It wasn’t an epitaph but it would certainly do

Professeur Pierre Bonnassie at the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona, 1993

Professeur Pierre Bonnassie at the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona, 1993

Pierre Bonnassie was the man whose book I have to replace if I want to reach retirement having made a dent on my field. Well, one of his books, he wrote a few. He was also an ardent humanist and, apparently, a teacher of huge influence. His Festschrift, which I have reluctantly replaced in the library for the time being because of the new urgency described in this post, contains at the back a list of theses he supervised, at masters and doctoral level, and well, I’m not counting them but there’s eight pages of it and it’s not padded. He died in 2005, but got this volume in 1999, the conference that sourced it having taken place in 1997. That means that he got to see the dedication on the title page verso, which runs like this:

Au lecteur:

Notum sit omnibus parce que Pierre Bonnassie fut un devoureur de chartes, parce que sa thèse sur la Catalogne est restée une réference inépuisable, parce qu’il contribua magistralement à renouveler l’histoire du haut Moyen Âge et à éclairer le tournant de l’an mil, nous, ses amis, ses élèves, nous te donnons et vendons ces quelques champs des recherches que nous tenons de lui ; ils affrontent au sud les terres de l’Islam ibérique, à l’ouest les contrées basques, au nord le vieux pays france, à l’est les terroirs italiens. Ce sont les domaines défrichées sous sa bienvaillante attention, les sociétés méridionales à l’âge féodal ; tout cela nous te le donnons, à toi et à tes héritiers, pour que tu le tiennes de lui ad meliorandum. Si quelqu’un, faux frère ou faux ami, le revendiquait, qu’il essaie au moins d’en composer la moitié. De cela, nous sommes garants, nous le tenons et le tiendrons sans mal engin, ses amis, ses élèves.

I guess you see what they did there. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a charter geek that I love it. I have accepted by now that I won’t get a Festschrift; I’ve just started too late, in as much as I’ve started at all, and I don’t and won’t have the pupils or the general impact (huh!). But if I were to have been able to start earlier, and so be able to contemplate the possibility, I’d be quite happy with someone stealing that idea for me. In the meantime, I have apparently got to generate at least half his output. Well, at least I have plans, right?


The book I have to replace is Pierre Bonnassie, La Catalogne du milieu du Xe à la fin du XIe siècle : croissance et mutations d’une société (Toulouse 1975-6), 2 vols; the book I’m quoting is Hélène Débax (ed.), Les sociétés méridionales à l’âge féodal (Espagne, Italie et sud de la France Xe-XIIIe s.) : Hommage à Pierre Bonnassie (Toulouse 1999), and the quote is from p. 6. And if nothing else, at least never tell me French doesn’t do puns: don’t you just love the double meaning of ‘composer’ there? No? Just me then? Oh well, please yourselves.

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2 responses to “It wasn’t an epitaph but it would certainly do

  1. I wondered why there was a sudden spike in readership…

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