5.06 Addressing the Teachers

Starting with the 1575 Venice teacher's editions , Italian editions of the Libri Tres also carried a third preface by Alvares, this one addressed specifically to teachers in Italy. This four-page essay concerned the ill effects of permitting students and teachers to pronounce Latin according to the habits of their native vernaculars. Alvares rehearsed vowels, diphthongs, and consonants in turn, giving extensive, very detailed instructions to teachers at Rome on how to avoid corruptions of good Latin pronunciation deriving from the natural accents of their Italian students. Curiously, this warning on pronunciation was incorrectly labeled in the 1575 Venice teacher's edition, with the title De nominum declinatione (On the Declension of Nouns), which should be the heading of the first chapter after the preface. This error persisted through several Venetian reprints of the teacher's edition. The advice on pronunciation appears correctly labeled, Admonitio auctoris (Advice of the Author), in most student editions, but the title was corrected for the teachers only in 1585.

After this 1575 warning on pronunciation, Alvares fell silent. In the years before his death in 1583 he turned his attention to other matters, and his grammar book took on a life of its own. New editions continued to carry his two or three prefaces. The Italian editions, all sponsored directly by the Collegio Romano, did not normally include additional prefatory material until after Alvares death. Even then, editorial changes were more often remarked in passing on the title pages than described in detail in prefatory material, perhaps out of respect for the authority of Alvares and in the service of maintaining the myth that all the Jesuit schools were using the same grammar. (29)

Prefatory and other added materials from the last decades of the century provide us with further clues as to the publishing history of the text. The oddest of the sixteenth-century prefaces to Alvares' work is certainly that of the printer Guglielmo Facciotti, who reprinted the fully revised student version of the Collegio Romano at least three times in the fifteen nineties. He tells his readers that it would seem logical to print Book One of the Alvares grammar separately, "since it contains the rudiments, as it were, of noun and verb inflections." Still, though he says this would be "in every way more convenient," Facciotti did not in fact do so, and not by oversight, as he expressly says, "because I know you, most humane reader, will not be ignorant of this fact." This is poor logic and worse advertising. Indeed, it makes little sense at all, except perhaps as a feeble expression of the printer's disagreement with the Collegio Romano faculty. Since they largely made the local market for this text, Facciotti could not contradict them. Facciotti seems to be asking the teaching public to request this different format in sufficient numbers to convince the Roman Jesuits to let him do it.

There is evidence that some Jesuits were considering this same change in the fifteen nineties. A 1587 Portuguese document remarks that Alvares himself contemplated such separate booklets; and a 1602 deliberation from Germany specifically orders that such editions be prepared, on the grounds that this was being considered in Rome. (30) It may be, then, that Facciotti was merely advocating a position some of the Collegio Romano faculty were already recommending. Certainly, the history of the text in the seventeenth century, especially outside Italy, is one of separate editions of one or two of the three books. For student use these were more convenient; and they allowed Jesuit college faculties to claim to be using Alvares in conformity with the Ratio Studiorum even when they were only using his texts for part of the course.


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  • (29) During the review of the entire Ratio Studiorum initiated across the order in 1586, one Polish Jesuit was astounded to discover how much some northern European editions of Alvares published in the fifteen seventies differed from the Roman edition of 1584 that he had been asked to review; see MPSI 6:331
  • (30) MPSI 6:320; 7:375-76.
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