DIPLOMATIC, the science of diplomas, founded on the critical study of the "diplomatic" sources of history: diplomas, charters, acts, treaties, contracts, judicial records, rolls, chartularies, registers, etc. The employment of the word "diploma," as a general term to designate an historical document, is of comparatively recent date. The Roman diploma, so called because it was formed of two sheets of metal which were shut together like the leaves of a book, was the passport or licence to travel by the public post; also, the certificate of discharge, conferring privileges of citizenship and marriage on soldiers who had served their time; and, later, any imperial grant of privileges. The word was adopted, rather pedantically, by the humanists of the Renaissance and applied by them to important deeds and to acts of sovereign authority, to privileges granted by kings and by great personages; and by degrees the term became extended and embraced generally the documents of the middle ages.
History of the Study. - The term "diplomatic," the French diplomatique, is a modern adaptation of the Latin phrase res diplomatica employed in early works upon the subject, and more especially in the first great text-book, the De re diplomatica, issued in 1681 by the learned Benedictine, Dom Jean Mabillon, of the abbey of St Germain-des-Prés. Mabillon's treatise was called forth by an earlier work of Daniel van Papenbroeck, the editor of the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists, who, with no great knowledge or experience of archives, undertook to criticize the historical value of ancient records and monastic documents, and raised wholesale suspicions as to their authenticity in his Propylaeum antiquarium circa veri ac falsi discrimen in vetustis membranis, which he printed in 1675. This was a rash challenge to the Benedictines, and especially to the congregation of St Maur, or confraternity of the Benedictine abbeys of France, whose combined efforts produced great literary works which still remain as monuments of profound learning. Mabillon was at that time engaged in collecting material for a great history of his order. He worked silently for six years before producing the work above referred to. His refutation of Papenbroeck's criticisms was complete, and his rival himself accepted Mabillon's system of the study of diplomatic as the true one. The De re diplomatica established the science on a secure basis; and it has been the foundation of all subsequent works on the subject, although the immediate result of its publication was a flood of controversial writings between the Jesuits and the Benedictines, which, however, did not affect its stability.
In Spain, the Benedictine Perez published, in 1688, a series of dissertations following the line of Mabillon's work. In England, Madox's Formulare Anglicanum, with a dissertation concerning ancient charters and instruments, appeared in 1702, and in 1705 Hickes followed with his Linguarum septentrionalium thesaurus, both accepting the principles laid down by the learned Benedictine. In Italy, Maffei appeared with his Istoria diplomatica in 1727, and Muratori, in 1740, introduced dissertations on diplomatic into his great work, the Antiquitates Italicae. In Germany, the first diplomatic work of importance was that by Bessel, entitled Chronicon Gotwicense and issued in 1732; and this was followed closely by similar works of Baring, Eckhard and Heumann.
France, however, had been the cradle of the science, and that country continued to be the home of its development. Mabillon had not taken cognizance of documents later than the 13th century. Arising out of a discussion relative to the origin of the abbey of St Victor en Caux and the authenticity of its archives, a more comprehensive work than Mabillon's was compiled by the two Benedictines, Dom Toustain and Dom Tassin, viz. the Nouveau Traité de diplomatique, in six volumes, 1750-1765, which embraced more than diplomatic proper and extended to all branches of Latin palaeography. With great industry the compilers gathered together a mass of details; but their arrangement is faulty, and the text is broken up into such a multitude of divisions and subdivisions that it is tediously minute. However, its more extended scope has given the Nouveau Traité an advantage over Mabillon's work, and modern compilations have drawn largely upon it.
As a result of the Revolution, the archives of the middle ages lost in France their juridical and legal value; but this rather tended to enhance their historical importance. The taste for historical literature revived. The Académie des Inscriptions fostered it. In 1821 the Ecole des Chartes was founded; and, after a few years of incipient inactivity, it received a further impetus, in 1829, by the issue of a royal ordinance re-establishing it. Thenceforth it has been an active centre for the teaching and for the encouragement of the study of diplomatic throughout the country, and has produced results which other nations may envy. Next to France, Germany and Austria are distinguished as countries where activity has been displayed in the systematic study of diplomatic archives, more or less with the support of the state. In Italy, too, diplomatic science has not been neglected. In England, after a long period of regrettable indifference to the study of the national and municipal archives of the country, some effort has been made in recent years to remove the reproach. The publications of the Public Record Office and of the department of MSS. in the British Museum are more numerous and are issued more regularly than in former times; and an awakened interest is manifested by the foundation in the universities of a few lectureships in diplomatic and palaeography, and by the attention which those subjects receive in such an institution as the London School of Economics, and in the publications of private literary societies. But such efforts can never show the systematic results which are to be attained by a special institution of the character of the French Ecole des Chartes.
Extent of the Science. - The field covered by the study of diplomatic is so extensive and the different kinds of documents which it takes into its purview are so numerous and various, that it is impossible to do more than give a few general indications of their nature. No nation can have advanced far on the path of civilization before discovering the necessity for documentary evidence both in public and in private life. The laws, the constitutions, the decrees of government, on the one hand, and private contracts between man and man, on the other, must be embodied in formal documents, in order to ensure permanent record. In the case of a nation advancing independently from a primitive to a later stage of civilization we should have to trace the origin of its documentary records and examine their development from a rudimentary condition. But in an inquiry into the history of the documents of the middle ages in Europe we do not begin with primitive forms. Those ages inherited the documentary system which had been created and developed by the Romans; and, imperfect and limited in number as are the earliest surviving charters and diplomas of European medieval history, they present themselves to us fully developed and cast in the mould and employing the methods and formulae of the earlier tradition. Based on this foundation the chanceries of the several countries of Europe, as they came into existence and were organized, reduced to method and rule on one general system the various documents which the exigencies of public and of private life from time to time called into existence, each individual chancery at the same time following its own line of practice in detail, and evolving and confirming particular formulas which have become characteristic of it.
