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  • Mary L. Clayton (bio)
The Translations of Nebrija: Language, Culture, and Circulation in the Early Modern World by Byron Ellsworth Hamann. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015. Pp. xviii + 223. $22.95. ISBN 978-1-62534-170-9 (paperback).

Who would have imagined that someone could write a truly interesting book on the topic of the wanderings and adventures of Antonio de Nebrija's Spanish to Latin dictionary (1495 and many later versions)? That is exactly what Byron Ellsworth Hamann has done in The Translations of Nebrija. This is simultaneously a scholarly work tracing the history of the numerous printings of the continually developing dictionary and its influence on bilingual lexicography throughout its first century and a quarter, and a lengthy essay that begins with the overlapping meanings of Spanish trasladar—'to copy, to translate' and 'to transport from one place to another'—and ends four chapters later with musings on book margins with references to Jacques Derrida.

Hamann's book is a pleasure to read, with numerous illustrations from various versions of the dictionary as well as from bilingual dictionaries that developed from it, including some in which a third language is added by hand to the already printed pages. There are also illustrations from New World codices and other artifacts that are relevant to topics at hand, as well as maps and diagrams. A real tour de force is the double-page diagram (6–7) in which Hamann lays out the genealogies of all of the printings of Nebrija's Spanish–Latin dictionary and their "off-spring" up to 1614 by time, place, and any other authors and languages involved.

The book is well researched and heavily annotated, with 34 pages of endnotes for 122 pages of actual text. With notes at almost 28 percent of the length of the text itself, it might have been a better editorial decision to use footnotes rather than endnotes. The serious reader needs two bookmarks and must continually flip back and forth. Also included are 32 pages of appendices, 28 pages of references, and an index.

Of particular value are the notes that direct the reader to online sources for original documents. These resources make it possible to pursue historical lexicography in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago. One can visit rare books collections in several countries [End Page 132] in an afternoon and examine rare originals housed on separate continents side by side on one's computer. I'll be quick to admit, though, that nothing can match the awe of having a nearly 500-year-old book served up on its velvet pillow to be examined under the watchful eyes of its guardian librarians.

Aelio Antonio de Nebrija first published his Latin to Spanish Lexicon hoc est dictionarium ex sermone latino in hispaniense[m] in 1492 and followed it with the Spanish to Latin Dictionarium ex hispaniensi in latinum sermone[m] in 1495. After a couple of reprintings, Nebrija brought out a second edition of the Latin–Spanish dictionary in 1512, followed by a second edition of the Spanish–Latin dictionary in 1513. This new dictionary was actually shorter, due in part to the removal of nearly all proper nouns, many of which went into the gazetteer that accompanied it. This was the last revision of the dictionary during Nebrija's lifetime, and one of the drawing points of Hamann's book is its explication of the relationships among this and subsequent printings of this work, as well as of future modified versions brought out by his sons and others. There has been a problematic mischaracterization of the revised edition (apparently dating to early in the twentieth century), giving its first date of publication as 1516 rather than 1513, and Gerald J. McDonald in the preface to his 1973 critical edition and modernization of the dictionary uses the later date: "El Vocabulario de romance en latin, es decir, el diccionario español-latino refundido, apareció por primera vez en Sevilla en el año 1516 en casa de Johannes Varela."1 ["The Vocabulario de romance en latin, that is, the revised Spanish–Latin dictionary, appeared for the first time in Seville in the year...


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