Ruth Selman, from our Advice and Records Knowledge Department, and Lucy Angus, formerly of our Collection Care Department, describe their respective roles in preparing documents for display at an event.
An unexpected discovery
Ruth: When I opened the grey box in our Invigilation Room, I was expecting something decorative but I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over by the vibrancy of the illuminated manuscripts housed inside.
In preparation for a study day on Rawdon Brown and the Anglo-Venetian Relationship to be held by Venice in Peril and the British-Italian Society at The National Archives, it was my pleasant duty to identify a selection of documents which demonstrated the breadth of our holdings of Venetian archives. Rawdon Brown had the enviable job of working for the Public Record Office while living in Venice in the 19th century. He scoured the archives of Venice for material casting light on English history, producing material for the ‘Calendar of State Papers Venetian’ in the process. He was an avid collector of manuscripts as well and we were fortunate enough to receive his collection as a bequest in his will.
The collection (in record series PRO 30/25) is extensive and represents a major resource for studying the history of Venice. My eye was caught by the full descriptions of the documents in PRO 30/25/104; a collection of Ducal Commissions or ‘Commissioni Ducali’, these documents are a little-known treasure. They are each a unique representative of an ornate type of formal document which became highly collectible by the 19th century and thereby have made their way into many collections worldwide. The four displayed below were all given to members of the Contarini family by the Doge of Venice on their appointments to public office and the illuminations form the frontispiece for extensive descriptions of their roles and responsibilities in Latin.
Three of the illustrations depict the appointee; it is possible to see faint signs of aging in the later of the two showing Alvise Contarini – his hairline is receding and his eyes are a little more tired. Their namesake saints are also included, as are representations of Venice, including the lion of St Mark and one- and two-tailed mermen. Continue reading »