Classification of Documents. - If we classify these documents under the two main heads of public and private deeds, we shall have to place in the former category the legislative, administrative, judicial, diplomatic documents emanating from public authority in public form: laws, constitutions, ordinances, privileges, grants and concessions, proclamations, decrees, judicial records, pleas, treaties; in a word, every kind of deed necessary for the orderly government of a civilized state. In early times many of these were comprised under the general term of "letters," litterae, and to the large number of them which were issued in open form and addressed to the community the specific title of "letters patent," litterae patentes, was given. In contradistinction those public documents which were issued in closed form under seal were known as "close letters," litterae clausae.
Such public documents belong to the state archives of their several countries, and are the monuments of administrative and political and domestic history of a nation from one generation to another. In no country has so perfect a series been preserved as in our own. Into the Public Record Office in London have been brought together all the collections of state archives which were formerly stored in different official repositories of the kingdom. Beginning with the great survey of Domesday, long series of enrolments of state documents, in many instances extending from the times of the Angevin kings to our own day in almost unbroken sequence, besides thousands of separate deeds of all descriptions, are therein preserved (see Record).
Under the category of private documents must be included, not only the deeds of individuals, but also those of corporate bodies representing private interests and standing in the position of individual units in relation to the state, such as municipal bodies and monastic foundations. The largest class of documents of this character is composed of those numerous conveyances of real property and other title deeds of many descriptions and dating from early periods which are commonly described by the generic name of "charters," and which are to be found in thousands, not only in such public repositories as the Public Record Office and the British Museum, but also in the archives of municipal and other corporate bodies throughout the country and in the muniment-rooms of old families. There are also the records of the manorial courts preserved in countless court-rolls and registers; also the scattered muniments of the dissolved monasteries represented by the many collections of charters and the valuable chartularies, or registers of charters, which have fortunately survived and exist both in public and in private keeping.
It will be noticed that in this enumeration of public and private documents in England reference is made to rolls. The practice of entering records on rolls has been in favour in England from a very early date subsequent to the Norman Conquest; and while in other countries the comprehensive term of "charters" (literally "papers": Gr. ) is employed as a general description of documents of the middle ages, in England the fuller phrase "charters and rolls" is required. The master of the rolls, the Magister Rotulorum, is the official keeper of the public records.
From the great body of records, both public and private, many fall easily and naturally into the class in which the text takes a simpler narrative form; such as judicial records, laws, decrees, proclamations, registers, etc., which tell their own story in formulae and phraseology early developed and requiring little change. These we may leave on one side. For fuller description we select those deeds which, conferring grants and favours and privileges, conform more nearly to the idea of the Roman diploma and have received the special attention of the chanceries in the development and arrangement of their formulae and in their methods of execution.
Structure Of Medieval Diplomas
All such medieval deeds are composed of certain recognized members or sections, some essential, others special and peculiar to the most elaborate and solemn documents. A deed of the more elaborate character is made up of two principal divisions: 1. the Text, in which is set out the object of the deed, the statement of the considerations and circumstances which have led to it, and the declaration of the will and intention of the person executing the deed, together with such protecting clauses as the particular circumstances of the case may require; 2. the Protocol (originally, the first sheet of a papyrus roll; Gr. , first, and , to glue), consisting of the introductory and of the concluding formulae: superscription, address, salutation, etc., at the beginning, and date, formulae of execution, etc., at the end, of the deed. The latter portion of the protocol is sometimes styled the eschatocol . While the text followed certain formulae which had become fixed by common usage, the protocol was always special and varied with the practices of the several chanceries, changing in a sovereign chancery with each successive reign.
The different sections of a full deed, taking them in order under the heads of Initial Protocol, Text and Final Protocol or Eschatocol, are as follows: - The initial protocol consists of the Invocation, the Superscription, the Address and the Salutation. 1. The Invocation, lending a character of sanctity to the proceedings, might be either verbal or symbolic. The verbal invocation consisted usually of some pious ejaculation, such as In nomine Dei, In nomine domini nostri Jesu Christi; from the 8th century, In nomine Sanctae et individuae Trinitatis; and later, In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. The symbolic form was usually the chrismon, or monogram composed of the Greek initials ΧΡ of the name of Christ. In the course of the 10th and 11th centuries this symbol came to be so scrawled that it had probably lost all meaning with the scribes. From the 9th century the letter C (initial of Christus) came gradually into use, and in German imperial diplomas it superseded the chrismon. Stenographic signs of the system known as Tironian notes were also sometimes added to this symbol down to the end of the 10th century, expressing such a phrase as Ante omnia Christus, or Christus, or Amen. From the Merovingian period, too, a cross was often used. The symbol gradually died out after the 12th century for general use, surviving only in notarial instruments and wills. 2. The Superscription (superscriptio, intitulatio) expressed the name and titles of the grantor or person issuing the deed. 3. The Address. As diplomas were originally in epistolary form the address was then a necessity. While in Merovingian deeds the old pattern was adhered to, in the Carolingian period the address was sometimes omitted. From the 8th century it was not considered necessary, and a distinction arose in the case of royal acts, those having the address being styled letters, and those omitting it, charters. The general form of address ran in phrase as Omnibus (or Universis) Christi fidelibus presentes litteras inspecturis.
4. The Salutation was expressed in such words as Salutem; Salutem et dilectionem; Salutem et apostolicam benedictionem, but it was not essential.
Then follows the text in five sections: the Preamble, the Notification, the Exposition, the Disposition and the Final Clauses. 5. The Preamble (prologus, arenga): an ornamental introduction generally composed of pious or moral sentiments, a prefatio ad captandam benevolentiam which facit ad ornamentum, degenerating into tiresome platitudes. It became stereotyped at an early age: in the 10th and 11th centuries it was a most ornate performance; in the 12th century it was cut short; in the 13th century it died out. 6. The Notification (notificatio, promulgatio) was the publication of the purport of the deed introduced by such a phrase as notum sit, etc. 7. The Exposition set out the motives influencing the issue of the deed. 8. The Disposition described the object of the deed and the will and intention of the grantor. 9. The Final Clauses ensured the fulfilment of the terms of the deed; guarded against infringement, by comminatory anathemas and imprecations, not infrequently of a vehement description, or by penalties; guaranteed the validity of the deed; enumerated the formalities of subscription and execution; reserved rights, etc.
