais aussi de l'Espagne, de la France, de l'Autriche, de la Hongrie et d'autres pays.

Mais, laissant de cote tout ce qui se rapporte au retour et a l'utilisation de tous les autres documents de nos archives (cela forme l'objet de la deuxieme partie de mon expose), je traiterai tout d'abord de la serie la plus importante des documents perdus, c'est-a-dire des Archives angevines. Elles constituaient l'une des sources les plus riches et les plus precieuses que le moyen age nous ait transmises, d'histoire, non seulement du royaume de Sicile et des autres etats italiens, mais de tous les pays d'Europe, d'Asie, d'Afrique, qui entourent la Mediterranee.

Les Archives angevines contenaient 375 lourds registres en parchemin, 3 en papier, 4 volumes de fragments d'anciens registres dits Registri nuovi, 66 volumes et plusieurs autres fragments en papier appeles Fascicoli, 37 volumes d'actes originaux en parchemin et 11 autres volumes d'actes originaux, en papier, dits Arche.

Cette incomparable collection contenaient presque cinq cent mille documents, se rapportant a la periode 1265-1435.

Ces Archives, quoique considerables, etaient loin de representer la collection complete des actes sortis de la Chancellerie napolitaine de la maison d'Anjou, parce que le temps et les evenements y avaient deja cause des lacunes enormes: les guerres et les revolutions, les degats par l'eau et le feu en avaient deja abime plus de la moitie.

La connaissance de ces Archives, que j'avais depuis 40 ans, et surtout des etudes dont elles ont ete l'objet pendant quatre siecles, m'a incline a essayer de les reconstituer.

Les considerations suivantes m'ont con- vaincu que la chose etait possible.

Les registres angevins conserves jusqu'a la moitie du XVIe siecle dans un mauvais etat---ils etaient en partie derelies ou dechires---furent remis en ordre et relies par les archivistes napolitains. On en autorisa la consultation, bien qu'avec certaines restrictions, a toutes les personnes qui pouvaient y trouver quelque interet. Depuis ce temps, les recherches se sont multipliees; eveches, chapitres, monasteres, oeuvres pies, villes, familles feodales et patriciennes y puisaient des notes ou en faisaient transcrire des passages afin d'en tirer les sources de leur histoire et de leurs privileges, ainsi que les preuves de leurs droits.

Plusieurs savants, parmi lesquels il faut citer Carlo de Lellis, compilerent ces registres a partir de la fin du XVIe siecle et mirent au point de riches repertoires, qui leur permirent de fournir nombre de documents qui leur etaient demandes.

En outre, chaque ville faisait etablir son Libro rosso, ainsi qu'on appelait les collections de privileges. Les eveques, les chapitres, les monasteres, les familles, faisaient egalement copier dans les cartularia les documents qui les concernaient, pour les conserver dans leurs propres Archives.

Il convient de preciser que les lettres patentes ou les privileges originaux envoyes par la Chancellerie royale devaient etre conserves dans les Archives de chaque pays. D'autres copies authentiques des actes de la Chancellerie devaient etre presentees a l'occasion de proces ou pour prouver tel ou tel droit.

Par ailleurs, des le XVIe siecle, les ecrivains d'histoire nationale, ecclesiastique, communale, les auteurs de biographies et de genealogies ont sans cesse consultes nos registres. Mieux encore : depuis le XIXe siecle, de veritables phalanges d'historiens y ont pris notes, copies et photogaphies.

M. Charles Perrat, professeur a l'Ecole de Chartres, avant la guerre, a photographie a lui seul pres de dix a douze mille documents peut etre; cette remarquable collection d'actes pourrait faire l'objet de la publication d'une serie de volumes ou l'on etablirait un classement par sujets.

Pour toutes ces considerations, des recherches approfondies et vastes effectues dans toutes les archives et manuscrits des bibliotheques de tous les pays de notre civilisation, ainsi que ces chez les savants ou chez leurs heritiers, pouvaient fournir une riche moisson de documents; moisson qui, en raison de la diversite des personnes ayant recueilli les actes et de l'infinite des sujects d'etude, devait necessairement comprendre toutes les branches des actes enregistres.

