‘The pride of being a grammarian’, finishing touch for Nebrija’s centenary

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The exhibition reconstructs the ‘fragmented’ figure of the great humanist and teacher, who remains unknown to the general public

«Antonio de Nebrija’s figure has been ‘chopped’ and this exhibition and its centennial anniversary allow it to be shown in all its integrity and complexity». For example, Teresa Jiménez Calvente, professor of Latin philology and scholar of Elio Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1522) refers to the exhibition ‘The pride of being a grammatician’, with which the National Library of Spain (BNE), Spanish Cultural Action (ACE) explained the Antonio de Nebrija Foundation put the finishing touches to the year of the five hundredth anniversary of the death of the great humanist and teacher still unknown to the general public.

Born in Lebrija (Seville) in 1441 as Antonio Martínez de Cala, and died in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid) in 1522, Nebrija was much more than the author of the first grammar of our language. Multiple talents and privileged intelligence, he was the first great Spanish humanist in the broadest and noblest sense of the word. He strengthened the Castilian language under the rule of the Catholic Monarchs, convinced that “you must write as you speak and speak as you write”.

He wanted to go to posterity with the nickname ‘Grammarian’ and devote himself to teaching, as he himself told Queen Isabella the Catholic in the letter dedicating the third edition of his ‘Introductiones Latinae’ (Salamanca, 1495). ), one of nearly 200 pieces in the exhibition, which is on view until February 23. Of these, 168 are from the BNE, some authentic bibliographic gems, and the rest are provided by a dozen or so institutions.

Remarkable jewels are the ‘Breviario de Isabel la Católica’, richly decorated; the magnificent fold-out over Jerusalem included in the incunabula ‘Journey to the Holy Land by Bernhard von Breydenbach’; the manuscripts that Nebrija himself calligraphed in his student days; the first edition of the famous ‘Introductiones Latinae’ and the handwritten copy for the master of Alcántara with precious miniatures; or the proper grammar of the Castilian language of 1492.

It was the ‘Introductiones’, an innovative manual for teaching Latin, that made Nebrija famous in Spain and abroad. Together with them, his bilingual dictionaries from Latin to Spanish and from Spanish to Latin are part of a more ambitious project with which Nebrija aimed to clarify the Latin lexicon of the various fields of knowledge.

The exhibition “discovers the intellectual profile of the first Spanish humanist, without neglecting the man, the charismatic researcher and professor behind his enormous work”, according to the curator. “He was a humanist devoted to a seemingly modest and actually very important profession: that of the grammarian who knows the rules by which language and words are governed, without which it is impossible to build new realities,” emphasizes Teresa Jiménez.

“Nebrija represents the essence of humanism, the transcendence of words and the value of education to move towards better societies,” recalls Ana Santos Aramburo, director of the BNE. «His life was marked by the conviction that classical knowledge must be known and understood and for this he renewed the knowledge and learning bases of the moment. He was a visionary and ahead of his time, who believed, since he was trained as a humanistic grammarian, in the value of language, and in the need to use it correctly and to remember his life and legacy today, could not be more timely ».

José Muñiz, Rector of the University of Nebrija and President of the Intergovernmental Commission for the Bicentenary of Antonio de Nebrija, invites scholars and the curious to immerse themselves in this “journey through the life and work of one of the most fascinating personalities in our history.” «A true university student, he adds, who has not only laid the foundations to make our language a prosperous and universal resource of knowledge, but has also treated multiple fields of knowledge with a critical mind and a passion for science that has much to teach us Today”.

The exhibition, with pictorial works that place the viewer in the reality of the 15th and 16th centuries, closes with ‘Nebrija: Estela de las letras’, a virtual experience that allows the visitor to experience two historical moments in an immersive way: the meeting of the Queen Elizabeth I with Nebrija herself, who explains to the sovereign the raison d’être of his innovative grammar on the Castilian language and the crucial meeting of the Catholic Monarchs with Columbus, which would be decisive for the future of his kingdom.

The catalog is available digitally and can be downloaded for free from the Acción Cultural Española website.

“He was the wise man who, as arms battled to consolidate an empire, waged the war against ignorance and barbarity.” The academic and Latinist Juan Gil Fernández thus presents the figure of Nebrija. An early contributor to Renaissance humanism in 1470, Nebrija was a tireless worker, owner of a gifted mind whose field of activity was not limited to the philosophy of Spanish and the classical languages ​​- Latin, Greek and Hebrew – from which the ‘homo trilinguis’ renaissance . He was a grammarian, translator, biblical exegete, teacher, professor, lexicographer, linguist, writer, poet, historian, royal chronicler, educator, printer and editor. His texts deal with law, medicine, astronomy and pedagogy.

His ‘Gramática de la lengua castellana’ (1492) is the first of a vulgar language, and his legacy was also crucial in Europe and America, as European grammars and the preservation of pre-Columbian Native American languages ​​owe much to Lebrija whose activity was professional practice spanned more than half a century, from 1470 to 1522.

Nebrija’s introduction of the Italian Renaissance to Castile coincided with the arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press (Aguilafuente, Segovia, 1471) and Nebrija collaborated with the first university printing press in the peninsula, which was in Salamanca where his first book, “Introductiones latinae” will appear. be published (1481). He was also a pioneer in claiming copyright for his works two centuries before “copyright” was invented and a defender of freedom.

Processed by the Inquisition, he was saved thanks to Cardinal Cisneros who promoted his transfer to Alcalá de Henares. Far from being intimidated after his Inquisition trial, he published ‘Apology’ (1507), his revision of the translation of the Bible into Spanish, the ‘Vulgate’, a courageous, defiant and intolerant text in the face of lies and ignorance, the first great accusation against censorship and for freedom of speech.

Source: La Verdad

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