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Philobiblon (sm)(tm)


BETA is based upon and derived from BOOST (Bibliography of Old Spanish Texts), originally compiled starting in 1974 as part of the computer-assisted Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language project at the Medieval Spanish Seminary of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The purpose of BOOST was to aid in the selection of the corpus upon which that dictionary was to be based.

BETA has evolved dramatically since 1974, both in purpose and in scope. Like its congeners BITAGAP, BITECA, and BIPA, BETA's purpose now is nothing less than to provide a comprehensive union catalog of the primary sources, manuscript and printed, for the study of medieval Spanish culture. The original 966 entries of the first edition of BOOST (1975) have expanded to the almost 30,000 of this new web version.

BETA focuses on texts written in Castilian, but also includes materials of cultural interest in dialectos afines: Leonese, Navarro, Aragonese, and Mozarabic, as well as aljamiado materials in Hebrew or Arabic script in any of these dialects. We define "cultural interest" broadly: all non-notarial texts dealing with any subject matter whatsoever—e.g., history, law, science, agriculture, theology, philosophy—as well as imaginative prose and poetry.

Compiled by
Preferred citation form

Compiled by:

Charles B. Faulhaber, University of California, Berkeley CV
Angel Gómez Moreno, Universidad Complutense de Madrid CV
Nicasio Salvador Miguel, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Antonio Cortijo Ocaña, University of California, Santa Barbara
María Morrás, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Óscar Perea Rodríguez, Lancaster University, CV
Álvaro Bustos Táuler, Universitad Complutense de Madrid

Preferred citation form

Because BETA and its sister bibliographies attempt to identify specific works, manuscripts, printed editions, and individuals (authors, translators, copyists, printers, owners, address…), we recommend that scholarly works cite their identification numbers in order, for example, to differentiate unambiguously between Íñigo López de Mendoza, 1st marquess of Santillana (bioid 1031) and his grandson and homonym, Íñigo López de Mendoza y Luna, 3d marquess of Santillana and 2d duke of the Infantado (bioid 3034).

The preferred citation forms are as follows:

For works: BETA texid 0000:

Poema del mío Cid (BETA texid 1109)

For specific copies of a given work: BETA cnum 0000:

Poema del mío Cid. Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional, Vitrina 7-17 (BETA cnum 1231)

For manuscripts: BETA manid 0000:

Madrid. Biblioteca Nacional, 800 (olim D-67, D-123) (BETA manid 1372)

For printed editions there are two possibilities.

The "master copy" of a given edition is cited as: BETA manid 0000:

Antonio de Nebrija. Gramática castellana. Salamanca: Nebrija (Impresor de la Gramática de), 1492-08-18. Madrid: Biblioteca Nacional, I-1259 (BETA manid 2022)

Another copy of a given edition is cited as: BETA copid 0000:

Antonio de Nebrija. Gramática castellana. Salamanca: Nebrija (Impresor de la Gramática de), 1492-08-18. Oxford: Bodleian, Inc. b. S. 97. 1(4) (BETA copid 1600)

For given individuals: BETA bioid 0000:

Iñigo López de Mendoza, 1. marqués de Santillana (BETA bioid 1031)


Text-type / Texto-tipo:

The texto-tipo is the specific copy of a given work used to establish its identity. I.e., when we refer to a copy of a work in a given manuscript or printed edition as the texto-tipo for that work, we mean that this text as found in this MS or printed edition is the touchstone to which all other copies of the text should be compared. It does not necessarily mean that it is the archetype, the oldest copy of the text, or the best copy of the text.

