Knowledge and Conservation - Creating the Digital Library of New Hispanic Thought

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Ernesto Priani Saisó

    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

  2. 2. Isabel Galina Russell

    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

  3. 3. Alí Martínez

    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

  4. 4. Guillermo Chávez

    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

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Knowledge and
Conservation - Creating
the Digital Library of New
Hispanic Thought
Priani, Ernesto
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México -
UNAM, Mexico
Galina, Isabel
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México -
UNAM, Mexico
Martínez, Alí
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México -
UNAM, Mexico
Chávez, Guillermo
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México -
UNAM, Mexico
This paper presents the Digital Library of
New Hispanic Thought (Biblioteca Digital del
Pensamiento Novohispano). In Mexico, during
the seventeenth century, two comets were
observed, leading to the publication of various
texts on the meaning of this astrological
phenomenon (Trabulse 1994a). During this
period relatively few books were published
due to high costs, the required approval
of the Inquisition for publication and the
lack of potential buyers. This proliferation of
publications on the subject can be viewed as an
indication of the importance of these events for
the Catholic Church, the colonial government
and the intellectuals of the period (Trabulse
1994b). The Heavens were, in Spanish colonial
Mexico, a scientific, religious, social, political
and ideological battleground (Moreno 1998).
To this date most digitization projects for
New Hispanic publications, namely Google
Books and Biblioteca Virtual Cervantes,
have focused primarily on access and
preservation and although useful, do not
constitute digital scholarly editions. The original
aim of this project was to provide the
basis for a critical digital edition through
collaborative commentary of digital diplomatic
transcriptions. The process however, in
particular during the migration of our tailor
made DTD to using TEI, also served as a
research tool which enabled us to develop
a conceptual framework to formulate further
research on these texts.
This is the first project from our university to use
XML and TEI.
1. From single publication to
digital library
The original aim of the project was to make
available in digital format the first book by Fray
Diego Rodríguez, published in 1652. However,
this idea was quickly superseded as we realized
that, taking into consideration the relatively
large number of books on comets and astrology
published in this period, it was more desirable
to present all texts as a corpus. We therefore
decided to focus on the common theme of
astrology/astronomy with the main objective
of not only gathering and creating a corpora
and providing access but also developing and
publishing a digital critical edition with tools to
aid scholars in their research. The outcome is the
publication of all known texts of the period, eight
in total.
With the exception of one, none of these
texts has ever been reedited.
Up to now, due to the fact that the ideas
contained within these texts were no longer
of any scientific value, the text itself has
not been considered particularly important.
Moreover, of the few studies that exist on these
publications, the tendency is to view them as
general testimonies rather than concentrating
on the texts themselves (Cf. Navarro, 1959
and Cullen, 1984). This new edition of the
texts in digital format gave us the opportunity
to examine the text in detail and reconsider
previous interpretations.
2. Textual processing
2.1. Digitization of texts
The eight texts were transcribed into plain
text digital format and diplomatic transcriptions
were produced. The only text that had been
reedited previously had been updated for
spelling and grammar as well as correcting
original errors, in order to make it more

readable for a modern, non-academic audience
(Cf. Navarro 1959 and Cullen 1984). Other
editions had been facsimiles (Trabulse 2001).
As the BDPN is aimed mainly at specialists
and we wished to both preserve the texts as
faithfully as possible and to provide analytical
tools, diplomatic transcriptions were considered
the most adequate.
2.2. Creating digital texts - DTD
The texts were then marked up in XML. We
wished to approach the text with no preexisting
theory or structure –and as a part of pedagogical
approach to the use of XML as a research tool-,
allowing the text to speak for itself. In order to
do this we set about producing categories as the
text was analysed. These categories were then
converted into tags which eventually formed the
DTD for the XML mark up. The objective of this
was that the analysis of the text for creating the
DTD was in itself a critical analysis. Once our
own DTD had been developed, we then began
the process to migrate to TEI. In order to do
so we sorted through our categories and found
equivalents. This process helped us define a new
conceptual framework for studying the texts.
3. Digital Library Tools
The main objectives of the BDPN web interface
were two fold: to present the marked up XML
texts as a new digital edition and to offer
tools to continue to carry out analytical work.
Currently the system allows the user to view
the published texts and consult them through
indexes which are automatically generated from
the XML tags (see Fig.1). An advanced search
function allows the user to search specifically in
over one hundred tags (see Fig.2)
Fig. 1 Index search interface
Fig. 2 Specific tag search interface
Additionally the system includes expert
commentary on the text (see Fig.3). Specialists
in the subject may obtain a username and
password that allows them to comment on
the texts and these appear as part of the
critical edition. This provides the framework for
future national and international collaboration
on these particular texts. The project is not
conceived as a closed edition and it will
hopefully continue to be expanded to permit
new enquiries of research to be developed.
Fig. 3 Screenshot of expert commentary
4. Discussion and Conclusions
4.1. DTD categories to TEI
The original DTD was used to identify all
possible elements that could be of interest to the
study; from classical mythology and Christian
metaphysics to geographic and geospatial
indicators. Almost one hundred categories were
identified. Once the text was marked up using
our DTD we then migrated to TEI Lite. In
order to do so we needed to find equivalents
for our elements. This migration process obliged
us to refine our categories and interestingly
to simplify our analytic framework. As we
started using common TEI tags such as date,
place, name, with the type attribute, we realized
that we could eliminate many of our tailor

