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  • Introduction
  • Aengus Ward

The articles published here are the fruit of a singular moment of reflection; they emerged from a conference held at the University of Birmingham (UK) to mark the launch of the Estoria de Espanna Digital, the digital edition of Alfonso el Sabio's thirteenth century chronicle of Spain.1 The Estoria Digital was the product of a four-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Alongside the edition, the research project had the aim of fostering debate about the theory and practice of digital editions and also the specific context of Alfonsine texts. To this end, a series of workshops and colloquia had been held at the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford (2014) and the Universidad de Sevilla (2015). The research questions which coalesced from these encounters had their fullest expression in the 2016 conference. The articles dealing with the specifics of Alfonsine practice are to be published in a separate volume; here we concentrate on those debates which dealt with questions of digital theory and practice. Although two of these deal in detail with the specific editorial practice employed in the Estoria Digital, all should be understood as an attempt to raise questions as much as answer them. The articles are therefore conceived as a loosely unified attempt to outline the central questions of theory and practice, as they relate specifically to the edition of medieval (Iberian) prose and verse.

The Estoria de Espanna Digital is the first largescale attempt to edit digitally a major work of medieval Iberian prose. A significant element in the backdrop of the edition is the fact that the field of Iberomedievalism has long been to the forefront of the use of electronic tools and platforms. In particular, the visionary approach of the Hispanic [End Page 1] Seminary of Medieval Studies led to an early awareness amongst scholars of Peninsular texts of the possibilities afforded by the rapidly developing technologies. If the original aim of the HSMS was that of the production of a dictionary, two ancillary products would emerge as the key contributions to the discipline. The first was the set of norms of transcription developed for the project—these were a sustained effort to describe the features of manuscript text systematically through the use of machine-readable tags. These norms would go on to inspire later developments in transcription norms, not least in the Estoria Digital. The second was the publication of a large number of transcriptions and concordances, initially in microfiche and later on the Admyte CDRoms. In addition to their value as research tool (a value which continues to this day through the HSMS website where the transcriptions can be found and employed), these transcriptions created a culture of appreciation for electronic text that entered the mind-set of those working in the field in ways which may well have been absent in other medievalisms.2 Alongside the norms and transcriptions, the bibliographical tools which emerged from related projects, initially in the form of the Bibliography of Old Spanish Texts and more recently in the form of the extensive Philobiblon project, contributed to that culture of appreciation of electronic tools in ibero-medievalism.3

Text, bibliography and tagging: the elements were already there for a sustained attempt to edit digitally. And yet, despite this proud tradition of cutting edge technological advance in the field of medieval Iberian studies, before the Estoria Digital there had been no attempt to edit digitally any of the extensive number of prose texts for which the Peninsula is renowned; digital excellence tending towards poetic texts, as in the case of REMETCA and various projects dealing with the Poema de Mio Cid.4 For this reason, the edition was directly inspired by the ground breaking digital edition of Froissart's Chroniques, the Online Froissart, which was a major contributor in pointing the way towards modes of conceiving digitally of lengthy medieval prose manuscript text.5 However, the editorial principles of the Estoria Digital are rather different as they focus more sharply on the material dimension of medieval texts and therefore involve a greater degree of attention to the scribal practice which forms a central, if often overlooked, element of...


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