4.08 Advertising Grammar Books

In the case of the Italian humanists he admired, Bade became their champion north of the Alps as editor, printer, and publisher. This was true for great authors and minor ones alike. His editions of minor humanist authors like Giovanni Sulpizio or Antonio Mancinelli, for example, granted an additional twenty or thirty years to the published works whose vogue had nearly passed in Italy. He first commented on the little grammar book of Sulpizio for a Paris edition commissioned by Jean Petit in 1502. In the very next year, when his own press was up and running, he printed the text himself for Petit; and after 1506 he printed and published the work three times under his own imprint. Meanwhile other Paris, Caen, and London printers issued his text of Sulpizio on eight other occasions before 1530. (34) In the case of Mancinelli, Bade edited four separate works, publishing each himself first and then allowing many reprints by others while reprinting only once himself. (35) By 1518, his version of Mancinelli's works had become the standard text at Venice and Milan as well as in France, supplanting the versions edited by Mancinelli personally. Mancinelli's Opera omnia as known in later centuries contains Bade's text. Bade similarly promoted classroom works by Filippo Beroaldo the elder, Battista Spagnuoli Mantuanus, Lorenzo Valla, and Niccolo Perotti. (36)

Without a doubt, however, Bade's greatest acts of boosterism were in promoting the works of Jan de Spauter. Between 1512 and 1521 (the final and most productive years of De Spauter's life) Bade printed five editions of De Spauter's Grammatica, seven of his Art of Letter Writing (Ars Epistolica), four of his Art of Verse (Ars versificatoria), three of his Syntaxis, two of the Basic Introduction (Rudimenta), and one of On Figures of Speech (De Figuris). (37) Later in the 1520's, there were additional Bade editions of every one of these works, as well as reprints of Bade's versions by other French, Flemish, and Italian printers. By the time of Bade's death in 1535, the "Despauterius," a grammar that included a brief epitome and the full Grammatica of De Spauter (with or without annotation or additional short works), was virtually unchallenged as a basic Latin textbook in northern France and the Low Countries. It would remain in use in France (and her colonies abroad) into the seventeenth century, often in radically modified form. (38)

Unlike his treatment of many other school authors, however, Bade did not usually preface De Spauter's work with a commendation from his own pen, nor did he add notes to De Spauter's already fulsome texts. Rather, he presented De Spauter's prefaces and texts pretty much as the author wrote them. Exception was made only for the Ars versificatoria and the Syntaxis, which have brief prefaces by Bade. In the first case, it was the frankly controversial nature of the book that prompted an apology by Bade; humanists were always ready to argue about prosody and De Spauter took on every previous writer on the subject by name. The Syntaxis, by contrast, is presented with a show-off piece by Bade, a ceremonial letter in praise of De Spauter addressed to the "Senate and People of Bergues," a town in French Flanders for whose gymnasium the textbook had been printed.

The preface to the Ars versificatoria is particularly interesting because Bade explicitly compared De Spauter's learning and method with that of Lorenzo Valla, Aldo Manuzio, and other Italian grammarians whose prestige was at high water mark in the first decades of the sixteenth century. Bade had great respect for Italian scholarship, but only insofar as he agreed with its results. He declined to accept the authority of Italian authors if they seemed to have made errors of interpretation, and he frequently followed medieval sources in place of modern ones. (39) He also took exception to the climate of attack and counter-attack that surrounded much philological scholarship and that De Spauter indulged in this work.

