3.09 More Basic Schoolbooks

The fourth work that Mancinelli ascribed to his Roman period contrasts sharply with the scholarly ambitions of his commentaries. It is the small, classroom-oriented Versilogus, dated 1488 both in its preface and in the first, Roman edition. This would put its completion some two years after his arrival in Rome and well before the completion of his scholarly work on Horace, Juvenal, and Virgil. A later publisher's advertisement accurately calls it a book of rules for almost every kind of poem. (40) The text has two parts. The first consists of scansion rules for words, with details on syllable length for first, middle and last syllables. There follow brief treatments of the most common verse forms. Teaching texts of the sort were devised throughout the later Middle Ages; they provided reference guides for consultation in future, but their first goal was to help students recognize meters as they read and parsed poetry.

In these same years, Mancinelli's publishing career took a decisive turn. After a clearly local, Roman start, many of his mid- and late-career works were printed first in the northern centers of Venice and Milan. Most of his teaching career was nearer the presses of Rome, so he might have been expected to want to publish there, especially in view of his apparent wish to correct his works in press. Certainly the burst of activity in printing his work in the North during the fourteen nineties can be explained by the fact that he lived outside Rome for much of that decade. From 1491 to 1493 he taught in Fano and Venice and may have visited Lombardy. This brief period of residence and the concomitant surge of publishing seems to have established his reputation in the North, and his works remained in print there for most of the next fifty years. Some of the work printed there never got Roman editions at all. When he returned to Central Italy to teach (at Velletri, Orvieto and Rome), he had the luxury afforded by his reputation of being able to get his work printed in several places at once. Several plague years in the fourteen nineties required closing the schools and so afforded him additional time to write and edit.

The nature of the printing industry in Rome was also surely part of the reason why relatively few editions of Mancinelli's later books were printed there. By far the largest part of Roman printing between 1469 and 1490, Mancinelli's own maturing years, consisted of substantial, advanced-level patristic and classical works. Most of these books were directly subsidized by ecclesiastical patrons and much other printing was done for the institutional Church. As a result, none of the presses of Rome in this period was commercial in the sense of depending on competitively produced books. Small textbooks like those Mancinelli was writing were speculative ventures and these were a very minor part of the production of Roman presses by contrast to other major printing centers of Italy. Venice increasingly dominated commercial book publishing in the peninsula in the late fourteen seventies and eighties.

Mancinelli's realization of these facts of the printing industry may even have contributed to his decision to leave Rome in 1491. He tells us explicitly that he was urged to go to Venice by Pomponio Leto, whose greatest success as a teacher had been in Venice. (41) Leto had had more than his share of troubles in Rome, brought on by his combative personality and his non-conformism (both philosophically and sexually). None of these problems ever beset Mancinelli. We may suspect, therefore, that it was Leto's positive teaching experience and his favorable opinion of the Venetian press that influenced Mancinelli. This supposition is made the more convincing by the fact that Mancinelli worked directly with two Venetian printers with whom Leto also collaborated, Cristoforo Pensi and Filippo Pincio. Giovanni Tacuino, another of Leto's printers, would later play a key role in Mancinelli's career in print. We know that Leto interested himself in matters of type and format during some twenty years' experience with printers. He may have been Mancinelli's model for taking an active part in the presswork. (42)

As for Mancinelli's expressed interest in correcting his work, the evidence we have on this point is clearest for the last part of his career, from about 1500 onward. It seems to characterize the older and wiser Mancinelli. In those later years, he or his printers and patrons made repeated attempts collect or reprint his works. Mancinelli was concerned to take the opportunity reprinting provided to correct his textbooks and sometimes to expand them. Earlier, however, when individual works were being issued, he was less experienced with printers and perhaps less worried about the accuracy of their work. In the 1490 revised version of the Regulae and Summa, as we have seen, he remarked very much in passing the need for correcting the earlier printed texts. Thereafter neither he nor the printers make explicit mention of the problem until 1500, upon his return to teaching in the Roman university. The context in 1500 and afterward is clearly competitive, filled with claims that Mancinelli's new texts were better than those already on the market. Mancinelli was made in this sense to compete with himself, since the new editions claimed not only to be the best textbooks of many available but also to be better than earlier editions of the same texts.


  • Open Bibliography
  • (40) Mancinelli 1499.
  • (41) Mancinelli 1498c, fol. I3v; Mellidi 2002, 58.
  • (42) On Leto, see section 2.04. On the Venetian press and the role played by Antonio Moretto as editor and promoter of works by figures in Leto's circle, including Mancinelli, Perosa 1981, 608-610; Monfasani 1988b, 17-22.
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