What’s the Diff?

Copies of newsletters exist throughout the archives, since handwritten newsletters were a business, whereby writers and scribes produced multiple exemplars for sending out to their lists of subscribers.  Copies might be copied up in turn, by whoever wished to send them to yet other subscribers.  A chief task of Euronews is to trace the movement of the newsletters, which often involves discovering who made the copies and where.  In the case of these two newsletters in two different hands, both dated Rome, 20 January 1663, and both located in volume 4017d of the Medici Grand Ducal Archive (MdP), the differences are as interesting as the similarities. 

Here are some rough translations of portions of these texts:

DOC 54432 January 20, 1663

By the latest news from France considering that the Treaty of Adjustment was almost dissoved preparations were almost begun for defense and arming, and to this end last Monday there was a Congregation involving Cardinals Barberini, Sacchetti, Rospigliosi and Chigi, the Signori Don Mario and Don Agostino and the Monsignors Treasurer, Commissioner of the Armies, Prefect of the Grain Supply, the Commendatore di Santo Spirito, the Commisario della Camera, and the discussed again how to find money....

DOC 54434 January 20, 1663

By the latest news from the French Court considering that the Treaty of Adjustment was almost dissolved, here are begun the preparations for defense, and to this effect last Monday there was a Congregation involving Cardinals Barberini, Sacchetti, Rospigliosi, Bagno and Chigi, the Signori Don Mario and Don Agostino, and the Monsignors Treasurer, Commissioner of the Armies, the Prefect of the Grain Supply, the Commendatore di Santo Spirito, the Commissario della Camera, and they discussed again how to find money...

The general sense of both texts is similar, but to see the differences in composition more precisely we ran a check on the two texts using an online tool called Diff Checker, and here is what we found:

-33 Removals+32 Additions

The unshaded areas are identical text in both examples; shading in each shows areas that differ.  Due to each deriving from a different source? Due to peculiarities in the method of copying?  Due to one writer’s or copyist’s attempt to improve on the other?  Might dictation have been involved, and therefore transition from one medium to another?

All in all, the total amount of text remains practically the same: comparing the texts, 33 words appear to have been removed from the one on the left, replaced by 32 others on the right.   

For the most part the changes seem to be purely stylistic, as in the replacement of active with passive voice in clause 6 (“si descriveranno” → “saranno descritti”), indicating no difference in information.  With one exception, in clause 2, where Cardinals “Barberini, Sacchetti, Rospigliosi, e Chigi” become “Barberino, Sacchetti, Rospigliosi, Bagno e Chigi.” Where did the new name come from?  We are still looking!

And the same goes for our inquiry about where the other differences came from, so stay tuned!

Brendan Dooley

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