Next comes the final protocol or eschatocol comprising: the Date, the Appreciation, the Authentication. It was particularly in this portion of the deed that the varying practices of the several chanceries led to minute and intricate distinctions at different periods. 10. The Date. By the Roman law every act must be dated by the day and the year of execution. Yet in the middle ages, from the 9th to the 12th century, a large proportion of deeds bears no date. In the most ancient charters the date clause was frequently separated from the body of the deed and placed in an isolated position at the foot of the sheet. From the 12th century it commonly followed the text immediately. Certain classes of documents, such as decrees of councils, notarial deeds, etc., began with the date. The usual formula was data, datum, actum, factum, scriptum. In the Carolingian period a distinction grew up between datum and actum, the former applying to the time, the latter to the place, of date. In the papal chancery from an early period down to the 12th century the use of a double date prevailed, the first following the text and being inserted by the scribe when the deed was written (scriptum), the second being added at the foot of the deed on its execution (actum), by the chancellor or other high functionary. From the Roman custom of dating by the consular year arose the medieval practice of dating by the regnal year of emperor, king or pope. Special dates were sometimes employed, such as the year of some great historical event, battle, siege, pestilence, etc. 11. The Appreciation. The feliciter of the Romans became the medieval feliciter in Domino, or In Dei nomine feliciter, or the more simple Deo gratias or the still more simple Amen, for the auspicious closing of a deed. In Merovingian and Carolingian diplomas it follows the date; in other cases it closes the text. In the greater papal bulls it appears in the form of a triple Amen. Benevalete was also employed as the appreciation in early deeds; but in Merovingian diplomas and in papal bulls this valedictory salutation becomes a mark of authentication, as will be noticed below. 12. The Authentication was a solemn proceeding which was discharged by more than one act. The most important was the subscription or subscriptions of the person or persons from whom the deed emanated. The laws of the late Roman empire required the subscriptions and the impressions of the signet seals of the parties and of the witnesses to the deed. The subscription (subscriptio) comprised the name, signature and description of the person signing. The impression of the signet (not the signature) was the signum, sometimes signaculum, rarely sigillum. The practice of subscribing with the autograph signature obtained in the early middle ages, as appears from early documents such as those of Ravenna. But from the 7th century it began to decline, and by the 12th century it had practically ceased. In Roman deeds an illiterate person affixed his mark, or signum manuale, which was attested. The cross being an easy form for a mark, it was very commonly used and naturally became connected with the Christian symbol. Hence, in course of time, it came to be attached very generally to subscriptions, autograph or otherwise. Great personages who were illiterate required something more elaborate than a common mark. Hence arose the use of the monogram, the caracter nominis, composed of the letters of the name. The emperor Justin, who could not write, made use of a monogram, as did also Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths. Those Merovingian kings, likewise, who were illiterate, had their individual monograms; and at length Charlemagne adopted the monogram as his regular form of signature. From his reign down to that of Philip the Fair the monogram was the recognized sign manual of the sovereigns of France (see Autographs). It was employed by the German emperors down to the reign of Maximilian I. The royal use of the monogram was naturally imitated by great officers and ecclesiastics. But another form of sign manual also arose out of the subscription. The closing word (usually subscripsi), written or abbreviated as sub., or ss. or s., was often finished off with flourishes and interlacings, sometimes accompanied with Tironian notes, the whole taking the shape of a domed structure to which the French have given the name of ruche or bee-hive. Thus in the early middle ages we have deeds authenticated by the subscription, usually autograph, giving the name and titles of the person executing, and stating the part taken by him in the deed, and closing with the subscripsi, often in shape of the ruche and constituting the signum manuale. If not autograph, the subscription might be impersonal in such form as signum (or signum manus) + N. In the Carolingian period, while phrases were constantly used in the body of the deed implying that it was executed by autograph subscription, it did not necessarily follow that such subscription was actually written in person. The ruche was also adopted by chancellors, notaries and scribes as their official mark. While autograph subscriptions continued to be employed, chiefly by ecclesiastics, down to the beginning of the 12th century, the monogram was perpetuated from the 10th century by the notaries. Their marks, simple at first, became so elaborate from the end of the 13th century that they found it necessary to add their names in ordinary writing, or also to employ a less complicated design. This was the commencement of the modern practice of writing the signature which first came into vogue in the 14th century.
To lend further weight and authority to the subscription, certain symbols and forms were added at different periods. Imitating, the corroborative Legi of the Byzantine quaestor and the Legimus of the Eastern emperors, the Frankish chancery in the West made use of the same form, notably in the reign of Charles the Bald, in some of whose diplomas the Legimus appears written in larger letters in red. The valedictory Benevalete, employed in early deeds as a form of appreciation (see above), appears in Merovingian and in early Carolingian royal diplomas, and also in papal bulls, as an authenticating addition to the subscription. In the diplomas it was written in cursive letters in two lines, Bene valete, just to the right of the incision cut in the sheet to hold fast the seal, which sometimes even covered part of the word. In the most ancient papal bulls it was written by the pope himself at the foot of the deed. in two lines, generally in larger capital or uncial characters, placed between two crosses. From the beginning of the 11th century it became the fashion to link the letters; and, dating from the time of Leo IX., a.d. 1048-1054, the Benevalete was inscribed in form of a monogram. During Leo's pontificate it was also accompanied with a flourish called the Komma, which was only an exaggeration of the mark of punctuation (periodus) which from the 9th to the 11th century closed the subscription and generally resembled the modern semicolon. Leo's successors abandoned the Komma, but the monogrammatic Benevalete continued, invariable in form, but from time to time varying in size. In Leo IX.'s pontificate also was introduced the Rota. This sign, when it had received its final shape in the 11th century, was in form of a wheel, composed of two concentric circles, in the space between which was written the motto or device of the pope (signum papae), usually a short sentence from one of the Psalms or some other portion of Scripture; preceded by a small cross, which the pontiff himself sometimes inscribed. The central space within the wheel was divided (by cross lines) into four quarters, the two upper ones being occupied by the names of the apostles St Peter and St Paul, and the two lower ones by the name of the pope. The Rota was placed on the left of the subscription, the monogrammatic Benevalete on the right. The two signs were likewise adopted by certain ecclesiastical chanceries and by feudal lords, particularly in the 12th century. From the same period also the Spanish and Portuguese monarchs adopted the Rota, the signo rodado, which is so conspicuous in the royal charters of the Peninsula.
