Michael's Reviews > Diplomatics: New Uses for an Old Science

Diplomatics by Luciana Duranti
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's review
Dec 02, 2010

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bookshelves: information-science
Recommended to Michael by: Luciana Duranti
Recommended for: Archvists, Librarians, Information students
Read from July 13 to August 04, 2010 , read count: 2

I was warned repeatedly by members of my program that I wouldn't get much out of this book reading it outside the context of the course given by the author. Happily, I find that they were wrong. I had the impression that many of them found it heavily theoretical, and that the theory made more sense when explained step by step, rather than when taken in at once, but I'm not certain if this was the issue. At any rate, compared to the kinds of theory I'm accustomed to in social science, this was easily understood and digestible on the first reading, even if language issues mar the first chapter especially.

Diplomatics is a science developed by archivists in the context of examining documents (and has nothing whatever to do with diplomacy, with which it shares a linguistic root). As Duranti defines it, it is "the discipline which studies the genesis, forms, and transmission of archival documents, and their relationship with the facts represented in them and with their creator, in order to identify, evaluate, and communicate their true nature." Diplomatics was originally developed in the study of medieval documents, and Duranti wrote this as the first English-language manual on its use for modern documents. What I particularly appreciated as a historian was the way in which she was able to contextualize documents in terms of the "processes" that generate them and the "transactions" which they specifically record. In short, Duranti presents the document in its context as an action (verb), as a ding-an-sich (noun).

While the book didn't strike me as being "heavy" on theory, I will admit that there were sections that seemed to bog down in detailed descriptions or lengthy defenses of diplomatics, rather than in practical examples of how to use it. If I were assigning this book, I would probably have students read chapters 1, 4, and 5 (which are the most immediately applicable), and only use selections from 2,3, and 6. Nevertheless, I look forward to taking the class and possibly reevaluating the book this Fall.

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Reading Progress

07/18/2010 page 30
15.0% "It has often been pointed out that it is extremely difficult to comprehend recent events. Part of the reason is that our society creates sources of information which emerge in forms at the same time manifold and fragmentary. We are engulfed and bewildered by it all."
07/22/2010 page 70
35.0% "Every social group ensures an ordered development of the relationships among its members by means of rules. Some of the rules of social life arise from the ad hoc consent of small numbers of people; others are established and enforced by an "institution.""
07/25/2010 page 86
43.0% "Persons are the central element of any document."
07/29/2010 page 131
70.0% "This writer believes that diplomatic theory helps us by providing a method of analysis based on principles."
08/01/2010 page 153
82.0% "The extrinsic and intrinsic elements of documentary form were identified by diplomatists through examining a great number of documents issued in different times and jurisdictions by different types of records creators for different purposes."

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Cnidy (new)

Cnidy It is best when read after one of her lectures about it.

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