4.06 Re-Formatting the Reformer

Many editions of De Spauter published after his death were not straightforward presentations of his texts but revisions, sometimes very thoroughgoing, and often, it seems, more mindful of advertising logic than pedagogical reform. The degree to which De Spauter's name could become an advertising hook is clear, for example, from a garrulous Lyon title page of 1536 that advertised De Spauter with revisions by Josse Bade Ascensius (both dead by this date), and much, much more:

The Versifying Art of John De Spauter of Ninove, diligently reconsidered, with many additions and whatever seemed less desirable excised.
~ Were it your wish to see certain things more thoroughly demonstrated or taken up in greater detail, this Despauterius will satisfy even what was little anticipated with his Annotations.
~ Next to the annotations that were most recently added to the work of Jan de Spauter you will find this mark: *.
~ The Isagoge of Ascensius is prefaced, enlarged and edited. There is added De Spauter's attack upon his adversary.
~ In addition there is an alphabetical index showing with folio numbers where each word is to be found. (24)

A comprehensive teacher's manual -- De Spauter's original occupied about 150 pages in quarto -- could easily support all this apparatus. Here there are fully twenty eight closely set pages of prefatory matter and fourteen of appendixes, along with annotations that almost double the length of the original work.

This publisher's punctiliously labeled title page is almost bizarre, but it is not entirely untypical of the practices of the period. Authorship became mere advertising when a publisher claimed to present so many things: original work of De Spauter; Josse Bade Ascensius as digest-maker, annotator, and editor; De Spauter as commentator both on Bade and on himself; and De Spauter yet again as critic of his own detractors. Some earlier editions are explicitly denigrated although they too came from De Spauter's pen. The publisher presented the public with an author who revisited his work on several occasions and who worked in constant dialogue with scholarly friend and foe alike. It may be that the dynamic pedagogy claimed on this visually lively title page was meant to distract from the fact that none of the protagonists was still alive. All that was new and improved here, with the possible exception of the index, was actually over fifteen years old by the time this book came off the press. The market offered many similar editions, so each title page had to compete for the attention of the choosy book buyer.

Such marketing strategies were not necessarily imposed on an unwilling or unknowing De Spauter. Much of the rewriting described on this 1536 title page had been undertaken by him for earlier new editions. In a 1514 preface from his own pen, he was explicit about the marketing intentions of his revisions. Of the sample sentences in his most elementary textbook, he wrote, "I have nowhere added vernacular equivalents, leaving this task to the teachers, for I wrote this little work not for our countrymen only, but rather for the French, Spanish, English and others." (25)


  • Open Bibliography
  • (24) Spauter 1536b; see bibliography for full title.
  • (25) Spauter 1536a, fol. 1v: Vernaculum nusquam adieci, hanc provinciam preceptoribus relinquens, utique non nostratibus solum hoc opusculum scripsi, sed verum etiam Gallis, Hispanis, Anglis et caetera. This preface also appears in Spauter 1514a and b.
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