For example, there appear to be at least eight different translations of the Epistola de gubernatione rei familiaris attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The text-types for the three which follow are found in manuscripts in the Escorial or the BNE:

  • Bernardus Claravallensis (pseudo). Epístola de San Bernardo a Raimundo, caballero, su sobrino. (BETA texid 3758). Text-type in San Lorenzo de El Escorial: Monasterio, K.III.7 (4), ff. 1r-4v (=238r-241v) (BETA manid 3614)

  • Bernardus Claravallensis (pseudo). Carta de gobernación de la casa (BETA texid 4227). Text-type in Madrid: Nacional, 9247, ff. 117v-119v (BETA manid 2684)

  • Bernardus Claravallensis (pseudo). Carta de san Bernardo enviada a un noble caballero (BETA texid 4229). Text-type in Madrid: Nacional, 9428, ff. 29r-32r (BETA manid 3292)

As other copies of the various translations are found, they can be grouped together into families around the text-type.


The dates found in the descriptions of manuscripts in traditional printed catalogs (e.g., "s. XV in.," "middle of the 15th c.," "s. XV ex.") have been converted to numeric equivalents for the purposes of searching and sorting. Thus "s. XV in." becomes "1401-1410." However, this does not mean that a given manuscript was necessarily written between those two dates. The meaning is exactly that conveyed by "s. XV in." or "beginning of the 15th c."

The following equivalences use fifteenth century dates for illustrative purposes:

1401-1500 = s. XV
1401-1410 = s. XV in. (beg. of 15th c.)
1401-1425 = s. XV1/4 (1st quarter of 15th. c.)
1401-1433 = s. XV1/3 (1st third of 15th. c.)
1401-1450 = s. XV1 (1st half of 15th c.)
1426-1450 = s. XV2/4 (2d quarter of 15th. c.)
1441-1460 = s. XV med.
1451-1475 = s. XV3/4 (3d quarter of 15th. c.)
1451-1500 = s. XV2 (2d half of 15th c.)
1491-1500 = s. XV ex. (end of 15th c.)
1491-1510 = s. XV ex. — s. XVI in. (end of the 15th c. or beg. of the 16th)
1401-1600 = s. XV-XVI (15th or 16th c.). We attempt to avoid this; it is used primarily when "s. XV-XVI" is found in a secondary source.
1500 ca. = around 1500
1415 a quo = after 1415
1415 ad quem = before 1415

Exact dates are expressed in Arabic numerals in the format YYYY-MM-DD, again for the purposes of sorting and searching. See the following examples:

1463 = precisely dated on basis of colophon or other trustworthy evidence

1463-03 = March 1463

1463-03-08 = March 8, 1463

1463 a quo — 1475 ad quem = between 1463 and 1475 (Dates that can be deduced, usually on the basis of internal evidence.)

1406-12-31 a quo — 1423-09-18 ad quem = between December 31, 1406, and September 18, 1423. (Dates that can be deduced, usually on the basis of internal evidence.)

1453 [?] = dated in 1453, but without certainty

1453 [!] = dated erroneously in 1453

1493 ca. [?] = dated around 1493, but without certainty. (Usually offered by one source but disputed by another.)

1488-1491 [!], 1491 ca. [!], 1490 = MS or printed edition dated erroneously 1488-91 by one source, around 1491 by another, also erroneously, and correctly in 1490 by a third.

The dates of both works and manuscripts have been established as precisely as possible by comparative means as well. Thus the terminus a quo of a manuscript can be set by the date of the latest work it contains; while the terminus ad quem of a work can be set by the date of the earliest manuscript that contains it or by internal documentation. For example, the composition of Part IV of the General estoria of Alfonso X must have been finished before the transcription of the earliest MS that contains it, Vat. Urb. lat. 539 (1280) (BETA manid 1077); while the copying of Part I of the same text in BNM 10236 (BETA manid 1059) must have been finished before March 25, 1458, the date of death of Íñígo López de Mendoza, Marquess of Santillana, for whom it was transcribed. Similarly, Gonzalo de Ocaña's translation of the Diálogos of St. Gregory (BETA texid 1360) must have been finished before ca. 1460, the date of death of Fernán Pérez de Guzmán, to whom the translation was dedicated.


