Toledo School of Translators, RDA and Europeana Data Model


Xavier Agenjo Bullón
Project Director of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation

Patricia Juez García,
Assistant Director of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation

His Tables Tolletanes forth he brought,
Ful wel corrected, ne ther lakked nought.
Geoffrey Chaucer[1]


Miniatura  recogida del The Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators is a new project created from the collaboration between the MAPFRE Foundation and the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation, which gave rise, before this, to the Virtual Library of the School of Salamanca [2] and to the Virtual Library of Francisco Sánchez, the Sceptic. On this occasion, it was joined by the University of Castilla-La Mancha, an institution that in 1994 had the wisdom to recover the symbolic capital of that productive experience of cultural cooperation and created a modern Toledo School of Translators.

The consultation statistics of the information system of the Polymath Virtual Libraryand generally on the page Website of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation show that these are informational resources is of great interest. In fact, the School of Salamanca has been widely referenced by the specialists of the Pontifical University of Salamanca who, due to a project to publish the Complete Works of Francisco de Vitoria, held the 2nd Seminar on Editing and Translation of Manuscript Sources in which the Project Director of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation was able to speak about digital humanism, whose principles, among others, underlie this one. From a technical point of view the Virtual Library of Francisco Sánchez, the Sceptic reached the maximum impact on the virtual or digital library environment when Europeana selected this project as the Case Study of the Europeana Data Model (EDM) [3] in a Virtual Library.

Busto de PlatónThe Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators is a very ambitious project that presents novel aspects from the point of view of librarians and computer scientists and even from the point of view of the History of Ideas. This introduction is dedicated to the analysis of all of them. The authors hope that their approach will be useful both to scholars of the History of Ideas and its dissemination, as well as to those interested in the application of new information and communication technologies to libraries, archives and museums.

The first novelty is the selection of the authors included in the Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators. To the authors who appear in the most solvent repositories and in the most recent monographs, especially those of Professor Serafín Vegas, it was decided to add a series of authors who were also translators of classical thought, mainly Greek, since Latin was rarely translated, although it cannot be said that there are no cases.

In this Virtual Library it has been decided to include authors who translated the works of Aristotle, Plato or other Greek-Latin authors or who commented more or less exhaustively on the works of these authors[4]. In this sense, Averroes, perhaps the greatest philosopher to have been born in the Iberian Peninsula, may be archetypal. In fact, Averroes commented to Aristotle, developed Aristotle's ideas and, at the same time, developed his own philosophy which, although based fundamentally on the Stagirite (not in a unique way), had an enormous influence in the European Middle Ages, either for or against the period.

Busto de ArsitótelesIn Toledo it was also the case that Aristotle, that is to say Averroes, was also translated and has therefore been included in the Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators, although it cannot be said in any way that it was part of it. The same has been done for a number of authors, both Andalusian and Sephardic, although some of the latter have used Arabic as the language to write in.

It is curious that the school of translators was dedicated to only writing translations, and it is because the word translation has a very different meaning in the Contemporary Age to that of the Middle Ages. These important contributions were made known throughout Europe thanks to these "translators."

Background of the old Toledo School of Translators

In the middle of the 6th century, the Alexandria School, which until then had been composed of Syrians, Armenians, Persians and, later, Muslims, was by then Christianised. The process had to do with the contact of the Hellenic culture with the peoples of the Middle East, which took place mainly through the emigration of wise men- as a result of the religious discords in Byzantium - to the court of the Persian Sassanids and which became part of the school of Jundisapur. Also in the 6th century, Emperor Justinian closed the Neo-Platonic School in Athens and his wise men also moved to the East.

JustinianoIt was at this point that the work of translation began in the East, which reached its peak[5] in Baghdad, under the rule of the Abbasids in the 8th century. There, translations were made from Indo-Aryan and Persian for astronomy and mathematical subjects. Persian translators contributed, together with some Jewish teachers, to the Arabic translations of astronomy, algebraic calculus and didactics, which flourished in the Indus Valley.

At the Alexandria School, many authors and translators who expressed themselves in Arabic translated important contributions from all fields of knowledge. In fact, the Alexandria School was the organisation centre of the experimentation sciences, not only for the translation of works of Greek culture and was made up of people from different places and languages in which the Greek element was mixed with a multitude of elements, especially oriental elements, which were alien to Greek culture. In this sense, the old Toledo School of Translators can be considered as the continuation, centuries later, of the Greek culture of the Alexandria School, which it moreover greatly exceeded.

