Kathleen Price and Dr. Jeff Turley, Spanish and Portuguese
This project entitled “Out of Obscurity” required the transcription of twenty letters dictated by King Philip II of Spain in 1592 during Spain’s naval wars against England and France. Most of the documents generated by Philip II, also known as the “paper king” for his prolific output of official documents, are carefully housed in the Archive of Simancas near Valladolid, Spain, making them difficult for U.S. students to access and study. However, through a generous donation made to the Department of Collections and Manuscripts in Harold B. Lee Library of Brigham Young University, professors and students alike have the opportunity to see and touch for themselves a collection of naval orders given by Philip II from 1592 to 1597. These orders deal with a variety of topics from the capture of enemy soldiers and the construction of warships to the appointment of military officers. While inaccessibility is no longer a problem, obstacles still remain, primarily difficulties of reading the scribes’ handwriting and comprehending Old Spanish.
My work was to remove these obstacles so that all could enjoy and benefit from these historical documents. Because of my experience with old handwriting styles from previous research, I was able to transcribe most of the contents of the letters. It was not, however without difficulty and assistance from my mentor. Some of the more significant challenges come from the fact that the paper is old, wrinkled and deteriorating. The ink is often smudged making the lettering almost impossible to decipher. Aside from the physical condition of the documents, the grammar and handwriting used within is different than that of today; Capitalization, spelling and punctuation are sporadic and nonuniform; Spaces do not necessarily indicate word boundaries as the lack of space between letters does not always indicate that they belong in the same word; Abbreviations are common; A certain letter can appear in many different forms within the same document; Some words are archaic and have dropped from modern vocabulary. Fortunately, most of these difficulties can be overcome with careful and lengthy study.
Through my transcriptions, Spanish speakers now have the opportunity to read for themselves a part of European history. With future translations, English speakers will also be able to read and study the words of the great Catholic King, Philip II of Spain. The following are excerpts from three of the letters I transcribed. This small portion is representative of my entire project.
FIG. 1 Excerpt from letter dated July 11, 1592
FIG. 2 Excerpt from letter dated August 24, 1592
FIG. 3.Excerpt from letter dated October 11, 1592. Signature of Philip II “Yo El Rey” (I the King)