5.04 Demands of the Market

Alvares and his printers left a sizable body of self-conscious reflection on the publication of the new grammar in the form of extensive preliminary matter, including several prefaces from Alvares' own pen. The author's and publishers' concerns evolved across time. Documents also survive to evidence debates over the new grammar which took place within the Jesuit order. (These reports will be the principal concern of section 5.07.) It is significant that none of the doubts and controversies expressed within the order surfaced in the published record. The Jesuits effectively closed ranks in defense of their official grammar master.

The printer chosen by the Roman authorities for the first edition of Alvares's Syntaxis was Michele Tramezzino, among the earliest Venetian printers to market his work successfully both in Rome and in Venice. That the project was a high-profile and potentially high-profit one for Tramezzino is clear from the fact that he obtained privileges for the book in 1570 from both Pope Paul V and the Venetian Senate, in the first case for ten years and in the second for twenty. (22) Both privileges expressly granted exclusivity to Tramezzino and his family for the Syntaxis with or without commentary, referring to the teacher's and student editions respectively. We do not know how many times Tramezzino and his heirs printed the student version. A student edition licensed by Tramezzino to the Roman printer Vittorio Eliano (at the time regularly employed by the Jesuits in Rome) bears the date of 1572. The teacher's version was published by the family in 1571, 1574, 1577 and 1579. (23) Again, a 1577 printing at Rome was licensed to another printer, Giuseppe de Angelis. The Roman reprints evidence the effectiveness of the privilege of Paul V and the fact that the immediate market for the book was the Collegio Romano. The Venetian reprints prove that there was also a demand in some part of the market for a separate teacher's manual on syntax even after the appearance of the full Libri Tres. Although the new grammar was to be tested in the laboratory of the Collegio Romano, it was immediately useful well beyond that setting, something the Tramezzino family would have understood perfectly.

The publication of the Syntaxis separately from the larger grammar book was part of Jesuit official policy to create and promote new textbooks. The choice of Tramezzino, however, was probably a business decision, based on his solid record as a publisher of other textbooks. The printer surely had an agenda slightly different from that of his Jesuit patrons. The Venetian privilege included not only the new work on syntax by Alvares but also an older grammar book of Jan de Spauter on morphology. An edition of this small portion of De Spauter's general introduction to noun and verb inflections came from the Tramezzino press in this same year as the first, student version of the Alvares Syntaxis, 1570. Eliano, the Roman printer who reprinted the Syntaxis in 1572, also printed the full De Spauter introductory textbook under Tramezzino's privilege that year, producing, that is, a book which exactly covers the material which would eventually make up Book One of Alvares' Libri Tres. In the same period, Tramezzino published a version of De Spauter's Ars versificatoria, embracing the subject matter which would make up Book Three of the final Alvares grammar. On the Venetian market and internationally, this trio of books would constitute a full grammar course, with some entirely new and other, tried-and-true components. In Rome, it would fit the version of the grammar course for the moment in place at the Collegio Romano, substituting the newly available Alvares syntax for that portion of the approved De Spauter textbooks. (24) Tramezzino and his Roman collaborator could thus satisfy a substantial Jesuit market and offer a full set of grammar books to the larger textbook market as well.

There is no direct evidence for it, but the 1572 Rome reprint of the student version of the Syntaxis and De Spauter's manual of morphology in the same format may have been a limited order exclusively for the Collegio Romano. Alvares was at this exact moment prevaricating yet again about the delivery of his long-awaited comprehensive grammar, which was finally printed at Lisbon in late September 1572 in a student version. Twelve copies were shipped off to Rome in early October, and it was ready for an Italian edition only in 1573. The Roman Jesuits might have found themselves caught short in 1572, having exhausted the limited number of copies of the De Spauter/Alvares combination they had ordered in 1570 for what they had expected would be a short-term need until the new Alvares should appear. In this scenario, employing their regular printer Eliano at Rome would have provided textbooks needed for the 1572-1573 school year.


  • Open Bibliography
  • (22) For this practice and on Tramezzino: Nuovo 2002, 138.
  • (23) On these editions, Tinto 1966, 84-88.
  • (24) MPSI 4:243-244; Tinto 1966, 83-85.
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