When the Umayyad Caliphate was established in the first third of the 10th century in the Iberian Peninsula, it did not take long for its capital Cordoba, to become a centre of culture that could perfectly well rival Kairouan, Damascus and Baghdad. This phenomenon reached its peak of splendour in "Muslim Spain" at the time of the Taifas and, although Europe was immersed in a crucial moment of wars and invasions, it maintained the continuity of its culture, which did not become completely extinct.

Mapa de España en el siglo XII: situación de ToledoThere were centres that preserved the "classical renaissance" promoted by Charlemagne, especially in the Irish Schools and in some monasteries in the north-east of the peninsula, such as Santa Maria de Ripoll, where there are 10th century Latin manuscripts containing translations of treatises on astronomy, technique and Arabic calculus. The influence of Eastern culture on the schools of Salerno and Chartres should also be highlighted.

In the Iberian Peninsula the most important translation centres were Tarazona and especially Toledo. The impetus and protection given to translators by the respective episcopal prelates[6] is the reason why many researchers have called this fact "School of Translators".

The truth is that the main centre was Toledo, not only because of the large number of works translated, but also because of the continuity of the works that filled the 12th century and linked up with the translators of the court of Alfonso X during the 13th century[7].

Toledo and the Mozarabs

Toledo was one of the most important cities in the political geography of Andalusia. The head and heart of the Visigothic kingdom was there. Its urban entity, its demographic density and the eliteness of a good part of its Muslim population, made it worthy in many aspects of an evident cultural superiority. The preservation of books, customs and traditions from its remote Christian ancestry and mentality had been overlaid by the elements and forms of Islamic culture: language, writing and training (aesthetic, religious, etc.). In short, Mozarabism.[8]

One of the major novelties of this Virtual Library is the consideration of the fact that Toledo was not the city of the three cultures but of four cultures. It is true that Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in Toledo, but the truth is that Christians could have two very different cultures: their own Christian culture and the Mozarabic one.

We know that the Mozarabs of Toledo used Arabic as a written language, and although there are few literary documents, there are numerous testimonies of this -at least until the 15th century- in the archives. The preserved documentation shows that the Mozarabs used Arabic in the drafting of contracts, wills and other types of written documents.

If we consider that no less than 300 years have passed between the drafting of the contracts and the start of the translation activity, we can better understand the great dimension of what happened in Toledo. We are faced with a community with a bilingual culture -something really important for the intercommunication of its inhabitants- in which Arabic was reserved for writing -primarily for archival documents- and a romance, very different from the Spanish dialect, which was central for speaking. That is to say, a Mozarabic man from Toledo could read Arabic perfectly, could express himself in Romance language and had knowledge of Latin, even if it was only that of the liturgy. However, for example, Domingo Gundisalvo, an archdeacon from Segovia, probably knew the Spanish of the Upper Plateau perfectly and certainly knew Latin, but he had to learn Arabic, at the end of his career as a translator.

Fotografía de Ramón Menéndez PidalThe importance of Toledo's fourth culture is what radically differentiated Toledo from other places in the Iberian Peninsula [9];  in those places, from Galicia to Tarazona, passing through Tudela, there were abundant and significant translations - although one can ask oneself if, as has happened on more than one occasion, was Toledo not confused with Tudela, as happened to Pedro Alfonso - Also in Zaragoza, to which Ibn Gabirol, had to flee (Avicebrón in his Castilian form), [10] in the Catalan monasteries and in Barcelona itself there was a great deal of translation activity.

In order for the translations to be carried out, it was necessary for there to be people who knew Arabic and Latin and who could work on the translation of texts that were themselves translations from the Greek language in most cases. This circumstance occurred naturally in Toledo. As Menéndez Pidal pointed out, it was only in Toledo that a task was carried out that reached great transcendence in the Culture of Christianity, [11] since its translating activity served as a bridge between East and West for the transmission of Science[12].

The libraries or armarium

As difficult as it may seem to us today, in the 12th and 13th centuries it was not easy to have the raw materials to carry out the translations. We know well what we do not know, that is, we know that we know little about the Arab libraries of the Taifa period. To cite one case, the figures provided regarding the Cordoba library show, firstly, that it is not known how the works were published (the number of works is confused with the number of rolls) and secondly, that there is a tendency to exaggerate when one wants to give magnitude to something. For example, Marco Polo's work The Book of the Wonders of the World was called Il Milione because of the constant exaggeration he made in his descriptions.

