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.

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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.

Santander

 

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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(Photo: https://bibliotecas.usal.es/node/1086/galeria)

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.

Beatriz of Swabia, a quick look at Alfonso’s mother, for Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day here in the UK on Sunday, so I thought I’d have a little look at Queen Beatriz of Swabia, mother to everybody’s favourite mummy’s boy, Alfonso X.

The fourth daughter of King Philip of Swabia and Queen Irene Angelina, Beatriz (or Elizabeth) was born in 1205 and was baptised Isabel. She was just three when both of her parents died within a short period of time (her father by assassination and her mother following the birth of Beatriz’s younger sister), so she and her sisters grew up in the guardianship of her cousin Frederick, King of Sicily (who would later become the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, a status that, despite his best efforts, Alfonso never managed). Beatriz’s royal heritage was rich: her father was the King of Germany and was the son of Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, and through her mother she was descended from the Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos. Alfonso X would later use these royal connections in his unsuccessful attempt to become Holy Roman Emperor.

Beatriz was married young to Alfonso’s father Fernando III in 1219, with Fernando’s mother Berenguela having been a strong influence in choosing Beatriz as his wife. At a time when lineage was extremely important in royal marriages, Beatriz’s would have been a major draw. Rodrigo Jimenez de Rada, the bishop and historian, described Beatriz as being beautiful and blonde, small, refined and well brought-up. When her body was exhumed and examined in 1948 scholars were able to see that she was around 1.54m tall and that her fingernails were neatly trimmed. The couple’s first child, Alfonso, was born in 1221, and she went on to give birth a further nine times before she died in 1235.

Like her son Alfonso, Beatriz has been described as tenacious (or, as H. Salvador Martínez points out, one might also say stubborn), intellectually curious and passionate about music and the arts. It is certainly some of these qualities that shaped Alfonso’s rule – his long bid to become Emperor, his many works of music, history, science, and games, his re-writing of the laws and his relationships with the nobility.

Source

Guest Blog Post: Up Close and Personal with the Estoria de Espanna in Madrid

This is a guest blog post written by Nick Leonard, the Estoria project’s most active crowdsourcer and friend of the project.

My interaction with two Estoria de Espanna manuscripts over the past 18 months, while enthralling in its own right, has largely taken the form of looking at lines of text through a digital magnifying glass. In order to transcribe and tag the folios, it is necessary to zoom in to the point where I see the manuscripts as little more than lines of code. It’s beautiful code, of course – despite somehow managing to contain almost as much gobbledygook as modern computer code – but it’s code nevertheless. I rarely see more than three lines of text at any one time, and I almost never consider the manuscripts as objects beyond the text that I’m working with.

Seeking a different perspective on the Estoria, I recently went to the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid. With the aid of the EDIT project team, I gained access to the 14th-century Q manuscript and could hold in my hands the very same book that I had spent hours tagging in 2014-15 on a remote computer screen.

Finally, the code had become a codex.

My first surprise when the manuscript was brought to me was how large it was. In my world, Estoria manuscripts are only as big as the top half of an 11.6-inch laptop screen. But in the Sala de Cervantes, I was handed a manuscript over a foot high and nearly three inches thick. Even at only 186 pages, its girth dwarfed the 600-page modern hardcover book I had brought with me to Madrid. Despite the lack of cover decoration, this impressive size conveyed a sense of importance all on its own, and reminded me that what I was about to open was no ordinary library book.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 09.54.38The large but fairly ordinary cover of Q does not betray the fabulous story that unfolds inside: thousands of years of Spanish history from pre-Roman times to the Late Middle Ages.
Image: Biblioteca Nacional de España, MSS/7595, p.1.

After opening the old leather binding, I spent the best part of my morning slowly turning every creaking page of the 600-year-old manuscript, spellbound by this completely new experience of an object I had thought I knew well. The pages alternated in colour and texture (the flesh side of the parchment being smoother and lighter than the hair side), something that had completely escaped me while using the digital edition and working on only one folio at a time. The pricking and ruling on each page – more obvious on some pages than on others – was another thing that I had never noticed before because I was so focused on the text itself.

