5.03 An Evolving Textbook

In Portugal meanwhile, Manuel Alvares, S.J. was attempting to pass a quiet career as a schoolmaster. He served as rector of the Jesuit college at Coimbra and as superior of Jesuit houses of study in Lisbon and Evora; but his first love was teaching grammar. In 1564 he was invited to send his classroom materials to Rome to be published, and the invitation was repeated with increasing urgency for some years afterwards. Alvares seems to have been a perfectionist unwilling to part with his text, and he only delivered it gradually across the early fifteen seventies. In the event the published versions were a great success, both on their own merits and also because they were named as the standard grammar for elementary schools in the international Jesuit Order of Studies (Ratio Studiorum) proposed in 1586. Alvares would become the most widely published Latin grammatical author for several centuries, with well over five hundred editions. (15)

Alvares' teaching method and its presentation in print were rigorously systematic, one of the factors which most recommended it to the Jesuits themselves and to the wider market. Its three books (Libri tres in the formal title of the textbook) followed the standard division of the grammar course in the period: first morphology, then syntax, and finally prosody. Alvares divided each book into small sections and began each section with a concisely stated rule. He then gave a few brief examples and proceeded to clarifications or exceptions in what he labeled "appendices," each with its own set of examples. For each rule these appendices proceed from simple to more complex. The examples included precise citations of classical authors which encouraged the student to think of the rules not as absolute or abstract, but as deriving from classical usage. In Book One on morphology, each of the brief rules is also followed by a few mnemonic verses, a practice held over from "Despauterian" pedagogy. In student editions of the grammar, the presentation then went on to the next rule. Parallel teacher's editions included an extensive commentary on each section and each appendix. These explanationes contain further examples, notes on irregularities, more exceptions to the rules, or discussions of the changing usage between Golden Age and later authors. (16)

Alvares conceived of his text as one that would evolve. Fuller and corrected versions were envisioned from the start because Alvares knew that his fellow Jesuits would have strong opinions that would have to be taken into account. In the event there were several official revisions of the textbook. Moreover, the Grammatica Emmanuelis, as it was commonly designated, was published both as a long-form teacher's manual and in more compact student formats. Modern bibliographies and library catalogs do not distinguish between the various revisions of the text, nor between the two formats. Historians have further confused the issue by asserting that the shorter, student form was conceived and issued after the longer one. In fact the publishing record is clear that for the syntax section (Book II) the reverse was true, while for the larger grammar the two editions were nearly simultaneous. It seems certain that both versions were conceived in parallel. (17)

These books present a bibliographical dilemma. Contemporaries rightly saw this highly successful Jesuit grammar as one important intellectual achievement. From our point of view it was one of the greatest publishing successes of the sixteenth century. But how are we to distinguish several, radically different versions of the "same" textbook? It is essential at the outset, therefore, to reconstruct the stages in the history of the text within the sixteenth century, both within Alvares' lifetime and in the first twenty-five years after his death. Its subsequent history (it was widely used until the late nineteenth century) will concern us only slightly.

Alvares 's work proceeded far too slowly for the authorities in Rome, and so the second book, the Syntaxis, was sent to press in 1570, three years before Alvares finally (and apparently reluctantly) let go of the full three-book version of his grammar. We may conveniently divide the very early history of the text, therefore, into editions of the Syntaxis and editions of the Libri Tres, keeping in mind that the former continued to be published as a separate up to about 1580, well after it was entirely incorporated into the latter. After 1600, it was common to separate the Libri Tres again; Book I and Book II often appeared separately in the seventeenth century, as did a short epitome (really just a paradigm book) based on Book I. Later still, Book III appeared as a separate and the latter half of it was sometimes even styled Book IV.

Tension between Alvares and his superiors is evident in the early history of the text. (18) Out of deference for the author, the authorities in Rome gave him editorial supervision, but they were anxious to avoid further delays. Student and teacher versions of the Syntaxis appeared first at Venice, in 1570 and 1571 respectively. Alvares' direct participation in the editing probably seemed useful, and so the student and teacher versions of the full Libri Tres were first printed in 1572-1575 in Lisbon, where Alvares then worked. Almost as soon as copies arrived from Portugal, however, the new grammar was sent to press in Italy, so Rome and Venice editions appeared in 1573-1575 under supervision of the Italian Jesuits. In the late fifteen seventies and eighties, Venetian and Roman presses produced vast numbers of these standardized texts for the Jesuit colleges. The importance of standardization to the Jesuits may be judged from the fact that nearly all the teacher's editions are page-for- page and line-for-line reprints of the 1575 first Venetian edition.

After Alvares' death in 1583, the locus of editorial activity on the grammar moved to Rome. The staff of the Collegio Romano worked a major revision of the student edition, concentrating on book two, the Syntaxis, which had proved unpopular with some teachers because it did not always use the terminology familiar to them from older grammars. This revision, in which the second book is characterized on the title page as "recalled to the logic of the ancient grammarians," was published in 1584 at Rome and in 1585 at Venice. Some versions of this revision were styled "recalled to clearer and more convenient logic." (19) As we will see, both these phrases implied better pedagogical practice, that is, the book was changed to conform to the way teachers actually presented the materials in question. (20)

The Roman Jesuits also created a new Epitome or Compendiolum of Alvares for easier student use in 1589; and then immediately undertook yet another revision of the student text of the Libri Tres. This last edition included a title page that embraced the Epitome and so came to represent a new, unified assembly in which the original student text and a highly abbreviated, summary text were disseminated under one cover. This was an edition for students; their teachers would have a fuller, older teacher's edition to hand. The Roman editors filled out the volume by adding Aldo Manuzio's Orthography and Greek and Hebrew alphabets explicated by Paolo Manuzio. This revised and augmented student version was the basis of most of the later textbooks that went under Alvares' name. (21)


  • Open Bibliography
  • (15) BCJ 1:223-247 and 8:615-1620; Rodrigues 1917. 202-207 and 1939, II.2, 49-56.
  • (16) Springhetti 1961, 290-91; Bauer 1986, 142-144; Colmbat 1993, 210-217.
  • (17) See Gehl 2003, 441-445; the error derives from the complicated entry in BCJ 1:223-247, and rests on the assumption that the first Italian edition was that of 1575, actually the first Italian teacher's edition. See also Springhetti 1961, 291-92, where Alvares' project for an "arte pequeña sin commentos" seems to refer to a revision of the Syntaxis; Ballerini 1985, 228n7.
  • (18) Rodrigues 1939, II.2, 55.
  • (19) Alvares 1588, for example.
  • (20) Farrell 1938, 447-448.
  • (21) It seems to be that referred to in 1590 as revista et accomodata...da questi padri del Collegio Romano, Rurale 1998, 162. The complex early history of Alvares' text is summarized in a table presented in Gehl 2003, 442; where portions of this chapter appeared.
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