Rares and precious Records

         Italy's Record Offices contain the richest documentary heritage in the world. Hidden among the papers are some real gems and the Reggio Emilia Record Office has decided to present a selection of some of those in its possession. This is not an attempt to boast; it is not a marketing ploy to attract superficial, inattentive visitors. Through the beauty of images, history can still speak out to those who are discerning enough to hear its voice.

         The items on display are just a very small part of the collection. They are records in the true sense of the term; their authors had no aspirations for artistic expression. The Statutes contain the regulations that governed life in the Commune; the registers of corporal punishment convictions and sentences were judicial acts; the drawing up of plans and maps of land was a long and costly procedure and they only served in the event of boundary or ownership disputes. Nonetheless, for many centuries it seemed natural, obvious even, for the official nature and importance of a document to be shown not just by its content but also by its decoration and the care dedicated to its appearance; in short, by its aesthetic appeal. 

         As the years passed, much more stylized and schematic symbols, such as stamps, began to be used as immediate indications of the official nature of an act. By comparing old documents with modern and contemporary ones, it is possible to follow the journey of the institutions and administrative bodies over time, which no longer need to rely on aesthetic beauty to assert their authority. 

         A special mention should go to the parchment from the archives of the Monastery of Santi Pietro & Prospero: dating back to 806, it is one of the oldest original documents in the Record Office. After centuries of wars, natural disasters, plague and famine, it is still fully intact and the only effect of time has been to make it a little darker.



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