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Diplomatics (in American English, and in most anglophone countries), or diplomatic (in British English), is a scholarly discipline centred on the critical analysis of
document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of nonfiction, non-fictional, as well as fictional, content. The word originates from the Latin ''Documentum'', whic ...

document
s: especially,
historical document Historical documents are original document A document is a written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (ph ...
s. It focuses on the conventions, protocols and formulae that have been used by document creators, and uses these to increase understanding of the processes of document creation, of information transmission, and of the relationships between the facts which the documents purport to record and reality. The discipline originally evolved as a tool for studying and determining the authenticity of the official
charter A charter is the grant of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social scie ...
s and
diploma A diploma is a certificate or deed issued by an educational institution, such as college or university, that testifies that the recipient has successfully completed a particular course of study. The word diploma also refers to an academic award w ...

diploma
s issued by royal and papal chanceries. It was subsequently appreciated that many of the same underlying principles could be applied to other types of official document and
legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environ ...
, to non-official documents such as private
letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, Object (philosophy ...
, and, most recently, to the
metadata Metadata is "data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In a more technical sense, data are a set of values of qualitative property, qualitative or quantity, quantitative variable (research), v ...

metadata
of electronic records. Diplomatics is one of the
auxiliary sciences of history Auxiliary (or ancillary) sciences of history are scholarly disciplines which help evaluate and use historical sources and are seen as auxiliary for historical History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquir ...
. It should not be confused with its sister-discipline of
palaeography Palaeography ( UK) or paleography ( US; ultimately from grc-gre, , ''palaiós'', "old", and , ''gráphein'', "to write") is the study of historic writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts, including the analysi ...
. In fact, its techniques have more in common with those of the literary disciplines of
textual criticism Textual criticism is a branch of , , and of that is concerned with the identification of textual variants, or different versions, of either or of printed books. Such texts may range in dates from the earliest writing in cuneiform, impressed on ...
and
historical criticism Historical criticism, also known as the historical-critical method or higher criticism, is a branch of criticism that investigates the origins of ancient texts in order to understand "the world behind the text". While often discussed in terms of ...
.


Etymology

Despite the verbal similarity, the discipline has nothing to do with
diplomacy Diplomacy is the practice of influencing the decisions and conduct of foreign governments or organizations through dialogue, negotiation, and other nonviolent means. Diplomacy usually refers to international relations carried out through the inte ...

diplomacy
. Both terms are derived, by separate linguistic development, from the word ''diploma'', which originally referred to a folded piece of writing material—and thus both to the materials which are the focus of study in diplomatics, and to accreditation papers carried by diplomats. The word ''diplomatics'' was effectively coined by the
Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a Christian monasticism, monastic Religious order (Catholic), religious order of the Catholic Church following the Rule of Saint Be ...
monk
Jean Mabillon Dom Jean Mabillon, O.S.B., (23 November 1632 – 27 December 1707) was a French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, ...

Jean Mabillon
, who in 1681 published his treatise, ''De re diplomatica'' (
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
: roughly, "The Study of Documents"). From there, the word entered the French language as ''diplomatique'', and then English as ''diplomatic'' or ''diplomatics''.


Definitions

''
Webster's Dictionary ''Webster's Dictionary'' is any of the English language dictionaries A dictionary is a listing of lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic mo ...

