Cyber Research 101H – part 2


Okay, we’re at the Archive. We have a topic, and we are facing the empty search box.

It’s really simple.

You might put in “medieval Paris” and you will get a lot of old books about even older times. This is a bit dangerous, as apparently some of those Victorians were smoking strange stuff in their Meerschaums when they wrote about the past. It has been said that the farther back you go, the more modern your references need to be. I’ve been studying the Middle Ages since high school (figured it was necessary to write high fantasy) and the changes in how we picture the Middle Ages just since then have been amazing. Now, I can read the big volumes by Paul Le Croix and call BS on a lot of his weirder stuff, and even what was considered normal back then. This is no place for beginners.

No, as an inexperienced researcher, you don’t want to read what Le Croix said about knightly combat or ladies’ costume (his interpretation of a sideless surcoat had my costumer’s eyes bugging out in disbelief). What you do want to do is look at the zillions of pictures he collected, like a big Pinterest page. You want to read him very cautiously. Take what he quotes from original sources and back away from his own interpretations.

What you are looking for are the medieval French primary sources, like The Book of the Knight of La Tour Landry, the closest we have to a medieval etiquette book, or Froissart’s History, which is the Hundred Years Wars and events roundabout, as researched by talking to people who were there, or sometimes heard from Grandad. It may not even be accurate, as Herodotus or Xenophon may be inaccurate in their histories, but it’s what people believed happened. Mere facts you can get from modern historians. You are looking for everyday life and its flavour.

Researching for non-fiction, I have put in such generalized terms as “names.” Oh, that’s a huge mess. Then I have to start adding “NOT jstor” and “NOT zoology” and “NOT journal” until I have fifteen terms piled up.

As you might guess, the NOT (it’s not yelling, it has to be in all caps to work) makes the search throw out anything with those terms. This cuts down the number of books you get suggested. “Medieval Paris” just got me 885 items: 837 texts, 37 audio, 10 movies, and 1 images .

Let’s look at the image:

“Notre Dame, Paris, France
“A photo taken at Notre-Dame, a medieval Catholic cathedral and an example of French Gothic architecture, located in Paris. The photo was taken during a family vacation in 2004-05-21.”

One problem is that Notre-Dame was heavily reconstructed on Gothic lines in the 19th C, and some consider the job barbarous. You can’t entirely blame the architect: his employers insisted they wanted all the Baroque stuff out, no matter how lovely, and they wanted gargoyles because gargoyles are real Gothic — even though Notre-Dame did not originally have them. Those are all Victorian gargoyles they tell the ancient legends about.

But the general lines are right and you can pin it up on your wall as well as any other modern photo.

Movies: nothing actually applicable.

Audio: lectures, which might be very good in some cases, but the podcasts in Portuguese are not going to help me, except to brush up on the language.

So we’re down to those 837 texts.

Look over the first page. Do you see anything that doesn’t help you that repeats?  Let’s say, since you didn’t take Research 101, that you don’t speak French or Portuguese. Researching France is going to be bit less easy than if you knew French. Just like all the medieval stuff in English tends to focus on England in the Middle Ages, if you want another country, the best stuff is in their language.

So, up in the search box, tack onto the end “NOT médiéval NOT histórica” because those are frequent words in both languages. The Portuguese word for medieval is medieval, so that won’t work. While you’re there, put an all-caps AND between medieval and Paris. That keeps you from getting anything that doesn’t include both words, in title or subject.

Hm. Everything went away if you did. That’s because the search engine doesn’t make a difference for accented letters, and dumped it like you put in medieval in English. Good lesson, huh?

ERIC ED471732: A Brief History of the Major Components of the Medieval Setting. looks kind of good, 14 pages on the development of the university in Europe from 2002. Not everything here is antique, especially in medievalism.

Parallel Source Problems on Medieval History from 1912 is actually a nice little warning of arguments between historians. Historiography is the study of how history gets written, and this discusses how primary sources disagree or are interpreted on subjects like “The coronation of Charles the Great.–Canossa: from Oppenheim to Foresheim.–The capture of Jerusalem in 1099.–The departure of the University from Paris, 1229-1231.–The coronation of Cola di Rienso.”

But there’s dozens of copies! Add “NOT parallel” to the search. Hm, only down to 827. Well, it looked like more.

Legends and Satires from Medieval Literature
Shackford, Martha Hale, 1875-1963
Introduction.–Proem: Of man’s body, Of Man’s soul.–Debate: The amorous contention of Phillis and Flora. The pleading of the Rose and of the Violet.–Vision: The purgatory of Saint Patrick.–Saints’ lives: The life of Saint Brandon, The life of Saint Margaret.–Pious tales: A miracle of God’s body, A miracle of the Virgin, The translation of Saint Thomas of Canterbury.–Allegory: An extract from “The castle of love”.–Bestiary: Lion, Eagle, Whale, Siren.–Lapidary: Diamond, Sapphire,…

It’s stuff your educated medievals would have heard. Much more relevant than the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas to most tales of adventure.

 Selections from Matthew Paris
Paris, Matthew, 1200-1259
Topics: Great Britain — History Henry III, 1216-1272 Sources, England — Social life and customs Medieval…

Matthew is great, but be careful in translation. Notice that it’s all about England, since it’s an English translation. They do the same thing to Froissart, only covering the things he wrote about England, like Wat Tyler’s Rebellion.

And soon it’s page after page in French. Oh, I have to pick up a couple of things on Arthur of Britain and Huon of Bordeaux (sorry, I do read French, and that’s a 1503 book). But hiding in it …

Aucassin et Nicolette, an Old French love story edited and translated by Francis William Bourdillon M. A. Second edition. The text collated afresh with the manuscript at Paris, the translation revised and the introduction rewritten

This is how they pictured courtly romances. Very period.

