The Correspondence of Hernán Núñez de Toledo y Guzmán [el Pinciano]

Primary Contributors:

Cultures of Knowledge

Portrait of Hernán Nuñez de Guzmán. Engraving by Manuel Esquivel de Sotomayor, after a drawing by José López Enguídanos, from Retratos de Españoles ilustres (Madrid, 1801). (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Hernán Núñez de Toledo y Guzmán (1475–1553)

Today Hernán Nuñez is known most widely either as ‘el Pinciano’ or as ‘el Comendador Griego’, the latter on account of his deep knowledge of Greek. For three decades, the Spanish humanist occupied the Chair of Rhetoric and Greek at the University of Salamanca where his expertise in this language and in Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin was renowned.

Born in Valladolid in or around 1475, el Pinciano entered the Order of Santiago at the age of fifteen or sixteen. He travelled to Bologna to study at the Colegio Español de San Clemente, before returning to Spain in 1498 to take up a position in Granada as tutor in within the household of the Mendoza family. El Pinciano worked on the Complutensian Polyglot Bible for Cardinal Cisneros at the University of Alcalá de Henares, where he was appointed professor of Rhetoric and, from 1519 as successor to Demetrius Ducas, in Greek. During the Revolt of the Comunidades de Castilla (1520–1521), el Pinciano supported the comuneros and, fortunately, avoided subsequent prosecution.

In 1524 el Pinciano was appointed to the Chair in Greek at the University of Salamanca and three years later he succeeded in addition to the Chair in Rhetoric. Between 1543 and 1545 he published his critical studies on the works of Pomponius Mela (Castigationes in Pomponium Melam) and on Pliny the Elder (Observationes in C. Plinii Historiae Naturalis libros). Hernán Nuñez died in 1553, having retired from Salamanca five years previously. Two years after his death, his life-long work on his collection of proverbs, Refranes o proverbios en romance que nuevamente colligió y glossó el Comendador was published posthumously.

Partners and Additional Contributors

Metadata for this listing of el Pinciano’s correspondence has been compiled by doctoral student Cristina Erquiaga Martínez during the course of her work as an intern with EMLO. For their invaluable guidance and advice on Spanish scholarly correspondence, EMLO would like to extend sincere thanks to Dr Theodor Dunkelgrün of St John’s College, Cambridge, and Sir Noel Malcolm of All Souls College, Oxford.

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

Biblioteca y epistolario de Hernán Núñez de Guzmán (El Pinciano): una aproximación al humanismo español del siglo XVI, ed. Juan Signes Codoñer, Carmen Codoñer Merino, and Arantxa Domingo Malvadi (Madrid, 2001).

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Epistolarum libri septem (Salamanca, 1557).


El Pinciano was the ‘asesor’ for the University of Salamanca concerning the purchase of books related to the study of Greek, Hebrew, and the Humanities. Coupled with the fact that large numbers of his surviving letters relate to his own critical edition of Pliny, his correspondence is a fascinating testament to his involvement in all aspects of the publication of a work, from research of the sources and composition to correction, printing, dedication, legal rights, and sales, and it provides scholars today with an excellent source of information about printing, the publication process, and the book trade in Spain at this period. Many of the humanist’s correspondents seek his advice in these matters, and it seems likely he that played an influential part in the purchase of books for the education of the young prince Philip (who was to become Philip II) and of young men at court. His letters offer also significant insight into events and situations at the Universities of Salamanca and Alcalá.

The letters between el Pinciano and his pupil Zurita (his main correspondent), are written in Spanish, and the scholar justifies this by explaining the pressures of time he finds himself under: ‘Yo había, de razón, de escribir en latín continuamente a v.m., pero porque yendo la carta a tal persona había de ir muy limada, y yo estoy obruto de ocupaciones partim públicas, partim domésticas, heme contentado de mater algunos gironcillos en latín.’ Even these letters, however, contain a vast number of phrases and passages in Latin. Amongst el Pinciano’s correspondents may be found Cristóbal de Horozco, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Francisco López de Villalobos, Lucio Marineo Sículo, and Juan de Vergara. A number of the letters also provide interesting information regarding their transmission as specific carriers (‘recuero’ is the term used) are named and mentioned repeatedly.


The majority of the letters in this inventory may be found in the ‘Salazar y Castro’ collection at the Real Academia de la Historia in Madrid. Others are held at the Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, and in the British Library, London. Most are autograph letters, but a number survive as and are known from manuscript copies. The letters sent by Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda may be found in a print publication of 1557, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Epistolarum libri septem (Salamanca, 1557).

Scope of Catalogue

It should be noted that the origins of the letters from and the destinations of letters to Jerónimo Zurita y Castro have been inferred as Valladolid on the basis that Zurita is known to have worked in the city as secretary of the Inquisition. For letters dated after 1522, the year in which el Pinciano established himself in Salamanca, this city has been inferred as the destination or origin of the letters he received or sent. Finally, a number of letters that do not survive are mentioned in the correspondence; metatadata for these will be added to the listing.

Further resources

La Biblioteca de Hernán Núñez, el Pinciano, University of Salamanca (accessed 17 December 2017).

Núñez, Hernán, ca. 1478 1553, Biblioteca General Histórica, Biblioteca General Histórica, University of Salamanca (accessed 17 December 2017).


Mapping the Spanish Republic of Letters, 1450–1650, University of Windsor, Ontario.

Letters sent by El Pinciano, Mapping the Spanish Republic of Letters, 1450–1650, University of Windsor, Ontario.

Letters sent to El Pinciano, Mapping the Spanish Republic of Letters, 1450–1650, University of Windsor, Ontario.



Arantxa Domingo Malvadi, ‘Núñez de Guzmán, Hernán’, in J. F. Domínguez Domínguez, ed., Diccionario biográfico y bibliográfico del humanismo español (siglos XV–XVII) (Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas, 2012), pp. 622–5.

Teresa Jiménez Calvente, ‘Núñez de Guzmán, Hernán’, in Diccionario biográfico español (Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 2009–13), XXXVIII, pp. 91–3. See also Teresa Jiménez Calvente, Hernán Núñez de Guzmán, El Comendador Griego. El Pinciano. Humanista, escritor y helenista español, in Diccionario Biográfico Español (Diccionario Biográfico Español de la Real Academia de la Historia, 7 November 2014, accessed 17 December 2017).

Helen Nader, ‘The Greek Commander Hernán Núñez de Toledo, Spanish Humanist and Civic Leader’, in Renaissance Quarterly, 31 (1978), pp. 463–85.

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