Webster's Dictionary
'' (1828) defines diplomatics as the "science of diplomas, or of ancient writings, literary and public documents, letters, decrees, charters, codicils, etc., which has for its object to decipher old writings, to ascertain their authenticity, their date, signatures, etc." Giorgio Cencetti (1908–1970) defined the discipline as "the study of the ''Wesen'' eingand ''Werden'' ecomingof documentation, the analysis of genesis, inner constitution and transmission of documents, and of their relationship with the facts represented in them and with their creators". The
Commission International de Diplomatique Commission or commissioning may refer to: Business and contracting * Commission (remuneration)Commissions are a form of variable-pay remuneration for services rendered or products sold. Commissions are a common way to motivate and reward salespeo ...
has defined diplomatics as "the science which studies the tradition, the form and the issuing of written documents". More pragmatically, Peter Beal defines diplomatics as "the science or study of documents and records, including their forms, language, script and meaning. It involves knowledge of such matters as the established wording and procedures of particular kinds of document, the deciphering of writing, and document analysis and authentication". Theo Kölzer defines diplomatics as "the teaching and the study of charters". He treats the terms "charter", "diploma", and "document" as broadly synonymous, and refers to the German scholar
Harry Bresslau Harry Bresslau (22 March 1848 – 27 October 1926) was a German people, German historian and scholar of state papers and of historical and literary muniments (historical Diplomas). He was born in Dannenberg (Elbe), Dannenberg/Elbe and died in Heide ...
's definition of "documents" as "written declarations recorded in compliance with certain forms alternating according to the difference in person, place, time, and matter, which are meant to serve as a testimony of proceedings of a legal nature". Properly speaking, and as usually understood by present-day scholars, diplomatics is concerned essentially with the analysis and interpretation of the linguistic and textual elements of a document. It is, however, closely associated with several parallel disciplines, including
palaeography Palaeography ( UK) or paleography ( US; ultimately from grc-gre, , ''palaiós'', "old", and , ''gráphein'', "to write") is the study of historic writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts, including the analysi ...
,
sigillography Sigillography, also known by its Greek-derived name, sphragistics, is the scholarly discipline that studies the wax , a typical wax ester. Image:Beeswax foundation.jpg, Commercial honeycomb foundation, made by pressing beeswax between patterned ...
,
codicology Codicology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic ...
, and
provenance Provenance (from the French ''provenir'', 'to come from/forth') is the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object. The term was originally mostly used in relation to works of art but is now used in similar senses i ...

provenance
studies, all of which are concerned with a document's physical characteristics and history, and which will often be carried out in conjunction with a diplomatic analysis. The term diplomatics is therefore sometimes used in a slightly wider sense, to encompass some of these other areas (as it was in Mabillon's original work, and as is implied in the definitions of both Webster and Beal quoted above). The recent development of the science in non-English Europe is expanding its scope to a cultural history of documentation including aspects of
pragmatic literacy Pragmatism Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving, and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror ...
or
symbolic communicationSymbolic communication is the exchange of messages that change ''a priori'' expectation of events. Examples of this are modern communication technology and the exchange of information amongst animals. By referring to objects and ideas not present at ...
. Christopher Brooke, a distinguished teacher of diplomatics, referred to the discipline's reputation in 1970 as that of "a formidable and dismal science ... a kind of game played by a few scholars, most of them medievalists, harmless so long as it does not dominate or obscure historical enquiry; or, perhaps, most commonly of all, an aid to understanding of considerable use to scholars and research students if only they had time to spare from more serious pursuits".


History

Title page of Volume 4 of Tassin and Toustain's ''Nouveau traité de diplomatique'' (1759) In the
ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3.0
"History"
from ...

ancient
and
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
periods, the authenticity of a document was considered to derive from the document's place of preservation and storage, in, for example, temples, public offices, and archives. As a result, those with nefarious motives were able to give forged documents a spurious authenticity by depositing them in places of authority. Diplomatics grew from a need to establish new standards of authenticity through the critical analysis of the textual and physical forms of documents. The first notable application of diplomatics was by Nicolas of Cusa, in 1433, and
Lorenzo Valla Lorenzo Valla Lorenzo Valla (; also Latinized as Laurentius; 14071 August 1457) was an Italian Renaissance humanist Renaissance humanism was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first Italian Renaissance, in Italy and then spreadi ...