Illustrated catalogue of the valuable collection of rare Gothic art and other artistic antique property belonging to the continental connoisseur and expert Henri S. de Souhami of Paris, acquired by him from Prince Henri de Faucigny Lucinge, Madame Lelong and other sources [electronic resource] : to be sold at unrestricted publi sale at the new American Art Galleries … on the afternoons herein stated
by American Art Association; Souhami, Henri S. de; Kirby, Thomas E. (Thomas Ellis), 1846-1924; Bernet, Otto; Parke, H. H; American Art Galleries
Published 1922

This is worth stopping about. This has the candelabra they actually had lighting the castle (not torches on the wall, please: they set fire to the arras), and the battered remains of cabinets you will have to restore in your mind. It is definitely worth looking through.

A few pages of French down, and a few German entries, and we reach

The great cities of the middle ages; or, The landmarks of European civilization. Historical sketches
by Buckley, Theodore Alois, 1825-1856
Published 1853
Topics Cities and towns, Medieval
Added t.-p., engraved
Introduction.–Aix-la-Chapelle.–Basle.–Upsala and Stockholm.–Julin and Wisby.–Venice.–Florence.–Pisa and Genoa.–Rouen.–Paris.–London.–York.–Winchester.–Oxford.–Toledo.–Yuste.–Granada.–Cologne.–Nuremberg.–Hamburgh.–Malta.–Bagdad
Publisher London, G. Routledge & co.

Excuse me while I download it myself. Once a medievalist …

But let’s quit fooling around in the wading pool. Look again at the search box. Below, to the right, it says “Advanced Search.”

Don’t be afraid. Click it.

Look at the picture. Your key words go in the first box. You tell it you want texts, and the custom criteria is English language.

You get 12 books. That’s hundreds less to dig through, huh?

Let’s take something I could use this minute: a French port about 1900-1910. I could do something I’ve already done, but let’s see how it surprises me. (Besides, most of my digging starts huge.) Notice that this is relatively modern, only a century old.

Because of that I can use another part of the Advanced Search.

Let’s go with Marseilles, a nice long trip from Paris, and put it in the first box.

Down at “Date Range” I put 1890-1915. Though I’m working althist, I’m looking for travelogues and visitor’s guides, maybe even steamship timetables. You can do as much for etiquette books or cook books, to get the real feel of the period.

In English, four. Three of which are the same book, all uploaded by Google, in their usual idiocy of trying to drown the Archive in their stuff. The Riviera, Or the Coast from Marseilles to Leghorn: Including the Interior Towns of Carrara, Luca, Pisa and Pistoia. Sounds more Italian than anything.

So let’s switch and try Le Havre. Make that the Hague. Oops. Hague Conference documents flood.

I hope you’re getting the idea that unless your subject is pretty general and centered on the English-speaking world, you may have to hack around a bit and back out of a lot of blind alleys. This is Research 101, also. You learn to just keep going at it from different approaches. You also learn that some topics are going to be easy, and rest may struggle. If I were looking for a guide to Paris, I’d have a dozen, easy. I’ve done it.

So let’s loosen the criteria to Northern France. You don’t even have to go back to the Advanced Search. You can just change it in the search box on an ordinary page.

Jackpot. I don’t care there’s only four. I just spotted a Baedeker travel guide.

Northern France from Belgium and the English Channel to the Loire, Excluding Paris …
by Karl Baedeker (Firm)
Published 1899
Publisher Dulau
Year 1899

But if I put in “(Chicago) AND mediatype:(texts) NOT journal NOT conference AND language:(English) AND date:[1890-01-01 TO 1915-12-31]” I get over a thousand returns. Admittedly, baseball is one category, as is Bible. The religious societies just couldn’t stop publishing, and someone can’t stop uploading all their annual reports.

(Chicago) AND mediatype:(texts) NOT Shimer NOT division NOT bible NOT baseball NOT annual NOT journal NOT conference AND language:(English) AND date:[1890-01-01 TO 1915-12-31]

That gets it down to 852 books. If I kick out JSTOR articles, disease, and pathological, it will get better. But you see that Chicago simply has more stuff in English than northern France does for this period. Probably any period decently after the founding of Chicago. Let French be your language of choice, and it reverses.

Next: Other Library Sites.

2 responses »

  1. Hi Holly, cool blog! I used to write as Michael W. Cho at Other Worlds–maybe 10 years ago. Good to see you’re still at it, and very sorry to hear about Sue. RIP. I noticed that whenever I clicked on the “Revision Project” articles, it said “You don’t have permission to edit that.” Best wishes.

    • Good to hear from you! Glad you’re enjoying it. I need to get back to it next year. On the To Do list.
      I’ll have to look into that glitch … around December. Up to here in things, and I can’t get vacation scheduled. Thanks for letting me know, because naturally it works just fine for me (rolls eyes).
      It’s been about a year, and I still find myself noting something to bring up next time I “talk” with Sue, like we did for nearly 20 years. I also think of her whenever I see her favorite constellation: she liked to bring in Orion’s Nebula on her telescope.
      Other Worlds is still chugging along, and the new crew I’ve let run it is panicking because they’ve had a membership drop. They happen about every five years, I’ve noticed. Part of the natural cycle of people working and either moving on or not fitting writing into their schedule. We’ve had a run of first babies, and that kicks the snot out of parents doing anything else for the next couple of years.
      Don’t be a stranger!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s