Besides the subscription, an early auxiliary method of authentication was by the impression of the seal which, as noticed above, was required by the Roman law. But the general use of the signet gradually failed, and by the 7th century it had ceased. Still it survived in the royal chanceries, and the sovereigns both of the Merovingian and of the Carolingian lines had their seals; and, in the 8th century, the mayors of the palace likewise. It is interesting to find instances of the use of antique intaglios for the purpose by some of them. In England too there is proof that the Mercian kings Offa and Coenwulf used seals, in imitation of the Frankish monarchs. In the 7th century, and still more so in the 8th and 9th centuries, the royal seals were of exaggerated size: the precursors of the great seals of the later sovereigns of western Europe. The waxen seals of the early diplomas were in all cases en placard: that is, they were attached to the face of the document and not suspended from it, being held in position by a cross-cut incision in the material, through which the wax was pressed and then flattened at the back. On the cessation of autograph signatures in subscriptions, the general use of seals revived, beginning in the 10th century and becoming the ordinary method of authentication from the 12th to the 15th century inclusive. Even when signatures had once again become universal, the seal continued to hold its place; and thus sealing is, to the present day, required for the legal execution of a deed. The attachment en placard was discontinued, as a general practice, in the middle of the 11th century; and seals thenceforward were, for the most part, suspended, leathern thongs being used at first, and afterwards silken and hempen cords or parchment labels. In documents of minor importance it was sometimes the custom to impress the seal or seals on one or more strips of the parchment of the deed itself, cut, but not entirely detached, from the lower margin, and left to hang loose. Besides waxen impressions of seals, impressions in metal, bearing a device on both faces, after the fashion of a coin, and suspended, were employed from an early period. The most widely known instances are the bullae attached to papal documents, generally of lead. The earliest surviving papal bulla is one of Pope Zacharias, a.d. 746, but earlier examples are known from drawings. The papal bulla was a disk of metal stamped on both sides. From the time of Boniface V. to Leo IV., a.d. 617-855, the name of the pontiff, in the genitive case, was impressed on the obverse, and his title as pope on the reverse, e.g. Bonifati/ papae. After that period, for some time, the name was inscribed in a circle round a central ornament. Other variations followed; but at length in the pontificate of Paschal II., a.d. 1099, the bulla took the form which it afterwards retained: on the obverse, the heads of the apostles St Peter and St Paul; on the reverse, the pope's name, title and number in succession. In the period of time between his election and consecration, the pope made use of the half-bull, that is, the obverse only was impressed. It should be mentioned that, in order to conform to modern conditions and for convenience of despatch through the post, Leo XII., in 1878, substituted for the leaden bulla a red ink stamp bearing the heads of the two apostles with the name of the pope inscribed as a legend.
The Carolingian monarchs also used metal bullae. None of Charlemagne's have survived, but there are still extant leaden examples of Charles the Bald. The use of lead was not persisted in either in the chancery of France or in that of Germany. Golden bullae were employed on special occasions by both popes and temporal monarchs; for example, they were attached to the confirmations of the elections of the emperors in the 12th and 13th centuries; the bull of Leo X. conferring the title of Defender of the Faith on Henry VIII. in 1524, and the deed of alliance between Henry and Francis I. in 1527, had golden bullae; and other examples could be cited. But lead has always been the common metal to be thus employed. In the southern countries of Europe, where the warmth of the climate renders wax an undesirable material, leaden bullae have been in ordinary use, not only in Italy but also in the Peninsula, in southern France, and in the Latin East (see Seals).
The necessity of conforming to exact phraseology in diplomas and of observing regularity in expressing formulas naturally led to the compilation of formularies. From the early middle ages the art of composition, not only of charters but also of general correspondence, was commonly taught in the monasteries. The teacher was the dictator, his method of teaching was described by the verb dictare, and his teaching was dictamen or the ars dictaminis. For the use of these monastic schools, formularies and manuals comprising formulas and models for the composition of the various acts and documents soon became indispensable. At a later stage such formularies developed into the models and treatises for epistolary style which have had their imitations even in modern times. The widespread use of the formularies had the advantage of imposing a certain degree of uniformity on the phrasing of documents of the western nations of Europe. Those compilations which are of an earlier period than the 11th century have been systematically examined and are published; those of more recent date still remain to be thoroughly edited. The early formularies are of the simpler kind, being collections of formulas without dissertation. The Formulae Marculfi, compiled by the monk Marculf about the year 650, was the most important work of this nature of the Merovingian period and became the official formulary of the time; and it continued in use in a revised edition in the early Carolingian chancery. Of the same period there are extant formularies compiled at various centres, such as Angers, Tours, Bourges, Sens, Reichenau, St Gall, Salzburg, Passau, Regensburg, Cordova, etc. (see Giry, Manuel de diplomatique, pp. 482-488). The Liber diurnus Romanorum Pontificum was compiled in the 7th and 8th centuries, and was employed in the papal chancery to the end of the 11th century. Of the more developed treatises and manuals of epistolary rhetoric which succeeded, and which originated in Italy, the earliest example was the Breviarium de dictamine of the monk Alberic of Monte Cassino, compiled about the year 1075. Another well-known work, the Rationes dictandi, is also attributed to the same author. Of later date was the Ars dictaminis of Bernard of Chartres of the 12th century. Among special works on formularies are: E. de Rozière, Recueil général des formules usitées dans l'empire des Francs (3 vols., Paris, 1861-1871); K. Zeumer, Formulae Merovingici et Karolini aevi (Hanover, 1886); and L. Rockinger, Briefsteller und Formelbücher des 11 bis. 14 Jahrhunderts (Munich, 1863-1864).
