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Looking for Guidance: The Project and The Needs of Galdós's Readers

[This is a version of the letter to Galdosistas, which appeared in the 1997 volume
(XXVIII, no.1) of the Boletín de la Asociación Internacional de Galdosistas]

Dear Colleague

I am not sure how likely you are to have heard already about the Pérez Galdós Editions Project. The award of a British Academy Institutional Research Fellowship which made it possible to set up the Project was quite widely reported in the UK. But in case the Project is wholly new to you, a few lines of introduction may not be out of place here.

Our long-term aspiration is to furnish the Novelas españolas contemporáneas of Benito Pérez Galdós with a set of standard scholarly editions, based on the critical study of manuscripts, proofs and early printings, supported by presentations on CD-Rom, which will embody concordance material, indexes of characters, places, times, etc., and a range of background information relevant to each novel. Cumulatively these two elements - the edition and the CD-Rom package - will build into a research tool which future Galdosistas can apply to critical and investigative purposes of their own.

To accomplish this for the whole series is a hugely ambitious undertaking which will need the collaboration of colleagues and institutions in Spain and elsewhere, especially of those Galdosistas who have already contributed in important (if still isolated) ways to the massive work of Galdosian editing. We have already begun to build up contacts of this sort, through the generous offices of the Spanish Cultural Counsellor in London, Dr Dámaso de Lario. Within our own more limited initial resources and in the four-year time-span for which we are in the first instance funded, Rhian Davies will be working to supply editions and packages for the four novels of the Torquemada series.

The first stages of her work, begun in April 1996, have been concerned with getting editorial and other criteria right. Clearly these things are crucial if they are to issue in norms of the whole series, to which other editorial collaborators will be invited to adjust. And, no less clearly, the justification for such norms will lie in their usefulness to other students and readers of Galdós. Which is where the main purpose of this letter comes in. It would be of very great assistance to the work at this stage if we could form as wide a view as possible of what fellow-Galdosistas would like to see included in the CD-Rom package accompanying each novel. We have already identified certain areas of interest, though there is always room for a more exact definition of the information which might be featured in each of them:

(a) Textual variants: Those which are in any way significant for the meanings of the text will figure in the edition. To what extent should lesser variants (down to and including features of punctuation) be preserved and made available in the package?

(b) Concordancing: The package should allow for the ordered retrieval and analysis of Galdós’ lexis, in the manner of any standard concordance. Are there, however. Any particular sub-categories or patterns which ought to be highlighted? Are there other elements (eg. syntactic) which should be made traceable in similar fashion?

(c) Index of characters: The need for this is obvious enough, though its full utility will only begin to be realized as the project gathers momentum. Meanwhile, what kinds of information about characters (other than the fact of their appearance at certain points in each novel) should go into the index?

(d) Index of places: Is it enough to log and list these? Should they be connected in the package with a standard visual mapping of Galdosian Madrid?

(e) Index of temporal references: Four frames of reference suggest themselves: the time-structure of each narrative; the imagined chronology of real-time dates and events to which Galdós refers in his narration; the wider historical chronology from which these references are taken; the time taken to produce and publish these novels as plotted against real-time events in Galdós’ life and background. In what sort of detail should each of these be presented? Do we need them all? Should we offer possibilities for correlating one with another?

Over and above this, what other elements should we try to include in the package? Is there a case for including material which illustrates, for example, the day-to-day activities of those financial markets which Torquemada is described as mastering? Or the artistic tastes reflected in references to the collections in the Palacio de Gravelinas; or portraits of beggars in the Año Cristiano? Or Galdós’ own visual drawings and doodlings, where these exist?

Clearly, we are going to have to stop somewhere. It may even be - this is another point to be settled - that the illustrative array of the package assembled for one novel will not be precisely parallel to that for another - although one would perhaps expect there to be a ‘core with variants’ rather than a complete dissimilarity. But at this stage, we are anxious to find out what potential users would like to see.

Initially, we are sending out this enquiry to a range of British Galdosistas Your replies will be especially welcome. Equally welcome will be any other comments or suggestions which you might want to contribute. It has always been part of the concept of the Pérez Galdós Editions Project that it should become a focus for ideas and collaboration from beyond the University of Sheffield. If you can see a way in which you would like to become involved yourself, please write to me about it. We hope to make an approach a little later on, in the same spirit (and largely, no doubt, in the same terms) to members of the Asociación Internacional de Galdosistas. We really would appreciate having your comments as soon as possible.

With many thanks for your help.

Yours sincerely

N G Round

Professor of Hispanic Studies

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