3.04 Teaching With Print

The complex printing history of Antonio Mancinelli's works, then, can illuminate how teachers used print. He, his colleagues in the profession, and the students and parents in his circle all considered printing a boon to teaching, but not one that would solve all the problems of textbook production. If we consider his various pedagogical works in the order, not of their composition but of their printing, we will discover the biography (largely an autobiography) of a publishing teacher.

Mancinelli's interest in grammar started in his hometown of Velletri, south of Rome, where he studied and later taught in the grammar school. In one preface he said that by the time he was 21 he was the head of the school. He described the first twenty years of his career in a brief verse autobiography that he published in 1493. By that time he had taught in Velletri, Sermoneta, Rome, Fano, and Venice. He returned to Velletri in the summer of 1493 to resume teaching there. Most of the autobiographical poem concerns his hometown and its countryside (the beautiful, south-facing slopes of the Alban Hills), his parents, and his own children. But he also refers to the newly elected Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, perhaps in the hope of patronage; and he describes his teaching and lists his publications chronologically. We know from other documents that he taught in Velletri from 1493 to 1498, in Orvieto from 1498 to 1500, and in Rome once more from 1500 forward. (18)

Apparently Mancinelli early on felt the need for new classroom materials, for he said he devised his Rules for Construction (Regulae constructionis) and Summary of Declensions (Summa declinationis) in his earliest years of teaching. This tells us that in the early 1470's he used them in the classroom in manuscript form before they went to print. But no manuscript copies survive, and the Summa exists in a single copy now in London. The story of these early works is further complicated by their frequent reprinting in revised and enlarged editions. Two of the earliest surviving textbooks by Mancinelli -- the Rules for Verbs (Regimen verborum) and Introduction to Rhetoric (De oratore brachylogia) published in 1477-- are small sets of rules quoted from ancient grammarians and rhetoricians Mancinelli supposed that such works of extraction and compilation from the ancient writers would have direct use in the classroom. As we will see, Mancinelli retained for the rest of his life this habit of creating topical collections of extracts. (19)


  • Open Bibliography
  • (18) Mancinelli updated this autobiography twice. It is edited and well explicated by Mellidi 2002, 19-79; see also Sabbadini 1878, 19-25. Interestingly enough, the very first work of Mancinelli's to see print was a not a textbook and is not mentioned in any of the bibliographies he compiled himself. It is a scholarly controversial work, defending the De homine of Giorgio Merula (ca 1430-1494). It is a young humanist's signature piece, claiming a place in the scholarly debates of the mid 1470's for its author, then still unknown. It had a single edition in Venice in 1476; the sole surviving copy is at Uppsala University Library. For polemics surounding Merula, Gabotto and Confalonieri 1893, 78-142; Rabil 1988, 254-257; Fera 1996, 196-199; Campanelli 2001, 38-47.
  • (19) The preface to the Regimen, Mancinelli 1477b (one copy known), is reproduced in facsimile in IGI at no. 6083. For an account of the contents of these earliest works, Mellidi 2002, 43-47.
Switch to Dark Mode
Show Comments