The purpose of this blog is to document the process of preparing a critical annotated edition of Sancho IV’s Lucidario using digital humanities. It also serves as a tool to promote the application of digital humanities tools for editing medieval texts and of textual criticism.

The project is the result of collaboration with the R+D projects HERES. Patrimonio textual panibérico. Recuperación y memoria (CAM, CM/2018-T1/HUM-10230 & CM/2022-5A/HUM-24226) of the Universidad de Alcalá and 7PartidasDigital (PID2020-112621GB-I00) of the Universidad de Valladolid. On its initial stage, it is part of the research activities of the Juan de la Cierva Fellowship FJC2021-047096-I funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and by the European Union NextGenerationEU/PRTR (2023-2024).

What is the Lucidario?

The Lucidario, written around 1290 under the patronage of King Sancho IV (1284-1295) of Castile, is a lengthy dialogue between a master and his disciple, inspired by didactic models quite popular in medieval Europe. The disciple approaches his master with a series of 100 questions on theological issues (What is God?, Why is the Trinity composed of three persons and not more or less?, Where was God before the creation of the cosmos?), astrological matters (What is an eclipse?, Why do days last less in one part of the year and more in another?, What are stars?), and natural science (Why do lions have hair only on the upper part of their bodies?, Why do fleas, being so light, have many feet, and elephants, being heavy, have only four?). It is a work that reflects the influence of the Scholastic and encyclopedic ideals of the early 13th century on early Spanish prose.

The Project

The blog accompanies the process of editing the Lucidario, which is transmitted by eight witnesses and a 17th-century Latin translation. Having started the work in mid-2022 with the manual transcription of a few witnesses—which was, at the time, an analog process: with one manuscript on one screen and a word processor on the other—, I quickly changed my methodology to incorporate digital humanities tools to streamline the work and eliminate the most significant error factor (human). Of the eight manuscripts, seven have already been transcribed (four of them using Transkribus), and the last one is being transcribed.

The next part of the process—which runs parallel to the last transcriptio—is the collatio of the witnesses. That is, comparing the passages from each text to identify which ones better reflect the original text (a hypothetical text, since there is no original manuscript of the work). During the collatio it is important to detect the changes and alterations introduced by the scribes that copied the manuscripts, a common occurrence during the written transmission of a medieval work.

For this rather complex task—dealing with eight radically different copies in structure and in content— I am using ChrysoCollate, a collation software developed in 2021 by Sébastien Moureau (Université catholique de Louvain) to edit ancient and medieval texts. The program allows the introduction and visual comparison of witnesses, and also automates the process of creating a critical apparatus.

The final stage of the process is to build a notes apparatus that will take care of explaining the classical and medieval influences and sources of the Lucidario, as I am not only interested in making the text available in a reliable edition but also in making clear where does it take its ideas from.

The blog entries fall into three types: transcription posts, dealing with the copying process and the peculiarities of each witness; editing posts, dealing with the process of (re)creating the critical text and the lessons learned from this work; and research posts, related to my study of how the Lucidario fits into the tradition of classical and medieval encyclopedic works.

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