2 weeks down, 2 weeks to go


While my research obviously stretches to the full 7 weeks, the heart of the research is in these first four weeks in Pamplona, Spain where I am collecting my data. After arriving June 1st, I immediately started work at the Archivo Diocesano de Pamplona (ADP) the next day. It was definitely something of a shakedown cruise. When transcribing 17th century Spanish manuscripts, there three main challenges: 1) the handwriting, 2) the antiquated spelling, and 3) abbreviations. Virtually all of the manuscripts that I am working with are court cases that arose because of an issue over the goods of a deceased person, who may have died with or without a will. The court proceedings and other documents within the case are written down by professional scribes who all vary in their handwriting, spelling, and abbreviations to some extent. It’s been a year since I last looked at similar documents, so it took a bit to get into the process. Something that at first glance looks like “oho” (not a Spanish word) is really “dho” which in the end is an abbreviation for “dicho” (said ___). I’m reacquainted with the abbreviations now, but the first few days were rough to say the least! Some scribes have gorgeous handwriting, while others make me want to beat my head against the desk. Spelling variations are probably the least serious of the three problems because they still fit phonetically with modern Spanish in most cases and I’ve read a decent amount of primary source material from the same period for classes in Hispanic Studies. “b” and “v” are constantly interchangeable and “c”, “z”, “s”, and “ç” can all be switched around, even by the same scribe in the same manuscript. “Viuda” (widow) becomes “biuda” while “vecino” (resident) becomes “bezino” or “veçino.”

Despite these challenges, the content of the cases is interesting. For these cases, the primary object of analysis is the inventory of books within the larger inventory of goods. When people died, an inventory was made of their goods, usually by a scribe, sometimes with the help of the mayor (alcalde) of the village or city. Each entry in the inventory can be rich or impoverished. It could simply say “Iten dos tomos de peralta” which means “Next, two tomes/volumes by Peralta.” Fuller listings of titles and authors, in addition to the inclusion of the size of the book and where it was printed, make it much easier to track down which book it is, in order to also determine its content and why this person potentially owned the item. Certain titles have jumped out at me as I’ve been transcribing, including La perfecta casada by Fray Luis de Leon which is a manual for the correct conduct of women (found in the library of a countess) and Arte de cocina by the royal chef of Kings Phillip II, III, and IV or Spain (in the library of a widow).

Other parts of the case that I transcribe include the will of the deceased if it exists, other sections of their inventory of goods (papers for examples), and accounts made by the court. These other parts of the case aid in building a bigger picture of who the individual was. My modus operandi for the moment is to try to connect the library of the individual to aspects of their identity, so finding out as much as I can about each person in an efficient manner is crucial.

My overall progress has been fairly smooth. I’ve gone through about 15 cases in the past two weeks, which equals out to about 1.5 cases per day. I’m hoping that I’ll pick up the pace a bit since more of the cases are on the shorter side now. Some of the first cases that I did consisted of 400 or more pages, which is a lot of material to wade through. I’m always happy when there are “abintestato” cases (died without a will) because I can move through them more quickly because of the lack of a will. On the other hand, I can’t use the will to infer any information about them. There are 12 cases left in the ADP (2323 folios or 4646 pages to peruse) and 1 or 2 left in the AGN. It would be amazing if I could get through the majority of them this week because I would like to be able to revisit some of the cases that I did last spring to find out more about the individuals. The truth is that if I only had to transcribe the inventories, I would be able to move much faster. I’ve been noting down folio numbers so that I can potentially get copies made of sections that I can’t get to quick enough, but want to look at later.

To me, the biggest setback has been the three women’s cases. From the original catalog entry, it seemed that these were the libraries of the women. Only one of the three can really truly be said to be a woman’s library. The first woman, Maria de Ceniceros, was the widow of a lawyer. Unless she was quite interested in law and knew Latin, it’s highly unlikely that the library listed in her inventory of goods are hers. They are almost certainly her husband’s. The second woman, Mariana Vicente de Echeverri, Countess of Villalcazar and Marchioness of Villarubia, has some books in her inventory that are likely to be hers, but not all of them. La perfecta casada comes from her inventory. I think this library might better be thought of as the library of the family. It’s probably my favorite inventory in terms of content because it has many books that are neither law books nor religious books which are the bread and butter of these inventories. It’s a refreshing change of pace. They include history books, but also many books about serving the monarchy or being a good “prince.” Mariana Vicente was the daughter and eldest child of Juan Echeverri y Rober (1609-1662), Capitán General y Almirante de las reales Flotas de Indias. She was chosen to inherit her father’s titles as Countess and Marchioness despite the fact that she had four brothers. I’m so used to the English system of primogeniture that I was surprised to learn that she held the title in her own right. From some preliminary research, it seems that Basque heirs are chosen by the parents by their worthiness instead of the rule of the eldest male. What a concept! In some way then, the books on how to rule well and be a good noble do pertain to her, but I think it would be impossible to consider this library as just hers. The third woman, Ana Sarrasa, has what I would consider a library that was purely hers. The cookbook, a book on how to sing, and many devotional texts appear. There’s not a law book in sight. Even more interesting is that she willed it and the rest of her goods to another woman, Ana de Solehaga.

As for the men, they’re all lawyers and clergy which means that they have law books or religious texts. What’s stood out to me in the men’s cases is the lack of Ancient Greek and Roman texts. They’re there, but not nearly to the extent that they were in the cases in the spring. I’m interested to find out why.

For the next two weeks, the plan is to transcribe like mad, read articles and book chapters on the subject, and enjoy Pamplona! The next update will be from London Rare Books School.

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