Professor Emeritus Roger Wright honoured by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language

Estoria project research fellow Fiona Maguire has written the following blog for the blog of the Modern Languages and Cultures department at the University of Liverpool. It  was first published here on Friday 5th August. Fiona has kindly allowed us to reproduce the text of the blog on our website.


Professor Emeritus Roger Wright honoured by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language

Modern Languages and Cultures‘ Professor Emeritus Roger Wright has recently been honoured by the Real Academia Española (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) (RAE), who have conferred membership on him as ‘académico correspondiente extranjero’ (international Academy member).

As Professor of Spanish at the University of Liverpool, Professor Wright gained wide international scholarly renown for his investigations into the evolution of Spanish and other Romance languages and the invention of Medieval Latin; his books include Late Latin and Early Romance in Spain and Carolingian France (1982) and A Sociophilological Study of Late Latin (2003). Professor Wright is also a scholar, translator and performer of the Spanish ballad tradition.

Modern Languages and Cultures now numbers two Spanish Academicians amongst its ranks, a number only equalled or exceeded in UK universities by the University of Oxford (3 Spanish Academicians).

Membership of the RAE was similarly conferred in 2009 on Professor Emerita Dorothy Severin, FSA, hon. OBE, Professor of Spanish at the University of Liverpool, former Gilmour Chair of Spanish (the first established Chair of Spanish in a UK university) and former General Editor of the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (a scholarly journal devoted to Hispanic studies, founded in 1926 by a member of the Department at the University of Liverpool, where it continues to be published by Liverpool University Press). Professor Severin’s research interests in late Medieval Spanish literature include La Celestina and cancionero studies; her internationally acknowledged scholarly publications include Memory in ‘La Celestina’ (1970), an early study of the uses of cultural memory in literature and the cancionero digital library ‘An E-Library of 15th Century Castilian Cancionero Manuscripts’ (2007-).

Founded in 1713, the scholarly activities of the RAE are devoted to the Spanish language and its literature. The Academy compiles and publishes the Diccionario de la lengua española (the Spanish equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary) and includes amongst its illustrious members the novelists Javier Marías and Mario Vargas Llosa, together with academic scholars of Spanish, now joined by two Academicians from the University of Liverpool.

Other transcription projects

As part of my PhD research I have been looking at a handful of other transcription projects that use crowdsourcing. Some of our readers might be interested in checking them out so I thought I would put some information about them here.

1. Transcribe Bentham
This is a transcription project over at UCL where volunteers are helping to transcribe the handwritten folios of Jeremy Bentham, who was amongst other things a philosopher and jurist. Their work has been very interesting for me as they also have a crowdsourcing branch as part of a wider project, as we do, but their crowdsourcing is on a much bigger scale than ours, has been going on longer and the publications of analysis and reflection are very interesting. Definitely worth a look. And if you’re that way inclined why not download their new game and have a go at running a prison according to Bentham’s design? I would, but my thesis supervisor is forever cracking the whip.

2. The International Greek New Testament Project – The Gospel According to John
The team behind this are largely based in the same corridor as the Estoria project. They are working towards an edition of the Gospel According to John by transcribing some of the major witnesses. They prefer to use the term ‘volunteer’ rather than ‘crowdsourcer’, but for the most part it is the same thing as what we do, as volunteers sign up, follow a training course and then are let loose on some transcriptions. Their manuscripts are in biblical Greek, so this is not for the faint of heart, but again, it is well worth a look to see what other transcription projects are doing.

3. Revealing Co-operation and Conflict
This project has used a MOOC which first took place in the summer of 2014 to train a largely non-academically active audience to read and transcribe medieval Spanish manuscripts. In just three weeks more than 600 folios were transcribed, and the information has helped the project to build up information about the town of Plasencia in the 15th century. I took this MOOC and it helped me to learn a lot not just about palaeography and transcribing, but about crowdsourcing in general, and it was also where I met Nick who has become the Estoria project’s longest-term and most prolific crowdsourcer. I definitely recommend visiting virtual Plasencia.
Academics from all three of these projects have been extremely helpful in providing me with information about their projects, so if any of them read this I would like to say a big thank you.

The 4th Annual Colloquium of the Estoria de Espanna Digital Project: Programme

It is with great pleasure and excitement that we can now publish the provisional programme of our upcoming colloquium.


Preparations for the colloquium are now well underway, and we are finalising the details to enable us to open the registration process as soon as possible. We hope to see as many people as possible at our fourth annual colloquium which will also see the launch of our digital edition of the Estoria de Espanna.

