Brocato (2022 Congress Paper)

Linde M. Brocato
(University of Miami)

“When Politics Press Publishing:
Hernán Núñez and Vernacular Publishing (1499–1555)”

Abstract of Paper
57th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Online, 2022)

Session on
“Pressing Politics:
Interactions between Authors and Printers
in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries”

Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence

Organized by David Porreca and Linde M. Brocato
2022 International Congress on Medieval Studies Program



The scholarly life of Hernán Núñez is eventful.  His studies in Bologna at the Colegio Español in the 1490s are followed by service in the household of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, during which time he prepared and published Juan de Mena’s Laberinto de Fortuna with an extensive erudite commentary. He then served on the faculty of the Complutense working on the Biblia Políglota, but a􀀂er a brief entanglement with the Comuneros, moved to Salamanca, where he became professor of Greek.

Hernán Núñez, Refranes o Prouerbios (Salamanca, 1555), Title Page. Image:, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Núñez’s publications in classics are important, and he is best known today for his Mena commentary, but he also has the honor of having compiled one of the earliest anthologies of Spanish proverbs in his Refranes o proverbios en romance (1555), the content of which is not my focus here, but rather the way that it begins with a scene of editorial tension and ends with a post-mortem work extolling Núñez modelled on Mena’s Coronación that ends by also addressing Carajicomedia, obscene parody of Núñez’s edition of Mena (first published in Obras de burlas provocantes a risa, 1519). Both scenes recorded in the 1555 edition (Salamanca: Juan de Canova) allow us to explore and reflect on the politics of publishing in the sixteenth century.

The copy of Núñez’s Refranes at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, allows us to go a step further, as a reader has commented on one of the refranes – “A barua muerta poca vergue[n]ça. Quiere dezir, Poco acatamiento al muerto” [A dead beard has little shame. Which means, Pay little heed to a dead man] (folio Ir) – by annotating it with “El Cid mostró al revés” [The Cid demonstrated the opposite]. This is another allusion to a di􀀃erent vernacular work, the Crónica popular del Cid, itself a signal of other political tensions. This paper explores all three.