Lorenzo Valla
, in 1440, who determined, independently, that the
Donation of Constantine and Constantine the Great, showing the purported Donation (Santi Quattro Coronati, Rome) The ''Donation of Constantine'' ( ) is a Forgery, forged Roman imperial decree by which the 4th-century emperor Constantine the Great supposedly transferred ...
, which had been used for centuries to legitimize papal temporal authority, was a forgery. Diplomatic techniques were further developed as part of a wider battery of
antiquarian An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Thro ...
skills during the
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Cit ...
and
Counter-Reformation The Counter-Reformation (), also called the Catholic Reformation () or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic Church, Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation, also known as the Protestant Revo ...
eras. The emergence of diplomatics as a recognisably distinct sub-discipline, however, is generally dated to the publication of ''De re diplomatica'' in 1681. Mabillon had begun studying old documents with a view towards establishing their authenticity as a result of the doubts raised by the
Jesuit , image = Ihs-logo.svg , caption = Christogram A Christogram (Latin ') is a monogram or combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ, traditionally used as a Christian symbolism ...
Daniel van Papenbroek Daniel Papebroch, S.J., (17 March 1628 – 28 June 1714) was a Flemish people, Flemish Jesuit hagiographer, one of the Bollandists. He was a leading revisionist figure, bringing historical criticism to bear on traditions of saints of the Catho ...
over supposed
Merovingian The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the ...
documents from the
Abbey of Saint-Denis The Basilica of Saint-Denis (french: Basilique royale de Saint-Denis, links=no, now formally known as the ) is a large former medieval abbey church and present cathedral in the city of Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris Paris () is ...
. During the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
, the production of spurious
charter A charter is the grant of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social scie ...
s and other documents had been common, either to provide written documentation of existing rights or to bolster the plausibility of claimed rights. Mabillon's work engendered a far livelier awareness of the potential presence of forged or spurious documents, in the fields of both
history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...

history
and
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its bounda ...
. Although Mabillon is still widely seen as the "father" of diplomatics, a more important milestone in the formation of the battery of practical techniques which make up the modern discipline was the publication of René-Prosper Tassin and Charles-François Toustain's ''Nouveau traité de diplomatique'', which appeared in six volumes in 1750–65. The most significant work in English was Thomas Madox's ''Formulare Anglicanum'', published in 1702. In general, however, the discipline was always studied more intensively by continental scholars than by those in Britain. Diplomatics is often associated with the study of documents of the medieval period. However, scholars such as
Luciana DurantiLuciana Duranti is an archival theorist and professor of archival science and diplomatics at the UBC School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia in Vancouver ...
have argued that many of its theories and principles can be adapted and applied to contemporary
archival science Archival science, or archival studies, is the study and theory of building and curating archive An archive is an accumulation of historical records – in any media – or the physical facility in which they are located. Archives contain pri ...
.


Uses

The study of diplomatics is a valuable tool for
historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the stu ...
s, enabling them to determine whether alleged
historical document Historical documents are original document A document is a written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (ph ...
s and
archive An archive is an accumulation of historical records – in any media – or the physical facility in which they are located. Archives contain primary source In the study of history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece An ...

archive
s are in fact genuine or
forgeries Forgery is a white-collar crime that generally refers to the false making or material alteration of a legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal term of art that is used for any formally executed written document that can be formall ...
. Its techniques may also be used to help date undated documents. Diplomatics has many similar applications in the field of
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its bounda ...
. Some famous cases in which the principles of diplomatics have been employed have included: *
Lorenzo Valla Lorenzo Valla Lorenzo Valla (; also Latinized as Laurentius; 14071 August 1457) was an Italian Renaissance humanist Renaissance humanism was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first Italian Renaissance, in Italy and then spreadi ...