Brief Update and welcome to Lauren, our newest team member

Although we have been a little quiet of late, work has been continuing at fever pitch on the Estoria project. The launch date of 15th December is fast approaching…
The Impact activities are now in full swing. Enrique is working hard on preparing the digital exhibition and teaching materials. This week we hope to have a first draft of the early versions of both and we will have a look at the prototype of these in the HRI in Sheffield on Friday. The transcription desk is also now at the prototype stage. Fiona is hard at work preparing indices and related tools which will allow a host of exciting ways to access the Estoria.
Polly and Christian are working flat out to get the reader’s edition of the Estoria ready. In this they are aided by Ricardo, who has left us for the other side of the Atlantic but who continues to work on the project.
Aengus is busily collating our versión primitiva and has now made it about half way.

Today we welcome our newest team member: Lauren Brinsdon. Lauren is an Undergraduate Scholar here at the University of Birmingham and is working on the Impact activities with Enrique.

Expect more updates from Lauren and from other team members about the fast-approaching conference shortly.

The completion of the transcription stage

Yesterday was a big day at Estoria Towers, even though it almost passed without us noticing. It was the day that the biggest and most time-consuming task of the project was finally completed. For three and a half years we have been working on transcribing the five witnesses of the Estoria de Espanna, and yesterday Enrique pressed save on the transcription of the final folio. Without the transcriptions of these witnesses we would be unable to create our digital edition of the chronicle, which is, of course, the main thing we are aiming to produce in this project. Over the past few years the number of people working on the task of transcription has been considerable – this is truly a group transcription project: the bulk of the task has been carried out by our venerable and untiring research fellows Fiona Maguire and Enrique Jerez, as well as Ricardo Pichel, more recently. Alongside them have been working myself and Christian, Aengus, Nick, Bárbara, Marine, Alicia, a group of hardworking crowdsourcers, and several others who I will not mention here for risk of forgetting someone, but whose names will appear when we publish the edition. For many of us who have worked on preparing the transcriptions this has been a steep learning curve – I know I am not the only person who was introduced to palaeography, XML and the TEI purely to enable me to transcribe for this project. It is also important to remember that the transcriptions we have created are not the definitive version of the text, but rather just another witness, and just like the medieval scribes of Alfonso’s scriptorium and those who have copied, edited or re-touched the witnesses in the past, we are liable to make mistakes, assumptions and in place of slips of the pen, typographical errors. Each transcribed folio has been checked and re-checked, edited and re-edited, but as is the case in all academic research, despite our best efforts, some errors will have slipped through the net and will make it to the final edition. Of course, as a digital edition, once identified, we could always remove these errors, but this brings with it issues of when is enough enough – is enough ever enough? – should we freeze the edition as it was on the day it was published, or should we continue re-touching ad nauseam, for as long as tools, server space and the limits of human effort allow? These are questions for another day – for now let us bask in the satisfaction of having completed something, of having worked together over a number of years to create something that is better than what any of us could have done alone, no matter how long we had worked on it. Not strictly intended to celebrate the final pressing of save, but serendipitous nonetheless, Christian presented us at tea-break yesterday with his first Victoria sponge – and very successful it was too. Basking done, cake consumed, we went back to our desks and carried on with the next tasks of the project, which is where we find ourselves today – cracking back on.

Alfonso vuelve al cole

La intensa “gira” por la Península que llevamos a cabo Aengus y yo recientemente tenía también entre sus objetivos establecer un primer contacto con los colegios e institutos de Secundaria y Bachillerato que hace un año nos prestaron su apoyo a la hora de solicitar los fondos del AHRC para la divulgación de nuestra investigación. Se trataba en efecto de transmitirles cara a cara cuál es la naturaleza y el alcance del Proyecto, así como presentarles la propuesta docente que tenemos en vías de elaboración. Los centros en cuestión son cuatro, dos privados y dos públicos: Colegio Laude Fontenebro (Moralzarzal), IES Salvador Dalí (Barrio de la Concepción, Madrid), Colegio Árula (Alalpardo), IES Fernando I (Valencia de don Juan, León). En todos ellos las ideas que transmitimos en torno a cómo enfocar tanto la confección de los materiales como la ejecución de las sesiones didácticas fueron muy bien recibidas, y asimismo enriquecidas con sugerencias nuevas.