Foto de rollos de papiro: una obra en dos volúmenes o rollosFirst of all, we must clarify the confusion between volume and work. Although all specialists know or should know the difference, it is not uncommon for works to be counted by volumes and not by titles. In fact, for works written on papyrus or parchment, it was necessary to use approximately 6 or 8 volumes, i.e. rolls, in order for a whole work to fit. Thus, a work that we currently read in book format could be handwritten in its original form in several volumes or rolls. When the rolls were translated, in the text of the translated book there were divisions corresponding to the number of rolls that the original work contained. For this reason Domingo de Soto’s book in which he comments on Aristotle's work In VIII libros physicorum (1545) [13] refers in its title to the eight volumes which Aristotle's work on physics took up, although Domingo de Soto's printed book was a volume with 520 pages.

It seems beyond doubt that one of the characteristics of Toledo, in addition to the fourth Mozarabic culture questioned by some and fundamental for others, is the existence in the increasingly ruined Taifas, of numerous cupboards containing both libraries whose books were admitted by the Christian kingdoms to pay the pariahs that were imposed on them. In fact, the Armarium of the Banu Musa were notorious for their wealth.

The scholars (translators), stimulated by the large number of books kept by the Christian kingdoms, especially Toledo, travelled to the Iberian Peninsula in search of that excellent raw material made up of the manuscript rolls deposited in the cupboards of the Mozarabs. We must also take into account the aforementioned fact that these Mozarabs were able to translate from Arabic into Mozarabic romance and could therefore offer their help to scholars. This clarifies many doubts and explains some of the reasons that give rise to the Toledo School of Translators. In other parts of Spain there were also Arabs, Mozarabs and books, but in the 12th century there was nowhere that had more books than Toledo.

Did the Toledo School of Translators exist?

Perhaps this epigraph may seem surprising, but there are also some modern authors who question the existence of these schools, which we sincerely believe to be wrong.

Foto de Gonzalo Menéndez PidalIt is obvious that the schools as such were not constituted in Toledo with certain statutes or administrative principles as general studies or universities[14] could have been constituted in other times, but it is also true that there was a generalised process of translation around certain institutions which, although not all of them were from Toledo, it was in Toledo where most of them were carried out. Very few authors translated outside of Toledo and even these had some kind of relationship with the works preserved in this city. In this sense, the work of some scholars is very significant, such as Gonzalo Menéndez Pidal,[15] who transcribes the Incipit or Excipit of certain manuscripts from remote libraries in which the relationship with authors linked to Toledo's schools is recorded.

One of the authors who has most denied the existence of these translations however affirms that up to 100 manuscripts of works that can be related to Toledo's schools are known. Indeed, there is no greater contradiction between the denial of these schools and the mention of such a figure. 100 works are a lot of works for the 12th century, especially considering that many more are preserved. No one is unaware that the processes of confiscation, successive wars, whether against the French or the civil wars, largely dispersed the manuscript collections preserved in Toledo Cathedral.

Fotografía de la Catedral de ToledoIn this regard, it should be noted that the comparison of the catalogue drawn up by Lorenzo Frías[16], which contains a list of the manuscripts kept in Toledo Cathedral in 1808, and the 1869 catalogue by José María Octavio de Toledo,[17] the illustrious librarian who had the opportunity as head of the Manuscripts Service of the National Library to perfectly know about the collections of Toledan origin, present such important variations that it is necessary to clearly reconsider the matter.

Amable Jourdain is sometimes reproached for a somewhat critical view in his Reserches critiques sur l'âge et l'origine des traductions latines d'Aristote (Paris 1819) of the existence of a "Collège de traducteurs" in Toledo during the Middle Ages and Menéndez Pelayo[18] is blamed for what is nothing but a misunderstanding: the enthusiastic defence of the school of translators in La ciencia española. If you read the work carefully, you can see that he insisted time and again on the fact that such schools did not exist as formal institutions, but on the contrary they were processes linked to what he at one time called workshops and very often colleges. That is to say, people who were collegiated or associated to carry out a certain work.

The above is now easily verifiable thanks to the digital edition of the  Complete works of Menéndez Pelayo and his Collection of Letters carried out by DIGIBIS, currently accessible in ebook and available in full text. Incidentally, Menéndez Pelayo not only studies Jourdain but also provides us with a large number of works by experts in medieval philosophy that clearly support the idea of a School of Translators in Toledo, which during different stages, contributed a great deal of translations to the cultural heritage of the time.

Portada del libro de Amable JourdainOther authors who have denied the existence of these schools have made mistakes in the assignment of works by one author to another. Take Aimable and Charles Jourdain, for example. The latter was attributed works of the former, and in editions no less than the 1960’s, Charles being the son of Aimable and equally a scholar of Medieval Philosophy. Of course, with this kind of mistake, not much credibility can be given to the criticism of the Translator Schools of Toledo.

