The Seminario de Estudios del Español Medieval of the University of Wisconsin-Madison was founded in 1931 by Antonio García Solalinde, one of Ramón Menéndez Pidal’s students at the Centro de Estudios Históricos in Madrid. Solalinde’s (1930) monumental edition of the first part of General estoria, by Alfonso X el Sabio, served as a source of inspiration for a group of students in Wisconsin studying Hispanic philology. From the very first moment of its foundation, the work of the Seminario de Estudios del Español Medieval focused on the edition of the texts of the Alfonsine cámara regia and the study of Spanish in the thirteenth century.
In 1935, thanks to a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, and with the support of the Centro de Estudios Históricos, Solalinde and his students were able to start the compilation of a large alphabetical archive of the vocabulary used in Alfonsine works. The textual citations came not only from the historical chronicles, but also from scientific treatises, such as the Lapidario, and board game treatises, such as the Libro de ajedrez, dados y tablas. In parallel, Professor J. Homer Herriot had begun the transcription and study of the works in the Aragonese language produced under the auspices of Juan Fernández de Heredia. Professor Herriot and his assistants at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, following the same procedures used by Solalinde, created what was then the largest lexical archive of the medieval Aragonese language.In 1936, during the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (MLA) held in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Rochester, Minnesota, a number of American Hispanists, members of the Old Spanish Group of the MLA, read a letter from Menéndez Pidal in which he approved the preparation of a provisional dictionary of Medieval Spanish as it did not conflict with the broader one he was preparing at the Centro de Estudios Históricos. The Group then decided to appoint a Dictionary Committee—Ralph S. Boggs (University of North Carolina), Lloyd A. Kasten (University of Wisconsin), Henry B. Richardson (Yale University), Charles P. Wagner (University of Michigan), Raymond H. Willis (Princeton University), and Hayward Keniston (University of Chicago)—and directed the Committee to prepare a preliminary list of vocabularies already available and to establish a set of general rules of entry for the dictionary. The final goal of the Committee was to compile a preliminary dictionary that would help scholars and researchers in the field. As a result of the collaboration between these professors, the two volumes of the Tentative Dictionary of Medieval Spanish were published in 1946.
After the untimely death of Solalinde in July 1937, the direction of the Seminario passed to one of his disciples, Lloyd A. Kasten, who maintained the research line established by Solalinde. That same year, the Old Spanish Group of the MLA designated the Seminario de Estudios del Español Medieval as a lexicographical center where new lexical material—not included in the Tentative Dictionary of Medieval Spanish—was to be incorporated into a new provisional dictionary archive—the so-called “Tentative-2”—conceived from its origins as a lexical resource whose primary significance was to document the semantic value and the usage of medieval vocabulary, rather than its formal variation.
In order to incorporate the new lexical items into “Tentative-2,” Kasten and the Seminario decided to use the methods developed by Richard W. Bailey at the University of Michigan for the Early Modern English Dictionary project (Bailey et al 1975). “Tentative-2,” however, suffered from two design limitations related to high-frequency words and sources. Before the creation of the citation slips with their corresponding contextual units, the compilers had to determine which and how many words would be included in the lexical archive, with the consequent and necessary exclusion of the majority of the most frequent forms of the Spanish language, mainly function words, due to the sheer volume of tokens. As a consequence of this decision, the lexical archive for “Tentative-2” actually contained something less than 40% of the total number of recurrent manifestations of forms documented in the texts included, limiting itself to providing only the oldest testimonies of each graphemic (orthographic) and semantic variant. The second problem that afflicted “Tentative-2,” common to many other historical dictionaries, was related to the use of later editions of medieval texts as raw material for the lexical archive. These editions are usually based on very diverse editorial criteria and are, in many cases, unreliable. That is, they do not satisfy the graphemic accuracy that is required in serious linguistic studies.