Organization. - The formalities observed by the different chanceries of medieval Europe, which are to be learned from a study of the documents issued by them, are so varied and often so minute, that it is impossible to give a full account of them within the limits of the present article. We can only state some of the results of the investigations of students of diplomatic.
The chancery which stands first and foremost is the papal chancery. On account of its antiquity and of its steady development, it has served as a model for the other chanceries of Europe. Organized in remote times, it adopted for the structure of its letters a number of formulas and rules which developed and became more and more fixed and precise from century to century. The Apostolic court being organized from the first on the model of the Roman imperial court, the early pontiffs would naturally have collected their archives, as the emperors had done, into scrinia. Pope Julius I., a.d. 337-353, reorganized the papal archives under an official schola notariorum, at the head of which was a primicerius notariorum. Pope Damasus, a.d. 366-384, built a record office at the Lateran, archivium sanctae Romanae ecclesiae, where the archives were kept and registers of them compiled. The collection and orderly arrangement of the archives provided material for the establishment of regular diplomatic usages, and the science of formulae naturally followed.
For the study of papal documents four periods have been defined, each successive period being distinguished from its predecessor by some particular development of forms and procedure. The first period is reckoned from the earliest times to the accession of Leo IX., a.d. 1048. For almost the whole of the first eight centuries no original papal documents have survived. But copies are found in canonical works and registers, many of them false, and others probably not transcribed in full or in the original words; but still of use, as showing the growth of formulas. The earliest original document is a fragment of a letter of Adrian I., a.d. 788. From that date there is a series, but the documents are rare to the beginning of the 11th century, all down to that period being written on papyrus. The latest existing papyrus document in France is one of Sergius IV., a.d. 1011; in Germany, one of Benedict VIII., a.d. 1022. The earliest document on vellum is one of John XVIII., a.d. 1005. The nomenclature of papal documents even at an early period is rather wide. In their earliest form they are Letters, called in the documents themselves, litterae, epistola, pagina, scriptum, sometimes decretum. A classification, generally accepted, divides them into: 1. Letters or Epistles: the ordinary acts of correspondence with persons of all ranks and orders; including constitutions (a later term) or decisions in matters of faith and discipline, and encyclicals giving directions to bishops of the whole church or of individual countries. 2. Decrees, being letters promulgated by the popes of their own motion. 3. Decretals, decisions on points of ecclesiastical administration or discipline. 4. Rescripts (called in the originals preceptum, auctoritas, privilegium), granting requests to petitioners. But writers differ in their terms, and such subdivisions must be more or less arbitrary. The comprehensive term "bull" (the name of the leaden papal seal, bulla, being transferred to the document) did not come into use until the 13th century.
Copies of papal deeds were collected into registers or bullaria. Lists showing the chronological sequence of documents are catalogues of acts. When into such lists indications from narrative sources are introduced they become regesta (res gestae): a term not to be confused with "register."
Clearness and conciseness have been recognized as attributes of early papal letters; but even in those of the 4th century certain rhythmical periods have been detected in their composition which became more marked under Leo the Great, a.d. 440-461, and which developed into the cursus or prose rhythm of the pontifical chancery of the 11th and 12th centuries.
In the most ancient deeds the pope styles himself Episcopus, sometimes Episcopus Catholicae Ecclesiae, or Episcopus Romanae Ecclesiae, rarely Papa. Gregory I, a.d. 590, was the first to adopt the form Episcopus, servus servorum Dei, which became general in the 9th century, and thenceforth was invariable.
The second period of papal documents extends from Leo IX. to the accession of Innocent III., a.d. 1048-1198. At the beginning of the period formulae tended to take more definite shape and to become fixed. In the superscription of bulls a distinction arose: those which conferred lasting privileges employing the words in perpetuum to close this clause; those whose benefaction was of a transitory character using the form of salutation, salutem et apostolicam benedictionem. But it was under Urban II., a.d. 1088-1099, that the principal formulae became stereotyped. Then the distinction between documents of lasting, and those of transitory, value became more exactly defined; the former class being known as greater bulls, bullae majores (also called privilegia), the latter lesser bulls, bullae minores. The leading characteristics of the greater bulls were these: The first line containing the superscription and closing with the words in perpetuum (or, sometimes, ad perpetuam, or aeternam, rei memoriam) was written in tall and slender ornamental letters, close packed; the final clauses of the text develop with tendency to fixity; the pope's subscription is accompanied with the rota on the left and the benevalete monogram on the right; and certain elaborate forms of dating are punctiliously observed. The introduction of subscriptions of cardinals as witnesses had gradually become a practice. Under Victor II., a.d. 1055-1057, the practice became more confirmed, and after the time of Innocent II., a.d. 1130-1145, the subscriptions of the three orders were arranged according to rank, those of the cardinal bishops being placed in the centre under the papal subscription, those of the priests under the rota on the left, and those of the deacons under the benevalete on the right. In the lesser bulls simpler forms were employed; there was no introductory line of stilted letters; the salutation, salutem et apostolicam benedictionem, closed the superscription; the final clauses were shortened; there was neither papal subscription, nor rota, nor benevalete; the date was simple.
From the time of Adrian I., a.d. 772-795, the system of double dating was followed in the larger bulls. The first date was written by the scribe of the document, scriptum per manum N. with the month (rarely the day of the month) and year of the indiction. The second, the actual date of the execution of the deed, was entered (ostensibly) by some high official, data, or datum, per manum N., and contained the day of the month (according to the Roman calendar), the year of indiction, the year of pontificate (in some early deeds, also the year of the empire and the post-consulate year), and the year of the Incarnation, which, however, was gradually introduced and only became more common in the course of the 11th century. For example, a common form of a full date would run thus: Datum Laterani, per manum N., sanctae Romanae ecclesiae diaconi cardinalis, xiiii. kl. Maii, indictione V., anno dominicae Incarnationis mxcvii., pontificatus autem domini papae Urbani secundi Xº. The simpler form of the date of a lesser bull might be: Datum Laterani, iii. non. Jan., pontificatus nostri anno iiii.
