The blind spot: British Library MS. Add. 17906 and the edition of the Chronicles of Pero López de Ayala

Rosa María Rodríguez Porto, Covadonga Valdaliso Casanova, Ricardo Pichel Gotérrez

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

At a time when the massive digitization of the holdings of most of the major research libraries allows us to increasingly rely on the online consultation of much of the materials under scrutiny, multiplying the options for cross-checked referencing and quick verification, there are still manuscripts that remain under the radar of scholarship. That is the case of MS Add. 17906, an overlooked copy of Pero López de Ayala’s chronicles dated c. 1441–1460 by Charles Faulhaber
in Philobiblon (manid 1872). Since it only resurfaced in the British Library in 1847, it was not included by Eugenio Llaguno Amírola in his edition of these works—it seems to have escaped Jerónimo Zurita as well—and neglect has
continued in the modern critical editions published in the last decades. No doubt, the fact of not having ever been photographed and even less digitised by the British Library, despite having been summarily described by Pascual de Gayangos as “an old and valuable copy” of Ayala’s text, has contributed to the eclipse of this manuscript. Reproduction and canonicity tend to go together, and yet, a close inspection of the codex reveals an untold story, that of this remarkable manuscript and, in general, of the successive attempts at editing Ayala’s chronicles from the very moment of the author’s death. The materiality of the manuscript provides the clues to locate its production in the courtly realm c. 1420, as part of an ambitious project to create an “official version” of Ayala’s chronicles accompanied by illustrations that would have highlighted the messianic overtones of the Trastamaran policy. In fact, this is the only illustrated copy of the chronicles preserved so far, although its pictorial cycle was never
completed, perhaps because the working materials left by Ayala of his unfinished Crónica de Enrique III posed unsurmountable problems to the compilers. The codicological analysis of the manuscript also suggests that the
enterprise was resumed c. 1440–1450, only to be abandoned again. This rich picture of earliest—and failed—attempts to edit the Ayalan chronicles only emerges, though, when connecting the dots across disciplines (literary history, codicology, and art history), and overcoming the temptation of working only on what we can see on the screen of our laptops.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medieval Iberian Studies
ISSN1754-6559
Publication statusIn preparation - 2022

Keywords

  • manuscript studies
  • medieval historiography
  • Medieval book illumination

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