Ces recherches commencerent en 1943. Un bureau special, ou travaillent plusieurs fonctionnaires de l'Archivio di Stato sous la direction de notre collegue la Directrice Jole Mazzoleni, procede a des recherches, copies et collations de documents recuperes. Ces actes, dont le nombre est considerable, sont classes suivant les indications d'archives et reconstitueront des copies des registres perdus.

Plusieurs dizaines de milliers de documents sont deja recuperes; ils pourraient remplir environ cinquante volumes.

Mais ce grand travail, qu'on peut dire a peine commence, n'est pas encore suffisant.

Le tragique desastre que nous avons subi nous fait sentir la necessite de publier les sources recouvrees actuellement confiees a de fragiles feuilles de papier d'une consultation souvent difficile.

Il fallait precisement montrer que cette publication etait possible, surtout pour en convaincre ceux qui l'estimaient irrealisable. C'est a ce but que repondait l'essai qui a ete tente.

Benedetto Croce, qui fut vivement affecte par la destruction de nos Archives proposa a l'Accademia Pontaniana la publication d'un premier volume des registres angevins reconstitues. L'Academie ayant accueilli tres favorablement cette proposition, le volume, que j'ai l'honneur de presenter au Congres, a ete publie six mois plus tard.

Il contient les fragments conserves des sept premiers registres de Charles Ier, depuis son investiture, le 28 juin 1265, jusqu'a la fin de l'indiction XII, c'est-a-dire jusqu'au 31 aout 1269.

Il a ete possible d'ajouter a ces fragments plusieurs autres documents, qui se trouvaient jadis dans les memes registres, sous forme de feuilles, lesquelles avaient ete perdues avant le XVIe siecle et qui ont ete retrouvees depuis, sous forme de diplomes originaux ou de copies figurant dans d'autres Archives ou dans d'anciennes publications.

Ce volume contient au total 1160 documents.

Il convient de distinguer la methode a suivre pour la reconstitution des archives et pour la publication des actes. Il faut que vous sachiez en premier lieu que les registres reconstitues au XVe siecle, ainsi que plusieurs autres composes apres le revolution de 1701 grace a des fragments echappes a un incendie, se trouvaient dans un etat de desordre deplorable, en raison de la connaisance insuffisante que nos archivistes avaient de la diplomatique et de l'ecriture de la Chancellerie angevine.

M. Durrieu avait reussi a minimiser les erreurs, en utilisant des tables de recomposition des registres originaux, pour la Chancellerie de Charles Ier, comme M. Capasse le fit grace a d'autres tables descriptives pour toutes les Archives angevines. Il n'est pas douteux que les Archives doivent etre necessairement reconstituees suivant l'ordre errone que nous avons deja deplore et dont nos predecesseurs se sont rendus coupables. En effet, les titres des registres et leurs feuilles ont ete ainsi indiques pendant quatre siecles, dans toutes les publications et dans tous les manuscrits. Il en serait tout autrement dans le cas d'une publication systmatique des actes de la Chancellerie. Il conviendrait alors de reproduire les archives originales telles qu'elles etaient sorties des bureaux angevins, mais encore de tenir compte dans publication de la composition, du classement, de la chronologie et de tout ce qui avait ete deforme par nos predecesseurs, diligents mais maladroits.

Enfin cette reconstitution des registres originaux nous donne la possibilit d'ajouter aux actes recouvres de chaque registre tous les autres actes qui, perdus avant le XVIe siecle, existent en originaux ou en copies dans les Archives et dans les Bibliotheques.

Le deuxieme volume, deja sous presse, contiendra un autre registre et deux fragments, toujours de l'indiction XII (1268-69), presque entierement reconstitue, ainsi que le celebre Liber Donationum regis Caroli primi.

Cet important registre, qui concernait les donations faites par le roi Charles, generalement aux barons francais, de fiefs dont il avait depouille les partisans de Conradin, fut entierement copie par l'archiviste Russi, qui en avait ete charge par le duc de Luynes.

Le duc le fit imprimer par la maison parisienne Plon; mais il s'apercut trop tard, helas, que dans ce registre regnait la meme confusion que parmi les feuilles, si bien que plusieurs actes paraissaient mutiles et peu intelligibles; aussi en fit-il suspendre la publication.

