Yesterday (Thursday) was my first day really diving back into the documents. Hoo boy.
I remember the first time I encountered the actual documents I’d be working with. It was about 10 years ago, on my first reconaissance trip to the archives. After looking at the guides for quite some time, I ordered up a couple of registers. Opened one. Tried to read something – anything – and failed utterly to do so. By the time I opened the third register at random, I felt tears welling up in my eyes, and I remember thinking “That’s it. – I’m going to have to give this whole idea of a Ph.D. up, because I can’t do this.” Fortunately, I stumbled upon an angel in the archives who took time out of his own research for two weeks to help me struggle through the paleography.
I quickly picked up the trick of it, and within a couple of weeks was able to do that scanning thing with fair facility. But there were hundreds of registers, each with hundreds of unindexed folios. If I could get through three 200-folio registers (that’s about 1,200 handwritten 8 1/2-by-11 pages, to those of you who don’t do medieval stuff), it was a good day. If I got three usable documents out of that day’s work, that was a really great day.
But here’s the thing: that shit takes time. And now I sit here at the beginning, a register open at my side, wondering how to approach the work. And kind of quailing at the prospect. Whaaah!!! I know I can do this, because I’ve done it before, when I was much less expert. But boy, howdy, do I wish I had indices for these things.