Jul 162011

c. 1905

Passing through the village of San Colombano, we drove along pretty country lanes, the hedges aglow with the scarlet berries of the orange thorn, and the trees clothed in vines, towards Lastra a Signa. At one farm they had begun the vintage; men, women, and children were busily occupied, the men on ladders cut down the pendice (two vine canes twisted carefully together in the early spring, with the eyes turned outwards), while the women picked off the leaves, which serve as fodder for the cattle. The finest pendice are hung up inside the loggia which almost invariably adorns a Tuscan farmhouse, in order to dry the grapes gradually for colouring and strengthening the wine after the first fermentation. The stately white oxen were chewing the cud, and the red ox-cart with a large vat tied on, and the wooden bigoncia, all stained with the red vine juice, looked most Bacchanalian. A handsome young contadino came along at a swinging pace with a bigoncia poised on one shoulder, in which purple and yellow grapes were piled high, and emptied the contents with a thud and a splash into the vat, which, when full, went slowly home to the tinaia, where the grapes were transferred to the larger vats after being well crushed…

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  3 Responses to “Grape Gathering at San Colombano, C. 1905”

  1. An interesting text—in particular because the writer (Janet Ross (1842–1927), author of the well-knownLeaves from Our Tuscan Kitchen – why are we not given her name?) gives a clear account of the means of pruning and training the vines, and of harvesting the grapes: she stresses the use of ladders to reach up to and cut down the pendice. Curious that the vines in the illustrated vineyard seem to be trained so very low. And curious too that the wealthy proprietors are dressed in eighteenth-century costume. Are they dressed for a fancy-dress party to celebrate the harvest, perhaps? But, come to think of it, do those mountains look quite like Tuscany? Well, in reality the painting is by Goya of an eighteenth-century landscape in Rioja (1786–87). And the vintage which Ross is describing took place no later than 1886 when she published it in the English Illustrated Magazine. You can read the original text, without the typos (where did that San Columbano come from?), and without the omissions which have crept into this one here at Internet archive.

    So is this a Grape Gathering at San Columbano, c.1905? No, neither San Columbano, nor c.1905. Is the image of a grape harvest in Tuscany? No. Is the text interesting? Yes: but the original is better than this version.

    • Dear Ian, Of course, I concede on Goya: thanks for taking the trouble to write. This passage was taken from Janet Ross, Old Florence (1904), San Colombano and all. She evidently reworked an earlier piece of writing, as was her way! Thanks for the original version that would otherwise have passed me by. SY

  2. This is become part of an off site controversy on Wikipedia. So the whole argument is available here.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Italian_cuisine#External_links_deleted

    I added an external link from this page to a non-profit, non-commercial scholarly blog about Italian food history. I am a food historian and run the blog with my colleague. It was deleted I was warned by Ian Spackman not to put inappropriate external links.

    The blog is not for-profit: I am not so much interested in promoting it as having people who might be interested in Italian cuisine follow the link to what I consider a useful website about Italian culinary history from antiquity to today. It is not the typical “Margherita pizza” site, but rather two scholars who give news, sources, and commentary. I would like to understand why this is innapropriate. Thanks, Zach Nowak foodinitaly —Preceding undated comment added 07:59, 17 July 2011 (UTC).

    First let us note that User:foodinitaly has an apparent conflict of interest in this matter and that s/he would be well advised to leave it to others to add links (or not) to the site http://www.foodinitaly.org, either as citations or as see-also-style external links. The editor has been apparently attempting to promote that site by links of both sorts. Using that site for citations is pretty much ruled out by its very nature as a blog. Of course blogs can be useful if they provide reliable sources which we can check out and cite directly, bypassing the blogger. However, I looked at a small number of articles on the site and, although I discovered a number which seemed quite interesting, I saw none which provided such citations. As for including the blog as an external link in an article like this one, we are guided by WP:EL, and in particular by Wikipedia:LINKSTOAVOID, where point 11 reads:

    Links to blogs, personal web pages and most fansites, except those written by a recognized authority. (This exception for blogs, etc., controlled by recognized authorities is meant to be very limited; as a minimum standard, recognized authorities always meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria for people.)