By degrees the use of the lesser bulls almost entirely superseded that of the greater bulls, which became exceptional in the 13th century and almost ceased after the migration to Avignon in 1309. In modern times the greater bulls occasionally reappear for very solemn acts, as bullae consistoriales, executed in the consistory.
The third period of papal documents extends from Innocent III. to Eugenius IV., a.d. 1198-1431. The pontificate of Innocent III. was a most important epoch in the history of the development of the papal chancery. Formulas became more exactly fixed, definitions more precise, the observation of rules and precedents more constant. The staff of the chancery was reorganized. The existing series of registers of papal documents was then commenced. The growing use of lesser bulls for the business of the papal court led to a further development in the 13th century. They were now divided into two classes: Tituli and Mandamenta. The former conferred favours, promulgated precepts, judgments, decisions, etc. The latter comprised ordinances, commissions, etc., and were executive documents. There are certain features which distinguish the two classes. In the tituli, the initial letter of the pope's name is ornamented with openwork and the other letters are stilted. In the mandamenta, the initial is filled in solid and the other letters are of the same size as the rest of the text. In the tituli, enlarged letters mark the beginnings of the text and of certain clauses; but not in the mandamenta. In the former the mark of abbreviation is a looped sign; in the latter it is a horizontal stroke. In the former the old practice of leaving a gap between the letters s and t, and c and t, whenever they occur together in a word (e.g. is te, sanc tus), and linking them by a coupling stroke above the line is continued; in the latter it disappears. The leaden bulla attached to a titulus (as a permanent deed) is suspended by cords of red and yellow silks; while that of a mandamentum (a temporary deed) hangs from a hempen cord.
In the fourth period, extending from 1431 to the present time, the tituli and mandamenta have continued to be the ordinary documents in use; but certain other kinds have also arisen. Briefs (brevia), or apostolic letters, concerning the personal affairs of the pope or the administration of the temporal dominion, or conceding indulgences, came into general use in the 13th century in the pontificate of Eugenius IV. They are written in the italic hand on thin white vellum; and the name of the pope with his style as papa is written at the head of the sheet, e.g. Eugenius papa iiii. They are closed and sealed with Seal of the Fisherman, sub anulo Piscatoris. Briefs have almost superseded the mandamenta. The documents known as Signatures of the court of Rome or Latin letters, and used principally for the expedition of indulgences, were first introduced in the 15th century. They were drawn in the form of a petition to the pope, which he granted by the words fiat ut petatur written across the top. They were not sealed; and only the pontifical year appears in the date. Lastly, the documents to which the name of Motu proprio is given are also without seal and are used in the administration of the papal court, the formula placet et ita motu proprio mandamus being signed by the pope.
The character of the handwriting employed by the papal chancery is discussed in the article Palaeography. Here it will be enough to state that the early style was derived from the Lombardic hand, and that it continued in use down to the beginning of the 12th century; but that, from the 10th century, owing to the general adoption of the Caroline minuscule writing, it began to fall and gradually became so unfamiliar to the uninitiated, that, while it still continued in use for papal bulls, it was found necessary to accompany them with copies written in the more intelligible Caroline script. The intricate, fanciful character, known as the Litera sancti Petri, was invented in the time of Clement VIII., a.d. 1592-1605, was fully developed under Alexander VIII., 1689-1691, and was only abolished at the end of the year 1878 by Leo XIII.
Of the chancery of the Merovingian line of kings as many as ninety authentic diplomas are known, and, of these, thirty-seven are originals, the earliest being of the year 625. The most ancient examples were written on papyrus, vellum superseding that material towards the end of the 7th century. All these diplomas are technically letters, having the superscription and address and, at the foot, close to the seal, the valedictory benevalete. They commence with a monogrammatic invocation, which, together with the superscription and address written in fanciful elongated letters, occupies the first line. The superscription always runs in the form, N. rex Francorum. The most complete kinds of diplomas were authenticated by the king's subscription, that of the referendarius (the official charged with the custody of the royal seal), the impression of the seal, and exceptionally by subscriptions of prelates and great personages. The royal subscription was usually autograph; but, if the sovereign were too young or too illiterate to write, a monogram was traced by the scribe. The referendary, if he countersigned the royal subscription, added the word optulit to his own signature; if he subscribed independently, he wrote recognovit et subscripsit, the end of the last word being usually lost in flourishes forming a ruche. The date gave the place, day, month and year of the reign. The Merovingian royal diplomas are of two classes: (1) Precepts, conferring gifts, favours, immunities and confirmations, entitled in the documents themselves as praeceptum, praeceptio, auctoritas; some drawn up in full form, with preamble and ample final clauses; others less precise and formal. (2) Judgments (judicia), which required no preamble or final clauses as they were records of the sovereign's judicial decisions; they were subscribed by the referendary and were sealed with the royal seal. Other classes of documents were the cartae de mundeburde, taking persons under the royal protection, and indiculi or letters transmitting orders or notifying decisions; but no examples have survived.