We have pointed out two basic reasons why these translations were carried out in Toledo. These reasons present, we believe, certain originality with respect to what we have known so far. On the one hand, the existence of the fourth culture of the Mozarabs, who knew Arabic perfectly and used it as a written language - the Toledo archives prove this no less than up to the 15th century - and, on the other hand, the existence of the remains of the ancient Taifa libraries which, in turn, would have come from Córdoba. Thus, Toledo brought together more specialised people and the necessary bibliographic material to do the translations than other places in Spain.

The work of patronage

We now turn to the identification of the leading role, which is essential for the creation of these schools and their continuity. Who could have been in a position to perform such a role? The Archbishopric of Toledo and the King himself played this role, which is why there is no doubt that the schools of translators in Toledo were a reality.

As Serafin Vegas points out, it is significant that, in view of the Church's efforts to increase the Christian faith, it was the Church of Toledo that made the treasures of Arab science and philosophy known and that it became a catalyst to spread Greek thought through these translators, Arabs, Christians, Mozarabs and Jews, whose witness would be later taken up by the court of the Wise King Alfonso X [19].

The first of the prelates to appear in connection with the Toledo School of Translators is ArchbishopFrancis Raymond de Sauvetât, a Benedictine. The pontificate of Don Raimundo (1124-1152) coincides with the coming to Spain of the also abbot Pedro the Venerable (1092-1150), in search of linguistic support with which to neutralize the Mohammedan doctrine from its own source, the Koran[20]..

During this period foreign scholars such as Gerardo de Cremona arrived in Toledo, who coincided in time with some peninsular translators such as Ibn Daud, Domingo Gundisalvo, Juan Hispalense or Maestro Juan.

Later, in a period of what we have called "transition", between the 12th and 13th centuries, this work of patronage continued to be under the tutelage of the Church, practically the only institution whose members had the appropriate training and the appropriate resources to undertake it. In this case bishopRodrigo Ximenez de Rada (1170 – 1247) stands out.

During this period the number of translators from different parts of Europe increased considerably. At this time, there were translators of the stature of Hermann El Alemán, Miguel Scoto, Alfredo de Sarashel or Marcos de Toledo.

Alfonso X en una miniatura de At the time of Alfonso X, there is no doubt that the monarch created institutions that can be considered Academies or Schools of Translators, in which there are translators such as Yehuda ben Moses ha-Kohén, Alvaro de Toledo, Pedro Gallego, Rabbi Ishaq ben Sid (Rabiçag), Abraham Ibn Waqar orAntonio Andrés. At that time, and it is a factor of enormous importance, the Toledo meridian was the reference point for the work of the Toledan Azarquiel and for the help that Rabiçag e Ibn Waqar gave to Alfonso X in the translation of his Tables [21]. The fact that the meridian was set in Toledo is, like the establishment of the Primate Cathedral of Spain in the Diocese of Toledo just 3 years after the conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI, good proof of the importance that the old Visigothic capital had for the reconquerors.

All the translations carried out between the 11th and 12th centuries were the result of the efforts of bilingual translator-commentators who, either alone or in collaboration with other translators or assistants, became fundamental elements for medieval thought, ostensibly standing out from the monolingual European territories.  The fact is that the transmission of knowledge model throughout this period coincides with the coexistence in Toledo of these four cultures that conserved Arabic and Hebrew and, above all, coincides with the activity of their best wise men, as is the case of Averroes (1126-1198) or Maimónides (1138-1204) [22].

In this sense, Gonzalo Menéndez Pidal in his fabulous work Cómo trabajaron las escuelas alfonsíes [23] already showed the translation process and we believe that the concept of Mozarabic as a Christian with a different linguistic background than that of a Christian from other parts of Hispania or the rest of Europe is crucial, since he knew written and also probably spoken Arabic at the same time as Mozarabic Castilian Romance.

In any case, as Menéndez Pelayo warned in his book La ciencia española that it was necessary, firstly, to have a good bibliography to guide the researcher, as can be seen in his book De re bibliographica; and secondly, it was necessary to search for the books and bring them together in a library and, finally, to make them available to the public. This was the aim of his private library, in whichRamón Menéndez Pidal, Adolfo Bonilla y San Martín and not forgetting Miguel Asín Palaciosstudied at the same time.

Later, this library was donated to the city of Santander with a single clause, which had not been respected for more than a dozen years, so that researchers would not cite Antoniana Margarita second-hand as much as the studies made it clear that the work ofPereira or that of Francisco Sánchez had respectively influenced René Descartes or Michel de Montaigne. But for Don Marcelino it was quite difficult to bring together the manuscripts or printed works of the authors of the Toledo School of Translators, since due to their antiquity all the editions are first editions of the 16th century [24].