Changes over time
Scope and content
Electronic resources


Since the Dictionary of the Old Spanish Language (DOSL) was conceived as a citation-based lexicon, like the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Lloyd Kasten, its director, and John Nitti, associate director, realized that they needed to seek those citations in authentic medieval texts produced prior to 1500 rather than in modern editions, whose editorial criteria varied widely. Thus the first edition of BOOST (1975), compiled in-house by Jean Gilkison and Anthony Cárdenas under the supervision of Nitti, included references only to manuscripts copied before 1501 or to incunabula, i.e., printed editions prior to 1501. These were taken initially from the first edition of the Bibliografía de la literatura española of José Simón Díaz, whose volume on medieval literature was published in 1953, and supplemented with references to the pre-1501 Escorial manuscripts taken from the Blessed Julián Zarco Cuevas' Catálogo de los manuscritos castellanos de la Real Biblioteca de El Escorial (1924-29), the first catalogue of medieval Spanish manuscripts that merits the name, as well as the introductions to the various editions of medieval Spanish works and other materials in the Seminary. The sources of the second edition (1977) included the nine published volumes of the Inventario general de manuscritos de la Biblioteca Nacional (the only ones which had appeared to that time) as well.

For the technical history of BOOST and BETA, see the PhiloBiblon Home Page.

The first edition of BOOST (1975) contained 966 entries, each one listing a given text in a given manuscript or printed edition, organized by author and title; the second edition (1977), organized the same way, contained 1,869 entries. The third edition (1984), now under the editorial control of a team of outside scholars (Charles Faulhaber, Ángel Gómez Moreno, David Mackenzie, Brian Dutton), contained 3,378 entries, organized topographically by city, library, shelfmark, and folio order within a given volume.

Because BOOST no longer focused exclusively on providing support for DOSL, one of the first decisions of the new editorial team was to include manuscripts produced after 1501; although for purely practical reasons that year remained the cut-off date for printed editions.


In 1985 editorial and production work was centralized at Berkeley, although the editorial team continued to collaborate closely with Madison's Medieval Spanish Seminary. In 1987, thanks to a grant from IBM, BOOST was ported from a main frame flat file database into Revelation (later Advanced Revelation, from Revelation Technologies), a high-end, DOS-based relational database management system.

In 1993 the DOS version of PhiloBiblon, with three of its component bibliographies (BETA, BITAGAP, BITECA), was published on CD-ROM as part of disk 0 of ADMYTE (Archivo Digital de Manuscritos y Textos Españoles), produced by Micronet, S.A. (Madrid), with the support of the Biblioteca Nacional and the Sociedad Estatal del Quinto Centenario and under the direction of Francisco Marcos Marín in company with Faulhaber and Gómez Moreno. A new, revised, and expanded edition of the DOS version was published on CD-ROM in 1999 by The Bancroft Library. It is now out of print.

Changes over time

With the third edition of BOOST (1984), the original descriptions taken from secondary sources were supplemented with additions based on first-hand consultation of manuscripts by a large number of scholars, but especially by the compilers of that edition; and BOOST's scope was expanded radically.

Currently, all MSS of medieval Spanish works produced before 1800 are included, with selected MSS from the 19th and even 20th centuries that may reflect now-lost originals. As for printed books, some post-1501 editions have been included, chiefly on the basis of F. J. Norton's fundamental A Descriptive Catalogue of Printing in Spain and Portugal 1501-1520 (Cambridge, 1978). Increasingly we shall be able to take advantage of Julián Martín Abad's even more important Post-incunables ibéricos (Madrid: Ollero y Ramos, 2001; Adenda, 2007); although the editorial team has still not been able to cull information from that work systematically.

In the current database the Analytic table, which most closely corresponds to the original organization of BOOST, since it also lists a given text in a given manuscript or printed edition, contains 9,973 records as of March 1, 2011, more than ten times as many as the 966 entries of the first edition. The other tables in BETA contain another 20,000 records with detailed descriptions of manuscripts and printed editions, works, persons, reference works, and libraries.

