From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
19.2 (1999): 200-03.
Copyright © 1999, The Cervantes Society of America
González Echevarría, Roberto. Major Authors on CD-ROM: Miguel de Cervantes. CD-ROM. Woodbridge, CT: Primary Source Media, 1998.
Under the direction of General Editor Roberto González Echevarría, Primary Source Media has digitized several editions of Cervantes's works, joining them with a powerful search engine that furnishes hyperlinks to virtually every word published by Cervantes. More than a library of Cervantine writings, the volume serves as a tool for comprehensive and precise investigations of Cervantes's words and ideas. The editors have taken special care to anticipate the needs of literary researchers, providing facsimile reproductions of first or early editions of all of Cervantes's works. The facsimile editions have been transcribed according to the originals, without emendations, thus allowing for quick reading in modern fonts while simultaneously preserving the peculiarities of the
transcription so that readers may refer to the facsimile in cases of possibly
ambiguous renderings. In addition to the facsimile editions and transcriptions,
major scholarly editions of each Cervantine text have been digitized, linking
the database not only to Cervantes's writings, but also to the notes and
comments of the renowned scholars of the following editions:
Entremeses, Eugenio Asensio; La Galatea, Novelas
ejemplares, and Persiles y Sigismunda, Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce;
Don Quijote (two editions), Diego Clemencín and Francisco
Rodríguez Marín; and Viaje del Parnaso, Miguel Herrero
García. English translations of all of the works are also included
in the collection.
To facilitate the work of researchers even further, González Echevarría stipulated the inclusion in the database of Carlos F. Bradford's Indice de las notas de Diego Clemencín en su edición de El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (Madrid: Imprenta y Fundación de Manuel Tello, 1885) and of Sebastián de Covarrubias Orozco's Tesoro de la lengua castellana. Scholars will find immediate linkage to these two references invaluable. To aid in the visualization of the Don Quijote, 162 illustrations have been included, most of them retrieved from Francisco López Fabra's Iconografía del Quijote (1879). Last on this list but first in order of appearance on the CD's Table of Contents are two insightful introductions by González Echevarría. The first briefly reviews Cervantes's life, explores the nature, sources, and repercussions of Cervantes's writings in society and in literature, and finally examines the significance of the type of production that the CD represents. The second essay describes the provenance and the relevance of the illustrations.
The product is shipped with a bilingual user's guide and two separate PC-compatible CDs (Macintosh versions are not available). The CDs are identical with the exception of the interface, one being in Spanish, the other in English. Any editorial documentation by González-Echevarría permits toggling between the two languages, regardless of the disk used. Menu-related information is determined by the interface and is only accessible in the language of the particular disk's interface. Programming limitations have dictated that certain commands and installation sequences cannot be translated from English, but in general the product is truly bilingual, and installation, though not automatic (no autoplay file), is relatively straightforward. I tried installing both disks to several drives some of which were network drives (network licenses may be purchased) and had no problem with the installation. With a list price of $1995.00, I suspect that few cervantistas will choose to include this volume in their personal collection. In a telephone communication with Primary Source Media in December of 1998, Frank Menchaca, team leader of the creative team for the disk, confirmed that the product is targeted mainly for libraries or departmental resource centers. A web-version of the database will be available to individuals at reasonable prices as of January 1999 at http://www.psmedia.com/.
Scholars in the field will be familiar with Cervantes's works, with the editions that I have listed above, and with the outstanding scholarship of Roberto González Echevarría. What can I say about the value of this particular product? Without a doubt the most important aspect is the ability to search such an impressive corpus for the appearance of a single word and to receive a search
output that links Cervantes to Covarrubias, to Bradford, and to modern scholars.
Web-based search engines of the Cervantine corpus are, of course, available
for free, as are also princeps editions (e.g.,
http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/cervantes/). These services, however, do not link
the text to the comments of scholars or to Covarrubias and Bradford, nor
do they supply the vast quantity of digital illustrations that are provided
in this package. Having text and pictures in a digital format can, of course,
offer pedagogical advantages. For copying, pasting, or printing the text,
however, a web-ready version of Cervantes's works may be the most desirable
option. The Major Authors CD does not allow easy scrolling from one
page to another. Each page is loaded individually, and, like a book, once
a page is turned, the previous page is no longer visible. Cutting
and pasting is a page-by-page process. Avoiding the problem by using the
printer is not a recommendable option in light of the five-page print limit
(that actually allows six pages to be printed) written into the installation
program. One may also choose the save-to-file option; however,
the same page restrictions are in force for saving to files as for printing.
In addition, when printing the illustrations directly from the program menu,
ink jet printers produce a solid black image, but if the file is opened in
another program, for example, in Imaging for Windows 95, then ink-jet printing
presents no problem. Laser printers, on the other hand, comply with the program's
One of the superficial drawbacks of the program is the limit placed on the number of windows that may be open simultaneously within the program. Each item clicked opens in a new window. As one excitedly plumbs the contents of the disk, after a very few exploratory clicks a frame pops up to inform the user that one of the open windows must be closed before other windows can be opened. The solution is simple close a window and the inconvenience does not reduce the effectiveness of the search engine. Perhaps, however, those accustomed to browsing the web without similar disruptions will find this interruption frustrating. This product is not a text for idle reading; it is a tool for textual analysis. Users that prefer desultory perusals to focused inquiries will find that the web serves as a cheaper and perhaps less-frustrating resource. Another drawback for those accustomed to Windows 95/98/NT is the return to Windows 3.1 mouse limitations and menu tools. There is no right clicking for simple, pop-up menus, and there is no way to change display, print, font or any other program default from within the program. The size of a window or of an image may be increased or decreased, but internal frames may not be adjusted, non-image text cannot be sized, and size selection of images (text or illustrations) does not stay the same from one page to the next.
At the rate both in speed and in breadth at which technology advances, it is impossible for a virtual text to anticipate and to meet all the platform and programming contingencies of wildly diversified market. In reference to the problematic nature of this production, González Echevarría states: It is possible that, ultimately, this CD-ROM is only an updating and dramatization of Don Quixote's madness (Introduction: Cervantes 11). In a way, this CD is like Don Quijote (or like one aspect of Don Quijote): It is an idealistic but nonetheless worthwhile endeavor to provide cervantistas with a better world, all undertaken
with tools that are slightly antiquated. Like Don Quijote and like all of Cervantes's writings, what is worthwhile about this product will remain valuable indefinitely (or as long as our computers allow us to use CD-ROMs). The product is probably not a program that will interest those who seek leisurely recreation, but, to follow the Unamunian perspective, it may indeed be the perfect tool to use in moments of re-creation, cultivation, or construction of interpretations of Cervantes's vast and challenging oeuvre. The product is a valuable resource, one that every library should house for researchers, teachers, and readers of Cervantes.
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