Catalogue description Venetian Manuscripts

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Details of PRO 30/25
Reference: PRO 30/25
Title: Venetian Manuscripts

These records formed part of a collection of Venetian state papers made by Rawdon Lubbock Brown, an English scholar resident in Venice for fifty years from 1833. Since 1862 he had been employed as an editor by the Public Record Office.

There is an appreciable amount of copied or extracted material, some copied at the time of its production, some later (but before Brown's time), and the rest during his lifetime, often at the instigation of Italian friends who shared his interest in Venetian history. There is a significant amount of original material, in manuscript and print, which Brown started buying in the 1830s. The most important part of this, the Tiepolo-Contarini collection, in 80 lots,was purchased by him in 1837 for his compatriot Edward Cheney, who gave it to Brown in 1840.

The importance of the collection lies in the light it throws on Venetian and European history, particularly in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, from ambassadorial despatches, reports, diaries, itineraries and from manuscript gazettes, avvisi, or newsletters reporting on Venice and all the capitals where the Republic was represented diplomatically. The superiority of the schematic reports (relazioni) made by Venetian ambassadors on their return from diplomatic service in any one country abroad or Italian state, and read by them in the Senate, was universally acknowledged at an early date, which accounts for the existence of copies of so many of them. The manuscript gazettes (riporti) were sold in Venice for a 'gazeta' (a coin) long before 1600; the earliest in this collection dates from 1634.

This series contains diplomatic records which relate to the administrative history of Venice and its dependencies. These include ambassadors' reports and despatches; manuscript newsletters from European capitals; material on the career of Venetian ambassador Francesco Contarini (d 1624); documents in cypher; letters and instruments to and from the Senate (Pregadi); papers of the doges (some of which are brilliantly illuminated) and of the Grand Council and Council of Ten; records of the Inquisitors of State; and documents concerning Brown's own interest in Cervantes, Shakespeare, heretics and gypsies.

There are also reports from local governors and captains, naval material, items relating to Englishmen in Venice and records of the State Inquisitors and Officio della Sanita. The policing of the city and the detail of community regulation of lighting and burial in Venice in the eighteenth century are documented, and there are lists of officials, such as ambassadors and procurators (proctors) of St Marks.

The vast majority of these records are in Italian: a limited number of documents, usually formal, legal or papal or reproduced antiques are in Latin, a few in French or English, and very few in other European languages.

Date: 1224-1877

The present numbering of the pieces in this list was not the original one. Previous numbers appear on green and gold stickers in the centre of the front covers of the portfolios which constitute the first 20 pieces, and they do not follow the same sequence. The present numbering appears on an oval blue and white sticker at the top of the front covers.

Inside each of the front covers appears a summary of the contents headed by what at first appears to be yet another numbering system, again no longer in sequence. This consists of two sets of numbers, such as 108.181. It will be seen however that the second set (181) corresponds to the number in the centre of the front cover, a number occasionally referred to by Rawdon Brown in his annotations as the 'busta' number. 'Busta' in Italian means a cardboard case or envelope, and discloses the arrangement of the records inherited, if not devised, by Brown.

The list is a slightly rearranged and updated version of an older calendar which provided information, if supplied on the documents themselves by Brown or his collaborators, about the archival source of copied material.

Where the documents are loose (fascicoli), as in the first 20 pieces, there is no consecutive foliation. Folio numbers appear from time to time, but relate to dispersed volumes from which these documents have been extracted, so they are inept for citation. The volumes in this series are sometimes paginated consecutively, but the riporti (manuscript gazettes) are usually not, in which case dates and locations following the piece number are the safest method of citation.

The first 20 pieces in this series are portfolios of loose documents. The list does not indicate that each carries spinal lettering intended to indicate a theme for the contents. It should, however, be noted that these themes are not rigidly adhered to. The arrangement of the subject matter is as follows (spinal titles continue after PRO 30/25/20 for the volumes that constitute most of the rest of the series, but need no further consideration here, as the volumes are uniformly thematic):

Quite a few documents contain endorsements by the official to whom they were addressed, which are not recorded in the piece descriptions. Endorsements may be confined to a date of receipt, but they often give particulars of a course of action taken in consequence of the receipt of the document.

Note also that in the piece descriptions the term 'letters', usually in the case of missives from the Senate or Council of Ten or any Venetian executive, does not necessarily confer plurality: check if only one date is specified in the date column. 'Letters' was used in the original list as a term for an official instruction.

Related material:

Similar material for 1778-1805 is in FO 81

The transcripts made by or for Rawdon Brown for his PRO calendars from Venetian archives, many of them housed at the Franciscan Frari in Venice, are in PRO 31/14

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in its original department: G&D 25
Legal status: Not Public Record(s)
Language: Miscellaneous

Venetian Republic, 727-1797

Physical description: 205 bundles, files and volumes
Immediate source of acquisition:

in 1883, in June 1958.

in 1883, in June 1958. Rawdon Lubbock Brown, 1803-1883

in 1883, in June 1958. Victor Frederick William Cavendish-Bentinck, 9th Duke of Portland, 1897-1990

Publication note:

Some documents in this series supplied material for the State Papers and Manuscripts relating to English Affairs, existing in the Archives and Collections of Venice, and in other Libraries of Northern Italy, (HMSO, 38 vols, 1864-1947); also for the Calendar of Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII (1864-1932). A description of the first 176 pieces in the series is in The Forty Sixth Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records, Appendix 2 (London 1886).

Unpublished finding aids:

There is a selective subject and nominal index which is intended to provide a key to the main themes and persons involved in the series as a whole. There is also an index to recipients of correspondence from the doges of Venice in a letterbook copied by F

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