made categories as they were redundant or too
This process helped us to identify the
truly relevant categories for these texts.
For example, source (citation, commentary,
authors), geographical and geospatial terms,
diseases associated with comets and old Spanish
terms. Significantly, the migration to TEI
allowed us to identify all the comets mentioned
in the corpus using the element attribution
date. Now that we have identified the thematic
structure of theses texts using these categories,
we now know that we wish to focus our
research on astrological themes used, diseases
commonly associated with comets, geographical
areas affected by astrological predictions and the
type of Spanish used in the period.
4.2. Documentation and technical
A key issue in the development of this project
was to produce enough documentation so that
this can survive as an open ended project,
allowing new texts to be incorporated when
and if they are discovered. It is known many
Humanities projects do not develop adequate
documentation that allows text files to be reused
(Warwick, et al. 2009).
Our experience shows that creating adequate
documentation is extremely difficult. One of the
main problems was the frequent changes in the
tags. As the text was analysed and marked up,
this tended to produce new requirements. It
proved difficult to maintain the documentation
up to date in order to describe and explain
all the considerations and changes. This is a
very time consuming process. It is difficult to
anticipate these changes and to contemplate
them adequately in the project timeline.
5. Conclusion and future work
The work done thus far has initially helped us to
view all these texts as a network. This had not
been done previously. Additionally in order to
develop the tags we approached the texts with
no preconceived structure and this has allowed
completely new concepts to emerge from the
texts. The move to TEI helped us to identify with
precision the framework with which to approach
further research into the text and produce a new
reading of this corpus.
In the future we hope to incorporate the
facsimiles as images and mark them up so that
specific parts of the image can be associated with
the textual transcription.
We also hope to generate international interest
in these documents that up to now have
been hidden in specialized libraries, mainly in
Mexico. There is currently little critical digital
content in Spanish in general and of this period
in particular. We aim ultimately to generate
new research on the subject and we believe
that this tool can contribute to the study of
New Hispanic thought. Additionally we aim to
generate research and publications that also
reflect on the experience of producing pre-
modern electronic textual editions.
6. Annex 1- Digitized works
Escobar Salemerón y Castro, José de
Discurso Cometológico y relación del
nuevo cometa.
México: Viuda de Bernardo
Evelino, Gaspar Juan
astrologica y physica de la naturaleza de los
cometas, y juizio del que este año de 1682 se ve
por todo el mundo.
México: Viuda de Bernardo
Kino, Eusebio Francisco
astronomica de el cometa.
México: Francisco
Rodríguez Luprecio.
López Bonilla, Gabriel
Discurso y
relación Cometographica.
México: Viuda de
Bernardo Calderón.
Rodríguez, Diego
etheorologico del nuevo cometa visto en aqueste
hemisferio mexicano y generalmente en todo el
México: Viuda de Bernardo Calderón.
Rodríguez, Diego
. Modo de calcular
qualquier eclipse de Sol y Luna según las tablas
arriba puestas del mobimiento de Sol y Luna
segun Tychon. Manuscrito inédito.
Rodríguez, Diego
. Tratado General de
Reloxes de Sol. Manuscrito inédito.
Ruiz, Juan
Discurso hecho sobre la
significación de impresiones meteorológicas
que se vieron el año pasado de 1652.
imprenta de Juan Ruiz.

Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos de
Libra astronómica y philosophica.
Viuda de Bernardo Calderón.
Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora
Cullen Bryant, William (ed.). Caracas:
Biblioteca Ayacucho.
Moreno Corral, Arturo
Historia de
la astronomía en México.
Mexico: FCE.
Trabulse, Elías
Historia de la ciencia
en México.
México: FCE.
Trabulse, Elías
Los orígenes de
la ciencia moderna en México. 1630-1680.
México: FCE.
Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora
astronómica y philosophica.
Trabulse, Elías
(ed.). México: Sociedad Mexicana de Bibliófilos.
Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora
astronómica y philosophica.
Navarro, Bernave
(ed.). México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma
de México.
Warwick, C., Galina, I., Rimmer, J.,
Terras, M., Blandford, A., Gow, J.,
Buchanan, G.
(2009). 'Documentation and
the users of digital resources in the humanities'.
Journal of Documentation.
: 33-57.
See References.
Biblioteca Digital del Pensamiento Novohispano (

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2010
"Cultural expression, old and new"

Hosted at King's College London

London, England, United Kingdom

July 7, 2010 - July 10, 2010

142 works by 295 authors indexed

XML available from (still needs to be added)

Conference website:

Series: ADHO (5)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None