Surprisingly, the biggest drawback of the “Tentative-2” was not the mechanical or editorial imperfections, but rather its static nature, which did not lend itself to an easy and efficient usage. After many years of meticulous work, the enormous card index that constituted “Tentative-2” contained more than 12 million citation slips, covering more than 80 different texts. At that point, any attempt to reorganize its content was totally beyond the financial and personnel capacity of the Seminario. Thus, in 1971, after careful consideration, the lexicographic team of the Seminario decided to stop incorporating additional citation slips into the “Tentative-2” lexical archive. Thanks to the selfless work of Florian Cody, who for years worked alone transferring the paper files to electronic format, the second edition (corrected and enlarged) of the Tentative Dictionary of Medieval Spanish finally came to light in 2001 (Kasten and Cody 2001).
Also in 1971, at the suggestion of John J. Nitti, a former student of Lloyd A. Kasten and now his colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Seminario considered the possibility of designing a new method of creating a database of contextual citation slips, one that was exhaustive and statistically representative of Old Spanish. This database would also satisfy the needs of linguists and other scholars who require a solid basis for the formulation of theories on both diachronic and synchronic problems of the Spanish language. The creation and exploitation of this new lexical database could only be done by employing computer technology.
When the Seminario began to incorporate computers into their lexicographical work, it is important to remember that these were still in their infancy. At that time, all computer processing was done by large mainframe computers connected to video terminals, or by means of punched cards (keypunch cards). The first of these methods, the interactive processing with the mainframe, was prohibitively expensive, and given the enormous number of texts that were planned to be transcribed (more than one hundred million words), the second method of using punched cards was not practical. Consequently, the Seminario looked for a self-standing system that would allow, independent of the central computer and in an efficient way, the arduous and laborious process of converting the textual corpus into an electronic format. After a careful evaluation of different technologies for the transcription and electronic storage of texts, the Seminario opted for newly-developed intelligent video terminal technology, which had built-in editing capability, interconnected with a double tape recorder. This equipment allowed an interactive data transfer to be established with the central computer, greatly increasing human efficiency when performing the process of editing and storing the data.
Once the hardware was in place, the task ahead was still complex: if existing editions of medieval texts were not to be used because of editorial biases, and if all the data had to be processed by computers, the Seminario then had to prepare new electronic paleographic transcriptions of Old Spanish texts. Moreover, it would need to design and develop computer programs for the processing and manipulation of the electronic files, such as the semi-automatic verification of the transcriptions and the generation of concordances. Having determined that one of the most important aspects of the work was the correct transcription of the texts, the Seminario decided to concentrate its first efforts on systematizing the process of transcribing manuscript sources. A system for the semi-paleographic representation of the text was devised to reproduce the original source text and its layout as faithfully as possible. This resolved some of the problems related to the edition of old texts, both manuscripts and incunabula. This new way of transcribing was first described in 1977 by Kenneth Buelow and David Mackenzie in A Manual of Manuscript Transcription for the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language.
Simultaneously, the Seminario, in an attempt to select the most promising lexicographical material, began compiling an electronic bibliographical archive of surviving medieval manuscripts and incunabula, publishing in 1975 the Bibliography of Old Spanish Texts (BOOST), which in its first edition contained 966 records (Cárdenas, Nitti, and Gilkison 1975). In 1977 and 1984 this bibliography was revised and expanded, with 1860 and 3378 entries, respectively (Cárdenas, Nitti, and Gilkison 1977; Faulhaber, Gómez Moreno, Mackenzie, Nitti, and Dutton 1984). In 1985, the BOOST headquarters were transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, even though the editorial team continued to collaborate closely with the Seminario at Madison. In 1993, the MS-DOS version of BOOST, renamed the Bibliografía Española de Textos Antiguos (BETA), was published on CD-ROM as part of ADMYTE disc 0. In 1997, PhiloBiblon, the online version of BOOST / BETA, was launched by Professor Charles B. Faulhaber of the University of California, Berkeley (Faulhaber 1997-).