    Those were the bases upon which I removed the link from this page, and from various others. However, seeing foodinitaly’s post above, I wondered if I had been too harsh and thought I would look at a few of the blog posts more closely, to see whether they lived up to the scholarly claims made above and in some of the edit summaries. I started (and finished) with the article at the top of the list: ‘Grape Gathering at San Columbano, c. 1905’: the version I read is archived here.

    Now let us set aside the rather glaring typo in the title (everyone types typos) and move straight to the picture, and its caption: ‘c. 1905’. Now this is extremely interesting: it appears that people present at a Tuscan vendemmia, during the first decade of the twentieth century dressed up in eighteenth-century costumes. A fancy-dress ball to celebrate the bringing in of the harvest perhaps? Well no; nothing so interesting. And there is a reason why those mountains seem not quite reminiscent of the Tuscan Apeninnes. If this were a scholarly article, the image caption would read something like

    Francisco de Goya, La vendimia (‘The Grape Harvest’), 1786–87, oil on canvas, 190 × 275 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

    According to the Spanish Wikipedia article on the painting, the landscape depicted is in or around La Rioja – so whatever they are going make with those grapes, it won’t come out tasting of Sangiovese. Using an eighteenth-century Spanish painting to illustrate an article on a twentieth-century Italian vintage seems like scholarship-lite. Now to the text. The article is unsigned (is that scholarly?) and provides no citations (that isn’t). The text appears to be be a first-hand account of a visit to San Colombano during the grape harvest and the scattering of italicised Italian words somehow makes it look as if it was written in English, rather than being a translation. The style is not unappealing but perhaps just a little old-fashioned for c.1905? Why is the author of this not given? Well google can help even us non-scholars in such matters. The account appears in Janet Ross, Italian Sketches (London: Kegan Paul, Trech & co., 1887), pp. 43–44. Scholars will quickly note the footnote on the first page of the preface and follow it up. In fact this chapter, ‘A September Day in the Valley of the Arno’, had previously been published in the English Illustrated Magazine: super-scholarly research a quick’n'dirty google book search for intitle:”English Illustrated Magazine” “pendice” turns up vol. 3 (1886), p. 809. Snippet view for some readers so let’s give the article link instead to the copy at Internet Archive. The extract quoted is on pp. 808–10. Observant readers—let alone scholars—will notice that the version here is not quite identical to that which appeared in the book appears in the blog: perhaps that is based on a later book by Ross: Old Florence and modern Tuscany (London: J. M. Dent, 1904), pp. 75–76. Personally I prefer the earlier version, if only because giving the name of the handsome young contadino with the heavy load—Cesare Benozzo—gives an air of authenticity.

    So, the grape gathering did take place, but not at San Columbano, and no later than September 1886. [Where on earth did that c. 1905 date come from?] It seems, at the very least, unlikely that anyone present was dressed in the eighteenth-century manner. It seems still more unlikely that this blog is a candidate for inclusion in the list of external links for Italian cuisine. Ian Spackman (talk) 15:53, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

    P.S. I think I can answer the question of where that ‘c. 1905’ comes from, and if I am correct some revealing light is thrown upon the scholarly practices at http://www.foodinitaly.org. A rather longer (but equally unattributed) version of the passage by Janet Ross appears on another blog with that date given. In fact the date probably applies to the postcard which it uses as an illustration. (Rather an appropriate postcard for a blog post which is not about Rioja. Its caption reads: ‘Firenze – Barroccio del Vino (Costumi Toscani)’.) What seems to corroborate this surmise is that the same glaring ‘San Columbano’ typo appears in florencecapital’s blog post of 6 July 2011. So it might appear that one way to ‘write’ an acceptable anonymous article for http://www.foodinitaly.org is to copy a blog post from elsewhere—without attribution—and to disguise the plagiarism by switching out an appropriate illustration and switching in a random image taken, probably, from Commons:Category:Vintage in art. I do hope that you can confirm that I have the wrong end of the stick. Ian Spackman (talk) 16:36, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

    My name is Simon Young and I am co-editor of the food blog and the author of the post called into question here. I have nothing to do with the argument above between my fellow blogger, Zach and Ian Spackman (henceforth IS), but I cannot let the false charge of plagiarism pass as to call an academic a plagiarist is the equivalent of calling a member of the general public a paedophile. I will also post this on the food blog under the relevant post so there is a permanent record in two places.