As in any database project that has existed for over thirty years, criteria for data entry have expanded as the evolving data base management system has made it possible to capture more information. Thus, in the earliest years, only information absolutely essential for the purposes of DOSL was recorded: Author, Title, Present Location, Original Production Date, Specific Production Date, and secondary bibliography. Over time it became obvious that codicological and bibliographical data should be added in order to support the Specific Production Date; and that incipits and explicits should be added to help identify specific copies of a given work.

Most recently, the compilers of BETA have attempted to document exhaustively every manuscript and every copy of every edition on the basis of first-hand knowledge. Where it was not possible to examine the volume itself, such information was added on the basis of trustworthy secondary sources. Thus, during 2007-2008, the Zarco Cuevas catalog of the Spanish manuscripts in the Escorial was systematically culled for all relevant information, supplementing in exhaustive detail the original descriptions taken from it in Madison for the first and second editions of BOOST.

Similarly, the transcriptions, e.g., of incipits and explicits of texts found in a given manuscript, have been made more detailed. Thus the absence of initial capital letters has been shown by placing them in square brackets: [A]. The height of initials has also been indicated with a superscript to show the number of lines they occupy: [A]6 means that the space for the missing initial "A" is six lines high. Punctuation, omitted from the original transcriptions of incipits and explicits because of its arbitrary use in modern editions, has been transcribed from the originals. Line breaks have been shown in prose as well as in poetry. These latter details are particularly important for printed texts, where they frequently can be used to distinguish one edition from another.

Nevertheless, it has not been possible to revise systematically all records to upgrade them to the current standards. Thus in practice some descriptions will be extremely detailed and explicit while most are still quite succinct. Over time, as the editorial team examines every manuscript or printed volume in situ, all descriptions will be upgraded to the current standard. In the meantime, we shall be extremely grateful for additions and corrections to our data. These should be sent to Charles B. Faulhaber.

Scope and content

The number of manuscripts described first hand has increased considerably. The descriptions of those in the Hispanic Society of America have benefited from Faulhaber's work there. The BNE has also been the object of numerous campaigns to examine firsthand the almost inexhaustible wealth of its manuscript and early printed book holdings These campaigns have been supplemented with information taken from the detailed descriptions in volumes 1-9 of the Inventario general de manuscritos de la Biblioteca Nacional (1953-70; MSS 1-3026) and from the summary descriptions in volumes 10-15 (1984-2001; MSS 3027-11.000). The descriptions in the five unpublished volumes (MSS 11.001-12.981) were provided to us in machine-readable form thanks to the generous support of Julián Martín Abad and his staff in the Sala Cervantes, particularly Lourdes Alonso. In addition, both Gómez Moreno and Faulhaber have systematically reviewed the BNE's card files.

During the fall of 2006 the same scholars also examined the manuscript holdings of the Biblioteca Histórica "Marqués de Valdecilla" of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid as well as those of the library of the Duchess of Alba in the Palacio de Liria. Nevertheless, only about 1,000 of BETA's more than 5,700 manuscripts or copies of printed editions have been examined first-hand by the compilers.

Fortunately, the number of excellent published catalogs of medieval manuscripts in Spanish libraries has increased dramatically over the last fifteen or twenty years, for example: Catálogo de manuscritos de la Real Academia Española (1991), Catálogo de la Real Biblioteca. Manuscritos (1994-1997), Catálogo de manuscritos de la Biblioteca Universitaria de Salamanca (1997-2002), and Manuscritos españoles de la Biblioteca Lázaro Galdiano (1998). We have used all of these but still have not been able to extract all of the information they contain: Falta de mano de obra.