In 1975, thanks to a research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Seminario launched the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language (DOSL) project. In its first stage, the work focused on the development of a dictionary based on the vocabulary of the texts considered to have emanated from the Royal Scriptorium of Alfonso X. The paleographic transcription of this collection of manuscripts took three years to complete; it was published in 1978 in 112 microfiches. The textual corpus, consisting of around three million words, covers a very broad thematic spectrum and offers a great variety of lexical and morphological items. Using the software developed by the Seminario, electronic citation slips were extracted from the paleographic transcriptions; they were then painstakingly defined and subsequently processed into dictionary format. After more than 25 years of work, the Diccionario de la prosa castellana de Alfonso X el Sabio was finally published in 2002 (Kasten and Nitti 2002). In addition to the information found in most dictionaries (lemmata, grammatical category, and definitions), this dictionary included citations or context units of dated testimonies arranged chronologically within each entry, and an exhaustive list of the documented forms, collecting all the variants, both graphemic and morphological.
The efforts of the Seminario have not been limited to the Alfonsine corpus, and over the years a series of lexicographic works, compiled with the same methodology developed for DOSL, have been published: Diccionario de textos médicos antiguos (Herrera 1996), “Diccionario de términos militares del castellano medieval” (Gago Jover 1997), “A Dictionary of the Castilian Contained in the Works of Antonio Nebrija” (O’Neill 1997), Diccionario español de documentos alfonsíes (Sánchez, Herrera, and González de Fauve 2000), “Variación e innovación léxica: las Siete Partidas (1491)” (Tejedo-Herrero 2005), and Diccionario herbario de textos antiguos y premodernos (Capuano 2017).
In the mid-1970’s, Kasten and Nitti founded the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies (HSMS, or the Seminary), a non-profit publisher, in Madison, Wisconsin. HSMS’ purpose was to disseminate the scholarly research produced by members and collaborators of the Seminario. In 1999, under the direction of John O’Neill, Nitti’s former student, HSMS moved its headquarters to New York, inserting itself in the structure of the Hispanic Society of America. To date, HSMS has published more than 350 titles in different formats (book, microfiche, and CD-ROM) in its various series. Around the turn of the twenty-first century, aware of the difficulties that browsing and searching in static formats (microfiche, CD-ROM) presented to researchers, HSMS started porting some of its materials to digital format. Below we provide a brief historical overview of some of the Seminary’s most important digital projects.
In 1982, HSMS began to publish Peter Boyd-Bowman’s Léxico hispanoamericano (LHA) in microfiche format (1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1994). By 1994, John Nitti and the late Ray Harris-Northall, with a research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, undertook the enormous task of combining the five individual century collections into a single electronic corpus. The Seminary published the Léxico hispanoamericano 1493-1993 database on CD-ROM in 2003 (Harris-Northall and Nitti 2003). In 2007, under the direction of Ivy A. Corfis, the LHA was ported to its current online format (Corfis 2007).
In 1987 and 1993 David Billick and Steven Dworkin published the first and second editions of the Lexical Studies of Medieval Spanish Texts, an annotated bibliography, listing concordances, glossaries, vocabularies, and selected word studies for Spanish texts written between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries (Billick and Dworkin 1987; Dworkin and Billick 1993). In 2004, frustrated with the difficulties of updating the printed bibliography, the authors, in collaboration with Francisco Gago Jover, decided to create an online version of the bibliography (Dworkin and Gago Jover 2004). In 2011, Michael Ferreira and Ernesto González-Seoane launched a related online bibliography, the Lexical Studies of Medieval Galician-Portuguese Texts (Ferreira, Gago Jover, and González-Seoane 2011), which lists similar works for Galician-Portuguese texts written between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The Seminary launched the Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts / Biblioteca Digital de Textos del Español Antiguo (DLOST/BiDTEA) in 2011. DLOST/BiDTEA is a free online resource that offers interactive access to the semi-paleographic transcriptions prepared by the collaborators of the HSMS, as well as to a series of indexes (alphabetical, frequency, reverse alphabetical), and concordances in KWIC format. The texts contained in each of DLOST/BiDTEA’s collections, or corpora, are grouped according to author, subject, dialect, geographic region, or literary genre.