Ignacio Hernando de LarramendiIgnacio Hernando de Larramendi clearly saw that the task that Don Marcelino had set himself should be carried out on the Internet, providing digital copies of this entire cultural heritage. It would no longer be necessary to go to the library where Menéndez Pelayo brought together a formidable collection of works by Spanish authors, in an admirable way and equipped with a rigorous method.  Don Ignacio extended his idea to Portugal and to the whole of Spanish and Portuguese speaking America.

At present we have tools [25] such as Europeana or the Digital Public Library of America that can provide more and more tangible evidence of such translations. That is to say, we have the possibility of seeing the works themselves, if not in our hands, then through the Internet, which allows us to draw certain conclusion

Thanks to these tools, we have certified important aspects of the digitized works. The direct consultation of the sources has allowed us to verify thatGerardo de Cremona, considered the most important translator of the Toledo School of Translators, did not work alone, but with socii.It is not possible to know what relationship Gerardo had with his collaborators, however, it is perhaps not too risky to suppose that the latter were writing an initial translation that Gerardo de Cremona later revised, which would explain the very high number of works he translated. The Virtual Library of the Old School of Translators of Toledo contains no less than eighty works attributed to the Italian.

The API of Europeana

Logo de EuropeanaUndoubtedly, one of the greatest successes of Europeana has been the creation of an API [26] that allows you to consult the entire Europeana database from any application that installs it. Thanks toDIGIBÍS, the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation has this API in its Polymath Virtual Library.

In this way, if we consult an author or search for one of their works in our Library, we will almost instantly obtain a considerably higher number of findings, since the search is carried out both in our library catalogue and in Europeana. As Europeana is increasing its funding considerably, the number of results will increase [27].

Our Polymath Virtual Library goes further and this Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators is an even greater step forward. Based on the fact that, thanks to the Data Exchange Agreement (DEA) [28], it is possible to reuse the metadata of digital objects accessible in Europeana through its API, DIGIBIS has developed a powerful harvester for its library management programme, DIGIBIB, which allows records located in Europeana to be downloaded into a work file and, after being improved bibliographically, can be incorporated into any other database.

Logo de DIGIBÍSOne of the essential aspects of the Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators, as well as of the previous virtual libraries, is the special treatment of the authorities' records in accordance with the new cataloguing rulesResource Description and Access (RDA). The fundamental task is not only to establish a preferred heading for an author, in our case a translator/commentator, but also to provide as much information as possible about their biography and historical and cultural context. This provides enormous unity and completeness to the records and the database.

This rigorous process takes a great deal of effort, but it is perfectly manageable and, of course, provides a wealth of useful information for the user. It is more difficult to identify the works correctly because of the frequent errors observed in the allocation of uniform titles and even in the transcription of the titles themselves, in the metadata provided by the different institutions. If the headings are already complex in themselves, the titles are much more complex, which is why it has been necessary to carry out an enormous amount of research in order to unify the records in terms of cataloguing. If it is also borne in mind that many of the sources were no longer in Latin or any of the languages of Western Europe, but came from transcriptions of Arabic and sometimes Hebrew, and never standardised, the work can be considered Herculean.

Dibujo que indica las distintas denominaciones por países de un autor. En este caso, Gerardo de CremonaNo less than 1500 works by 25 authors, i.e. translators, have been incorporated into this new virtual library; 1500 works have been assigned a main heading coded with a 1XX field of MARC 21 format and with 3XX fields to add semantic content and group the authors in different categories. This enrichment has been carried out, among others, with theVirtual International Authorities File (VIAF), where we have been able to observe the enormous discrepancies between the author-title records, both in the author and in the title, of the sources of bibliographic information selected and the information that comes from the contextual study of the works.

The translators of the Toledo School are quoted in many different repertoires. Mention is made of the works they translated or commented on, as well as the works they created from the already ex novo translations. However, one must give in to the evidence that in most cases the authors cite second-hand. It is very common and perfectly understandable on the other hand, that when an author alludes to the translations of a certain translator -which were later printed, either in the 15th century or at the beginning of the 16th century- he cites this without the work in his hand because of the dispersion that these translations have suffered over time.

So when an author mentioned the translations that Gerardo de Cremona or Hermann, the German, had carried out, it is seldom that they had seen not just the manuscript, but even the first edition. This also explains the enormous discrepancies that exist between the descriptions of the specialised monographs and the covers or other sources of information of the digitized books that can now be consulted within this Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators.

