2.08 Improving Guarino

Revision of Guarino became an advertising claim like others that multiplied at mid-century. A 1583 Piacenza edition attributed new revisions to Antonio Bendinelli, but it basically followed Palmieri's text closely except for adding a few examples. Bendinelli replaced the Greek alphabet at the end with an extract from one of Cicero's letters and an extended diagrammatic paradigm for the verb esse. The publisher claimed on the title page that Bendinelli not only corrected the text but also arranged it better. This last claim was a real selling point in that the typography is unusually spacious. The paradigms are set in a graceful, formal manner accentuated by two-line woodcut initials. The booklet also boasts purely ornamental cuts borrowed from more ambitious books. The title page displays a madonna and child surrounded by angels; there is a naïve, half-page cut of a knight on fol. E2 labeled "S. Antonino;" and every chapter begins with a handsome initial showing a mythological or biblical figure.

By the end of the sixteenth century, publishers usually treated Guarino's grammar as they did the Donat, as an old-fashioned text, distinctly down-market by comparison with more modern grammars. The 1596 Florence edition already mentioned was formatted exactly like a Donat that issued from the same Sermartelli press in the next year. We may imagine that they were intended for the same unambitious schools. The printer used the same type for the Guarino as for the Donat, but crowded the page even more than in the beginners' grammar. Then toward the end, at the point where the common text of Guarino changes from prose to verse, the printer changed type too, employing an ugly little roman and jamming forty two lines on each quarto page. (43)

Marco Antonio Bonciari (1555-1616) worked yet another revision upon Guarino in the last decade of the sixteenth century, proposing it as a basic textbook for the newly founded Seminary College of Saint Bernard at Perugia where he was professor of humanities. As a first stage he cleaned up and re-edited the Palmieri text and added a drilling book for irregular verb forms. (44) Later he enlarged this basic textbook under the title Guarinus, Or, Introduction to the Latin Language, effectively turning Guarino's name into the title of the textbook. This appeared in 1597-1598 together with a reprint of the drill book for irregular forms and another drilling book for all the noun and verb paradigms, called Donatus and Guarinus Corrected, Enlarged, and Illustrated. All three booklets were presented in a handsome small octavo on blue paper. Bonciari also published a rhetoric textbook for the same school, and he turned Donatus and Guarino into characters in a poetic allegory about good grammar teaching. (45)

Bonciari's Guarinus seems to have had considerable success. It was republished many times as late as 1694; the Donatus and Guarinus drilling book appeared as late as 1698. Meanwhile, the Roman teacher Giovanni Battista Corradi (fl. 1644-1681) prepared an enlarged version of the traditional Donat with Bonciari's Guarino under the title Bonciarius adultus, by which he meant a fuller and more mature version of Bonciari. So Bonciari himself, like Guarino and Donatus, became a title as well as an author. Still later, Corradi added translations of the base texts and extensive commentary, calling the resulting work Aelius Donatus the Roman, or rather, Concerning All Grammar, Latin and Vernacular. He dedicated this book to three young princes of the Altemps family, presenting it as if it were a textbook though, at over eight hundred pages, it seems unlikely to have been used by many students. (46)

The fact that Bonciari and Corradi linked the revised text of Guarino's grammar with a similarly corrected and clarified version of the traditional Donat was not a novelty. Guarino himself seems to have expected that his work would be used as a follow up to memorizing Pseudo-Donatus; and printers often offered the two texts in combined form in one book or in paired editions printed to the same pattern. Giovanni Tacuino, for example, offered a Guarino uniform in style with Antonio Mancinelli's Better Donat in 1507. In 1511 Bernardino Benali did the same. Benali's Donat is printed in red and black and his Guarino in black only, but they use the same types and both have first sheets decorated with religious woodcuts reused from missals or books of hours. A more direct model for Bonciari and Corradi might have been a combined edition prepared by Giovanni Battista Spina (dates unknown) and printed at Rome by the prestigious Salviani firm in 1579. Spina imagined that Guarino himself had edited the Donat, so he called his book The Grammatical Rudiments of Aelius Donatus Once Digested by Guarino and Now Restored by Giovanni Battista Spina. The book is a tour-de-force of red and black printing but offers a traditional version of both the Donat and Guarino's Regulae. (47)


  • Open Bibliography
  • (43) Pseudo-Donatus 1597a and Guarino 1596 survive together in at least one case: Rimini, Biblioteca Gambalunga A 525. Compare the equally homely Pseudo-Donatus 1595 and Guarino 1642.
  • (44) Bonciari 1593a and 1593b.
  • (45) Bonciari 1596, 1597, 1598a and b, 1611; Negri 1969, 676-77. Further on Bonciari and other versions of "Guarino," Grendler 1989, 189-191.
  • (46) Corradi 1644, 1647, and 1654. On Corradi, Grendler 1989, 191.
  • (47) Pseudo-Donatus 1579. Guarino also appeared once in combination with a re-worked version of the genuine Aelius Donatus, Ars minor; see Donatus 1585.
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