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Nebrija is an impressive biographical comic that pays tribute to Antonio de Nebrija, the leading Hispanic humanist, on his fifth centenary.
Nebrija is an impressive biographical comic that pays tribute to Antonio de Nebrija, the leading Hispanic humanist, on his fifth centenary. Graphic: NORDICA

500th anniversary of the death of Nebrija, the author of Spanish grammar

In 2022, all of Spain will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Antonio de Nebrija, the first great humanist of Spanish culture.

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"A grammar of something living? It is not necessary, I think. Spanish is learned by speaking it. What need do we have to explain it?" 

That was the answer of Queen Isabel to Antonio de Nebrija when he asked for her support to carry out his project of writing a grammar of the Castilian language.

Despite the initial rejection of the Catholic monarchs and many censorship attempts, Antonio de Nebrija (born in Seville in 1444 - died in Alcalá de Henares in 1522) got his way and is remembered today as the great Spanish humanist who managed to lay the foundations of the Castilian language, convinced that "one must write as one speaks, and speak as one writes."

Nebrija was the author of Spanish Grammar (Gramática de la lengua castellana, published in 1492) and the first dictionary of the Spanish language (published in 1495). His grammar is the first published grammar study of any modern European language. His chief works were published and republished many times during and after his life and his scholarship had a great influence for more than a century, both in Spain and in the expanding Spanish Empire.

To remember his legacy — the Castilian language would not be the same today without the work Nebrija carried out during the time of the Catholic monarchs — the Cervantes Institute rang in the Nebrija year, announcing a series of events in centers around the world, as well as the publication of several books, a documentary for television and an international congress. 

"He was one of the greatest scholars of his time, a humanist who in his infinite network of knowledge was determined to demonstrate that knowledge was not knowledge if it was not properly expressed and who revolutionized philology," said José Muñiz Fernandez, rector of Nebrija University, during the announcement of the Nebrija year. 

The importance of his Spanish Grammar not only stands out for being the first attempt to codify a vulgar language, but also because it was crucial in Europe and America, since European grammars and the preservation of the Indigenous pre-Columbian American languages owe much to his professional efforts. 

The son of small Andalusian landowners, Nebrija studied at the University of Bologna (today in Italy) thanks to an ecclesiastical university scholarship. Nebrija would not have been Nebrija if he had not been a student at the University of Bologna, the oldest in Europe and the center of academic humanism at the time. 

To learn more about his life, the most extensive, complete, rigorous and documented book on Antonio de Nebrija to date is La pasión de saber. Life of Antonio de Nebrija (published in 2019), by Professor Pedro Martín Baños. Martín Baños is also the author and manager of the most complete website on Nebrija's work, the so-called Nebrijan corpus: www.corpusnebrissense.com.

Coinciding with the opening of the 5th Centenary of Nebrija, the writer José Antonio Millán has just published Antonio de Nebrija o el rastro de la verdad (edited by Galaxia Guntenberg and Fundación Nebrija), a highly popular book aimed at improving the knowledge of Nebrija among the general public in Spanish.

On the other hand, Argentine illustrator Agustín Comotto just published Nebrija, a comic book dedicated to the life of the Spanish grammarian on the fifth centenary of his death, where he highlights the harsh persecution he was subjected to because of a project that was not understood in his time.

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