Author Archives: Aengus Ward

September Update

The launch and conference in December will soon be upon us, and the Estoria team has been hard at work on both the edition and our Impact activities.

The HRI in Sheffield has begun to produce our exhibition and teaching materials. A mockup of the opening page currently (but not for long) looks like this:


Enrique has completed the exhibition materials, and although Lauren has now left us to take on her Final Year, she managed the herculean task of translating most of it into English – so a big thank you from all at the Estoria project.

Enrique is in Spain to continue work on the teaching materials and liaise with schools and archives. Aengus is in the US to make arrangements with the University of Minnesota over their part in the exhibition. He also gave a lecture at the Center for Medieval Studies and had the opportunity to examine the Minnesota manuscript at the James Ford Bell library:


The full manuscript is digitised here. A big thank you to Michelle Hamilton and Marguerite Ragnow and all in Minneapolis for the warm welcome and all of the help offered.

Fiona continues at breakneck pace with the tagging of all the prosopographical data in the Estoria, and we hope to have the first prototypes of the maps and ancillary tools available by mid-September.

Meanwhile, Polly, Christian and Ricardo have been completing the regularised versión primitiva, and the irrepressible Polly and Christian have also been correcting part of the edited text  and the collated text with Aengus. And Zeth is working away on the front end and in particular the presentation of the transcriptions (very preliminary sneak preview below) and collated text.

Edition preview

Back to work…!

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.

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.

III EDiT Colloquium/II Jornadas de Historiografía/Historia de la Lengua

Our third colloquium took place at the Universidad de Sevilla in collaboration with our wonderful colleagues from the Historia15 project between the 23rd and 25th of November 2015. It proved to be a marvellous week of intellectual exchange which will live long in the memory.

Day 1 saw the inauguration in the presence of the Dean of the Faculty and the Head of Department from Sevilla. Special mention went out to the leader of Historia15, Lola Pons, who could not be present and also to our friends and colleagues Marine and Virginie who had been closely affected by the massacres in Paris just 10 days before.

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The opening day focused on history of the language and provided us with in-depth analysis of Alfonsine language from some big hitters, both young and old, in the field. Rafael Cano Aguilar’s plenary began by offering us an overview of the history of studies of the language of the Estoria. This was followed by Marta López Izquierdo’s detailed study of Alfonsine syntax and Javier Rodríguez Molina’s vast and entertaining review of the dialectal variation in Alfonso’s scriptorium.
The day ended with a tour of Sevilla’s iconic cathedral; a high point was Blanca Garrido’s negotiation with the cathedral guards which permitted us all to (briefly) enter the royal chapel and celebrate Alfonso X’s 794th birthday with him (and indeed Fernando III and Beatriz de Suabia).

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Day 2 began with José Luis Montiel taking us back some years to a talk given by Manuel Ariza on the subject of the Cid and historiography, which he brought up to date with more recent research which was followed by Santiago del Rey Quesada’s in-depth study of the processes of textual construction in Alfonso’s works.

The Estoria project’s principal session covered all the bases of the project. First up was Christian on the vision of Muhammad in the Estoria, followed by Enrique’s careful and appropriately contextual account of the foundation of Seville and completed by Ricardo’s outline of his project of a digital edition of the Galician version of the 1289 redaction. A lively debate followed – it seemed as though all of the specialists on historiography had been keeping their powder dry – with Leonardo Funes, Paco Bautista, Manolo Hijano and surprise visitor Marta Lacomba all contributing to a revealing discussion on multiple aspects of Iberian medieval historiography.

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The post-lunch session saw the welcome presence of Jorge Ferro – one of three visitors from Buenos Aires – whose characteristically precise talk on the editorial difficulties facing the editors of the López de Ayala chronicles was bookended by Migel Ángel Pousada’s reflections on the advantages and disadvantages of xml in the edition of the Cantigas de Santa María. A fruitful, if exhausting, day was brought to a close by Peter Robinson’s outline of the possibilities of Textual Communities and a live demonstration of the newly-minted collation tool which will be employed in our project.

The third and final day began with a magisterial analysis of the Atarazanas de Sevilla by Pablo Pérez-Mallaína Bueno, which would have resulted in a mass exodus by all present to have a look at the site themselves had it not been for the following talk; a typically entertaining and intellectually detailed account of a previously-lost document of Juan Manuel by José Manuel Fradejas. A stimulating morning session was rounded off by Felipe Moreira’s ground-breaking exploration of the sources and edition of the versión crítica in the reigns of Urraca I and Alfonso VII.

In similar vein, the next session (again with a historiographical focus) saw Nitzaira Delgado-García, Cristina Moya García and Manolo Hijano Villegas discuss the Crónica de Flores y Blancaflor, Diego de Valera and the afterlife of Alfonsine historiography respectively. The post-talk debates ranged from subjects as diverse as the nature of (pre)modern time and detailed questions of textual analysis. Chronicle experts were as one in regarding the discussions as thought-provoking.

The final sessions were introduced by Carmen Moral de Hoyo’s effervescent and incredibly detailed linguistic analysis of dialectal variety in the legislative works of Alfonso and which was matched, in intellectual rigour if not in speed by Kim Bergqvist’s account of Sancho II in post-Alfonsine historiography. The final two papers were also models of their kind: Pablo Saracino, (official photographer of the colloquium whose photos I have added here) gave a philological masterclass on archival research with his detective work on Lorenzo de Padilla and Florián de Ocampo and Leyre Martín Aizpuru, who opened the Oxford colloquium and effectively closed this one demonstrated the methodological effectiveness of which she is a prime example in her account of the alternation between -íe(n) and -ía(n) in Chancellery documents.

