Friday, 18 June 2021

Wychavon Seal Matrix


Another victim of remote recording, the FLO not having it in her hand, and the finder was in a hurry. 

The PAS record

The object turned up again a few months earlier, this time someone else took the photos:

Lot 64 of :Rare Medieval Seal Matrix of Archbishop
Robert Kilwardby. Circa, 1273-1279 AD*

I came across this, going through old auction records, as one does... 
Od: Paul Barford [mailto: ****.pl] Wysłano: 17 June 2021 20:34
Do: 'S*****'
Temat: Wychavon seal matrix
Good evening Ms Burford,
I hope this finds you well. I wonder if you could help me, it’s about this seal matrix that was written up in WAW (WAW-FDC4E7):
As you are probably aware, a few months later this was later sold in Hansons Feb 2021 Historica sale as lot 64
Which is my interest in it, for something I am writing.

On the PAS webpage it says:
“Created on: Friday 21st August 2020 Last updated: Monday 1st February 2021”
The catalogue of that Hansons sale was put together before 14th January 2021 and the objects may have been gathered from October 2020 (in lockdown). I see that the finder (seller?) sent you the details in August, and you wrote the description on the basis of photos. Then that description was used by Hansons to write their catalogue entry – without acknowledgement of its origins, even though bits of it are your words cut-and-pasted. Hansons has a better photo than the PAS database (maybe he could be persuaded to let you use it to improve the record as the detail is much clearer...). After all, he got a ready-made sales spiel for free (actually at public expense).
Obviously the existence of the PAS record is important in legitimising the object for the seller, and it is interesting to note that it looks as if that information was added to the auction catalogue after the rest of the text was written (character size is different). Can you recall the circumstances of the creation of this PAS record, and in particular what happened to it on 1st February 2021? Was any mention made of the sale when you wrote it?

BTW the PAS entry is not at all clear why you decided it is that particular Archbp., and not one before or after. Nor who “Mackay” is. [Also, I am curious whether Kilwardby had land in the area, how did his seal get there?]
Thanks for your help [obviously any information you give will not be used without your permission, and with full acknowledgement]
Paul Barford
Let's see if this gets an answer.

What I think is bad is that the finder rushed the stuff to the FLO- including a pathetically bad photo - so that she could do the footwork and provide something that could be copied into the sales description. And the PAS had no other alternative but comply and provide its expertise free of charge. I wonder whether the finder said "please do this because I want to sell it, and wanna get the best price possible, OK?" I bet he did not, and if so, the description was obtained buy deceit. 

Another type of knowledge theft. 

The whole matter of the sale of portable antiquities by artefact hunters needs to be covered in the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales - but at the moment, there's not a word there about what is and is not "best practice". And how is best practice in this regard to be defined if it is not defined anywhere? 

* Image © Hansons Limited, fair use for purposes of comment or criticism for non-profit educational purposes.


David Knell said...

It tickles me that the Hansons cataloguer even slavishly copied "Mackay 2020: pers. comm." from the PAS record - presumably without a clue what the abbreviation means. :)

John H said...

Hooray! A commenter who ACTUALLY exists.

Paul Barford said...

Exciting, isn't it? But don't wet yourself old man.

Paul Barford said...

David, the Catalogue seems likely to be written by a metal detectorist, and the spelling and other things are a dead giveaway. What is odd is that although they have (it seems) a numismatist in the team, the coins in these historica auctions seem to be written up by the same hand as the artefacts, so one or two infelicities there too.

David Knell said...

The standard of their catalogue entries is below the level of dire. Whoever writes them should be quietly taken to one side and at least be told that 'circa' does not have a comma after it. And their text (even when plagiarised wholesale without acknowledgement) might almost be legible if only they learnt to separate headings and discovered the amazing world of paragraphs.

As it is, I'm sure your cat could do better!

Paul Barford said...

One of them could. The other's a bit slow and entirely focussed on herself. So a bit like many metal detectorists, I guess, but she's more cuddly.

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