A truly costly and meticulous task that requires a vast culture, extensive and specialized professional training and access to an exhaustive bibliography that is not usually online. This is, without a doubt, one of the fundamental aspects, perhaps the most important, that add value to the Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators.

Probably no researcher from the period of the transmission of Eastern science to the Christian West or of the recovery of Hispano-classical science will ever have had these available from the works themselves, as he will have now, through the Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators.

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

Logo de la DPLAThe Digital Public Library of America has been operational since 18 April 2013. It is important to note that the DPLA will provide a large amount of digital information and it will be strange, given the importance of the participants in the project, for it not to become, like Europeana, a very important source of bibliographical, archival or museological information.

It is too early to say, but it is more than likely that the DPLA will provide important digitized collections that will help to increase the digital resources of the Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators. Over the years, American libraries, archives and museums, and especially the great American magnates, have acquired magnificent bibliographic pieces in Europe and Spain that have finally gone to an institution that has probably at some point proceeded to its digitization.

It should never be forgotten that the first edition of La Celestina is held in a North American institution or the reasons why that institution has this unique copy. If this happened with the first edition of the comedy by Calisto and Melibea, it is likely that it has also happened with manuscripts linked to the Toledo School of Translators, with first editions, with second editions or reprints of those translations that would have been so widespread in Europe. It is certain that this will be so and that is why the DPLA is so important, because it will allow us to search in a single place, in a single point of consultation, the information distributed in a multitude of institutions.[29].

The support that the DPLA has adopted the Europeana Data Model (EDM) as its Linked Open Data (LOD) model - it can be consulted in theMetadata Application Profile— has meant for Europeana is very important. The purpose of this introduction is not to assess the importance that this decision has had for Europeana, but it should be put on record that this will make it possible to access new contents.

Pantalla de la app que DIGIBÍS ha creado para consultar simultáneamente en la DPLA y en EuropeanaThe similarity of both data structures has allowed DIGIBÍS [30] to develop a pioneering application that allows the simultaneous consultation of these two immense databases. Through a single search the results in Europeana and the DPLA are obtained on the same screen. The application is offered by the DPLA on its Apps Library page.

Visibility and standardisation

One of the purposes that guides the creation of these Virtual Libraries is to give the greatest visibility to documents - whether printed or manuscripts, maps or photographs - and to Hispanic thought over 2000 years. There is no point in digitizing bibliographic materials if they are then stored in a repository completely disconnected from the Web or in a supplementary memory unit.

To achieve the highest possible visibility, digital materials are encoded according to a broad set of standardized metadata [31]. The experience of the Project Director of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation as the person in charge of the Collective Catalogue of Bibliographic Heritage, of the computerization of theNational Library, with its Ariadne system, or of many other projects of this institution, has clearly defined a line of work focused on standardisation. The FHL Virtual Libraries have followed the same vein. This principle of seeking visibility on the basis of standardisation has been a norm in the interaction between the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation and the DIGIBÍScompany, owned by the Foundation.

Logo de DIGIBIBThus, many of the specifications that have been prepared to develop the software for FHL Virtual Libraries have been part of the development of the DIGIBIB Library Management System orDIGIARCH Archive Management System and, vice versa, the development of these two systems or others in the pipeline will undoubtedly benefit FHL Virtual Libraries, as has happened in the specific case of the Virtual Library of the Old School of Translators of Toledo.

Logo del W3CThe initiative on digital libraries has already been known since the Lisbon Agenda, but it was the creation of Europeana and its incorporation into the Digital Agenda for Europe that gave the large European digital library its legal backing. Europeana has been developing its functional specifications, data model and regulatory environment in coordination with the W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group (W3C LLD). The final report of this international working group was based on the analysis of a series of case studies including the Ignacio Larramendi Polygraph Virtual Library, named thePolymath Virtual Library. The FHL Virtual Libraries have sought to adhere to Europeana's data model, the EDM, from the outset.

As the Europeana Data Model evolves it has been implemented in our virtual libraries. In fact, the last EDM specification 5.2.3 corresponds to February 2012, just when we started the Virtual Library project of the Old Toledo School of Translators.

It has already been mentioned that theVirtual Library of Francisco Sánchez, the Sceptic is one of the cases of the use of EDM for libraries and therefore there is nothing particular about continuing to adjust to it. However, based on long experience, it was decided to keep the MARC 21 format as the backbone of the application and transform these records to ECM through an automatic mapping process.

