Book of Counsel
and Councelors

    1.-  When Sancho IV (1284-1295) was crowned, a polemic did raise: a section of Castilian nobility was with him, since they were all opposite to Alphonsine politics because of his admiration towards jew and arabian culture. Sancho IV will act against these fashions helped by his wife, Maria de Molina. Their orthodox behaviour, according to christian and conventional moral is known as Molinism.
   His most important work, Advisements and Documents by Don Sancho King (ca. 1293), is a collection of sentences, that will encrease along this century.
   Molinism can also be seen on the Book of Counsel and Councelors (ca. 1293), composed by Maestre Pedro, barely identified with Pedro Gomez Barroso, Pedro Lopez de Ayala's uncle. The book slightly follows a Liber consolationis et consilii (1246) by Albertano da Brescia. Our text often shows classical auctoritates -Seneca and Cicero- and others from the Bible. It is composed "by number of six" with twenty-one chapters dealing with moral subjects.
   We preserve a Book of Hundred Chapters, remake -or source- of some Flowers of Philosophy, maybe written or begun at Alphonsine age.
   Sancho IV reign was almost as literary productive as his father's one.

Miniature from Advisements and
Documents by Don Sancho King

Miniature from Advisements and
Documents by Don Sancho King

Miniature from Advisements and
Documents by Don Sancho King

French Manuscript from
Book of Treasure
    2.-  King Sancho was the promoter of two great encyclopaedias: the Book of Treasure, an almost literal translation of Li livres dou tresor by Brunetto Latini -Dante's master and ambassador in Castile at Alphonse X age- and the Lucidario, a free version from De Imagine Mundi by Honorius of Autun.
French Manuscript from
Book of Treasure

    3.-  At least two versions are kept from Barlaam and Josafat, a forerunner for later narrative: Barlaam -Berlan-, a son of the cruel King of India, Avenir, learns about the existence of death in the world. Wise Josafat will teach him the rules of Christianism. Taking part in religious debates and overcoming on women and ambitions of governing, Josafat makes his father a Christian and retires to spend a life of Sacrifice. He learns about Barlaam's death and died in an exemplary way.
   We also keep other texts as Ten Commandments, some Prosified Cantigas or Vernacular Miracles by Pedro Marin.

Manuscript of
Barlaam and Josafat

Printed edition of
Great Conquest of Ultramar
    4.-  An outstanding work is the Great Conquest of Ultramar (ca. 1295), a Chronicle of the Overseas Crusades -on four books, according to the printed edition of Salamanca 1503-: after a short history of Holly Earth -Jherusalem- the book deals with deeds by the Swan's Knight serving the Emperor Otto from Germany; then, with those by his grand-son, Gotfried of Bouillon, the conqueror of Niquea. A second book introduces Berta, daughter of Flores and Blancaflor and mother of Charles Mainete. This Emperor lived in Toledo and married Sevilla, a daughter of Moor King Hixem. The Conquest of Antioca, the defeat of Turkeys by Richard of Caumonte, the story of Baldovin and the snake and the success of Count Harpin, liberating the niece of Corbalan from a wolf are also told. A third book deals with the conquest of Jherusalem, the descendents of Gotfried and the foundation of both Order of the Temple and Order of Hospital. Fourth book ends with riots of christian kings and conquests by Saladin at Jherusalem. The whole book ends with attacks by Sultan of Babilone ca. 1264-71.
   Preserved manuscripts are filled with additions; the printed version shows a quote to year 1412.

Great Conquest of Ultramar

Manuscript Page from
Book of Knight Zifar
kept at Paris
    5.-  Book of Knight Zifar should be composed about these years. It is the first Hispanic book on Chivalric.
   Its prologue tells in wich way Archdeacon from Madrid, Ferran Martinez -to whom this book has been often carelessly attributed-, got the Cardinal and protector Gonzalo Garcia Gudiel corpse from Rome.
   Misfortunes of Knight Zifar began when his horses died after being used by him. Zifar goes out of his land; serves different Lords and loses his wife and children. Followed by a joker -a ribaldo-, he accepts marry the daughter of Menton King, but he recovers his wife and children when they help him against Ester King. Zifar gives them a good doctrine.

Manuscript Page from
Book of Knight Zifar
kept at Paris

Manuscript Page from
Book of Knight Zifar
kept at Madrid
Exploits by Garfin and Roboan with ribald -now called the Knight Friend- go on. The story of Bold Knight is told as well as the Advisements from Menton King, following Flowers of Philosophy or exempla, maybe lately added, from a Senecan origin. The work ends with new Roboan exploits: his love with the Rich Islands Empress, that made him become the Emperor of Trigida, and his weddings with Seringa Lady.
   Structure of the text follows a life of Saint Eustacius illustrated with moral and legendary tales or geographic digressions.