With regard to early printed texts, BETA attempts to record every copy of every edition along with the condition and provenance of each copy. The basic repertories of Spanish incunabula (Haebler 1903-17, Vindel 1945-51) have been used but still not exhaustively vaciados. However, we have systematically culled the Catálogo general de incunables en bibliotecas españolas of Francisco García Craviotto and the Adiciones y correcciones of Martín Abad. The major national catalogs have been examined as well (e.g., Goff 1964, 1972 for the United States; Pellechet for France), but not necessarily systematically. We have yet to tackle the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue maintained by the British Library. Essentially an international electronic union catalog, it is intended to be a comprehensive listing of all incunabula with locations of extant copies. However, it is still very much a work in fieri; and, unlike BETA, it does not intend to list every copy in a given library. BETA is also a work in fieri, but it is already and will remain the enumerative and descriptive bibliography of record for early printed books in Spanish.

Despite BETA's more than thirty years of existence, it is clear that much remains to be done, especially with regard to the detailed codicological description of individual manuscripts, the transcription of incipits and explicits, and the identification of anonymous works.

In addition to our work with texts, manuscripts, and printed editions, we have also paid a great deal of attention to the prosopographical background of medieval Spanish literature. For example, Perea Rodríguez's archival research in Valencia has added an enormous amount of information about the poets of the Cancionero general (1511), while the five volumes of the Diccionario de historia eclesiástica de España (1972-75; supl. 1987) have given us the names and dates of all of the bishops of Castile and Leon from ca. 1200 to 1500 and essential biographical information for the most important ones. The same work has provided information on medieval monastic and military orders, individual monasteries, and their leaders (abbots, priors, commanders).

BETA's reference bibliography does not attempt to provide comprehensive access to studies on medieval Spanish literature, a function carried out more than adequately by the Boletín Bibliográfico de la Asociación Hispánica de Literatura Medieval. Rather we focus on manuscript catalogs, codicological studies of individual manuscripts, editions of texts, biographical studies, and similar works rather than on critical studies of authors, texts, or genres.

In terms of subject areas and genres, we are confident that we have identified most of the vernacular fueros, cortes, and other legal texts on the basis of the 19th-c. editions of the Real Academia de la Historia and the manuscripts in the Escorial, although numerous post-medieval witnesses remain to be added. The listing of the major cancionero narrative poems is virtually complete. The texts and witnesses of the vast majority of the cancionero lyric still remain to be added, but scholars have access to them thanks to Brian Dutton's monumental El cancionero del siglo XV. c. 1360-1520, especially as found in An Electronic Corpus of 15th Century Castilian Cancionero Manuscripts, directed by Dorothy Severin at the University of Liverpool. Nevertheless, incorporation of the medieval lyric into BETA remains a major desideratum. The jarchas present linguistic issues that we have preferred not to address for the time being. (Nevertheless, the manuscripts in which they are conserved have been well described by other scholars over the past quarter of a century.) Except for witnesses that antedate 1501, we have omitted the traditional lyric, collected systematically by Margit Frenk in her Nuevo corpus de la antigua lírica popular hispánica (siglos XV a XVII) (Mexico City: UNAM-Colegio de México-Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2003), which spares us this task, and the romancero (catalogued similarly by the Seminario Menéndez Pida).

Electronic resources

Increasingly we have been able to tap into a wellspring of electronic innovation on the web. One of the sea changes that has taken place over the last fifteen years or so is the availability of web-based electronic texts and editions. Thus we cite and provide links to the electronic transcriptions and editions found in LEMIR (Literatura Española Medieval y Renacimiento).

Even more useful, for those careful scholars who do not trust any transcription or edition, are the partial or complete electronic facsimiles of both manuscripts and printed editions that are beginning to become available on the web. Pioneer in this respect was ADMYTE, whose 55,000 pages of texts and facsimiles, originally released on CD-ROM, are now available on the web as a subscription service (

The Biblioteca Digital Dioscórides of the Biblioteca Histórica "Marqués de Valdecilla" of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid was the first Spanish library to make facsimiles of its important collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books systematically available. One may cite such stunning pieces as the alfonsine royal scriptorium manuscript of the Libros del saber de astronomía, BH MSS 156 (BETA manid 1091).

