Presentation (English)

APOSCRIPTA database - Lettres des papes is an evolving database, dedicated to constantly enriching itself in a collaborative mode.

- by the incorporation of the texts of letters edited on paper from the origins of the printing press to the present day,

- by the incorporation of editions directly made for the base,

- by the incorporation of translations,

- by incorporating hyperlinks to text and images from online documents,

- finally by the continuous updating of references of handwritten witnesses and editions, as well as by the identification in the texts, still to be done in many cases, of biblical or juridical sources or reminiscences, etc. Any incorporation of a letter already edited on paper is therefore intended to be accompanied by additional information regarding the original edition, other printed paper or electronic editions available, possible other handwritten witnesses, registers, or even the bibliography relating to the document.

IMPORTANT WARNING : in most cases, not all the information given by the edition or calendar from which a letter is taken is included in its entirety. The use of APOSCRIPTA therefore does not always exempt you from consulting these original editions or calendars (in particular to know the textual variants, the elements of description of the handwritten witnesses and the out-of-content mentions). As often as possible, hyperlinks are provided in the notices to the online versions (in pdf files or other formats) of these editions or original registers, for which APOSCRIPTA cannot be taken as a substitute. Therefore, APOSCRIPTA should be used more as a research tool than as a traditional archive.

The increase in the corpus is carried out through the digitization of collections or documents published in appendices of books and articles free of copyright, but also through the inclusion of texts that contemporary publishers are willing to communicate.

For the first waves of digitizations and incorporations, the emphasis is placed (in a non-limitative way, therefore) on letters concerning the exercise of justice, canonical censorship and the repression of heresies - objects of the FULMEN group.

The first objective of the database is to promote the identification and historiographical use of the extraordinarily rich textual material represented by the papal letters, whether to exploit the information provided in all fields or to study the language of the acts. By collecting letters produced over a very long period of time, the APOSCRIPTA database will offer a very broad view of the evolution and constants of papal rhetoric. More generally, it could contribute to overcoming the traditional division of studies between the periods before and after the beginning of the pontificate of Innocent III (1198). If the diplomatic approach did not preside over the conception of APOSCRIPTA, The collection of data concerning the tradition (indication for each text of the greatest possible number of known manuscript witnesses and their natures) is also likely to be useful to the history of the pontifical chancery, especially its recording practices1.

APOSCRIPTA will thus eventually be complementary to Ut per litteras apostolicas, a database marketed by Brepols Publishers, which gathers more than 250,000 texts or registers of letters (published by the French School of Rome, the CNRS and the Université Lumière Lyon 2) contained in the registers of the Chancery for the 13th and 14th centuries. It will also be a working instrument to be combined both with the repertoire of Potthast (1874-1875), for letters issued between 1198 and 1304, and with that of Jaffé-Loewenfeld (1885-1888) for letters issued before 1198 - the publication of a third edition, the "new Jaffé", having begun in 2016, in connection with the establishment since 2013 by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences2 of the Regesta pontificum Romanorum online, an evolving database dedicated to recording all traces of "contact" with the Papacy in European archives and libraries. APOSCRIPTA is also intended to support, with its data, the great censimento of originals papal letters started at the beginning of the twentieth century by Paul-Maria Baumgarten3,  subsequently proposed to the research community by Franco Bartoloni in 19534 and fed ever since 1975 with the series Index Actorum Pontificum published by the Archivio Segreto Vaticano.

The incorporation of the texts of any translations that may be available (in French but also in other languages) aims at broadening the use of the database to non-specialists.

Historians and scholars who have edited the texts of pontifical letters are invited to contribute them to the database. Original publications, whether or not on paper, are of course cited (with hypertext links where appropriate). All the original works and articles, moreover, are inserted in the general list of editions taken up or cited. Texts can be sent, together with all critical data (and possible translations) in word format to aposcripta[at]

« One may fantasize about the creation of a computarized database in which all the elements collected and described in any form whatsoever would be gathered », Bernard Barbiche, a pioneer in the research on original papal letters of the 13th and 14th centuries, wrote a few years ago5. Such is the long-term objective, expanded to include all types of manuscript tradition and editions of the texts themselves, of APOSCRIPTA. 


1. For a bibliography about papal documents in the Middle Ages, see the one offered by Olivier Guyotjeannin on the website Theleme of the Ecole nationale des chartes. See also, for instance, an introduction to papal documentation by Anja Thaller on the LEO-BW website (Landeskunde Entdecken Online - Baden-Württemberg).

2. Göttinger Papsturkundenwerk, Pius-Stiftung für Papsturkundenforschung. For a history of the great Papsturkunden endeavour, see Rudolf Hiestand, dir., Hundert Jahre Papsturkundenforschung. Bilanz – Methoden – Perspektiven. Akten eines Kolloquiums zum hundertjährigen Bestehen der Regesta Pontificum Romanorum vom 9.-11. Oktober 1996 in Göttingen, Göttingen : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Folge 3, 261), 2003, and Klaus Herbers, Jochen Johrendt, éd., Papsttum und das vielgestaltige Italien Hundert Jahre Italia Pontificia, Berlin, New York : Walter De Gruyer (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen. Philologisch-Historische Klasse, NF 5), 2009.

3. Paul Maria Baumgarten, Giulio Battelli, Schedario Baumgarten. Descrizione diplomatica di bolle e brevi originali da Innocenzo III a Pio IX, Cité du Vatican, 1965-1986, 4 vol. Mgr Paul-Maria Baumgarten (1860-1948) donated his file, containing 8643 cards describing more than 10,000 originals examined in some 40 archives in seven different countries, to the Vatican School of Paleography in 1923. See Bernard Barbiche's review in Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des chartes, 124/1, 1966, p. 295-298.

4. Franco Bartoloni, « Per un censimento dei documenti pontifici da Innocenzo III a Martino V (escluso) », dans Atti del Convegno di studi delle fonti del Medioevo europeo in occasione del 70o della fondazione dell'Istituto storico italiano (Roma, 14-18 aprile 1953), Rome : Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, 1957, p. 3-15. See also Leo Santifaller, « Der Censimento der spätmittelalterlichen Papsturkunden », Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, 62, 1964, p. 122-134, and Bernard Barbiche's recent assessment, « Le Censimento Bartoloni et ses récents développements. Un nouvel élan pour la diplomatique pontificale », in Europa und Memoria/Mémoire et Europe. Festschrift für Andreas Sohn zum 60. Geburstag/Mélanges offerts à Andreas Sohn pour son 60e anniversaire, ed. Michaela Sohn-Kronthaler, Ratisbonne : EOS, 2019, p. 227-239.

5Bernard Barbiche, « Le Censimento Bartoloni et ses récents développements » (see previous note), at p. 239.