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Reviewed by:
  • Antología castellana de relatos medievales (Ms. Esc. H-I-13), and: Libro de los huéspedes (Escorial MS h.I.13): A Critical Edition
  • Emily C. Francomano
Carina Zubillaga , ed. Antología castellana de relatos medievales (Ms. Esc. H-I-13). Estudio y edición crítica. Buenos Aires: SECRIT, 2008. 656 pp. ISBN: 987-9879973592
Libro de los huéspedes (Escorial MS h.I.13): A Critical Edition. John K. Moore Jr., ed. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 349. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2008. 396 pp. ISBN: 978-0-86698-397-6

Since the publication of John R. Maier and Thomas D. Spaccarelli's groundbreaking article, "MS. Escurialense h-I-13: Approaches to a Medieval Anthology", in the pages of La corónica in 1982, there has been a general critical consensus that MS Escorial h-I 13 was planned as a coherent anthology. MS Escorial h-I-13 is a relatively large, late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century codex containing nine interrelated prose saints' lives and exemplary romances, translated from French into a Castilian vernacular with linguistic inflections from the north-western regions of the Iberian Peninsula. Each of the stories in the anthology, from the lives of saints Mary Magdalen, Martha, Catherine of Alexandria and Eustace to the romances of Guillelme, Otas de Roma, Una santa emperatris and Carlos Maynes, revolves around the importance of piety in overcoming adversity; in each tale, the adventures of a steadfast heroine plays a central role. Although critical editions exist for all the texts in the anthology and a Text and Concordance for the codex was produced on microfiche (Spacarelli), a complete and easily accessible edition of the manuscript's contents remained a scholarly desideratum until 2008, which saw the concurrent publication of two critical editions, prepared by Carina Zubillaga and John K. Moore, respectively.

Textual criticism and material philology go hand in hand in the two editions, which both argue for the critical appreciation of the compiler's and translator's work in the production of an anthology of pious narratives for a Castilian-speaking audience. As Zubillaga comments,

Este códice individual merece ser conocido por un público más amplio, tal como fue planeado y organizado, a través de una edición crítica de todos los relatos que contemple la materialidad del manuscrito que los contiene no sólo como mero vehículo, sino como espacio privilegiado de reunión del material en su conformación unitaria.


Both editors take Maier and Spaccarelli's hypothesis of coherence as a starting point for their introductions; both argue that the manuscript is the product of a single [End Page 223] scribe, and the compiled texts the work of a single translator.

Zubillaga provides a monograph-length introductory study that gives a detailed manuscript description, analyzes the principles of inclusion and linguistic characteristics of the codex, and contains brief literary and historical introductions to each story. Moore's brief introduction is dedicated to manuscript description and a discussion of the unifying themes of the anthology. However, he provides footnotes on literary and historical background and interpretations throughout the edition. Both editors include useful glossaries of medieval vocabulary, Moore's with English translations and Zubillaga's with Spanish definitions.

The assigning of a title to MS. h-I-13 presents a somewhat challenging issue. Given the dearth of information about the codex's provenance, naming it by authorship, ownership, or geographical origins is not an option. Consequently, any title would be something of an editorial fiction, bound up with issues of interpretation, as well as hypotheses concerning patronage and reception. Moore, in keeping with his recent scholarship on the anthology, uses the title first suggested by Thomas Spaccarelli in his Text and Concordance of 'El libro de los huéspedes' (Escorial Ms. h.I.13). This title reflects the thesis, defended by both Moore and Spaccarelli, that the anthology was first conceived of as a series of edifying and entertaining tales for pilgrims -and particularly female pilgrims- traveling on the road to Santiago de Compostela, in which "guest/host theology" is the central theme unifying all nine stories. Moore does...


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