M. Durrieu en avait vu un exemplaire imprime chez M. Leopold Delisle; mais depuis on n'en a plus eu de nouvelles. J'ai vainement essaye d'en retrouver une copie, en ecrivant a l'actuel duc de Luynes, et en la faisant rechercher dans les manuscrits des bibliotheques, parmi lesquels le plus complet, celui de Giovan Battista Bolvito, m'a permis de faire une reconstitution totale de ce precieux registre.

Mais il faut encore faire beaucoup de recherches, copier, photographier un peu partout. Et pour executer ces travaux, je suis en train d'obtenir les fonds necessaires, soit pour la reproduction des documents, sout pour en accelerer la publication.

Mes chers collegues, je profite de cette occasion pour faire appel a votre obligeance, afin que tous ceux qui ont connaissance de copies ou de notes prises des registres angevins, ou de diplomes originaux, ou encore de publications d'actes veuillent m'en informer. Chaque document paraitra avec la mention du nom du collaborateur.

Je serais heureux de reconnaitre, dans cette collaboration, le lien fraternel qui doit nous unir dans toute oeuvre de notre culture.


LE PRESIDENT: La parole est a M. Tihon, archiviste general du Royaume de Belgique.

M. TIHON: Mesdames, Messieurs.

Il n'est pas un historien, il n'est pas un medieviste surtout, qui ignore l'importance extreme des Archives angevines. Nous savons tous que de nombreux historiens y ont puise des elements important de leurs etudes.

Nous ne saurions donc trop recommander a nos archivistes du monde entier qui peuvent avoir l'occasion de posseder des copies ou meme des originaux de documents sortant de la Chancellerie angevine, d'aider M. Filangieri dans l'entreprise considerable qu'il a commencee et qui a deja donne un si brillant resultat.

Je suis sur d'etre l'interprete de tous ceux qui ont vu ces premiers resultats pour lui presenter nos felicitations et surtout pour vous recommander de l'aider a nous faire paraitre bientot le deuxieme volume de son etude.


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Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol. 3, no. 4 (1966), pp. 191-194.

The Archives of Angevin Naples---A Reconstruction

by John L. Kirby, History Faculty Library, University of Oxford

From 1845 to 1943 the records of the kingdom of Naples were housed in the buildings of the dissoved abbey of San Severino in the centre of the city, a vast repository with about 400 rooms, halls and corridors. When the allies reached southern Italy, and Naples came within the range of their bombers in 1943, some 866 boxes of the older, and supposedly more precious, archives were moved for greater safety to the villa Montesano, about a mile from the village of San Paolo Belsito, near Nola, and some fifteen miles from Naples. On 28 September 1943, shortly after the armistice and the allied landings at Salerno, a party of three German soldiers arrived at this house. They were levying cattle from all the villages of the province to provision the army. Apparently disappointed at finding no livestock at the villa they reported on its contents. The next day a German official and a soldier arrived and made a searching and detailed examination of the villa Montesano. Some suggestion was made that munitions might be hidden there, but in fact there was nothing whatever of military importance. Nevertheless on the next day, 30 September, four German officials arrived with orders from the military command to burn everything. Despite protests and pleadings, and all the efforts of the archivist in charge, the whole villa was set alight and the contents burnt, an act of completely unjustifiable barbarism. Hardly a scrap of parchment could be saved from the flames. Meanwhile the archives building in Naples survived the war undamaged, and still houses those records which were considered too bulky or insufficiently valuable to evacuate, together with such oddments as were overlooked in the hasty move of 1943.

The lost records comprised 85,978 archive units, over a thousand of them being large registers, of which the earliest (1239-40) was the only surviving register of the Emperor Frederick II as king of Naples. The largest archive group, however, was that surviving from the period of the Angevin rulers of Naples (1265-1435). This consisted in 1943 of 375 large parchment registers, mostly, of 300 or 400 folios each, and well over a hundred paper and parchment volumes or parts of volumes, representing altogether upwards of half a million documents. Described in 1906 by the French historian Alain de Bouard as "L'une des plus precieuses collections de documents que nous ait leguees le Moyen-Age", it was a vitally important source for the history not only of Italy but for the whole of western Europe, surpassed in Italy perhaps only by the rich archives of the Vatican. So wide indeed were the interests of the house of Anjou that the affairs of half Europe could be found recorded in their chancery. Charles I (1265-85), the founder of the Angevin dynasty, was a restless warrior whose concerns and influence reached at times from Anjou to Constantinople. Youngest brother of St. Louis (Louis IX of France), Count of Anjou and Provence, Senator of Rome and papal vicar, it was with the pope's approval that he wrested the kingdom of Naples from the last remaining members of the Hohenstaufen family in battles at Benevento and Tagliacozzo.

