5.14 Conservative Typography

We may distinguish two versions of Moirani's Bossi. That of 1566 was designed to match the format of an old-fashioned Donat (that is, Ianua and Pseudo-Cato together with some other simple texts) edited in the same period by Moirani and published by the same printers, the Da Meda brothers. Moirani apparently intended the two textbooks to be used together, something we know happened in fact because some of the rare surviving copies are presently bound with contemporary editions of Pseudo-Donatus and Pseudo-Cato. (66) The 1566 edition of Bossi's Institutiones, apparently supervised directly by Moirani, presented the prefaces in a small roman type but the student text in a round gothic like those used for elementary textbooks early in the century. The Da Meda brothers were imitating the usage of Bossi's day; but Moirani may also have chosen to use this old-fashioned dress to distinguish his traditional authors from the modern ones then in use in Jesuit and other schools he disliked. In any case the date 1566 is suggestive, for the Jesuits had arrived in Milan in 1564 at the invitation of Carlo Borommeo to staff the diocesan seminary and found a college that would eventually become the great Brera institution, second only to the Collegio Romano in prestige. (67) A reprint in 1570 at Trino presented the same text in somewhat more modern typographical dress, roman types throughout. Milan would have been its logical market.

Bossi's Institutiones got yet another life in print between 1589 and 1611, again in editions that were intended for classrooms in Milan, and which match Donats from the same printers. (68) These editions appeared at the height of anti-Jesuit sentiment in Lombardy and they were surely offered for the local market of non-Jesuit schools even though they merely repeat Moirani's text and contain no specific references to the Jesuits. Bossi and his companions, Pseudo-Donatus and Pseudo-Cato, now wear modern typographic dress, but of the sort common for the simplest and most elementary schoolbooks. The printers employed roman type throughout in a single size. But they clearly distinguish the rule books, Ianua and Bossi's Institutiones, from the Cato. The Cato is dressed with a clutter of red and black initials, head and tail pieces, and elaborate borders. Some of the printed marginalia are floral or composed of type ornaments; others display allegorical figures, cherubs, and garlands. In one edition we find a double-page spread with borders that depict female figures of Geometry and Arithmetic and a scholarly astrologer making celestial observations. By contrast, the printers gave little ornament to the rule books, just borders and red-and-black printing on the title pages. In one of the Bossi grammars, for example, the recto of the first leaf and verso of the last one are the only ones to use red-and-black printing, so that the resulting small-quarto booklet is drab inside but has a highly colored self-wrapper. Although the Donat was designed to go with the grammar of Bossi, the two little books could be (and probably most often were) given to school children as separate pamphlets sewn up but not necessarily bound more elaborately. The resulting products were diminutive and prettified in an old-fashioned way that must have seemed rather provincial in the age of Jesuit internationalism. We would call them down-market. By 1611, it might even be fair to think of them as medievalizing, since they reprise the look of fifteenth-century schoolbooks long after print conventions had moved on.

Did this alternative textbook style also represent a critique of the Jesuit educational program? Certainly the makers and users of such books followed conservative, humanist models. A comparable pedagogical and design nostalgia may have suggested reprinting Antonio Mancinelli's Regulae and Donatus melior in similarly down-market booklets at Rome in just the same period. (69) Just as certainly, the sudden success of the Jesuits was before the eyes of the printers and schoolmasters who promoted these backward-looking revivals. In Milan it took the very concrete form of the enormous Brera college building under construction, while Roman schoolmasters could witness the pomp and pretensions of the Collegio Romano. Absent any explicit documentary evidence it is hard to assert that these little books represent a direct criticism of the Jesuits. But these books were certainly intended for non-Jesuit schools. Even when conservative teachers in such schools had nothing new to offer, they were resisting the novelties of the Jesuits, which were intimately tied in the popular mind both with the spirituality of the Counter-Reformation and with the centralizing institutions of the Roman church. (70)

Still, conservative pedagogy claimed to be rooted in the Counter-Reformation too. Pescetti, remember, argued in 1592 for local control of lay teachers who would nonetheless be judged by their strict orthodoxy and dedication to teaching morals. At the same period Alessandro Rubini explicitly criticized Alvares's grammar as too difficult and implied further that the Jesuit had divorced teaching Latin from teaching morals. Rubini's corrective was to jettison the memorization of grammatical rules and classical examples altogether and substitute the reading of Christian maxims and proverbs. (71) These late-century authors were products of the Counter-Reformation but not enthusiasts for the Jesuits. Eighty years earlier, by contrast, Bossi had sounded only classicizing themes. He wrote before the Protestant Reformation began, and he complained of faulty pedagogical practices, not of the corruption of the church, teachers, or educational institutions. The prefaces of Bossi's editor Moirano, midway between Bossi and Pescetti or Rubini, are circumspect about institutions, but broadly critical of teachers for their venality, a charge long leveled at the clergy by laymen (and a subtext throughout Pescetti's anti-Jesuit writings). These lay critics were fully cognizant of the censorial power of the Counter-Reformation Church. They could complain of individual moral failures but not those of the institutions.


  • Open Bibliography
  • (66) E.g. the Brera copy: ++.V.28; fifteen years earlier Moirani had edited the Carmen scholasticum of Pilade for the same printers.
  • (67) Scaduto 1964, 442-457; Bianchi 1995, 785-788; Rurale 1998, 115-143.
  • (68) The Brera copy of Bossi 1611 is bound with a matching Donat: AB.XI.73; the pair also appears together in a shop inventory of 1592, Stevens and Gehl 1994, 55, 80 n. 79.
  • (69) Mancinelli 1594a and 1594b, which match Pseudo-Donatus 1595 in format.
  • (70) Pace Pescetti, there is little specific information on the curriculum choices of teachers in non-Jesuit schools at the period; but Morigia 1595, 182-184 gives a portrait of the rich variety of schools available to Milanese parents who chose not to send their children to the Brera.
  • (71) Turchini 1996, 316; see also section 2.11.
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