Some 40 years after its creation, the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies decided to revisit one of John Nitti’s visionary projects—the Old Spanish Archive (OSA)—which he described as “a repository not only of all the machine-readable manuscripts and concordances of those works represented in DOSL, but also of the color and black and white microfiche reproductions of those original Old Spanish manuscripts and incunabula” (Nitti 1978:52). He further envisioned the OSA becoming “a research archive open to any interested scholars wishing to make use of its facilities,” and that eventually information retrieval will be carried out via the computer, linking the magnetically-stored, machine-readable text transcriptions and concordances to the photographic archive of the original manuscripts and incunabula (52). Due to the limited capabilities of computer processing, storage, and electronic transmission available at the time of its conception, the OSA project had to be postponed until new technological advances would make it possible.
The project, now named the Old Spanish Textual Archive (OSTA), was launched in 2015. Once completed, OSTA, will contain around 30 million words, and its online interface will allow, at the most basic level, to search for a word, prefix, suffix, root, or phrase, find the first occurrence, see all occurrences in context, and the corresponding frequencies. However, because OSTA has been lemmatized and tagged for part of speech, researchers will also be able to perform more complex searches, such as particular syntactic constructions, the orthographical variants of any noun, or the most frequent collocates of a given word. Finally, thanks to the large amount of metadata added to the corpus, it will be possible to perform very complex searches, such as adjectives that first appeared in the 1400s, the lexical inventory of a particular author, or compare the frequency of a word or phrase in different time periods, authors and genres.
More than forty five years after its foundation, the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, faithful to the original vision of Lloyd A. Kasten and John J. Nitti, continues its dedication to the dissemination of academic research related to Ibero-Romance languages and literatures.
- ADMYTE: Archivo Digital de Manuscritos y Textos Españoles, 0. 1992. Madrid: Micronet. CD-ROM.
- Bailey, Richard W., James W. Downer, and Jay L. Robinson. 1975. Michigan Early Modern English Materials. Ann Arbor: Xerox University Microfilms.
- Billick, David J, and Steven N. Dworkin. 1987. Lexical Studies of Medieval Spanish Texts: A Bibliography of Concordances, Glossaries, Vocabularies and Selected Word Studies. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Boggs, R[alph] S[teele], Lloyd A. Kasten, Hayward Keniston, and H[enry] B. Richardson. 1946. Tentative Dictionary of Medieval Spanish. 2 vols. Chapel Hill.
- Boyd-Bowman, Peter. 1982. Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XVIII. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. Microfiche.
- Boyd-Bowman, Peter. 1983. Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XVII. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. Microfiche.
- Boyd-Bowman, Peter. 1984. Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XIX. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. Microfiche.
- Boyd-Bowman, Peter. 1987. Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XVI. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. Microfiche.
- Boyd-Bowman, Peter. 1994. Léxico hispanoamericano del siglo XX. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. Microfiche.
- Buelow, Kenneth, and David Mackenzie. 1977. A Manual of Manuscript Transcription for the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Capuano, Thomas M. 2017. Diccionario herbario de textos antiguos y premodernos. New York: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Cárdenas, Anthony J., John J. Nitti, and Jean Gilkison, eds. 1975. Bibliography of Old Spanish Texts (Literary Texts). Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- _____. 1977. Bibliography of Old Spanish Texts (Literary Texts). 2nd ed. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Corfis, Ivy A., ed. 2007. Peter Boyd-Bowman’s Léxico hispanoamericano 1493-1993. Edited by Ray Harris-Northall and John J. Nitti. New York: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 2003-2007. [online]
- Dworkin, Steven N., and David J. Billick. 1993. Lexical Studies of Medieval Spanish Texts: A Bibliography of Concordances, Glossaries, Vocabularies and Selected Word Studies. 2nd edition. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Dworkin, Steven N., and Francisco Gago Jover. 2004. Lexical Studies of Medieval Spanish Texts. New York: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. [online]
- Faulhaber, Charles B., dir. 1997-. BETA (Bibliografía Española de Textos Antiguos). The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley. [online]