Muy grosso modo, la propuesta trata de adaptar los materiales que elaboraremos para la exposición digital al currículo de Secundaria y Bachillerato, y ello desde una perspectiva transversal que está en la naturaleza misma de la vida y la obra del Rey Sabio. Además, nos ha movido el deseo de poner en contacto a los estudiantes preuniversitarios con la “materia prima” de la literatura medieval (los códices), a través de un medio que les es sumamente afín hoy día: el digital. En fin, la plataforma contará con tres secciones: la Biblioteca, en que estarán almacenadas las imágenes de algunos códices, y las transcripciones y audiciones al castellano antiguo y moderno; los Módulos, en que se presentarán los contenidos y actividades anejas; y el Taller, en que se invitará a los alumnos a poner en práctica lo aprendido. En este sentido, cabe señalar el interés de una herramienta que nuestros compañeros de Sheffield tienen ya avanzada: el Transcription desk, que permitirá a los estudiantes bregarse con la paleografía medieval.

Por lo demás, lo previsto es trabajar en la elaboración de los materiales durante los próximos meses, y volver en septiembre a los centros a mostrar el resultado y acordar los cursos, grupos y asignaturas en que se realizarán las sesiones. En definitiva, esta primera toma de contacto resultó altamente enriquecedora, tanto humana como profesionalmente. Gracias de nuevo desde aquí a los profesores y directivos que han aceptado y apoyado esta colaboración.

Enrique Jerez
Birmingham, 5 May 2016

April 2016: Archives and exhibitions

Enrique and Aengus spent 10 days on a whistle stop tour of Spain at the end of April to examine manuscripts of the Estoria de Espanna and to make arrangements for our Impact activities which will take place from January 2017 onwards. Day 1 for Aengus was spent at the Instituto de Patrimonio Cultural de España and the Biblioteca Nacional de España.  The Santander codex (M-550 – known as T) is currently being restored there, in anticipation of the exhibition in Santander (of which more anon). I had the pleasure of a tour of the restoration facilities in the IPCE courtesy of the marvellous director of document conservation Ana Ros. The work is proceeding in the careful hands of the two restorers Pilar Díaz Boj y Maria Sánchez Dominguez and the expert on binding Isabel Lozano de Gregori. Unfortunately we missed the chance to discuss matters codicological with the Laura Fernández who has worked in such great depth on E1 and E2, but no doubt the opportunity will present itself again in the future.  Ricardo Pichel Gotérrez has already provided us with a full codicological description of T which will appear in the final version of the edition so little added work was required – I was however able to examine some of the folios in person.


T restored

On the same afternoon, I was able to spend some time in the Biblioteca Nacional examining manuscripts Q and C, both of which will appear in the Biblioteca Nacional exhibition in January. And there was still time to catch up with long-time friend of the project Alicia Montero.

The following day, Enrique and Aengus had the pleasure of examining in person the central codices of our edition: E1 and E2 at the Real Biblioteca de San Lorenzo de El Escorial.


Over the course of two Saturday mornings we were able to examine both manuscripts in some detail and sketch out a full codicological survey of the two. As is well known, E2 is more complex from this point of view than E1, which is the only Alfonsine codex of the Estoria. Nonetheless, Aengus was able to identify some significant details of manuscript damage, relationships between gatherings and scribal slip-ups while Enrique examined in some detail the complexities of E2. We were greatly aided in this, and in our negotiations with Patrimonio Nacional, with the director of what must be one of the most impressive manuscript collections in Europe by its amiable director José Luis del Valle Merino.

The focus in subsequent days turned to Impact. We were joined by Mike Pidd of the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute to discuss details of the proposed exhibition with the Biblioteca Nacional and also the implementation of teaching materials with one school in Madrid. First up was a meeting with Carlos Alberdi (Director Cultural), Gema Hernández Carralón (Jefe del Museo de la BNE), Cristina Guillén Bermejo (Sala Cervantes) and Mercedes Pasalodos Salgado of the BNE. A very fruitful agreement was reached on timings and content of the exhibition. The physical exhibition will take place in the BNE Museo between the 31st January and 14th April 2017 and the digital content to accompany it will be available from shortly before then. In addition to details about Alfonso el Sabio and the Estoria de Espanna we will provide interactive tools to enable visitors to search the Estoria in a variety of ways and also to have a go at transcribing. Further blog posts will give a better idea of how these tools will work.

While Enrique went to visit further schools, Aengus visited Santander. The aim of the digital exhibition is that is should coincide with physical exhibitions of some of the main codices of the Estoria; in addition to the Biblioteca Nacional, these will take place in the Biblioteca de Menéndez Pelayo in Santander and at the Universities of Salamanca and Minnesota at the same time.

In Santander, I was able to discuss arrangements with the ever-helpful Rosa Fernández Lera and Andrés del Rey Sayagüés whose generosity and welcome could not be matched.



