The Classica Hispalensia project

The aim of this research project on Classica Hispalensia (Classical Scholarship in Golden Age Seville) is to undertake a study of an important part of Seville’s cultural heritage. It will do so through the description and analysis of, and commentary on the bibliographical collections of the numerous works devoted to the Classical Humanities held in the city of Seville’s libraries.

The material to be studied will principally consist of all books printed between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, along with relevant manuscripts from this period, that address or refer to the teaching and study of the Classical Humanities. These include grammar, rhetoric, publishing, the production of manuscript copies of and commentaries on classical authors, medieval and humanist erudition, encompassing philology, history, art and science.

The majority of these texts are written in Latin, the fundamental Early Modern language of learning and culture, while there are also a considerable number in Classical Greek. However, there are also many relevant works written in vernacular languages, which will also be studied.

The Classica Hispalensia project seeks to offer both the academic community and a wider public a detailed study of the content and significance of these library holdings. Attention will be paid to the impact and influence they had on readers in order to frame these books in their social and historical context. To achieve this the only effective method is the detailed examination of these books, which will be undertaken by the experts who make up this research team, as well as other collaborating scholars. The selection of this research team is based on the competence of its members to ensure the high quality research required.

As a preliminary phase of the project a list has been drawn up of the authors and works that have been included in the digital exhibitions and catalogues published by the Rare Books Section of the Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla (Seville University Library). The Principal Researcher and other members of the research team have contributed to a number of these publishing projects.

During this first phase of the project, Classica Hispalensia I, which is the focus of this application, the following will be undertaken:

Manuscripts and incunabula: this will undertake the systematic study of the Greco-Latin classics, manuscripts and printed books prior to 1500, that are currently held in the rare book collections of two of Seville’s most important historic libraries, the Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla and the Institución Colombina, which comprises the Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina de la Catedral de Sevilla (Seville Cathedral’s Chapter and Colombina Library), along with the print and manuscript collections of the Biblioteca Arzobispal (Archbishop’s Library).

Each item to be selected, whether a printed book or manuscript, will be clearly identified by its class mark and the initials of its respective library, BUS or BCC, and then subjected to the following analysis.

  1. A bibliographical description, for which the copies will be analysed in the light of any discussion of them in studies on and repertories of codicology and the history of printing. The aim of this is to identify any differences in terms of the variants of production and the state of conservation of the item in question, as well as any one item’s particular characteristics and its relationship to the manuscript transmission of a particular work.
  2. Attention will then be paid to the content of the work, with regard to the critical renown of its classical author, editor or commentator. Reference will be made to any existing academic bibliography that has studied aspects of a work’s critical content or its humanist author.

III. Following on from this, the identification of the authorship of the edition, commentary and indices, as well as the prologue and dedication and other preliminary or paratextual elements will be addressed with reference to any relevant studies; attention will also be paid to the impact of particular commentaries, extracting if deemed pertinent, significant translated fragments.

  1. All the singular features of the volume described with be noted, such as manuscript notes, owner’s marks, inquisitorial censorship and expurgations and the provenance of the holding, with its historical class marks.
  2. There is also scope to study the impact of the material studied by drawing on the results of recent work on the language and literature of Humanist Latin, in addition to undertaking further research in other libraries to consider the contribution of additional printed books and manuscripts.
  3. The concluding section of the commentary, which will be produced over the course of this study, will compile the bibliography that has been studied, which will be noted with the the required exactiude.

This commentary written by the author or authors, the members of the research team and other academic collaborators, will be published in the Classica Hispalensia portal along with the specific academic bibliographical references to works that the authors have published while undertaking this study. Each section of the commentary will include a network of links to the different sections of the portal. These links will include the following categories: Greco-Latin classical authors, humanists, copyists, printers, type of work: publication and commentary, grammatical treatises, rhetoric, poetics, mythology, philosophy, history, antiquities, politics, visual arts, geography, medicine, sciences; as well as owners and provenance of the volumes discussed, and critical editions and translations of their work undertaken during the project.

These links placed within the portal’s structure will prevent the free drafting of the commentaries from lacking the efficacy and use of a computer database, yet by not being subject exclusively to the limitation of traditional fields, this multi-authored description will maintain a narrative feature that is essential to facilitate the reading and use of this resource by those interested in it.

The Classica Hispalensia project seeks in the mid and long-term to achieve different goals that will be articulated in the results of the studies on the bibliographical material that will be selected over the course of the different phases of the project and the research team’s schedule.

1) Greco-Latin and Patristic classics up until Saint Isidore of Seville in manuscripts and printed books from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

2) Works of classical erudition and humanities from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.

3) Reconstruction of the historic libraries of religious, educational and private institutions in the city of Seville in the early modern period.

4) Critical editions, translation and commentaries on humanistic and literary texts in the Golden Age Hispanic world.

The exhaustive analysis of the content of these works will establish the influences and innovation of the period with regard to grammatical theory and the new concepts of literary criticism in order to undertake a deeper assessment of the impact of new ideas. This will be achieved through the analysis of the period’s concepts of the paradigm of classical antiquity, the interpretation of history in political treatises and the impact of the geographical discoveries and scientific advances. The descriptive analysis of the manuscript notes left by the books’ owners and readers in both printed books and manuscripts will contribute to a reconstruction of the intellectual milieu that constituted the books’ readers and thereby their society and period. The data provided by this research goes beyond bibliographical and literary studies, and it will offer important insights into the cultural context of early modern Sevillian society, as well as offer a framework for further study of Seville’s intellectual history (Transl. by Jeremy Roe).