Juan Manuel's 'Cronica Abreviada' and Alphonsine Historiography

By Pattison, D. G. | Medium Aevum, Fall 1992 | Go to article overview
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Juan Manuel's 'Cronica Abreviada' and Alphonsine Historiography


Pattison, D. G., Medium Aevum


Don Juan Manuel (1282-1348) was not only a considerable author in his own right, but also an important figure in the historiographical tradition begun by his uncle Alfonso X, el sabio. In the prologue to his collection of exemplary stories El conde Lucanor (completed in 1335), he gives a list of his works, including |la Cronica abreviada'; the fifteenth-century manuscript which contains this and other principal works by the author contains a |prologo general', and this also has a list of works, including |la Cronica abreviada et la Cronica conplida'.(1) The identification of the Cronica Abreviada (CA) with the work I discuss in this article is an old one and almost certainly well founded.(2) This work is preserved in a single manuscript (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 1356), at the beginning of which the author calls it both the |Compendio de la Chronica General del Rey Don Alonso' and the |Sumario de la Cronica de Espanna'. He goes on to describe it in the following terms:

Por que don Johan su sobrino sse pago mucho desta su obra e por la saber

mejor por que [porl muchas razones non podria faser tal obra commo el rey fizo

nin el su entendimiento non abondaria a retener todas las estorias que son en las

dichas cronicas por ende fizo poner en este libro en pocas razones todos los

grandes fechos que se y contienen ... Pero ssi otro leyere en este libro e non lo

fallare por tan conplido cate el logar onde fue sacado en la cronica en el capitulo

de que fara mencion en este libro e non tenga por maravilin de lo non poder

fazer tan conplida mente commo conviene para este fecho. (MS 1356, f.[25.sup.r]; ed.

Grismer, p. 39)

In short, the work is announced as something of a summary and something of an index.

Much early work on Alphonsine historiography tended to pay little attention to the CA. This was largely because Menendez Pidal's first focus of attention in his study of the chronicles was the legend of the Infantes de Lara. This falls in the tercera parte - the account of the Leonese and Castilian monarchies up to their merger under Fernando I - and it is demonstrable that for this section the CA follows what we know as the Primera Cronica General (PCG). In the cuarta parte - the story of Castile-Leon from the year 1037 onwards (when Fernando I of Castile annexed the kingdom of Leon) the position becomes more complex, and that will be my primary focus of attention in this article.

Diego Catalan, in two articles of 1963 and 1977, went a long way towards remedying this neglect;(3) here I aim to introduce certain qualifications some of which are inevitably more significant than others - into the overview he then put forward.

The nature of the CA as a summary means that it is not always easy or safe to deduce as much as one might like about its source: that is, about the version of the Alphonsine corpus, known to critics as the *Cronica Manuelina, which the CA is presumed to reflect. Quite simply, there is often not sufficient detail to allow us to say with any safety that the *Cronica Manuelina was more like one surviving chronicle version thin another in any particular section, on the evidence presented by the CA. More specifically, there does appear to be a degree of unevenness in the summarizing which, at one extreme, leads to the remark |En el lxxxi capitulo non cuenta ninguna cosa' (MS 1356, f. [118.sup.v], ed. Grismer, p. 153). That is, as I say, an extreme, but it does come as a surprise to see that the CA, for instance, makes no mention whatsoever of the Cid's plot to trick the moneylenders of Burgos. The two chapters dealing with the moment of exile read as follows:

En el Li capitulo que fue en este anno mismo dise que el cid Junto todos sus

parientes e preguntolos ssi querien yr con el e ellos dixeronle que si. E fuese

luego para burgos c guisosse muy bien e dexo su muger e sus fijos en el

monesterio de sant pedro e dexoles grant aver.

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