Wednesday, July 17, 2013

All done; time to go home

Today I finished my research at the Library of Congress.  In addition to the marriage license petitions I mentioned in my last post, I have found a few letters concerning "clandestine marriages," those marriages conducted without a Catholic priest present.  This was a punishable offense in Spanish society, being outside the observance of those rules laid down in the Real Pragmática de Casamientos.

There were also several royal edicts, or cédulas, regarding the Real Pragmática, the rules for marriage among the military and among government employees, and the rules for the marriage of slaves.  It is going to be interesting transcribing and analyzing these documents.  The transcription at times will also be harrowing and frustrating.  For example, the document in which the rules for the marriage of slaves is spelled out is heavily damaged by worms. There are other documents which suffer from faded ink or from just plain awful handwriting.  That's what makes paleography a challenge.

The research was intriguing.  The staff in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress are real pros.  They know their collection and are very helpful.  I had some frustrating times with the scanning microfilm readers, but that is more because at times machines and I just do not get along. 

Now I begin my preparations for going home.  I leave Monday afternoon, and am looking forward to getting home.  I am not a city person; I prefer suburbia or the country.  It is also very hot in Washington, D.C., being the middle of July.  City heat is a thing all its own.

I'll post entries here as I go along in the transcription and analysis of the documents, and the development of my thesis.  I was hoping to look at how the different governors had applied the Real Pragmática, but the marriage license petitions span only 1785-1803, the administrations of two governors, Vicente Manuel de Zéspedes and Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada.  I think there is enough material, and taken together with background reading on the Real Pragmática and other issues relating to marriage, I'm sure I can come up with something.

Just what that will be remains to be seen.

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