Although registers of the letters, charters, writs and other acts of the kings of Naples were certainly compiled long before, and one, as has been said, survived from 1239-40, it was only from the accession of Charles I in 1265 that a regular series was preserved. These registers in the form of parchment quires were at first carried around, following the journeyings of the royal court at least within the Neapolitan kingdom, but as their increasing numbers made this more difficult they came to be deposited in royal castles. This was already being done in 1269. A few years later in 1282-3 the first keeper of the royal archives to be named was Niccolo di San Vittore. From 1290 the archives were gradually concentrated in Naples, and after several moves were all transferred in 1540 to the Castel Capuano there. Already they had suffered considerable losses, from rain in 1336, from fire in 1346, and from the wars of the succession in which the house of Aragon replaced that of Anjou. In 1568 the registers numbered 436, but another sixty were lost in 1701, when rioters threw them out of the windows and burnt them in the courtyard. In 1845 the survivors were moved to the new, royal archive building already mentioned.

The two main divisions of the registers, as originally written, were those of the chancery and those of the chamber the former being by far the more numerous and important. The enregistered copies of letters and orders sent out by the chancery were divided into seven main classes, as follows:

  1. Iusticiariis, addressed to the justices of the provinces, who were responsible for justice, local administration and finance. These were subdivided into eleven, and sometimes more, parts according to the areas of the kingdom to which they were sent. They might also be divided subjectively into De Curia and De Privatis, matters affecting the state and the private citizen respectively.
  2. Secretis, Magistris Procuratoribus et Portulanis, etc. addressed to collectors of taxes, divided partly geographically and partly by the different taxes.
  3. Extravagantes, (a) infra Regnum and (b) extra Regnum, addressed to officials and private persons, the extra Regnum being divided according to their destination into: 'Anjou', 'Provence', 'Tuscany', 'Lombardy' etc.
  4. Privilegia, concessiones, donationes, which were, as their titles imply, royal charters or grants.
  5. Letters or licences for private persons on many subjects, including authorisations for the marriages of tenants-in-chief, or Matrimonia, and appointments or licences to practise for such professional persons as Iudices et Assessores, Notarii, Medici, etc.
  6. Apodixaria, receipts to officials for monies received, and discharges including views of account.
  7. Various miscellaneous classes, Vicario Siciliae, and other officials.
The three classes of Chamber, or financial registers, were:
  1. Schedules and lists of taxes.
  2. Letters to the treasurers, mandates to them for payments, and receipts for the same, divided into Introitus and Exitus, or receipt and issue.
  3. Accounts of the royal household.

Normally new registers were started in each class for each year, the year running from 1 September to 31 August and dated by the year of the indiction in Byzantine style. From 1271 three copies of the registers were kept and later a fourth was introduced, so that in some cases duplicates survived. Apparently the separate quires were not bound up until about 1556 when only a small fraction of the originals were still extant. Then an attempt was made to bind them all into large registers. Evidently the intention was to put all the registers of one year together regardless of the class to which they belonged. The resulting volumes bore the name of the ruler, the year, and a letter A, B, C... to distinguish different volumes of the same year. Unfortunately the archivists who prepared the registers for binding were ignorant, or careless, or both, and the result was slightly chaotic. Then in the riots of 1701 many volumes, apart from those lost altogether, were damaged or broken up, and somewhat haphazardly put together again. Later in the eighteenth century there was a general and final rebinding, which again probably added something to the confusion.