Book of Knight Zifar
Seville (1512)


Edition of the Glose to
"Regiment of Princes"

Seville, 1494
    6.-  Many Religious Treatises did survive, as the Book of Confessions (1316) by Martin Perez, written in three parts that make us learn many things about medieval society. Less pragmatic, though close to this spirit, is the Catechism (1325) by Pedro de Cuellar or the Sayings by the Church Fathers (ca.1327-38) by Lopez de Baeza: thirty three short chapters on the Master's and Friars virtues with an epilogue on Saint Jacques dress. It includes Flowers of Philosophy and biblical texts.
   A great number of political treatises can be composed from books of sentences or education for princes. They were composed about the second half of 14th century: and consist of vernacular versions, as a treatise On King's Functions and Rules for His Kingdom, by Saint Thomas of Aquino, or its derivations as the work by John of Wales, close to the later Treatise of Community (ca.1370). The first original work would be the Glose to Regiment of Princes (1348) by Garcia de Castrojeriz, on the work by Egidius Romanus. Parts of this book would be added to later versions of the Advisements and Documents by Don Sancho King, already quoted.

Book of

Edition of 1554 of the
Alphonse X Chronicle
    7.-  Ferran Sanchez de Valladolid is supposed to have worked a confused web of Hispanic chronicles as the so-called Amplified Version of 1289. Ferran did write the Chronicle of Alphonse X and the Chronicle of Sancho IV, trying to conciliate both royal characters. This gener would go on with the Chronicle of Fernando IV.
   Lately, new chronicles did appear: the Chronicle of Twenty Kings, a source for Poem of Mio Cid; the Vulgate General Chronicle, a remake of the alphonsine History of Spain and the Chronicle of 1344, a castilian version of a portuguese one reworked at 15th century.

Chronicle of Alphonse XI


Page of
Ms. Vat. Lat. 6423
    8.-  Doctor Abner from Burgos, better known as Alfonso de Valladolid (ca.1265-1346), showed consequences of his conversion from judaism in his many polemic writtings. His works were preserved in a confused collection of hebrew and castilian texts that show aragonese linguistic features. Our apostate fought against his old hebrew fellows as Yishaq ben Yosef ibn Pulgar. Alfonso composed a Book of God's Battles (ca.1295). His most outstanding work can be the Teacher of Justice (ca.1325). There, Alfonso tells his conversion to Christian religion. Offering of Jealousy was composed from a hebrew original text. Other works were attributed to him such as a Book of Three Creedences or a Treatise on Fades. He was mistaken by Saint Peter Pascual.
Page of
Ms. Vat. Lat. 6423


Illustration from the
Book of Hunting
    9.-  Legal work by Alphonse XI is important since it gave strenght to the Partidas of Alphose X through the Ordenamiento de Alcala (1348). Laws from this book are according to alphonsine mind.
   A luxury manuscript has been kept at Escurialensis library. It deals with major hunting with dogs: the Book on Hunting (1342-1350) by king Alphonse XI.
   Different versions of the Troian History (ca.1350) did appear: one is attributed to Leomarte; the second one, to Alphonse XI.
   A Chronicle of Alphonse XI (1344-1376) would become a Great Chronicle of Alphonse XI (1376-1379). Beginning of its creation was probably due to Ferran Sanchez de Valladolid.

Page from
Ordenamiento de Alcala


Escurialensis Troian Chronicle
    10.-  Similar to Troian History, other stories, would be written. They usually were prose tales with a french origin, included in chronicles or longer books. Some of them dealt with Carolingian matter already quoted between the stories of Great Conquest of Ultramar: Mainete, Flores and Blancaflor or Berta. Others deal with hagiographic matters specially coming from Golden Legend by Jacques of Voragine: Histroy of Saint Mary the Egiptian, Tale of a Holy Empress, and others with similar features, as History of Noble Vespasian, Otas from Rome, History of King William, Knight Placidas or Saint Patrick Purgatory. Escurialense manuscript h-i-13 shows a good collection of this kind of tales.
   We can find indeed Castilian sections of Arthurian legends and a History of don Tristan of Leonis, a primitive tale of Amadis de Gaula, prosifications of the Apolonius History... Many of them were best-known through printed editions at 15th century.

A page from
Saint Patrick Purgatory



Portrait of don Juan Manuel
    11.-  The most outstanding writer of 14th century was don Juan Manuel (1282-1348), son of infant don Manuel, a brother of Alphonse X.
   He was born at Escalona and, maybe because of being an orphan when he was a child, he developped different strategies in order to keep his possessions, dominate the futur king of Castille and improve his properties. Therefore he had to fight against his own king being an allied of the moors.
   From the inventory of his literary works there are, at least, two copies that make us think that it is today preserved in an incomplete way.
   His first book should have been written between years 1320 and 1324: the Abridged Chronicle, a sum of one of those written by Alphonse X.

General Prologue

Manuscript of Works by don Juan Manuel
   Some chevaleresque writings left a footprint on the Book of the Knight and the Servant, composed ca.1326. It points out to a lost Book on Chivalry.
   A Book on Hunting would have been written at the same years.
   The Book of States, is maybe formed by parts of different works between 1326 and 1330. It follows a story close to Barlaam and Josafat: at its first part king Moraban, father of Infant Joas, asks knight Turin keeping his son's education. When Joas discovers the existence of death, he goes to Castilian Julius philosopher who teachs him the Christian doctrine in order to save his soul in each one of the different social states: Emperor -full of anecdotes of author's life on war-, King, Infant, Lord, Duke, Count, Noble and Officer, with references to the already quoted Book on Chivalry and to the Book of the Knight and the Servant. A second part deals with Christianism against other doctrines and the state of both Pope and Clergy: Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Deans and Preacher Friars.

Edition of Count Lucanor by Argote de Molina (1575)

Manuscript of the Book of States
   Juan Manuel's most important work is the Book of exempla of Count Lucanor and of Patronius , best known as Count Lucanor, composed ca. 1335.
   It consists of two prologues and five sections. The first one is the most read because of its fifty-one exempla or tales, taken from different sources: arabian, latin or derived from Castilian chronicles. At the end of each tale a versified moral is given: it is the only instance of what could have been its author poetry. Extant four sections offer sentences, in a dark style. They also tell the way of getting soul salvation.
   The Unended Book, is a collection of advisements or sentences to his son: the author remembers him his social position and the priviledge he enjoys.
   As his ambition was beaten by the power of the kings, Juan Manuel wrote between 1342 and 1345 a Book on Weapons or Book on Three Reasons, in order to remind his own actions and reassure his points of view.
   His last work is the Treatise on the Assumption of Virgin Mary, a useful one to save his own soul.



Chronicle of King
don Peter
    12.-  The Chancellor of Castile Pedro Lopez de Ayala (1332-1407), born in the actual province of Alava, should have been an active reader of Chronicles and treatises on politics.
   He is the author of a Chronicle of King Peter, an extensive book on the difficult coexistence between this king and his nobles and neighbour kings. It includes two letters from Moor Benahatín in a gnomical style. It was often printed along the 16th century. The chronicle was followed by a shorter one on Henry II and two on John I -specially interested on Portuguese Crown- and Henry III, who tried to make his authority legal and end the deep division between Popes at Avignon.
   Different versions of these chronicles make difficult an edition of them. In spite of all, they introduce many characters and situations lived by their author and some quotes to himself and to his own family. Therefore these chronicles are very important in order to study this age and this Chancellor.    It must be remembered that Juan Fernandez de Heredia (Zaragoza, 1310) wrote by this time his Great Chronicle of Spain (1393).

Ms 1798 BNM f.1r on


Castilian version on
St. Gregory Morals
with a portrait of the Chancellor
   Ayala's prose would be revisited talking on a Book of Hunting of Birds and many vernacular versions close to real translations.
   Among them we find a version of the Morals by Saint Gregory, a Troian History, many works by Saint Isidore, a Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius -maybe with the Exposition by Nicholas Trevet- and, wich can be the most outstanding: some Decades by Titus Livius, with commentaries by Pierre Bersuire.

Edition of a
Flos Sanctorum (1544)


Book of
    13.-  Literature on travels finds a good sample on the Book of Knowledge (ca.1350-90), probably composed after written texts and not real travels. We discover an itinerary through Castile, Germany, Polony, Norway, Rome, Alexandria, Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, India, Constantinople and Hyrcania and we learn about banners in each kingdom.
   We also keep a version of the Book of Marco Polo and another from Book of Marvels by John of Mandeville.
    14.-  A short collection of tales, the Book of Cats can find its model on Count Lucanor. This Book of Cats follows more than fifty exempla from the work by Odo de Cheriton, that could have been translated at the beginning of the next century.
    15.-  Religious treatises are enriched with a little jewel: the Soliloquia (ca.1390) by S. Hyeronimus friar Pedro Fernandez Pecha (1340?-1402), who imitated St. Agustinus Confessions.

D.Miguel Perez Rosado.
Ph. D. in Philology.