    This is not plagiarism (a) because the text is long out of copyright and (b) because I run FlorenceCapital the blog I am supposed to have stolen this from and, indeed, from which I take many food and drink quotations relating to nineteenth-century Italy, using them twice over.

    For the record, if I had ever come across a case of plagiarism before even dreaming of making an accusation, I would have contacted both parties, the copier and the copied, to see what they had to say. Misunderstandings are easy, especially in an electronic format. Emails are available at both blogs. If IS had contacted either or both this would have been cleared up in a moment. As it was no trouble was taken before throwing an extraordinarily dangerous word in the direction of a complete stranger.

    I can understand that in the heat of a discussion unwise things might have been said – though note again that this discussion did not involve me – but I have sent two emails to IS explaining the situation to him and asking him to make clear that there is no plagiarism: both emails are pasted below. He has not answered. I understand that even people of good will make mistakes – and IS seems a serious person – but I cannot comprehend when they fail to correct them.

    I would normally not have troubled myself over the charges for the illustrations or the supposedly wrong text or the vague references but as they say something about how this argument was constructed I will answer them too. In the food blog I am typically interested in the text: the pictures are generic and of no independent value, unless I can find historical images where I normally write a post just on the image. If I write a post on beautiful people in my village and head it with a picture of the Mona Lisa the image serves as a handle for the text, it does not mean to say that I dwell in Renaissance Florence.

    As to me misquoting… Janet Ross wrote and rewrote her essays. I read her second version and quoted from that. IS read the earlier and couldn’t understand why my version was different. In fact, he began his attack assuming I’d quoted wrongly from his source only later realising that there was a second version. I find this inexplicable but I can only imagine that he had not checked for the second before starting his invective. He then understood that there was a second text and changed the argument by saying his version was, in his opinion, more authentic. He is, of course, welcome to his opinion but for MY purposes the second was better. This was not, in any case, the issue that he had brought up and it is irrelevant to his argument.

    Then there is the question of inexact references. When I quote from nineteenth-century texts, I do not put references because I will publish my next book on this in a couple of years and this is the way of sharing my research but at the same time protecting the collection I have slowly dug up. (When people write and ask me where a quotations comes from I always pass on the exact reference). I sometimes wonder if I am overworried – this is a small field – but I have come to doubt the good will of those I ‘meet’ on the internet!

    I am presently taking legal advice on this matter: if IS would send me his postal address – he has my email – then he would considerably expedite things.

    Simon Young

    Email (1) Fri 9/2/11. Dear Ian, You kindly left a comment on a blog that I co-write, foodinitaly, to which I left an answer a while back. However, I’ve just come back from holiday to see that the debate has spilled over (or spilled out from) a Wikipedia discussion page where the word ‘plagiarism’ is used. The discussion there is between my fellow-blogger Zach – who sent me the link (below) – and you and I don’t honestly understand the technical side of it: i.e. the rights and wrongs of wikipedia attribution. I appreciate though that you have you opinions on the suitability of Goya, different textual versions etc. However, I was surprised with your use of ‘plagiarism’ that in our business (very rightly) loses people their jobs. This is not plagiarism because (i) the material is long, long out of copyright and (ii) because I also run the blog Florencecapital and I often put up nineteenth-century food and drink posts on both when interest overlaps. If you’d sent an email to foodintaly or Florencecapital or left a comment I would have told you this. There are many bad people on the internet – Russian hackers, groomers, Nigerian conmen… – and I wish you luck in hunting them down. But I am not one of them. Would you mind then modifying your comment or adding an explanation? I imagine that it is all based on a misunderstanding but you will understand that given these blogs make no money and are a service for the tiny numbers who read them it is a bit worrying to see such words bandied around! Many thanks, Ian, hoping we meet next time under happier circumstances. Simon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Italian_cuisine

    Email (2) Monday, September 12 Dear Ian, As you have not answered or acted on this email I must assume you have no intention of correcting the mistake you made. At this point, with great reluctance, I am forced to take this to the next level. If I hear nothing by Friday midnight gmt I will act. Simon Young

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