The diplomas of the early Carolingians differed, as was natural, but little from those of their predecessors. As mayors of the palace, Charles Martel and Pippin took the style of vir inluster. On becoming king, Pippin retained it; Pippinus, vir inluster, rex Francorum, and it continued to be part of the royal title till Charlemagne became emperor. The royal subscription was in form of a sign-manual or mark, but Charlemagne elaborated this into a monogram of the letters of his name built up on a cross. In 775 the royal title of Charlemagne became Carolus, gratia Dei rex Francorum et Langobardorum, ac patricius Romanorum, the last words being assumed on his visit to Rome in 774. On becoming emperor in 800, he was styled Imperator, Romanum gubernans imperium, rex Francorum et Langobardorum. It is to be noticed that thenceforth his name was spelt with initial K (as it was on the monogram), having previously been written with C in the deeds. Most of his diplomas were authenticated by the subscription of the chancellor and impression of the seal. A novelty in the form of dating was also introduced, two words, datum (for time) and actum (for place), being now employed. The character of the writing of the diplomas, founded on the Roman cursive hand, which had become very intricate under the Merovingians, improved under their successors, yet the reform which was introduced into the literary script hardly affected the cursive writing of diplomatic until the latter part of Charlemagne's reign. The archaic style was particularly maintained in judgments, which were issued by the private chancery of the palace, a department more conservative in its methods than the imperial chancery. It was in the reign of Louis Debonair, a.d. 814-840, that the Carolingian diploma took its final shape. A variation now appears in the monogram, that monarch's sign-manual being built up, not on a cross as previously, but on the letter H., the initial of his name Hludovicus, and serving as the pattern for successive monarchs of the name of Louis.
In the Carolingian chancery the staff was exclusively ecclesiastical; at its head was the chancellor, whose title is traced back to the cancellarius, or petty officer under the Roman empire, stationed at the bar or lattice (cancelli) of the basilica or other law court and serving as usher. As keeper of the royal archives his subscription was indispensable for royal acts. The diplomas were drawn up by the notaries, an important body, upon whom devolved the duty of maintaining the formulae and traditions of the office. It has been observed that in the 9th century the documents were drawn carefully, but that in the 10th century there was a great degeneration in this respect. Under the early Capetian kings there was great confusion and want of uniformity in their diplomas; and it was not until the reign of Louis VI., a.d. 1108, that the formulae were again reduced to rules.
The acts of the imperial chancery of Germany followed the patterns of the Carolingian diplomas, with little variation down to the reign of Frederick Barbarossa, a.d. 1152-1190. The sovereign's style was N. divina favente clementia rex; after coronation at Rome he became imperator augustus. At the end of the 10th century, Otto III. developed the latter title into Romanorum imperator augustus. Under Henry III., and regularly from the time of Henry V., a.d. 1106-1125, the title before coronation has been Romanorum rex. The royal monogram did not necessarily contain all the letters of the name; but, on the other hand, from the year 976, it became more complicated and combined the imperial title with the name. For example, the monogram of Henry II. combines the words Henricus Romanorum imperator augustus. The flourished ruches also, as in the Frankish chanceries, were in vogue. Eventually they were used by certain of the chancellors as a sign-manual and took fanciful shapes, such as a building with a cupola, or even a diptych. They disappear early in the 12th century, the period when in other respects the chancery of the Holy Roman Empire largely adopted a more simple style in its diplomas. Lists of witnesses, in support of the royal and official subscriptions, were sometimes added in the course of the 11th century, and they appear regularly in documents a hundred years later.
Diplomatic in England
For the study of diplomatic in England, material exists in two distinct series of documents, those of the Anglo-Saxon period, and those subsequent to the Norman Conquest. The Anglo-Saxon kings appear to have borrowed, partially, the style of their diplomas from the chanceries of their Frankish neighbours, introducing at the same time modifications which give those documents a particular character marking their nationality. In some of the earlier examples we find that the lines of the foreign style are followed more or less closely; but very soon a simpler model was adopted which, while it varied in formulas from reign to reign, lasted in general construction down to the time of the Norman Conquest. The royal charters were usually drawn up in Latin, sometimes in Anglo-Saxon, and began with a preamble or exordium (in some instances preceded by an invocation headed with the chrismon or with a cross), in the early times of a simple character, but, later, drawn out not infrequently to great length in involved and bombastic periods. Then immediately followed the disposing or granting clause, often accompanied with a few words explaining the motive, such as, for the good of the soul of the grantor; and the text was closed with final clauses of varying extent, protecting the deed against infringement, etc. In early examples the dating clause gave the day and month (often according to the Roman calendar) and the year of the indiction; but the year of the Incarnation was also immediately adopted; and, later, the regnal year also. The position of this clause in the charter was subject to variation. The subscriptions of the king and of the personages witnessing the deed, each preceded by a cross, but all written by the hand of the scribe, usually closed the charter. A peculiarity was the introduction, in many instances, either in the body of the charter, or in a separate paragraph at the end, of the boundaries of the land granted, written in the native tongue. The sovereigns of the several kingdoms of the Heptarchy, as well as those of the United Kingdom, usually styled themselves rex. But from the time of Æthelstan, a.d. 825-840, they also assumed fantastic titles in the text of their charters, such as: rex et primicerius, rex et rector, gubernator et rector, monarchus, and particularly the Greek basileus, and basileus industrius. At the same time the name of Albion was also frequently used for Britain.
A large number of documents of the Anglo-Saxon period, dating from the 7th century, has survived, both original and copies entered in chartularies. Of distinct documents there are nearly two hundred; but a large proportion of these must be set aside as copies (both contemporary and later) or as spurious deeds.
Although there is evidence, as above stated, of the use of seals by certain of the Mercian kings, the method of authentication of diplomas by seal impression was practically unknown to the Anglo-Saxon sovereigns, save only to Edward the Confessor, who, copying the custom which obtained upon the continent, adopted the use of a great seal.
