Contents - Previous - Next
5. History of the classic manuals and reference books of the development of archival theory and principles.
Rules and regulations for the upkeep of particular archives services have always been issued. Philip le Bel of France for example, gave Pierre d'Etampes guidelines for the care of the royal archives in 1307 Queen Jeanne of Naples gave instructions for the maintenance of archives in 1347, and in Spain, Philip II's Instruccion pare el gobierno del Archivo de Simancas appeared in 1588.
The first treatises that might be called manuals appeared in Europe at the beginning of the Renaissance. These works tried to formalize existing practical knowledge to ensure its transmission and diffusion on a wider scale.
Throughout Europe, the arrangement of archives according to original order, rather than by subject, began at the end of the eighteenth century. Yet even at this point it is still inappropriate to talk of the principle of "respect des fords", at least until archives of different organisations were brought together in the same place, at the Vatican for example, or in Naples. In France, the principle of "respect des fonds" was legally embodied in the centralised system of departmental archives in 1841.
Manuals such as Aimé Champollion-Figeac's Manuel de l'archiviste des préfectures, des mairies et des hospices (1860) began to appear, clarifying the newly-established principles and legal framework and describing practices and methods of working. In the Netherlands, the famous manual of Muller, Feith and Fruin Handeleiding voor het Ordenen en Beschrijven van Archiven, used throughout northern Europe, explained particularly well the principle of provenance and how it should be applied.
Its historical importance should not, however, overshadow the fact that it is now outdated. In his report on Dutch handbooks on archives in the Hague symposium Arnold J.M. den Teuling writes: "As a Dutch archivist I often have a strange feeling reading foreign literature on Dutch archival science. They are always referring to the theory of Muller, Feith and Fruin. However, the three authors, supported by the Dutch Society of Archivists, were concerned with public archives dating from before the establishment of the Kingdom of Netherlands in 1813, and they were writing in 1898. Although their basic doctrine, was and is, widely accepted, there has been a considerable development both in the Netherlands and internationally. Nowadays, in the Dutch State Archives School, the manual is used only as a reference work, and not as a textbook. The English-speaking world has had to make do with the French translation, and given that both this and the German translation, made at the beginning of the century, are rather poor. there has been considerable misunderstanding of the text".
Similarly other classic manuals have changed from textbooks into reference works. However, knowledge of these books remains necessary for students' understanding of the development of archive theory and practice.
In the UK, Hilary Jenkinson wrote a Manual of Archive Administration (1922). Here the principles outlined by Muller, Feith and Fruin were accepted, but some additions were made.
An Italian classic manual is Eugenio Casanova's Archivistica (1928) which is still used as a reference book in the Archives, Paleography and Diplomatic Schools of the State Archives. It deals with archives management, archival theory and criteria for arrangement and listing, the history of archives and the legal nature of archives.
Among the classic German manuals Adolf Brenneke's Archivkunde should be mentioned. Wolfgang Leesch edited it in 1953 on the basis of lectures given by Brenneke at the Prussian archives school in Berlin-Dahlem, 1931-40. According to Leesch it was Adolf Brenneke who first developed archival theory into a real science, evolving a doctrine "of the free principle of provenance" or of "the principle of organic structure" (i.e. arrangement of archives according to function).
In the USA there are two archival traditions. The first is the tradition of the historian as archivist. The Second has its roots in the fact that early archives management was influenced by the principles and techniques of Library classification and cataloguing, especially in the administration of manuscript collections deposited in university libraries. Theodore Schellenberg, the principal archival theoretician of the USA, treated public records and manuscript collections together for the first time in his book The Management of Archives (1965). Schellenberg's basic principles of appraisal, with the corresponding terminology have been accepted worldwide. They were outlined in his first publication "Modern Archives, Principles and Techniques" (1956) which has been translated into several languages and in some countries is still used in archival training.
It is very important that students of archives administration should be aware of the development of archival theory and principles, although it is, admittedly, a heavy task to read all the classic manuals to that end. It might prove useful for the ICA to publish a RAMP study of the history of archival theory comprising the basic chapters of the classic manuals.
1 Wolfgang Leesch, Gliederung und Bedeutung der Archivwissenschaft. Archivar und Historiker. Studien zur Archiv- und Geschichtswissenschaft, edited by Helmut Lötzke and Hans-Stephan Brather, Berlin 1956.
Contents - Previous - Next