Bade's preface is worth examining closely, since it can be read as a manifesto against the kind of ad hominem argument that bedeviled so much publishing in the age of Erasmus. As always, the prose is carefully crafted. First Bade sets the scene for his own unusual intervention:

Here you have, learned reader, the versifying or stichological work of Jan de Spauter of Ninove together with his apology or recrimination against an adversary, which I have printed unwillingly, compelled to do so by the most just of reasons. For when he, contrary to the fathers' decree and Christian prescription, had already seen to the printing of two virtually defamatory pamphlets, it seemed disgraceful not to respond to those works, especially since he [De Spauter] could and indeed should have done so. (40)

Bade is exaggerating De Spauter's forbearance here. In fact De Spauter was always ready to argue. Next Bade folded this imagined, mildly reasoning voice of De Spauter into his own, commending especially De Spauter's scholarly method and thoroughness:

For, since grammarians argue about many matters of interpretation, and the case is still being adjudicated, it is unfair to attribute fault to a man who follows good authorities rather than all authorities, especially when he follows better and certainly more ancient ones. For who in his right mind would not prefer Virgil or Lucan to Aldo concerning [the Latin name for] Ischia? And who, for that matter, would not prefer Servius and a whole Greek tradition of wise men to Annius of Viterbo on the matter of Monaco? (41)

Bade then went on to praise De Spauter for his restraint in waiting to answer his critics until he could do so methodically and in the service of good letters and morals rather than, as so many do, for the sake of obtaining fame. He ended his conciliatory preface with an exhortation to Christian charity, a commonplace of humanist disputational prose. All these remarks worked to the same end, to blunt the inflammatory rhetoric of De Spauter; but interestingly, they did not spare Italians who might have erred. (42)

Josse Bade's editions of De Spauter traveled in the international market, as evidenced in a collected volume of five of De Spauter's classroom works, all printed by Bade at Paris between 1511 and 1515 and now preserved in the library of the American Academy in Rome. This collection contains early notes in two hands, one perhaps French and the other Italian. The French annotator may have been close to the Paris circle of Bade himself because he makes reference to Lucio Giovanni Scoppa, a grammarian and editor who taught exclusively at Naples but whose commentary on Persius was included in one of Bade's editions a few years after the date of the items in this collected volume. The Italian notes are more extensive but they are not substantive; they serve merely to index some topics. Still, they tell us what interested one early Italian reader. Most of them index parts of the Ars versificatoria in which De Spauter criticized earlier authors. The errors of Alexander of Villa Dei are noted, but also those of Petrarch, Valla, and other Italian philological authorities. Most of the notes are matter-of-fact ("an error of Tortelli and Calepino"), but some seem a bit scandalized ("Petrarch got it all mixed up"). It would seem that Josse Bade had good reason to add a conciliatory preface to a work like this that took so many modern authors to task by name. (43)


  • Open Bibliography
  • (34) Renouard 1908 iii, 262-271; Crane 2005, 96-100.
  • (35) Renouard 1908 iii, 64-71.
  • (36) Crane 2005, 92-96.
  • (37) Renouard 1908 ii, 378-402.
  • (38) Colombat 1993, 233-240 and 1999, 66-77.
  • (39) Colombat 1993, 99.
  • (40) Spauter 1536b, postscript: Habes lector studiose versificatoriam seu sticologiam Joannis Despauterii Ninivite cum apologia sive recriminatione in adversarium, quam invitus feci ut imprimerem, coactus tamen iustitissima ratione. Nam cum ille contra decretum patrum et prescriptum Christianum iam duos quasi diffamatorios libellos curaverit Gandavi imprimendos, indignum visum illis non respondere, presertim cum et posset et deberet.
  • (41) Ibid.: Nam quia de multis rebus literariis Grammatici certant, et adhuc sub iudice lis est, iniquum est bonos authores secuto vitio dare quam non omnis, presertim cum vere meliores certe vetustiores sequatur. Nam quis sane mentis de Inarime non potius Virgilio Lucanoque quam Aldo credat aut de Monoecus non potius Servio et omni grece scientium manui quam Annio Viterbiensi.
  • (42) Renouard 1908, ii, 389; Lebel 1981, 68-70.
  • (43) Spauter 1515, copy at the American Academy in Rome (154Desp1511). Compare fol. 137r: error Tortelli et Calepini, with 33v: multis erravit Petrarcha, and 49r: Petrarcha omnia confundit. The volume also contains Spauter 1511a, 1511b, and 1513.
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