With the Norman Conquest the old tradition of the Anglo-Saxons disappeared. The Conqueror brought with him the practice of the Roman chancery, which naturally followed the Capetian model; and his diplomas of English origin differed only from those of Normandy by the addition of his new style, rex Anglorum, in the superscription. But even from the first there was a tendency to simplicity in the new English chancery, not improbably suggested by the brief formalities of Anglo-Saxon charters, and, side by side with the more formal royal diplomas, others of shorter form and less ceremony were issued, which by the reign of Henry II. quite superseded the more solemn documents. These simpler charters began with the royal superscription, the address, and the salutation, e.g. Willelmus, Dei gratia rex Anglorum, N. episcopo et omnibus baronibus et fidelibus suis Francis et Anglis salutem. Then followed the notification and the grant, e.g. Sciatis me concessisse, etc., generally without final clauses, or, if any, brief clauses of protection and warranty; and, at the end, the list of witnesses and the date. The regnal year was usually cited; but the year of the Incarnation was also sometimes given. The great seal was appended. To some of the Conqueror's charters his subscription and those of his queen and sons are attached, written by the scribe, but accompanied with crosses which may or may not be autograph. By the reign of John the simpler form of royal charters had taken final shape, and from this time the acts of the kings of England have been classified under three heads: viz. (1) Charters, generally of the pattern described above; (2) Letters patent, in which the address is general, Universis presentes litteras inspecturis, etc.; the corroborative clause describes the character of the document, In cujus rei testimonium has literas nostras fieri fecimus patentes; the king himself is his own witness, Teste me ipso; and the great seal is appended; (3) Close letters, administrative documents conveying orders, the king witnessing, Teste me ipso.
The style of the English kings down to John was, with few exceptions, Rex Anglorum; thenceforward, Rex Angliae. Henry II. added the feudal titles, dux Normannorum et Aquitanorum et comes Andegavorum, which Henry III. curtailed to dux Aquitaniae. John added the title dominus Hiberniae; Edward III., on claiming the crown of France, styled himself rex Angliae et Franciae, the same title being borne by successive kings down to the year 1801; and Henry VIII., in 1521, assumed the title of fidei defensor. The formula Dei gratia does not consistently accompany the royal title until the reign of Henry II., who adopted it in 1173 (see L. Delisle, Mémoire sur la chronologie des chartes de Henri II., in the Bibl. de l'Ecole des Chartes, lxvii. 361-401).
The forms adopted in the royal chanceries were naturally imitated in the composition of private deeds which in all countries form the mass of material for historical and diplomatic research. The student of English diplomatic will soon remark how readily the private charters, especially conveyances of real property, fall into classes, and how stereotyped the phraseology and formulae of each class become, only modified from time to time by particular acts of legislation. The brevity of the early conveyances is maintained through successive generations, with only moderate growth as time progresses through the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. The different kinds of deeds which the requirements of society have from time to time called into existence must be learned by the student from the text-books. But a particular form of document which was especially in favour in England should be mentioned. This was the chirograph , which is found even in the Anglo-Saxon period, and which got its name from the word chirographum, cirographum or cyrographum being written in large letters at the head of the deed. At first the word was written, presumably, at the head of each of the two authentic copies which the two parties to a transaction would require. Then it became the habit to use the word thus written as a tally, the two copies of the deed being written on one sheet, head to head, with the word between them, which was then cut through longitudinally in a straight, or more commonly waved or indented (in modum dentium) line, each of the two copies thus having half of the word at the head. Any other word, or a series of letters, might thus be employed; and more than two copies of a deed could thus be made to tally. The chirograph was the precursor of the modern indenture, the commonest form of English deeds, though no longer a tally. In other countries, the notarial instrument has performed the functions which the chirograph and indenture have discharged for us.
AUTHORITIES - General treatises, handbooks,, etc., are J. Mabillon, De re diplomatica (1709); Tassin and Toustain, Nouveau Traité de diplomatique (1750-1765); T. Madox, Formulare Anglicanum (1702); G. Hickes, Linguarum septentrionalium thesaurus (1703-1705); F. S. Maffei, Istoria diplomatica (1727); G. Marini, I Papiri diplomatici (1805); G. Bessel, Chronicon Gotwicense (De diplomatibus imperatorum ac regum Germaniae) (1732); A. Fumagalli, Delle istituzioni diplomatiche (1802); M. F. Kopp, Palaeographia critica (1817-1829); K. T. G. Schönemann, Versuch eines vollstandigen Systems der Diplomatik (1818); T. Sickel, Lehre von den Urkunden der ersten Karolinger (1867); J. Ficker, Beiträge zur Urkundenlehre (1877-1878); A. Gloria, Compendio delle lezioni di paleografia e diplomatica (1870); C. Paoli, Programma scolastico di paleografia Latina e di diplomatica (1888-1890); H. Bresslau, Handbuch der Urkundenlehre für Deutschland und Italien (1889); A. Giry, Manuel de diplomatique (1894); F. Leist, Urkundenlehre (1893); E. M. Thompson, Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography, cap. xix. (1906); J. M. Kemble, Codex diplomaticus aevi Saxonici (1839-1848); W. G. Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum (1885-1893); J. Muñoz y Rivero, Manuel de paleografia diplomatica Española (1890); M. Russi, Paleografia e diplomatica de' documenti delle provincie Napolitane (1883). Facsimiles are given in J. B. Silvestrestre Paléographie universelle (English edition, 1850); and in the Facsimiles, etc., published by the Palaeographical Society (1873-1894) and the New Palaeographical Society (1903, etc.); and also in the following works: - A. Champollion-Figeac, Chartes et manuscrits sur papyrus (1840); J. A. Letronne, Diplómes et chartes de l'époque mérovingienne (1845-1866); J. Tardif, Archives de l'Empire: Facsimilé de chartes et diplômes mérovingiens et carlovingiens (1866); G. H. Pettz, Schrifttafeln zum Gebrauch bei diplomatischen Vorlesungen (1844-1869); H. von Sybel and T. Sickel, Kaiserurkunden in Abbildungen (1880-1891); J. von Pflugk-Harttung, Specimina selecta chartarum Pontificum Romanorum (1885-1887); Specimina palaeographica regestorum Romanorum pontificum (1888); Recueil de fac-similés à l'usage de l'Ecole des Chartes (not published) (1880, etc.); J. Muñoz y Rivero, Chrestomathia palaeographica: scripturae Hispanae veteris specimina (1890); E. A. Bond, Facsimiles of Ancient Charters in the British Museum (1873-1878): W. B. Sanders, Facsimiles of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts (charters) (1878-1884); G. F. Warner and H. J. Ellis, Facsimiles of Royal and other Charters in the British Museum (1903).
(E. M. T.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)