Biblioteca Virtual de la Filología Española

Why I’ll probably be sticking with the Biblioteca Virtual del Señor Licenciado Pero Pérez.

Last week saw the launch of an interesting site by the Complutense: Manuel Alvar Ezquerra and his team’s Biblioteca Virtual de la Filología Española, which aims to catalogue and link to all digitalised and publicly accessible Spanish dictionaries, grammars and orthographies. The catalogue of dictionaries is apparently more or less finished, and with 1346 entries it is at first sight more extensive than the comparable subset of a project with more wide-reaching ambitions, Open Library, which claims only 46 items. However, metatagging at OL is notoriously poor, and searches of it for diccionario (246), vocabulario (65), dictionary spanish (134), vocabulary spanish (115), etc etc, suggest that its total listings may well be in the order of BVFE’s.

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that–institutional pride apart–the Complutense budget might have been better spent improving and then piggybacking off OL. That clearly hasn’t been done, since OL contains some classics that are absent from BVFE–two personal favourites are Tineo Rebolledo, A chipicallí and Besses Diccionario de argot español–and the shortest of straw polls (maybe someone would like to count some more? nope, thought not) suggests that both OL and BVFE are still way behind the disastrously metatagged and widely underestimated, which I think hosts the majority of the digitalisations listed by both sites. Here are the numbers and names for title queries for “diccionario gitano” and “vocabulario gitano” across OL, BVFE, Archive and Google Books:

Other people’s needs are different, but there are two reasons why I don’t often use services like OL or BFVE. Firstly, you can’t do full-text search, which seems to me something of a sine qua non as far as dictionaries are concerned. The technical implementation doesn’t strike me as particularly complicated–particularly for an organisation with the resources of the Complutense–so I imagine institutional hurdles are seen as too high.

Secondly, there’s still some way to go before absolutely every lexicon ever created is available online, and so I place more faith in querying automatically-updated search than human-maintained lists, particularly now cash-strapped governments seem prepared to abandon funding for the humanities in favour of more obviously useful fields.

And so I’ve got my own little language+literature search workbench, which I ran up one day last year to reduce repetitive manual querying and to escape from the clutches of Google’s main search interface, which likes you to nominate one language and stick with it.

The Biblioteca Virtual de la Filología Española is a tribute to Cipriano Muñoz, Conde de la Viñaza, an incredibly wealthy indiano and filology phiend (who I believed was once sued by Louis Marx’s dad, but that’s another story), so I’ve taken the liberty of rebaptising my tool the Biblioteca Virtual del Señor Licenciado Pero Pérez for the priest who burnt Quijote’s books but saved Tirant lo Blanch.

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