Lorenzo Valla
's proof of the forgery of the
Donation of Constantine and Constantine the Great, showing the purported Donation (Santi Quattro Coronati, Rome) The ''Donation of Constantine'' ( ) is a Forgery, forged Roman imperial decree by which the 4th-century emperor Constantine the Great supposedly transferred ...
. Valla's work preceded Mabillon by roughly two centuries, and was the first application of the principles of modern, scientific diplomatics. * The
Hitler diaries The Hitler Diaries (german: Hitler-Tagebücher) were a series of sixty volumes of journals purportedly written by Adolf Hitler, but forged by Konrad Kujau between 1981 and 1983. The diaries were purchased in 1983 for 9.3 million Deutsch ...
hoax A hoax is a falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, rumor A rumor (American English), or rumour (British English; American and British English spelling dif ...

hoax
(1983). * The National Archives forgeries (the Martin Allen forgeries, or
Himmler Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (; 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was '' Reichsführer'' of the ''Schutzstaffel The ''Schutzstaffel'' (SS; also stylized as ''ᛋᛋ'' with Armanen runes ; 'Protection Squadron') was a major paramilita ...

Himmler
forged documents) (2005).


Diplomatic editions and transcription

A diplomatic edition is an edition (in print or online) of an historic manuscript text that seeks to reproduce as accurately as possible in typography all significant features of the manuscript original, including spelling and punctuation, abbreviations, deletions, insertions, and other alterations. Similarly, diplomatic transcription attempts to represent by means of a system of editorial signs all features of a manuscript original. The term ''semi-diplomatic'' is used for an edition or transcription that seeks to reproduce only some of these features of the original. A diplomatic edition is thus distinguished from a ''normalized edition'', in which the editor, while not altering the original wording of the text, renders it using normal (modern)
orthography An orthography is a set of conventions for writing Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions b ...
. A diplomatic edition is also to be distinguished both from a ''
facsimile '', a famous illuminated manuscript An illuminated manuscript is a formally prepared document A document is a written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the a ...
edition'', which, in the modern era, normally employs photographic or digital images; and from a ''type facsimile'' (such as
Abraham FarleyAbraham Farley (?1712–1791) was a lifelong civil servant, who was appointed deputy chamberlain of the Exchequer in 1736, and soon became involved with the public records at the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally ...
's edition of ''Domesday Book''), which seeks to reproduce the appearance of the original through the use of a special typeface or digital font.


See also

*
False document A false document is a technique by which an author aims to increase verisimilitude in a work of fiction by inventing and inserting or mentioning documents that appear to be factual. The goal of a false document is to convince an audience that wha ...
*
Forensic science Forensic science, also known as criminalistics, is the application of to and , mainly—on the criminal side—during , as governed by the legal standards of and . Forensic scientists collect, preserve, and analyze scientific during the c ...
*
Palaeography Palaeography ( UK) or paleography ( US; ultimately from grc-gre, , ''palaiós'', "old", and , ''gráphein'', "to write") is the study of historic writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts, including the analysi ...
* Papal diplomatics *
Questioned document examination In forensic science, questioned document examination (QDE) is the examination of document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of nonfiction, non-fiction ...
(for document forensics related to criminal activity) *
Sigillography Sigillography, also known by its Greek-derived name, sphragistics, is the scholarly discipline that studies the wax , a typical wax ester. Image:Beeswax foundation.jpg, Commercial honeycomb foundation, made by pressing beeswax between patterned ...
*
Textual scholarshipTextual scholarship (or textual studies) is an umbrella term In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling ...


References


External links


Virtual Library Historical Auxiliary Sciences - Diplomatics

monasterium.net
largest online database of charters
Online-Database LBA online
provided by the Lichtbildarchiv älterer Originalurkunden at
Marburg University The Philipps University of Marburg (german: Philipps-Universität Marburg) was founded in 1527 by Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse, which makes it one of Germany's oldest universities and the oldest still operating Protestant university in the worl ...
(Germany, state of Hesse)
Vocabulaire international de la diplomatique, ed. Maria Milagros Cárcel Ortí, 2. ed., València 1997 (Col·lecció Oberta), online version

Commission internationale de Diplomatique

The International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES)
{{Authority control Historiography Archival science Writing Document forgery Forensic disciplines Textual criticism Textual scholarship