Carta Real


The Carta Real was published in Granada, Spain in 1566 by an unknown author. The noble Bonillo family commissioned the printing of this text, which details noblemen’s property rights and disputes. According to historian Dr. Nicole Marafioti, who has worked with this book in the Special Collections library, "the manuscript is made of parchment, like most books of this time, rather than paper; and the bookmaker took care with each page so that the darker 'hair' sides (the pages that came from the animal's outer hide) and the lighter 'flesh' side (from the animal's inside) were next to each other." This book features an uncommon stitching technique, as it was bound in one gather, a section folded and worked into the binding as a unit. Furthermore, the Carta Real was bound in 49 leaves (a single sheet that forms two pages), with a braided cord. The text is handwritten in Gothic characters, and has two different sets of handwriting; the second set appears later in the book. 

This book has several curious characteristics that make it a fascinating addition to Trinity’s collection. The waste parchment used in the binding is especially fascinating, as it features large scraps of music notation. Waste parchment sometimes would have been bleached before being reused in this way, but being unbleached clues the reader in on previous uses of the parchment and lends one to question why this particular parchment was saved and used. It also includes a large and intricate image of St. James fighting the Moors that takes up a whole page in the front of the book, even though that subject matter does not match the contextuality of the rest of the book’s contents. There are several doodles scattered throughout the pages as well, possibly done by the scribe or a reader of this text. These elements reveal much to us about how people created and interacted with books such as this. Currently, Dr. Marafioti and Dr. Brine use this book for teaching purposes in their history and art history classes at Trinity. Both utilize it as a later example of how, as Dr. Marafioti explains it, "medieval manuscripts evolved" and "discuss the ways the book was put together, the illuminated initials, wide margins, and prominent ruling—as well as the fact that this was a hand-written manuscript, well after printing was available."