Following the ruled lines led me to the margins, which I had barely considered while transcribing Q on a computer screen. Some folios contained catchwords to make it easier to form quires after writing. Others contained notes in the side margins. One folio near the beginning (3r) even had the alphabet written out in the lower margin, which was perhaps the Q scribe’s way of helping future Estoria transcribers distinguish his letterforms (although I’m still looking for his guide to abbreviations…).

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Folio 50v of Q. In the lower margin, the catchword ‘lugar’ is written. This is also the first word of the next folio, 51r. Adding catchwords to a folio made it easier to join individual folios together into gatherings or quires which would then be bound together to form a manuscript.
Image: Biblioteca Nacional de España, MSS/7595, p.55.

Once I had adjusted to this new, wide-angled view of Q, even the text itself delivered a few surprises. I found one page (57v) that had 44 coloured pilcrows contained within the text of just the first column alone. A few folios later (65v), even more pilcrows popped up, this time serving as medieval bullet points. Some initial capital letters, typically uniformly conservative throughout Q, had extra grandeur bestowed upon them, such as the P on folio 72r which is more than half the page in length. I also realised that many (but not all) of the rubrics begin with the phrase ‘De como’, another thing I had never noticed before while working on one folio at a time.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 09.56.20Folio 65v of Q. Alternating red and blue pilcrows function as medieval bullet points.
Image: Biblioteca Nacional de España, MSS/7595, p.70.

Seeing an Estoria manuscript in person gave me a new understanding of the physical objects that are at the core of the EDIT project. With this fresh perspective in mind, it’s time to go back to my lines of code on a computer screen. But from now on, I will remember to zoom out and take a look around every once in a while to see what new discoveries are waiting to be made.

Impact impact impact

If you will excuse the slightly garish title, it is very much a reflection of how things are moving here at Estoria HQ. Alongside the final stages of our electronic edition of the Estoria, we are also heading an exciting initiative to bring the historiography of Alfonso X to the public.

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http://www.mondolithic.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Virtual-Library1.jpg

The first arm of our impact project will be a series of exhibitions across Spain. This will be the display of the Estoria de Espanna manuscripts across libraries in Madrid, Santander, Salamanca. Visitors to these exhibits will be able to appreciate the rich manuscript tradition that developed from Alfonso’s history-writing exploits.

In addition to physical exhibitions, we will also be producing a virtual exhibition. In doing so, the public will be able to enjoy the exhibits from the comfort of their own swivel chairs. The virtual exhibit will include a transcription desk, allowing visitors to have go at palaeography and transcription.

Finally, Alfonso X is heading back to school. We will be providing Spanish secondary schools with structured sessions and resource packs, helping young people explore the cultural heritage of the Wise King. Learners will be able to investigate such themes as history of language, social history, gender issues in Medieval Spain, and much more.

We feel that by bringing Alfonso’s work to the public, we will be keeping true to the scholar-king’s project of advancement and education. Who would have guessed that over seven hundred years later, his writings would take the giant leap from vellum to virtual…

It’s oh so quiet…. or is it?

The EDIT blog has gone a little quiet over the last few weeks, but rather than this meaning we are all in winter hibernation it is actually because we are all so busy working full steam on several aspects of the project.

We are almost done with transcribing and checking the fifth and final manuscripts of this phase of the project. Fiona is working like crazy on the prosopography part of the edition where users will be able to get information on the people and places of the Estoria. The front end of the project is coming along nicely, and although it’s only really a skeleton of what it will eventually be, it already looks great. Also, the preliminary organisation for the fourth EDIT colloquium  is well underway, and we hope to be able to give more details within the next few weeks. We can say that it will be in Birmingham in December. This is bound to be great because it will mark the end of the project and we will be launching our online edition.

Keep checking our Facebook page and this blog for more details about how the edition is coming along and to get our Call for Papers as soon as it is released.