- Faulhaber, Charles B., Ángel Gómez Moreno, David Mackenzie, John J. Nitti, and Brian Dutton. 1984. Bibliography of Old Spanish Texts. 3rd edition. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Ferreira, Michael J., Francisco Gago Jover, and Ernesto González-Seoane. 2011. Lexical Studies of Medieval Galician-Portuguese Texts. New York: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco. 1997. “Diccionario de términos militares del castellano medieval.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- _____, ed. 2013. Spanish Legal Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- _____. 2015a. Spanish Chronicle Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- _____. 2015b. Spanish Poetic Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, John Beusterien, Terrence Mannetter, and John O’Neill, eds. 2017. Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, Ivy A. Corfis, John O’Neill, Theodore S. Beardsley, Jr., and John J. Nitti, eds. 2015. Early “Celestina” Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, Andrés Enrique Arias, and F. Javier Pueyo Mena, eds. 2014. Spanish Biblical Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, María Teresa Herrera, and María Estela González de Fauve, eds. 2012. Spanish Medical Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, Lloyd A. Kasten, and John J. Nitti, eds. 2013. Navarro-Aragonese Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, Lloyd A. Kasten, John J. Nitti, and Wilhelmina Jonxis-Henkemans, eds. 2011. Prose Works of Alfonso X el sabio. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, and F. Javier Pueyo Mena. 2018a. “El Old Spanish Textual Archive: diseño desarrollo y desarrollo de un corpus de textos medievales: el corpus textual.” Cuadernos del Instituto Historia de la Lengua 11:165-209. [pdf]
- _____. 2018b. “El Old Spanish Textual Archive: diseño desarrollo y desarrollo de un corpus de textos medievales: lematización y etiquetado gramatical.” Scriptum Digital 7:25-35. [pdf]
- Gago Jover, Francisco, and Franklin Waltman, eds. 2017. Fuero General de Navarra Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Gilkison Mackenzie, Jean. 1984. A Lexicon of the 14th-Century Aragonese Manuscripts of Juan Fernández de Heredia. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Harris-Northall, Ray, and John J. Nitti. 2003. Peter Boyd-Bowman’s Léxico hispanoamericano 1493-1993. New York: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. CD-ROM.
- Herrera, María Teresa. 1996. Diccionario español de textos médicos antiguos. Madrid: Arco Libros.
- Kania, Sonia, and Francisco Gago Jover, eds. 2018-. Colonial Texts. Digital Library of Old Spanish Texts. [online]
- Kasten, Lloyd A., and John J. Nitti. 2002. Diccionario de la prosa castellana del Rey Alfonso X. 3 vols. New York: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Kasten, Lloyd A., and Florian J. Cody. 2001. Tentative Dictionary of Medieval Spanish. 2nd edition. New York: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- Kasten, Lloyd A., John J. Nitti, and Jean Anderson, eds. 1978. Concordances and Texts of the Royal Scriptorium Manuscripts of Alfonso X, el Sabio. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. Microfiche.
- Mackenzie, David. 1981. A Manual of Manuscript Transcription for the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language. 2nd edition. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- _____. 1984. A Manual of Manuscript Transcription for the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language. (With Spanish translation by José Luis Moure). 3rd edition. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- _____. 1986. A Manual of Manuscript Transcription for the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language. 4th edition by Victoria A. Burrus. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies.
- _____. 1997. A Manual of Manuscript Transcription for the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language. 5th edition by Ray Harris-Northall. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies. [pdf]
- Nitti, John J. 1978. “Computers and the Old Spanish Dictionary.” Computers and the Humanities 12(1-2):43-52.
- Nyhan, Julianne, and Andrew Flinn. 2016. “There Had to Be a Better Way: John Nitti and Julianne Nyhan.” Computation and the Humanities: Towards an Oral History of Digital Humanities. Cham: Springer. [pdf]
- O’Neill, John. 1997. “A dictionary of the Castilian contained in the works of Antonio de Nebrija.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Sánchez, María Nieves, María Teresa Herrera, and María Estela González de Fauve. 2000. Diccionario español de documentos alfonsíes. Madrid: Arco Libros.
- Santa Olalla, Aurora. Manual de transcripción para el Diccionario del Español Antiguo. 4ª edición. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1992.
- Solalinde, Antonio G., ed. 1930. Alfonso el Sabio, General estoria. Primera parte. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Históricos.
- Tejedo-Herrero, Fernando. 2005. “Variación e innovación léxica: las Siete Partidas (1491).” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison.