The Llibre de les fonts brings back a 17th-century manuscript kept at the Historic Archives

17 de January de 2023

Nuria Mahamud de la Peña

Books. The Book of Fountains. Water, climate and society in 17th-century Barcelona. A book published jointly with Editorial Afers that brings back and analyses a manuscript commissioned by the Consell de Cent.

The Llibre de les fonts de la present ciutat de Barcelona [Book of Fountains of Present-Day Barcelona] is a manuscript kept at the Historic Archives of Barcelona that contains all the knowledge held in the mid-17th century about Barcelona's drinking water supply.

The Llibre de les fonts [Book of Fountains] was commissioned by the Consell de Cent to ensure that the manuscript remained at City Hall forever and to control who could access the knowledge contained in its pages. It was written in 1650 by the master builder Francesc Socies who, in addition to building homes, was also a master fountain builder and therefore in charge of the proper operation of the city’s water collection, piping and distribution system.

Over three centuries later, Editorial Afers and Barcelona City Council have transcribed the original manuscript kept at the Historic Archives of the City, preceded by seven meticulous studies written by the historians Maria Antònia Martí Escayol, Santiago Gorostiza and Xavier Cazeneuve from an interdisciplinary perspective that includes history, urban planning and climate.

The publication describes the city’s drinking water hydraulic network composed of rainwater collection tanks, (underground and overground) pipes, air vents and inlets, and drinking fountains. In addition to probably providing the first comprehensive description of Barcelona’s water map, it explains how water was managed in a Mediterranean city in the Early Modern Period. In addition to providing essential reading for anyone wishing to gain a good knowledge of Barcelona’s history, this document, which is unique in Europe, sets out all the “routes and secrets” of the city’s water, a knowledge that is hidden underground and behind the walls of 17th-century Barcelona.

The cultural context of the time analysed by three historians

Maria Antònia Martí Escayol has a PhD in Modern History and has been a professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona since the year 2000. Her lines of research focus primarily on environmental history and history of science and technology, with particular emphasis on Europe and East Asia. She has been a visiting researcher at Sophia University (Tokyo, Japan) and Truman State University (United States).

Santiago Gorostiza is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po in Paris (France). After gaining a bachelor’s degree (special award) in Environmental Science and History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, he finished his postgraduate studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid with a scholarship awarded by the La Caixa Foundation. He obtained his PhD at the University of Coimbra within the framework of the European Network for Political Ecology (ENTITLE) ITN-Marie Curie project. One of his lines of research is the study of urban water management-related conflict in the Early and Late Modern Periods.

Xavier Cazeneuve is a historian and founder of, a project that covers research, resources and services relating to the history of Barcelona. He has over thirty years’ experience working on historical research studies and projects about Barcelona and has published over 20 papers. His lines of research include the supply of drinking water in Barcelona in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Together with Santiago Gorostiza, he is coordinating the 18th Barcelona History Conference, which is organised by the Historic Archives of the City of Barcelona and looks at Barcelona through the lens of environmental history.

Share this content