4.10 Marketing a New De Spauter

Gradually, De Spauter's Institutiones came to be used in the streamlined form given to them by Pellisson, entitled Union of All Despauterian Grammar (Contextus universae grammatices Despauterianae). This abbreviated version of De Spauter was prepared in 1529, the same year as the revision of Pellisson's Rudimenta. It would seem that Pellisson and his publisher had in mind that they would be marketed together. Certainly, they intended the new package not as a teacher's edition, but one that could be put into the hands of students without fear of confusing them with the excessive detail that characterized earlier versions of the Despauterius. Our sense of their editorial intent is somewhat blurred, however, by rates of survival. Both works have prefatory letters dated 1529, but the first editions to survive are of 1533 (Rudimenta) and 1532 (Contextus). After 1538, the Rudimenta often appeared as the second part of a book with a title page that names only the Contextus.

Both the Contextus and the Rudimenta were reprinted frequently in France --together and separately-- across the remainder of the sixteenth century. Their fate was different in Italy, where it took several decades before these books gained any currency. There were a few Italian editions up to 1540, by way of proposing this fashionable new work by a Frenchman to the Italian market, but then both works virtually went out of print in Italy for a decade or more. Handsome editions of the fifteen forties and fifties printed at Lyon could have been had in Italy in the meantime. Again in the fifteen fifties there seems to have been unsuccessful attempts at Rome and Genoa to propose Pellisson's grammar books. (48)

Pellisson's Despauterian method was picked up seriously and successfully in Italy only in the fifteen sixties. The highly productive and competitive presses at Venice made it over into an Italian phenomenon. Indeed, it achieved a certain vogue, for there were no fewer than fifteen Italian printings of the Contextus or the Rudimenta in the fifteen seventies, another nine in the eighties, and at least six more in the nineties. The Contextus and Rudimenta were reprinted at Venice as late as 1620. Alas, the late sixteenth-century Italian editions rarely have any front matter other than Pellisson's own prefaces, so there is no direct evidence as to why they were so popular. As we will see in chapter five, the 1570s saw the rapid expansion of the Jesuit schools, where the first Latin course was dominated by the Grammatica of Manuel Alvares, S.J. It may be that Pellisson's De Spauter was offered as an alternative for school masters who did not want to adopt the new Jesuit grammar. That Pellisson's Despauterian pedagogy could be considered consistent with traditionalizing (anti-Jesuit) grammatical instruction is suggested by the case of a surviving Pellisson Contextus and Rudimenta bound together with a contemporary edition of Guarino, an old standby of the humanist curriculum. (49)


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  • (48) The Rome and Genoa editions of these years are rare, but there are many copies of Lyon editions in modern Italian libraries. Some of the Lyon books show clear evidence of early Italian use. A copy of Pellisson 1540 at the University of Chicago displays ownership marks by two Italians, possibly brothers; and a copy of Pellisson 1541a now at the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa was thoroughly indexed by an Italian reader. Kevin Stevens informs me (letter of 9/13/06) that book inventories from Milan and Pavia in the fifteen forties also list editions of Pellisson printed at Lyon.
  • (49) Guarino 1564 bound with Pellisson 1565a and 1565b and a small compendium by another Despauterian grammar master, Stefano Fini 1563, now at the Biblioteca Civica of Padua.
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