Other projects provide partial facsimiles. The Digital Scriptorium, a collaborative project initiated in 1996 by Berkeley's Bancroft Library and Columbia University, has became a visual union catalog of medieval MSS in all western languages to ca. 1550. Currently it provides descriptions and partial facsimiles at extremely high resolution of 5,300 manuscripts from 27 American institutions. Of these, sixty-three are in Spanish, including:

  • Fragments of the only known MS of Amadís de Gaula, from the first quarter of the 15th c. (BETA manid 1182. Berkeley: The Bancroft Library)

  • The best MS of the Crónica sarracina, mid-15th c. (BETA manid 3602. Berkeley: The Bancroft Library)

  • A mid-15th-c. MS of Valerius Maximus' Dichos y hechos, with unique introductory verses (BETA manid 2848. New York: Columbia University)

  • A late 13th-c. copy of the Fuero real (BETA manid 2966. Philadelphia: Free Library)

Work on PhiloBiblon has thrown increasingly into relief the imperative necessity of adequate facsimiles, transcriptions, and editions of all medieval texts. Up to two thirds of all medieval Spanish texts are found in only one manuscript. If that manuscript is lost or destroyed before the text can be copied in some form, then the text itself is lost, and with it an irreplaceable element of medieval Spanish culture. ¡Manos a la obra!


A corps of Berkeley undergraduate and graduate student assistants has provided valuable assistance to BETA since 1987. We are grateful to Berkeley's Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program and Academic Senate Committee on Research for support. Undergraduates include: Nicholas Asbury, Eugene Chang, Charity Cuéllar, Victoria Dorn, Icela Pelayo, and Munir Simpson. Graduate students include: Heather Bamford, Miles Becker, Denise Cabanel, Adelaida Cortijo-Ocaña, Ana María Gómez Bravo, Angela Moll, María Morrás, Stephen Raulston, Israel Sanz, and Julie Ward.

BETA owes much of its information to the disinterested support of numerous scholars. We are indebted, especially, to Gemma Avenoza for descriptions of MSS and incunabula in Évora and many other libraries, to José Aragüés, Fernando Baños, and Vanesa Hernández Amez for their work on the Castilian translations of the Legenda aurea, to Hugo Bizzarri for references to wisdom literature, to Thomas Capuano for works on agriculture, to Juan Carlos Conde for information about 15th-c. MSS and texts, to Ivy Corfis for materials on chivalric literature and numerous electronic transcriptions, to José Manual Fradejas Rueda for references to works on falconry, to David Hook for information on historical texts, to Francisco Marcos-Marín for the catalog of the manuscript holdings of the Biblioteca Nacional de Argentina, to Georgina Olivetto for descriptions of MSS in the British Library, to Rebeca Sanmartín for those of MSS in Santiago de Compostela and Orense, to Jesús Rodríguez Velasco and Harvey Sharrer for materials on chivalric literature, to Sharrer and Arthur L-F. Askins for Spanish manuscripts in Portuguese libraries, and to a host of others for their assistance with specific manuscripts and texts.

The compilers of BETA are also grateful for the support of the following institutions:

The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Center for Portuguese Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Galician Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
DataBase Design & Engineering, Walnut Creek, California
Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid
Fundación del Amo, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Gaspar de Portolà Catalonian Studies Program, University of California, Berkeley
Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, Hispanic Society of America, New York, New York
The Library, University of California, Berkeley
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Spain
Ministerio de Economía y Competividad. Secretaría de Estado de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación, Spain
National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington D.C.
Program for Cultural Cooperation Between Spain's Ministry of Culture & United States' Universities
Research Libraries Group, now OCLC Research, part of OCLC, Dublin, Ohio
Portuguese Studies Program, University of California, Berkeley

WWW access to and use of PhiloBiblon are free of charge. Reproduction of any materials found here is subject to the restrictions found in our Copyright Statement.

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