Introduction to Paleography (Renaissance and Early Modern Tuscany)
Introduction to Paleography and Archival Studies : The Medici Archive Project will offer in the 2011 fall semester its
third online course
in paleography and archival studies. This course is designed to increase
access to the
wealth of information contained in manuscript historical materials,
particularly those from late fifteenth- through seventeenth-century
Tuscany. This 12-week online course running from September 26th, 2011 to
December 17th, 2011 teaches the requisite skills to read historical
Italian writings, and offers a broad introduction to the nature of
Italian archives. From the letters of Michelangelo to the inventories of
the Medici family, the digitized documents used to train the course’s
participants in paleographic skills will also expose them to a wide
range of document types useful for art historical research.
The course, conducted in English, is organized into a sequence of twelve
sections, each one
lasting one week. There will be final exam, which will consist of an
unseen text to transcribe
and contextualize. With every section, the students are asked to
transcribe a digitized
document dating from the fifteenth through the seventeenth century; the
featured document is contextualized with supporting materials also
available online. Specific guidance in reading and interpreting the
document will be provided by the course instructors in the form of
explanatory comments posted on a restricted-access Forum. Throughout the
week, course participants will be able to obtain individual help in
these exercises by posting their questions on the Forum; both their
questions and the instructor’s responses will be available for all
course participants to view. At the end of each weekly section, students
will e-mail to the instructor a transcription of the document; they
will be expected to make improvement progressively, developing skills to
read incrementally more challenging documents as the course proceeds.
Students will be assessed at the end of the course on a pass/fail basis,
and passing students will receive a statement from the Medici Archive
Project attesting to their successful achievement of the course’s goals
(a letter of recommendation may also be requested). During the course of
this semester, particular attention will be paid to documents from the
Medici Granducal Archive (Mediceo del Principato), in light of the
launch of the new MAP Digital Interactive Platform (July 2012) that will
include digitized documents from this vast archival collection.
The online course will be operated using an open-source Course
called Moodle. While this is a user-friendly system, should participants
support, the MAP’s Technology Director, Lorenzo Allori (firstname.lastname@example.org), will be available
to answer questions.
The program can be used with both Microsoft (Windows) and Apple (Mac) operating
For optimal performance the following software programs must be installed:
1) Web browser Firefox, at least version 3.x
2) Flash player
3) Adobe Reader (at least version 8)
4) MS Office (at least version 2007 or previous version with file converters), OR OpenOffice
Fileconverters for MS Office 2007 docx files can be downloaded at:
Selection Criteria: Application Process and Tuition
Enrollment will be limited to 18 students. Priority will be given to graduate students, post-
graduate scholars, and museum curators with demonstrated interest in art history or
Tuscany’s Grand Ducal period.
Knowledge of Italian is required.
Applications will consist of:
1. A brief letter of introduction explaining the motivation for taking the course; if the skills
taught in this course will be applied towards the execution of a specific research project of
scholarly import, the applicant should describe that project.
2. A curriculum vitae that details linguistic aptitude and (if applicable) archival experience.
The tuition for this course is US $ 400, payable by check or bank wire (PayPal) upon
Applications should arrive before September 20th at the following email
address: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the instructor:
Dr. Elena Brizio completed her PhD in Medieval History at the University
of Florence in 1993
with a thesis on the prosopographical analysis of the Sienese government
in years 1355-
1399; on her previous lauree she worked on electoral systems and on a
collection of a Trecento judge and official.
She also completed a Masters in Gender Studies in 2003, working on the
role of the dowry in
the fourteenth century, whose article appeared in 2004. She has
published on the political,
institutional and legal history of the Trecento, on "consilia” by the
most important Italian jurist of the fourteenth century, Bartolo da
Sassoferrato, and on the seventeenth century legal "repetitiones”. Her
article In the Shadow of the Campo: Sienese Women and Their Families
(14th-16th Centuries) appeared in the volume of essays "Across the
Religious Divide: Women's Properties in the Wider Mediterranean (ca.
1300-1800)”, ed. by Jutta Sperling and Shona K. Wray, published by
Routledge in 2010. She taught American undergraduate students courses on
"The Black Death and its Aftermath” at IES, Institute for the
International Education of Students, in Siena, where she currently
teaches courses on "Family and Gender in Medieval and Early Modern
Italy” and on "History and Culture of Food in Italy and Tuscany”.
Dr. Brizio’s current research focuses on the cultural, economic and
social power of women in
the Renaissance, and her book, provisionally entitled "Sienese Women in
will analyze the role of Sienese women in the last century of the
Republic, before the war
and following annexation of Siena by the Duchy of Florence. She is
particularly interested in
the role of women whose kin were exiled, and the help women could offer,
whether left in the city or –on the contrary—if they chose or were
obliged by authorities to follow their exiled kin.
Another topic she works on is the use of the law in favor of or against
women, and the
modifications of local laws (statutes or consuetudines) through the use
of the so called ius
commune, that is the former civil and canon laws.
She has presented papers at the Biennial Conference of Sarasota, Florida
in 2004, 2006,
2008, 2010; at the Renaissance Society of America in Cambridge 2005;
Chicago 2008; Los Angeles 2009; Venice 2010; Montreal 2011. In 2008 she
Annual Bertie Wilkinson Lecture at the Centre of Medieval Studies of the
Toronto, whose title was Florence is not Italy: An Alternative View of
Women, Family and
Social Ties from Siena.
In her work with the Medici Archive Project, she has continued to pursue
interests in Renaissance history and Women’s studies. At the present
time she is working on
‘avvisi’ (news reports) that came from Flanders in the seventeenth
century during the Thirty
Years War and from Poland.
Dr. Elena Brizio, currently Vice-Director of the Medici Archive Project,
this course last fall.