The manuscript from Estoria de Espanna.
The manuscript from Estoria de Espanna which will be transcribed by citizen scientists. (Credit: Biblioteca Nacional de España)

University of Birmingham researchers are calling for members of the public to help them transcribe one of the most important manuscripts of the Estoria de Espanna, a key medieval Spanish history.

The rarely seen document - an original fourteenth-century manuscript copy of a text written by Alfonso X el Sabio, King of León and Castile in the 1270s - is part of the first major vernacular history of Spain written in Spanish.

The research team, led by Dr Aengus Ward, intends to work with those in the public with an interest in medieval culture and/or the Spanish language in the online transcription (copying) of the manuscripts.

Citizen scientists will contribute to a crowdsourcing project which will be used to expand the first ever digitised edition of the Estoria de Espanna, and which will make it possible for its contents to be preserved, and also read and searched by people all over the world.

The research team has created an online training hub to help aspiring transcribers and palaeography hobbyists which will enable them to uncover fascinating accounts of Spain’s history from its legendary origins up to the death of Fernando III, el Santo –Alfonso’s own father- in 1252.

Aengus Ward, Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Birmingham said: “The Estoria de Espanna was the first, and is perhaps the greatest history of Spain to be composed in the vernacular. That’s what made digitising the manuscripts so important, and why showing members of the public how to transcribe it, and ultimately, to understand it, is so exciting.

“The text must be understood in 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. Participants will not only be developing their palaeography skills, but will also be able to explore the text and form their own interpretations.”

This follows a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Resources are available online and include training videos and tutorials, and each participant will receive direct feedback from a member of the research team.

Participants do not need to speak Spanish to get involved, although it does help initially.

Sign up or view the quick start guide

For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

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