We agreed that the exhibition will take place beginning in the same week as the Biblioteca Nacional (but a few days later, to permit the presence of all at the opening). It will take place in the reading room of the library (pictured above). At Andrés’s suggestion, we agreed that the display of T be accompanied by some other codices in their wonderful collection. There are a number of related historiographical and Alfonsine codices, so expect to see some of these in the Santander exhibition. Among these is a manuscript of the General Estoria which benefits from particularly ornate catchwords.

Santander GE


And so on to Salamanca and a meeting with the indefatigable Maragarita Becedas-González, Director of the Biblioteca General Histórica de la Universidad de Salamanca in the company of Enrique and member of the consejo científico Paco Bautista of the Universidad de Salamanca. Once more I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the welcome and the wish for collaborations. The exhibition of the three codices of the Estoria (B, CF and F – which we had the pleasure of examining in person subsequently) will take place to coincide with the others in the unique setting of the Biblioteca Histórica.

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In the course of our discussions and visit to the library, we had the privilege of being able to examine early manuscripts of the Chronicon Mundi, De Rebus Hispanie and (why not…?) the Salamanca manuscript of the Libro de Buen Amor.

The final full day was spent in Salamanca at the SEMYR seminar, led by Paco Bautista and Michel García.

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Aengus and Inés Fernández-Ordóñez gave their respective views on the different ways of editing the Estoria.  I was able to demonstrate the collation and editing tools we are helping to develop and these were welcomed with significant interest. A very fruitful discussion ensued – and lasted all the way back to Madrid on the train courtesy of Enrique and Inés, whose intellectual curiosity and generosity never cease to amaze. Especial thanks go to Paco Bautista, Juan Miguel Valero and to Pedro Cátedra for the invitation to speak in so prestigious a seminar and for their helpful comments.

After a final few hours in El Escorial, it was back to Birmingham. We have much work still to do on editing and Impact but the positive impression garnered over ten intense days in Spain will live long in the memory.

Especial thanks to all of those mentioned above for their help and warm welcome.

Project Update: April 2016

There’s lots going on here at the EDIT project and it’s about time we gave you a little update. We have finished or almost finished all of the witnesses we are going to be transcribing. Aengus has been busily preparing the collation and Zeth has made a regularisation tool that Christian and I will be using to work towards the preparation of the critical version of the text. Zeth’s regularisation tool is a real thing of beauty, but then we never expected anything less. We all enjoyed listening to the three talks in yesterday’s research seminar, and of course looking at the images in the PowerPoints including manuscript T during its restoration, thanks to Ricardo’s amazing photos. What a treat to be able to see the manuscript we have been working on in such a way. Aengus has been to give a talk in the US and soon he and Enrique will be jetting off to Spain for lots of talks, meetings and visits for the project, including visiting schools. Enrique has been working really hard preparing materials for schools and for the exhibitions of the project which will be taking place in the near future. Christian and I have spent Easter creating a database of dates according to E1 and E2 which will allow users of the edition to search the content of the Estoria more easily, and which will eventually link to the database that Fiona is currently preparing, which will be an index of people and places in the Estoria. As well as this we are all working separately on papers, presentations, theses, and of course towards our final conference which will take place in December.

The 4th Annual EDIT Colloquium – 13-15 December 2016, Birmingham

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We are pleased to announce that preparations for the fourth annual EDIT colloquium are now well underway. The colloquium will take place at our home university, Birmingham, between Tuesday 13th and Thursday 15th December 2016. The electronic edition of the Estoria that we have spent the past four years preparing will be launched during these days. We have already confirmed our two plenary speakers: Inés Fernández-Ordóñez of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Real Academia Española, and Leonardo Funes of the Universidad de Buenos Aires, as well as several of the members of our team and consejo cientīfico who have agreed to give papers. We have also launched our Call for Papers and we hope to receive many abstracts from our existing friends of the project, previous colloquium guests and also some fresh faces. It will also be possible to attend the conference for those who will not be giving a paper, and registration will open later in the year – information will be available here on the project blog.

It is not without a hint of heavy-heartedness that we approach our final colloquium as as well as being the much-anticipated launch of the edition we have all been working towards for the past four years, and which Aengus has been thinking about for getting on for a couple of decades now, it will also signify the end of the current phase of the Estoria de Espanna Digital project. The colloquium is still around eight months away and 2016 is set to be an extremely busy year for the project with exhibitions, schools outreach sessions and of course promoting the edition left right and centre, as well as completing the transcriptions, checking, collation, critical edition, onomastic index, mapping tools, concordance… the list feels endless! Plus for Christian and me there is the small matter of a doctoral thesis each which need to be finished or close to finished by the time the colloquium rolls around. Easy peasy, no? With so much on the agenda the year is bound to speed by and be our busiest and most exciting yet.