The value of the records was well known, and they were already being used for genealogical research and family history. Both noble families and religious houses had copies made of those acta which concerned their own history or property. The first surviving inventory of the records was that of 1568. Several partial repertories were made in the years that followed. Then came Carlo de Lellis, a contemporary of Sir William Dugdale, a nobleman, and one or the many seventeenth-century antiquaries who made the collection of historical material their life's work Between 1654 and 1671 he published in three volumes Discorsi delle famiglie nobili del regno di Napoli, but more important to future historians and archivists was the complete repertory of the Angevin archives in nine volumes including many transcripts and summaries of documents. The losses of I701, little more than ten years after his death, immediately enhanced the value of his work.

However it was only in the later part of the nineteenth century that a systematic study of the archives as archives was made. In 1886-87 Paul Durrieu published an exhaustive two-volume study of the registers for the reign or Charles I. This work included a full history and description of the archives, an account of the working of the chancery and other administration of Naples under Charles I, a descriptive list of the contents of the volumes as they then were, and a systematic reconstruction of the original chronological and archive order. Durrieu also put in amongst other items a list of the records dated 21 November 1284, showing exactly what they comprised shortly before the death of Charles himself. As the registers had survived in much greater numbers from the earlier than from the later part of the Angevin period, this work, although only covering one reign, included a substantial part, perhaps one fifth, of the whole. Seven years later an Inventario cronologico-sistematico of all the registers was published, completing his work, if not setting out the reconstruction quite so fully. The inventory of 1568 was printed and chronological and systematic indexes of all the registers were included. This work was done under the supervision of B. Capasso, then Superintendent of the Archives in Naples, although his name does not appear on the title-page. Work on the archives continued in the present century and produced a number of noteworthy publications. Alain de Bouard published three volumes between 1926 and 1935 mainly of documents concerning France. A volme of 'lost acts' based on the extracts made by Carlo de Lellis was edited by the archivists of Naples in 1939, and a volume of diplomatic documents relating to relations between Naples and Venice, and drawn from the archives of both cities, was printed in 1942, although not finally published until 1965.

Then came the war, and the worst disaster in seven centuries of Neapolitan archive-keeping. The archivists and historians of Naples, proud of their history and of their records, were horrified by this destruction and almost immediately determined to make good the loss so far as was possible. Led by the veteran archivist of Naples Count Riccardo Filangieri di Candida Gonzaga, they started on the immense double task, firstly of collecting all possible copies of the lost records, and secondly of publishing the best possible text, so that the disaster could never be repeated.

Thanks to the work of Durrieu, Capasso and many others, they had a complete guide to what was lost. Printed and manuscript copies of many of the documents could be found in the work of historians. Many had been published in periodicals as well as in the major works. Repertories and copies made for family archives and religious houses survived both in private hands and along with other copies in their own and in other state archives. In some cases the originals from which the registers were made in the first place could still be found in state and private archives both in Italy and abroad. By drawing on all these sources it was possible to recover copies of a very large proportion of the records, some complete and some only in part. These copies were arranged in the order of the lost registers, so as to reconstruct as nearly as possible the lost archives as they were in 1943.

The next step, begun almost simultaneously, was to make the reconstructed archive available in print, and so ensure so far as possible its preservation. For this purpose it was thought more useful to print the records more nearly in their original order. That is in a systematic chronological order, in the order in effect in which Durrieu had put them in his printed reconstruction of 1886, modified only by such corrections as have come to light since his day, and continued eventually after the date which he reached. At the same time it was decided so far as possible to put back into their places the documents lost before Durrieu's day as they were known from de Lellis and others. The most important items are printed in full, but in others common form and repetitive matter is omitted, omissions always being indicated. Each register, of which there are on the average four to each printed volume, has a separate introduction. The place of each document in the parchment registers is indicated, and references are given to the sources of the printed version. Each volume has an index of persons and places. The first volume, covering the years 1265-69, was published in 1950, and by 1964 19 volumes had been published bringing the date up to 1277-78 and the number of registers to 80; or about two-thirds of the reign of Charles I. The task was immense, and one can but admire the courage which was required to embark on it, and the success which has so far been achieved.

Note: Since the above article appeared, the work of recovery and publication of the lost Angevin archives of Naples has continued. Volume 41 in the series I registri della Cancelleria angioina, ricostruiti da Riccardo Filangieri con la collaborazione degli archivisti napoletani was published in 1993.

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