The harsh experience of one of the authors of this introduction, who in the mid-1980s had to learn how to create MARC records for exchange without specifications, has been definitive in guiding the project towards standardisation and for the transformations between data models to be carried out by the software in a way that is transparent to the user. Therefore, the data entry of FHL Virtual Libraries is designed for a complete cataloguing that can later generate records in ISO 2709, but also in EDM.

Resources, Description and Access (RDA)

Portada del libro de Amable JourdainAt the same time, the new MARC 21 format fields have been incorporated to adapt to the new RDA cataloguing rules. We believe that the most important thing, or the one with the most future, has been to introduce the necessary fields to generate links to the value vocabularies or datasets recommended by W3C LLD and Europeana. These recommendations have been an invaluable guide when designing the relationship model for the Virtual Library of the Old Toledo School of Translators, without which it is quite possible that many blind people would not have been able to use them.

It is not a question of giving a full explanation of the use of the RDA and the Marc 21/RDA format, since this was already done in a paper presented to the congress of theIFLA in Puerto Ricoand, a year later, in parallel with the progress of the FHL Virtual Libraries projects, in a paper [32] published in "Cataloging & Classification Quarterly”. However, we should dwell on the truly particular use made of the RDA, particularly with regard to the role played by the authors of the Toledo School of Translators. These authors, who as translators, would have occupied a secondary position in a traditional bibliographic record, as translators, but here they occupy a primary position. We have considered that their work is far from being a mere translation, but rather an interpretation of a work with frequent interpolations and in a cultural environment that is radically different from this one. Thanks to the MARC 21/RDA fields, authors have been grouped in a truly original way, forming different categories depending on the translated author, as has been done with Aristotle, Ptolemy or Averroes.

In addition, a systematic policy of enrichment of the authors' information has been carried out following the recommendations of theWC3 LLD Final Report and of Europeana. For this purpose, the aforementionedVirtual International Authorities File (VIAF) or the DBpediahave been used in a preferential but not exclusive manner. The FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology) and the  List of Subject Headings (LEM) were consulted for the subjects, which the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport published in SKOS two years ago and that has been enriched by links to the lists of subject headings of the Library of Congress, the Deutsche Bibliothek, the Bibliothèque National de France and, recently, the List of Encapçalaments..

It is evident that the availability of data in Linked Open Data has to give rise to new and more powerful functionalities for a more human consultation of this data, since the download of vocabularies or datasets or their consultation using SPARQL cannot be called user-friendly.

The Polymath Virtual Library's authorities and bibliographic records file is registered in The Data Hub and is one of the few cases included in this resource. It goes without saying that these records, like all those created from the DIGIBÍS applications and in particular theDIGIBIB 8, on which they are built, dynamically and transparently generate two OAI-PMH repositories, one for authority records and the other for bibliographic records, and at the same time provide EDM records which provide broad visibility throughout the Web, which is the primary objective of FHL Virtual Libraries.


[1] Chaucer: Canterbury Tales, 11,585

[2] Xavier Agenjo [et al.]. "The School of Salamanca considered from the point of view of the Semantic Web and information on the Internet". — In: Crisis de la modernidad y filosofías Ibéricas: [Minutes of the] 10th Hispanism Philosophical Conferences, 13-15 April 2011 / José Luis Mora García, Delia Manzanero, Martin Gonzalez, Xavier Agenjo Bullón, editors. — Madrid: Ignacio Larramendi Foundation; Department of Philosophy, University of Santiago de Compostela; Association of Hispanic Philosophy, 2013. It is available on the web on

[3] Europeana Data Model is a structuring of the data with which the various cultural heritage institutions contribute to Europeana. The design of EDM is based on the fundamental principles and best practices of the Semantic Web and Linked Data. The model is built on standards such as RDF(s), OAI-ORE, SKOS and Dublin Core and aims to serve as a common high-level ontology that allows interoperability while respecting the original data models. Martin Doerr; Stefan Gradmann, Steffen Hennicke, Antoine Isaac, Carlo Meghini, Herbert van de Sompel. "The Europeana Data Model (EDM)". 76th Ifla General Conference and Assembly 10-15 August 2010, Gothenburg, Sweden. 

[4] For this reason Étienne Gilson was able to speak about the triple reception of Aristotle at the University of Paris. Gilson, Étienne (1884-1978): La Philosophie au Moyen Âge : des origines patristiques à la fin du XIVe siècle / Étienne Gilson. — Deuxième édition revue et augmentée. — Paris : Payot, 1944. — (Bibliothèque historique). The Spanish translation was edited by Gredos: La filosofía en la Edad Media: desde los orígenes patrísticos hasta el fin del siglo XIV. — Gredos: Madrid, 1965

[5] In what is known as Bayt al-Hikma or House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where the influence of the Nestorians was remarkable.

