List of the works commissioned by Alfonso X, el Sabio

(these links don't work. for right now, just scroll down the page. It's all here.)
Legal Scientific Historiographic Prose fiction Poetry On Recreational Games

Legislative works:

El fuero real Granted to Castile in 1255 to supplement existing law. (30 mss)

Setenario Begun before 1252, unfinished, anticipates parts of Siete Partidas.

Siete Partidas vast, comprehensive codex of law, begun in Seville, 1251; 1256-65. (60 mss)

El espéculo 1255. (4 mss)

Scientific works: (some 23 treatises)


Alfonsi version of the Liber Picatrix (1256), an 11th cent. Andalusian treatise on talismanic magic.


(The words "astrology" and "astronomy" are used fairly interchangeably in the texts. Where a distinction is required, they may be defined as the opposite of the modern norm.)

Libros del saber de la astrología. Collection of 16 treatises gathered together between 1276 and 1279 in an attempt to systematize the movements of the stars and constellations. Following an initial catalog of the stars, they are arranged in evolutionary sequence beginning with the most basic instrument, the astrolabe. Only some of the treatises were widely known in the Middle Ages. (order below = somewhat arbitrary)

Los IIII libros de las estrellas de la ochaua espera, 1256 and 1276.

Libro del astrolabio redondo.

Libro del ataçir

Libro de las armellas o de la açafeha, 1255-56, 1277.

Libro de las estrellas fijas, 1255-6, 1276.

Libro de la alcora, 1259, 1277.

Lamina Universal.

Libro de quadrante pora rectificar, 1277.

Libro de la Constitucion (Construction) del Universo.

Libro del relogio de la piedra de la sombra.

Libro del relogio dell agoa.

Libro del relogio dell argen uiuo.

Libro del relogio del palacio de las oras.

Libro del relogio de la candela


Lapidario, 1250 and 1279

Independent translations:

Ibn al-Haytam's Astronomía

al-Battani's Cánones, 1250's

Ptolemy's Quatriparito, with Ali b. Ridwan's commentary, 1271-75

Aben Ragel's De judiciis Astrologiae

Libro de las cruces, 1259, 1270's.

El libro del cuadrante sennero

Libro de las Tablas Alfonsíes, 1256-1277;

Historical works:

General Estoria "Oldest known vernacular universal history;" "the greatest single historiographic undertaking of the Middle Ages". Begun, like its companion, around 1270. The chronological period encompased by the six surviving parts coincide essentially with that of the Old Testament. Some 30 manuscripts survive. Principle sources: the Bible, Josephus' Antiguedades judaicas and the Historia Scholastica of Peter Comestor; secondary sources: classical writers (Ovid, Pliny, among others) and Arabic historians. Despite its reliance on the usual sources and typically medieval encyclopedic scope, the GE is not simply a "biblia historiada;" the work promises to narrate the history of all known peoples to have inhabited the world since creation ("todos los fechos sennalados, tan bien de las estorias de la Biblia, como de las otras grandes cosas que acahesçieron por el mundo, desde que fue començado fastal nuestro tiempo"). It announces plans to address certain subjects in the sections on the fifth and sixth ages and assures that it will deal with "todos los reyes de Espanna [...] fasta el tiempo que yo comencé a regnar".

Estoria de España (=Menéndez Pidal's Primera Crónica General, although he used two different royal codices: E1 [1272] (from the first inhabitants to the arrival of the Arabs [cpt. 896] done under Alfonso) and E2 [1289] (continued under Sancho IV, up to the reign of Fernando el Santo [1217-52]); the two are of significantly different caliber.) Approximately 100 notebooks (rough drafts) from the Alfonsí workshop reproduce portions of what was to be Alfonso's Estoria de España. Primary sources: Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada's De Rebus Hispaniae (or Historia Gothica, 1242, known as El toledano) and Lucas de Tuy's Chronicon Mundi (1236, known as El Tudense). Secondary sources: documents for the Councils of Toledo, classical geographers and travellers, Ovid, Lucan (Pharsalia), etc. The two histories were worked on, now simultaneously, now alternately, over a number of years; perhaps not coincidentally, the national history was abandoned by Alfonso for good in 1274, just at the time when he was forced to renounce his claims on the imperial crown (1275).

Literary works:


Calila e Digna 1251/2. Trans. directed by Alfonso (prince). First major work of Arabic didactic prose in the "tale within a tale" framework widely disseminated in Spain. (Derived from Hindu Panchatantra.) Other members of the royal family were involved in translations of similar "education of the prince" models: Alfonso's father ordered the translation of El libro de los doce sabios, and his brother, D. Fadrique, directed the trans. of the Sendebar (Libro de los engaños). The introduction of this new literary form was an incidental benefit; the king's interest in these narratives was primarily for their didactic value: the practical moral philosophy they contained. It is clear that Alfonso's political activity and his literary production go hand in hand. He was aware from the start that the realization of his ideals as monarch depended on a national unity that could only be achieved through the creation of a national culture.

Poetry and Music:

Cantigas de Santa María. (4 extant codices) Alfonso began his song book of Marian lyrics and narrative miracles, (the most personal of his works, excepting his secular lyrics) in his youth, but didn't order its formal preparation until the end of his life. A corpus of considerable artistic unity, the 430 miracles are interspersed at regular intervals with short lyrics in praise of the Virgin. Of the wide variety of verse forms used the "zéjel" predominates. The melodies derive from both sacred (western chant, mozarabic liturgical music) and popular music, although there is a large group said to have no relation to chant whatsoever and that can't be analyzed according to the western modal system. This variety would seem to be attested to in the illuminations themselves. One codex depicts seventy-odd musicians, Christian and Moslem, playing a variety of instruments of all types (wind, string, percussion, etc.). Much debate revolves around the debt to Arabic models and melodies. A large staff of by and large anonymous musicians, scribes, caligraphers and artists was employed to compile and illustrate the manuscripts, inscribe the captions that explain the scenes depicted in the individual panels and provide the musical accompaniment and its notation. Each facet of the multimedia opus was a collaborative undertaking. Alfonso, who considered himself a "trovador", seems to have taken immense pride in his musical ability. It is thought that as well as being placed on display, the Cantigas were likely performed, thus reaching a wider audience.

Works on recreational games:

El libro de Ajedrez, dados, e tablas. Seville, 1283. Three treatises on recreational games (chess, dice and a astronomical tables) derived from the numerous Arabic texts available in Seville. In the prolog to the first (said to be the best of many on chess in the Middle Ages both in its presentation and for the innovations it introduced into the game) Alfonso speaks of the benefits to body and mind derived from recreational games and sport (his classification distinguishes between those that employ the limbs and those that are played seated). The codex (T-1-6) is of exceptional quality. The 150 miniatures that illustrate the treatises depict a whole range of personalities (men of the various military orders, elegant ladies, Christian, Jewish and Moslem intellectuals, etc.), expressions, fashions, and fabrics (a veritable fashion catalog of XIIIth century court life in an atmosphere of pleasant camaraderie).