Renunirse con los amigos y aprender: along with “A saber” the theme of the colloquium. All present agreed that the intense but fruitful 3 days in Sevilla had fulfilled all expectations. The bar has been set high for Birmingham in December 2016: All are welcome!

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Especial thanks go to the Historia15 team, but above all to the wonderful Blanca Garrido Martín and Jaime González Gómez. The welcome offered by all our colleagues in Sevilla will live long in the memory!

Mesa Redonda: 11/11/15

The Estoria de Espanna Digital project will hold a round table next week, details as follows:

Enrique Jerez Cabrero, “La sabiduría de Alfonso el Sabio: aspectos sapienciales de la Estoria de España”
Christian Kusi Obodum, “‘Aquella mala secta’: el profeta Mahoma en la Estoria de Espanna”
Javier Sebastián “La “tiranía” económica de la ciudad de Burgos en el siglo XV.”
Ricardo Pichel Gotérrez, “Corpus y bibliotecas textuales hispánicos en la red. Nuevas posibilidades, proyectos en curso”

Wednesday 11th November 2016
Ashley 121a, University of Birmingham


Manuscripts as artefacts

As you will have seen from Polly’s post below, lately we have been considering the relationship between the physical text (medieval manuscripts in our case) and the digital output which we are in the process of constructing here at the Estoria Digital.

The immediate response to the question “why keep the manuscript then?” (and I am sure we would all say the same) is that this is not even a question worth addressing. The question should simpy not arise and to engage with it may give the impression that we are entertaining the possibility of more than one answer. There are already enough examples of philistinism in the world. For us, as scholars who are not the owners of our cultural and intellectual wealth but merely the custodians of it so we can pass it on to future generations (amended perhaps, but fundamentally intact), some things are, and should be, sacred. And our manuscript culture, in which I include the physical objects, is one of those things.

To explain why manuscripts have the status of sacred objects (and not just artefacts) is not to engage with the question above. But before doing so, I would like to suggest why I think we are in a moment of rare privilege. For scholar of medieval texts, the possibilities which have emerged in the digital sphere in the last two decades or so are very exciting. I suspect that my imagination is too limited to have any idea where this will all lead, but as an editor of medieval texts, I welcome freedom from the limitations of print. However, in 50 years time perhaps we will have created a medieval experience in multiple dimensions which will replicate the act of medieval reading in a manner to which anyone could have access. And if we can replicate all of these things in whatever format takes over from digital, then why do we need the original object? I therefore find myself in the curious position of celebrating that which could lead to the destruction of what I believe to be the core of my discipline.

Could, but need not. As I said, I think those of us who were trained in pre-digital methods, and who celebrate the possibilities of the future, have a rare moment of opportunity to pass on our knowledge to digital natives so that all that is dear to manuscript culture is preserved and built upon in the new dimension. Which is why my fear that I have contributed to the destruction of something precious is mitigated by the possibilities of embedding in our future, digital, practice, all that was important about our pre-digital methodology and thought.

The answer to the question? Who knows what future technological advances will tell us about manuscripts? (Nothing, of course, if they are destroyed.) But far more important is the knowledge that the manuscript, the physical object, provides a direct and physical link to another human being who many centuries ago sat and left his mark on the very page one can still touch. That direct human connection cannot be replicated and we who are, after all, scholars of the humanities, celebrate that.


To punctuate or not to punctuate…

One question we have not yet satisfactorily solved is the question of how the chronicle should be presented to the public. The clearest solution to these issues are dealt with the criteria outlined by the CHARTA project. We intend to produce an edition which will have collectable palaeographic (or perhaps “graphic” since we do not intend to represent different letter shapes with different characters) transcriptions linked to manuscript images, and these will be viewable both in abbreviated and expanded forms. It seems to me that this fulfils the first two requirements of the CHARTA criteria. The the third area, question of the “edited” text, though is a little more problematic. Given that we do not have a single authorised Alfonsine version of the text and that we want to represent (at least) three major recensions (versión primitiva, versión crítica and versión enmendada de 1289), the question of what an “edited” Estoria might look like is a complex one, not least because there is not a single Estoria. In presenting an “edited” Estoria for public perusal, we face the question of what the readership might be, and we must therefore raise the question of which editorial interventions to make. In the past, I have resisted greatly the idea of regularising even something as basic as vocalic and consonantal i/j b/v/u since placing modern graphs on medieval text seems to me to be unnecessary, even for non-specialist readers. The question of whether any editorial intervention beyond the most basic (capitalisation, insertion of speech marks) is required is therefore very much a live one…

Sueldos, of various kinds.

When transcribing a section of E2, Christian came across an abbreviation not previously seen:

The character represents the word “sueldos”. I wondered if it was the standard abbreviation for “solidi” as on a number of occasions Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada’s “solidi” become “sueldos” in the Estoria, and it seemed reasonable to me that the scribe _could_ have seen the abbreviation in De Rebus Hispaniae and adapted it for the Castilian word in the Estoria (but I haven’t seen any manuscripts of DRH…). Fiona pointed out that “It is _clearly_ 2 long s letters with a downward strike for the abbreviation on the 2nd long s, i.e. $$ + abbrev mark. We see this with a single long $ and downward strike for the abbreviation of $er”.

This still leaves us with the question of how to expand it for our purposes. Fiona’s suggestion is “<choice><abbr>ss<am>̄</am></abbr><expan>s<ex>ueldo</ex>s</expan></choice>”, on the basis that it (or other variants) appear in many cases for other words. All of which seems reasonable to me, although I wonder about the status of this abbreviation, or more accurately I wonder of what it is an abbreviation. Is it an “s” with abbreviation mark, and therefore designed to represent, however distantly, some phonetic element? Or is it perhaps to be understood logographically? That is, does the symbol in its entirety stand for “sueldos” or “s(ueldos)”?