The Right of Spoil of the Popes of Avignon 1316 – 1415

The Ames Foundation has been working for some time on Daniel Williman and Karen Corsano’s second edition of Williman’s The Right of Spoil of the Popes of Avignon, 1316–1415 (first ed. American Philosophical Society 1988). We have now reached the proofs stage of the second edition, and, as is our practice, we have made the proofs available on this website. They may be cited as “Ames Foundation, upublished proofs, 12/14/2019.”

A complete set of the proofs may be viewed in pdf form. The two main sections of the book, the Repertory of Cases and Index of Persons in the Cases, may also viewed as html webpages. The difference between the two formats is that in the html version, the references in the Index link to the Cases, and there are search engines for the Index. A disadvantage of using the html version is that references to other parts of the book, such as the Bibliography or the Abbreviations, require reference to the pdf. The pdf, however, may be kept open in a separate tab.

The first edition was a list of regesta of what purported to be all the exercises of the papal right of spoil by the Avignonese papacy. (Much of the Introduction is devoted to defining the papal right of spoil. We oversimplify here by saying that it is practice of the Avignonese papacy to seize the money and movable ecclesiastical goods of a deceased holder of an ecclesiastical benefice.) Williman and Corsano continued to work on the list. They discovered many more examples of exercises of the papal right of spoil in Vatican Archives and made numerous corrections and additions to the ‘cases’ (defined as all the documents associated with the spoliation of a particular person) in the original list. They now believe that they have all the instances in which the Avignonese papacy exercised this right, and a second edition of the list was clearly called for.

The first edition was published only in paper. It contained numerous tables that reflected what the editor thought might be useful for users of the list, but no index of persons. When the current authors asked the Foundation to publish the second edition, the first consideration was what could be done with the technology that is now available. It made no sense not to use that technology to improve the accessibility of the material, but not everyone has access to the Internet at all times, and many people remain uncomfortable with using it. Hence, we decided to publish the second edition both online and in paper.

The first edition contained a very large amount of data; the second edition contains even more. Some of this data is specific to the cases: who was despoiled, when did this happen, where did it happen. Rather than making up tables that arranged this data in ways that we imagined might be useful to the user, it seemed to make more sense to create one massive table in the form of an Excel spreadsheet that the user could download and arrange in any way that suited his or her purposes. This spreadsheet is freely downloadable from the online edition.

A somewhat different problem was presented by the very large number of personal names that appear in the cases (approximately 2700). The archival material tells us a great deal about some of these people, particularly about those who were despoiled. The authors have also searched the standard reference works, such as Eubel and Gallia Christiana, for those who were despoiled and have included some such material for those people who are mentioned just in passing. What seemed to be called for here was a quite elaborate Index of Persons in the Cases. The Foundation created a database of all the personal names that are in the second edition with all the information about them that is in the edition, with occasional expansion from standard reference works, and the modern spelling of the place-names with which the persons are associated. From this database the Foundation produced a traditional, but elaborate, Index of Persons in the Cases. This index is included in the printed edition. The online edition also hyperlinks the references to the cases in the index to the cases themselves, and includes a number of search engines that allow the user to find all the persons of a given type, e.g., collectors for the papal Camera.

The authors have prepared an Introduction that is much fuller than that in the first edition and have supplied an Index of Proper Names in the Introduction. The Introduction is completed with an Appendix that gives illustrative Latin documents. The Statistical Table is accompanied with instructions for using it. The book also contains a Table of Abbreviations, Moneys, and Weights and Measures, and a Bibliography.