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Castresana López, Álvaro. Corpus Inscriptionum Christianarum et Mediaevalium Provinciae Burgensis (Lincoln)

  • 21 Jun 2016 11:41 AM
    Message # 4089424
    Simon Doubleday (Administrator)

    Álvaro Castresana López, Corpus Inscriptionum Christianarum et Mediaevalium Provinciae Burgensis (ss. IV-XIII), (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2015), 533 pp., 1 map, 385 plates.

    Reviewed by Kyle Lincoln, St. Louis University 

    Epigraphy, as a historical source, is often overlooked by medievalists, especially when copious documentary evidence exists. With a volume as aesthetically and operationally pleasing as Álvaro Castresana López’s 2015 epigraphical corpus, the inscriptions in medieval Burgos will no longer languish in anonymity. “Los libros bien hechos,” Raúl Hernández García’s prologue declares, “no necesitan prologuista ni presentador que, según la vieja usanza, los recomiende. Este es el caso.” Castresana’s work is an excellent addition to the already exceptionally well-preserved documentation for the Burgos region, and is an admirable complement to edited documentary sources.

    The inscriptions of the volume are organized by municipality, and then sub-organized by their current location. For example, the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos is separated into its own series of epigraphical materials (nos. 213-283), and these are sorted by their location within the monastic complex. Each of the cloisters is given their own section, and an inset map, with the item number indicating the inscriptions location within each cloister. Although the abbey of Silos is an exceptional case, the quality of the organization and the attention to detail are indicative of the care Castresana has taken with the project.

    Each of the entries within the corpus of inscriptions is presented in significant detail with an extensive apparatus for each item. In addition to a careful transcription (and translation of Latin texts) and detailed measurements of each item, many of the items in the corpus also include precise photos of the inscriptions in question. In the case of better-known and better-documented inscriptions, a short bibliography is also included in the entries. To facilitate better usage of these entries, several indices organize the epigraphical contents of the volume along onomastic, chronological, topical, and diplomatic lines.

    In addition to the epigraphical corpus, Castresana has also included, for those unfamiliar with the use of epigraphical evidence, a straightforward and yet still detailed treatment of major topics and provides important resources to permit optimal usage of the inscriptions in other research projects. Included in this appendix is a very useful table of epigraphical contractions, which facilitates Castresana’s work to function as a non-linear reference for other Iberian inscriptions. These contractions are even broken down by the style of the hands—Visigothic, Caroline, Gothic, etc. The appendix also includes a number of other tables that describe the contents of the inscriptions thematically. Even if the volume did not include the 326 inscriptions, this appendix would have been very usable as a standalone reference libellus.

    It is difficult to find much to criticize in this volume, but a few items of note deserve attention. First, the locations within the volume are organized alphabetically, but these important descriptors are easily missed. For a reference volume of this quality, not listing the location in the margins— a la “Corpus Inscriptionum: Burgos, Real Monasterio de Las Huelgas”— is a disappointing oversight by the volume’s designers. Second, because the scope of the volume considers only Christian inscriptions, the vibrant and important Jewries of the province of Burgos are not described. (A 2005 volume from the Real Academia de Historia preserves little from Burgos, and had Castresana included this material, it would have been a coup.) Although these two items are of some concern, the total loss they represent is minimal, compared to the larger utility of the volume. The volume seems destined to be a standard reference in the epigraphical corpus for years to come.

    Last modified: 21 Jun 2016 11:41 AM | Simon Doubleday (Administrator)

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