We have completed the catalog of the incunables of the Monastery of La Real in Mallorca. Besides the description of the volumes, the DVD also contains their complete facsimile. Tomorrow I take with me the first copy to Mallorca. We will present it on this weekend in the library of the monastery, and if we will be granted nihil obstat, we will publish it on the site of Studiolum already in the next week.
In Studiolum we primarily publish old prints with a thorough apparatus: searchable transcriptions, notes and commentaries, contemporary translations and extensive cross-references. As a consequence, we are more and more invited to collaborate in the preparation of annotated facsimile editions of manuscripts, codices, old books, engravings, archive photos either on DVD or on the web. This is how we started, besides other ongoing projects, the publication of the medieval codices of the Cathedral Library of Kalocsa, the edition of the special collections of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), the documentation of the incunables and the Baroque book bindings of the Ráday Calvinist Library, the publication of the Renaissance archive of the aristocratic Santacilia family in Mallorca, and now the catalog of La Real.
The publication of incunables may not appear as sensational as that of a medieval manuscript existing in only one copy. However, incunables – books printed before 1500 – are just as unique. Apart from the fact that every book has survived in very few copies only, each copy is rendered unique by the “supplementary works” done by hand, by the individually painted initials and engravings, but primarily by the very exciting handwritten commentaries and additions that are especially abundant in the volumes of La Real.
The Cistercian monastery of Santa María de La Real lays outside the one-time city walls of Mallorca, along the Camí dels reis, the “Road of the Kings”. It was founded by King James I, the Conqueror in 1229, after the reconquista of the island from the Arabs. The discussed etymology of the name “La Real” shows well the richness of the traditions of Mallorca. Some say it comes from the royal foundation, while according to others it is the Catalanization of the Arabic word “al-arriat” simply meaning “garden”, the large fields of olive trees surrounding the monastery which are now, after two thousand years of peaceful existence seriously threatened by forced urbanization.
Besides its ancient library, the monastery is also famous for having given shelter, after his inner conversion, to the the royal seneschal and troubadoure and later philosopher and mystic Ramon Llull (1232-1315), the father of combinatorics and the first master of Catalan literature who after his North African journey advised to the Pope to stop crusades and instead proceed to the conversion of Muslims through prayer and through establishment of Arabic schools. The foundation of the first Oriental departments from Oxford to Paris was the fruit of this advice. And according to the tradition it was in the library of the monastery that he obtained his knowledge of theology and philosophy. He also bequeathed his manuscript to the library.
Another illustrious entry in the annals of the monastery is that Wang Wei, noble descendant of the Phenicians of Mallorca celebrated here his marriage with Ana, the offspring of a most ancient Arabic family of the island. This is how traditions are accumulated in the island of Mallorca. What the sea has brought here will stay here for ever.