[6] In Tarazona Michael (1119-1152) and Toledo Raymundo (1126-1152), under whose protection there were a series of translators who often dedicated their translations to them.

[7] Millàs Vallicrosa, José María: Las traducciones orientales en los manuscritos de la Biblioteca Catedral de Toledo [Print] / by José Mª Millas Vallicrosa... — Madrid: The Superior Council of Scientific Research, 1942 (Press.- School of the Provincial House of Charity), pp. 3-11.

[8] Benito Ruano, Eloy: "Scope and atmosphere of the “Toledo School of Translators” In Space, time and form. Series III, Hª. Medieval, t. 13, 2000, p. 17

[9] At the same time we know of other more or less isolated "Schools", such as those in Toulouse, Bezières, Narbonne, Barcelona, Tarazona, Zaragoza, Pamplona, León, Segovia or, especially, the School of the Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll.

[10] Until the 19th century, Ibn Gabirol and Avicebron were thought to be the same person.

[11] Menéndez Pidal, Ramón: España, eslabón entre la Cristiandad y el Islam. — Madrid 1956, p. 35

[12] José S. Gil, La escuela de traductores de Toledo y sus colaboradores judíos, Toledo, 1985, pp 21-24

[13] Where the "fall of the bodies" is perfectly described.

[14] As Villacrosa pointed out in his work, the contribution of the eastern element to European culture has undergone an uninterrupted march during the 10th and 11th centuries, but its greatest importance takes place when European culture goes beyond the scope of the Benedictine cloister to organise itself in a way that preludes that of future universities. p. 7-8.

[15] Menéndez Pidal, Gonzalo. Varia medievalia / Gonzalo Menéndez Pidal. — Madrid: Royal Academy of History, 2003. - (Key history; 33.)

[16] Frías, L. Manuscripts of the Holy Church of Toledo, Primate of Spain. I-II (Manuscripts) III (Printed), Toledo, 1808.

[17] Octavio de Toledo, J.M.D. Catalogue of the Cabildo Toledano Library. - I (Manuscripts) II (Printed). — Madrid 1903-1906

[18] Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo's complaint about the scant interest that Spanish historians of thought have shown in the school of Toledo translators is still valid, leaving aside the exception of the extensive research work of M. Alonso, Bonilla and San Martín or Millàs Vallicrosa.

[19] Vegas González, Serafín. La Escuela de Traductores de Toledo en la historia del pensamiento. [Toledo: Department of Culture, 1998].

[20] Martín Duque, Ángel J.: "The Englishman Robert, translator of the Koran. Stay and Activities in Spain in the middle of the 12th century". In: Hispania: Revista española de historia, ISSN 0018-2141, No. 88, 1962, pp. 483-506.

[21] The precision of the Tables was such that Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749-1827), one of the most outstanding mathematicians of the Enlightenment, continued to use Azarquiel's observations and annotations to make the calculations of planetary positions and predictions.

[22] Gargatagli, Marieta. The History of the Toledo School of Translators. In: Quaderns. Revista de Traducció, 4 (1999), p. 13.

[23] Menéndez Pidal, Gonzalo. "How the Alphonsine schools worked." In: Quaderns. Revista de traducció, 4, (1999), pp. 67-84.

[24] Unfortunately, it is not easy to corroborate these facts by consulting the automated collections of the Library of Don Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, since it must be the only one of its kind that is not automated and whose collections cannot be consulted through the Web. And we are not talking about digitized collections, but merely bibliographical references in a collection of no more than 30,000 copies.

[25] Perhaps in the future it will be possible to carry out a project that DIGIBIS presented for the Ibero-American repositories and which it called Americanae.

[26] An easy way to access the API of Europeana. Online news The recently inaugurated Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has also developed its own API. It should be noted that Digibís has developed an accessible application in the DPLA that allows simultaneous consultation in Europeana and in the DPLA.

[27] At the time of writing this introduction there is already around 27 million digital objects, a truly considerable figure that gives every hope that the objectives set out in Europeana's strategic plan for the period 2011-2015 will be met.


[29] We must not forget thatOAIster, at the time of writing of this introduction, houses around 25 million digital objects, but does not place the emphasis on bibliographic treasures, while the DPLA is sure to do so.


[31] The solution as always comes from the world of standards.

[32] An even more detailed analysis can be seen in an article devoted to the analysis of the future of Dublin Core in the overview of the RDA and LOD.