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Vincent de Paul, the Congregation of the Mission, and the Papacy: Documents from the Vatican Archives (1625-1670) Document Authorship

End and margin notes

A significant number of letters, petitions, and other types of documents submitted to the Roman Curia for approval, confirmation, or consideration, and especially those held in the SOCG collection of the ASPF archives, contain a series of notations evidently made by clerks at the time of their receipt or shortly thereafter. There are three main categories of such notations: A) summaries of the documents received, in Italian (the date of receipt is sometimes indicated, sometimes not); B) short summaries of decisions made in response to the documents received, in Latin (the date of decision is often specified); and C) margin notes summarizing the main ideas of the original text, in Italian or Latin (only present on lengthier documents, such as mission reports). The first two categories of notes are typically located on the verso page of the last folio of the original document and they are often written in different hands and/or ink. Margin notes, if present, are usually written in the same hand as one or both of the summaries placed at the back of the document. The amount of detail provided varies significantly from one document to another.

The exact authorship of the types of notes described above is unknown. Nevertheless, their content and appearance leave little doubt that their authors were both different from and contemporaneous with the authors of the original texts (in other words, the end and margin notes in question were not made by modern archivists). This catalogue takes each document as a whole. A conscious choice was made not to separate added notes (when present) from the original documents, mainly because the information contained in the former only has meaning in conjunction with the latter. For the purposes of this database, the authorship of the original text—if known—is assigned to the document as a whole, even when added notations render it composite. The document summaries provided in the Detailed View of this catalogue are based on both the original texts and the added notes, as indicated.

NB: The summaries of decisions written on the back of original documents (category B above) are typically very short. More detailed summaries were recorded in separate registers and arranged in chronological order (by contrast, original documents were generally filed according to geographic criteria). In the case of the ASPF archives, the registers containing detailed meeting minutes and summaries of decisions taken by the cardinals of the SCPF are located in the Acta collection, whereas the original documents on which these decisions were based are held in the SOCG collection.

Authorship of petitions

A large number of petitions submitted to the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (SCPF) exhibit an ‘author name’ in this catalogue, even though they are described as ‘unsigned and undated’. Those petitions were likely penned by clerks of the SCPF (possibly on dictation), at the request of agents of the Congregation of the Mission present in Rome at that time, and filed not in their name, but on behalf of other CM members, such as the Superior General of the CM (i.e. Vincent de Paul or René Alméras)—in the case of general requests concerning the CM as a whole, or other CM members—in the case of petitions concerning individual or local matters. This supposition is based on the observation that (almost) all documents of this type—including those unrelated to the CM, but filed in SCPF registers around the same time—are written in the same two or three hands and have similar structures and formats. The ‘author name’ displayed in this database is the name of the person on behalf of whom the petition was filed; that name never appears under the main text of the petition, like a signature, but it is always displayed on the verso page of the last folio, together with the addressee name (which was usually the SCPF as a whole).

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