Reckoning Time in Medieval Pisa

Reckoning Time in Medieval Pisa

In the modern world, time can be divided, measured, and pinpointed with great accuracy. In the middle ages, no such means of measuring and marking the passage of time yet existed. Just as historians do today, however, medieval storytellers wished to relate events that occurred in the past and describe those taking place in their own lives within a comprehensible temporal framework.

This project will examine how time was reckoned and recorded in one anonymous fourteenth-century chronicle from Pisa, Italy. The small chronicle is written from a local perspective and focuses on Pisa's internal governance as well as on the factional conflict between the Guelfs and Ghibellines that characterized Northern Italy's communal period, a time which corresponds roughly to the dates covered in the chronicle. In an effort to place and narrate the events of the city in diachronic relation to each other, the Pisan chronicle author relied upon several ways of noting time, what we have called  temporal markers, to craft a linear presentation of the city's past. The temporal markers used in the chronicle serve different functions; to designate a moment in time (a timestamp ), to define an event that lasted from one point in time to another (duration ), or to refer to and draw  relationships between the timing of the events described in the chronicle (self-referential). Similarly, the terms might correspond to liturgical, calendrical, or personal temporal regimes, at varying degrees of granularity. By identifying and analysing the temporal markers used throughout this small chronicle, this project will uncover strategies used by historians to confront and narrate a city's past at a moment when time was accounted for much differently than it is now. 

Although the author of this work remains unknown, the chronicle exists in at least two versions, one in a manuscript now housed at the British Library, Add MS 10027 (entitled HISTORIA VERA de comite Ugolino, qui cum filiis misericorditer finiit in civitate Pisanorum, with no author noted) and the other in a published version, found in volume 24 (1738) of the monumental Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, where it appears with the new title Fragmenta Historiae Pisanae, similarly ascribed to an auctore anonymo. One of the results of this project is a new transcription of the text, based on a digitized version of the British Library manuscript, unpublished until now. A comparison of our transcription with the printed version of the chronicle from 1738 will highlight what our transcription adds to the work's textual tradition.

Finally, in an effort to chronicle our own scholarly process, this work contains a section highlighting the digital tools used by our team to complete our project.

This co-authored project was sponsored by the Department of History, The Catholic University of America.

  1. Reckoning Time in Medieval Pisa
  2. The Textual Tradition of a Pisan Chronicle
  3. Chronicled Time
  4. Technological Process
  5. Conclusions
  6. Contributors
  7. Further Reading

This page references: