About this edition

The Estoria de Espanna Digital: about this edition

      1. What is the Estoria de Espanna?

The simple answer to this question is that the Estoria de Espanna is the chronicle of Spain composed by, or perhaps under the direction of, Alfonso X el Sabio, King of León and Castile, some time in the early 1270s (although work on the project had probably begun much earlier). It is the history of Spain from its legendary origins up to the death of Fernando III, el Santo –Alfonso’s own father- in 1252. It is the first (and perhaps greatest) history of Spain to be composed in the vernacular. It can (must?) be understood in the the political and social context of its time of composition- the period in the middle of Alfonso’s reign when the king retained the ambition to be declared Emperor. It might also be understood as an element in Alfonso’s political and cultural ambitions in which it stood as a central part of an all-encompassing project which involved translations from a range of languages (not least Arabic) in a relentless effort to recast the very foundations of history, the law, science and literature and their place in the medieval kingdom. It was a pursuit of knowledge and understanding- and their role in contemporary society- which made of Alfonso’s court one of the most cultured and advanced of its day in Europe.

It is also the Iberian medieval chronicle that has been best known to modern readers in the form of Ramón Menéndez Pidal’s edition, originally published in 1906 and re-printed in 1955 and 1977, bearing the title Primera crónica general.

And yet, although all of this true, simple answers do not suffice, for none of it is quite accurate. There is not one Estoria de Espanna. Alfonso’s plan for a history of Spain which would cover all of its parts and frame the Peninsula as (amongst other things) the history of the legitimate lineage who ruled it from its origins to Alfonso’s own time, would never see the light of day. That it was never completed in the way Alfonso would have wished perhaps mirrors the fact that his own reign came to an end in similarly messy fashion. Just as Alfonso suffered the indignity of noble (and filial) rebellion in the final years of his life, as disaster piled upon disaster, so his vision of the past collapsed into a series of competing and contrasting versions of history, particularly in the accounts of the two centuries prior to Alfonso’s accession to the thrones of Castile and Leon.

The reasons for what might be termed historiographical failure are multiple and have been analysed in a series of insightful works in recent years. However, these terms (“disaster”, “failure”) in themselves occlude a series of presuppositions about what a medieval text should be. The reader searching for Alfonso’s Estoria de Espanna will necessarily be disappointed, for that particular vision was never translated into textual reality. What remains- indeed, all that ever existed in concrete form- is the large number of manuscripts (only one of which is a product of Alfonso’s own taller) which, in one form or another, contain the text of what we think of as the Estoria de Espanna. For in truth, the Estoria de Espanna is the totality of the evidence we possess, direct and indirect, about the chronicle. And while it would almost certainly be impossible (at least for now) to present and analyse all of this evidence in one place, the arrival of digital tools make better failure at this noble aim a more enticing prospect than could have ever been the case in the days of editions in print.

      1. Aims of the edition – What this edition is, and what it is not.

All of the above motivated the establishment of the present, digital, edition of the Estoria de Espanna, funded by a generous research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The principal aims of the project which gives rise to the edition were:

      • to bring this important example of medieval historical writing to a wider audience, including those both in academia and the wider world who have no particular knowledge of Iberian history and chronicles;
      • to overcome the disadvantages of the printed text, what Leonardo Funes has termed the ‘book effect’ (“Reflexiones”, §24 ), by providing collatable transcriptions of manuscripts of the principal versions of the Estoria (in subsequent phases transcriptions of all of the extant manuscripts will be added);
      • to demonstrate the importance of treating each manuscript on its merits and thereby permitting a better understanding of the dialectic relationship between manuscripts and their contexts of production and consumption.

This edition, launched in 2016, is intended to be a first step in the employment of digital tools for the presentation and analysis of the Estoria de Espanna, but it is also conceived as a way of furthering our knowledge and understanding of how digital tools might usefully be employed in the study and dissemination of medieval prose. The research component of the edition therefore lies not only in the breadth of knowledge of the Estoria de Espanna that it provides, but also in the form of the edition -its attempt to push the barriers of what is possible with digital editions, at least where medieval Iberian prose is concerned. The underlying principle of the edition is therefore not that it should be a replacement for the printed edition of Menéndez Pidal or the forthcoming Biblioteca Crítica equivalent, nor that it should be a panacea for all of the ills, real or imagined, of textual editing, but rather that in form and content it should serve both as a statement of where our knowledge and understanding of the Estoria de Espanna currently reside and as a point of departure, since additional knowledge (in the form of further manuscript transcriptions and collations) and tools can be added in the future, either in the context of this project or other which may seek to build upon it. The edition is launched then, in the full realization that it is not definitive –for the impossibility of such an aim is a part of its essence. It is, therefore, designed in line with Sahle’s outline of digital editions, a “process rather than a product” (29).

As mentioned above, the digital edition of the Estoria de Espanna makes no claims for exhaustiveness, nor does it pretend to provide a text of the Estoria de Espanna commensurate with the principles of traditional textual criticism, most clearly explained in the works of Blecua and others; there is no single regularized text with a critical value judgment made in respect of variant readings. It does, however, aim to begin to answer positively the fundamental questions raised by Sahle: “Is there a full representation of the subject in question? Is it critical, and have the rules for processing been stated and substantiated? Is it scholarly and have the rules been applied rigorously and in transparent manner? Does it follow a digital paradigm and is it not printable without loss of content and functionality?”

      1. Subject matter of the edition

As has been established by (principally) Diego Catalán and Inés Fernández-Ordóñez, the forty extant manuscripts represent at least two major versions of the Estoria de Espanna compiled in Alfonso’s lifetime, these are:

      • Estoria de Espanna, versión primitiva – the original chronicle composed around 1270
      • Estoria de Espanna, versión crítica – a fundamental re-write of the chronicle composed in Seville in 1282.

In addition, we know that there were alternative redactions at different stages, both during and after Alfonso’s reign. The principal two are:

      • Estoria de Espanna, versión vulgar – a minor alternative version to the primitiva
      • Estoria de Espanna versión amplificada de 1289 – a re-write of most of the second half of the chronicle composed in the reign of Alfonso’s successor Sancho IV.

Alongside these, there are chronicles and versions which were composed in later years, such as the Crónica de Castilla and the Crónica de 1344. These do not enter into the current edition. Finally, a versión enmendada de 1274 (another contemporary minor re-write) may also exist, although this is disputed by scholars.

This textual complexity must, of course, be accounted for in any digital edition (which may, in its turn, help to clarify textual relations). The current edition therefore aims to present to the readership an appreciation of this textual complexity, in part to break away from the notion of there being a single Estoria de Espanna, and the use of digital tools permits this in a way which would not be possible in a printed edition – at least not to the same extent.

But the Estoria de Espanna is not just a collection of versions composed at different moments, it is also the full set of textual evidence surviving (and indeed that for which we have indirect evidence). In this sense, any digital edition must also take account of the fact that there are 40 extant manuscripts of the chronicle and that these individual testimonies are not mere cannon fodder in the establishment of an ideal text (or version) but rather are valuable documents in their own right which may tell us something about Alfonso’s Estoria de Espanna but which also come to mean as a function of their own discursive (and extra-discursive) contexts.

The digital edition must therefore attempt at least to account for all of these aspects of medieval textuality.

Within the limits of what was possible in the period available, we chose five witnesses for the first phase of the edition (recognizing that the results may well be different as further witnesses are added). The rationale for the choice was that the philological studies of Fernández-Ordóñez and Catalán had revealed that amongst the extant codices these five best account for the full range of redactions of the Estoria de Espanna. These are:

      • E1: Escorial Y-I-2, 13th Primera redacción/versión primitiva
      • E2: Escorial X-I-4, 14 th Composite manuscript made up of:
        ff. 2rb-17, C.13 th primera redacción/version primitiva, cont. of E1;
        ff. 18-22, 80-81, 200-256, 321-359. C.14 th additions;
        ff. 23-79, 82-198vc, 257-320. C.13 th versión amplificada de 1289.
      • Q: BNE 5795, C.14 th primera redacción/versión vulgar
      • Ss: Caja Duero Salamanca 40, 15th. made up of:
        ff. 2-264a versión crítica, ff. 264va-325ra; Crónica de Castilla/Crónica particular de San Fernando.
      • T: Biblioteca de Menéndez Pelayo M-550, 14 th made up of:
        ff. 1-25va: primera redacción/versión vulgar, ff. 25va-91vb: versión enmendada después de 1274, 92r-201v: primera redacción.

The contents of these manuscripts can be represented graphically as follows:


E2 is the most complex of these codices; its contents can be represented as follows:


The relationship between our chosen codices and the different redactions can be represented as follows:


As can be seen from the above outlines, we have included the sole Alfonsine manuscript (E1 plus the opening gathering of E2) and allied to this we have included witnesses which represent as much of the versión primitiva as is possible, both in its regia and vulgar forms. We also include the sole complete witness of the versión crítica and the original 1289 manuscript text. We aim to link the transcriptions of these in ways useful to scholars and a more general readership alike, and also use them to provide the first stage in the establishment of a hypothesis of the versión primitiva. And where possible we also link these transcriptions and edited texts with images of the witnesses themselves.

      1. Modes of presentation

We begin from principle that our edition emerges from the extant evidence and not from the postulated Alfonsine original; as a result, initially at least, the Estoria de Espanna Digital privileges and foregrounds transcriptions over the establishment of an edited text. This approach does not presuppose that such an edition is not a valid exercise –indeed, as future evidence is added in the form of other manuscripts, the materials provided here are prepared in such a way that an edition of this type would be possible. Given that we employ just 5 manuscripts of a possible 40, such an edited text would be so provisional at this stage as to make the exercise redundant. In any case, the approach we take is emphatically not the result of a negative fall back on to the next best option. Rather, since the use of digital tools allows us to privilege manuscript text in a way not possible in print, our data preparation and presentation aims to make a positive statement about the nature of medieval literate culture and the access of modern readers to it. That is, the edition we present here aims to place manuscript text at the centre of the study of medieval text, and, while we also recognize that the establishment of transcriptions also presupposes the exercise of editorial judgment (the norms for transcription are available here), we regard our edition as a first step in re-balancing modern notions of the relationship between text and testimony, at least where the Estoria de Espanna is concerned.

To this end, our edition is comprised of the following elements, which are intended to complement each other; the edition allows the user to toggle between the different presentations.

The Estoria de Espanna by manuscript:

A transcription of each of the 5 manuscripts chosen for the edition is here made available. These are both end in themselves and possible building blocks for future editions. They are presented in semi-palaeographic form (in which we partially mimic the manuscript forms) and in expanded form (in which the editors have attempted to expand all of the abbreviated manuscript forms).

The Estoria de Espanna by redaction/versión

In addition to the transcriptions organised by manuscript, we also provide the text of the transcriptions corresponding to the redactions of the Estoria de Espanna – thus the user can access the transcriptions of the versión primitiva, the versión crítica and the versión de 1289. These are not editions (in the traditional sense) of the separate redactions, but rather a digital re-organization of the transcriptions to hand to allow the user to consult the evidence employed in the Estoria de Espanna Digital for these redactions.

A hypothesis of the versión primitiva:

The versión primitiva is the closest one can get currently to the Alfonsine ideal of the Estoria de Espanna. However, as is widely recognized, this was never completed. Using the evidence available to us for this phase of the Estoria de Espanna Digital (that is, the text of the 5 manuscripts) we present here a hypothesis of those sections of the primitiva for which we have direct testimony (up to the marriage of Fernando I – PCG chapter 800). While we recognize that further indirect evidence may be available elsewhere, we take a conservative approach on presenting this. This text (the constitution of this is detailed in the methodology section) is drawn from E1, E2, T and a short fragment of ms. Y from El Escorial. We present this hypothesis in two forms:

      • A collated text of the primitiva (“critical text”) employing the sections of E1, E2, T and Y which correspond to the primitiva as base text with variant readings from the other witnesses presented in the footnotes, and,
      • A regularized transcription (“reader’s edition”) of the sections of E1, E2, T and Y which correspond to the primitiva.

The Estoria de Espanna by manuscript images:

With the exception of E1 and E2, for which permission to publish images has not yet been attained, we provide images of the manuscripts of the Estoria de Espanna, linked to the transcriptions and redactions.

  1. Data access and preservation

Details will be provided here

Creative Commons

All of the data and metadata in this edition WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE MANUSCRIPT IMAGES is presented under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Any use of the data and metadata from this edition MUST recognise the intellectual property of the editors by means of the appropriate reference. In no circumstances can the manuscript images be employed for any use without the express permission of the relevant archives – the images remain the property of the archives in question.


Catalán, Diego. De Alfonso X al Conde de Barcelos; Cuatro estudios sobre el nacimiento de la historiografía romance en Castilla y Portugal (Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1962)

Catalán, Diego. De la silva textual al taller historiográfico alfonsí: Códices, crónicas, versiones y cuadernos de trabajo, 1. ed. Fuentes Cronísticas de La Historia de España 9, (Madrid: Fundación Ramón Menéndez Pidal/Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 1997)

Catalán, Diego. La Estoria de España de Alfonso X: Creación y evolución, Fuentes Cronísticas de La Historia de España 5 (Madrid: Seminario Menéndez Pidal/Universidad Complutense de Madrid/Fundación Ramón Menéndez Pidal /Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 1992)

Fernández-Ordóñez, Inés “La transmisión textual de la “Estoria de Espanna” y de las principales “crónicas” de ella derivadas”, Alfonso X El Sabio y las crónicas de España. ed. Inés Fernández-Ordóñez (Valladolid: Secretariado de Publicaciones e Intercambio Editorial, Universidad de Valladolid. Centro para la Edición de los Clásicos Españoles, 2000), 219-264 (222-3 for the manuscript description). 

Funes, Leonardo. “Reflexiones en torno a una poética de la crónica medieval”, Bucema, Hors-série n° 2 | 2008 : Le Moyen Âge vu d’ailleurs, https://doi.org/10.4000/cem.10813.

Primera Crónica General de España que mandó componer Alfonso el Sabio y se continuaba bajo Sancho IV en 1289, ed. Ramón Menéndez Pidal, 2 vols. (Madrid: Gredos, 1955).

Sahle, Patrick, 2016. “What is a digital scholarly edition?” in Matthew James Driscoll and Elena Pierazzo, ed., Digital Scholarly Editing, Theories and Practices (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2016), pp. 19-39.