5.16 Progressive Alternatives

Humanist conservatives and religious reformers were not the only critics of the Jesuits, nor did conservatives monopolize the marketing of alternative textbooks. The end of the sixteenth century was an age of experimentation both in printing and in pedagogy, and there were plenty of innovators who had concrete, practical contributions to try out on the textbook market. Some had no broad reformist ambitions but were simply unwilling to suffer the continuing dominance of traditional pedagogy. An earlier chapter described the reform of Latin pedagogy proposed by Francesco Priscianese in 1540. In Priscianese's textbooks the old habit of teaching Latin only in Latin was abandoned for a more pragmatic use of Tuscan to describe and drill Latin grammatical concepts. As part of his more radical reforms, Aonio Paleario took up this theme in the fifteen sixties; and Orlando Pescetti did so again in the nineties. They all insisted that both Latin and vernacular language mastery would be improved by this technique.

Still other authors and publishers experimented with the physical design of textbooks intended to make pedagogy more flexible and less dependent on rote memory. As in the case of Moirano's version of Bossi, there is no explicit critique of the Jesuit program in these books, but they were clearly offered as alternatives to the triumphant march of Alvares's grammar. And they were marketed locally, in the fashion of fifteenth-or early sixteenth-century textbooks. One of the most radical authors in integrating pedagogy and design was Giovanni Battista Tebaldi (1535-1608) whose Grammaticae Institutiones appeared in Brescia in 1590 as a slim 72-page booklet. It is a basic treatment of noun and verb morphology, intended to replace the Donat. Tebaldi also described a second book on syntax that may never have appeared. (76) Tebaldi claimed in his preface that he had worked as a private Latin tutor; he seems to have been proposing his textbook for that teaching situation, not for a school open to large numbers of students. Both the title page and preface explained that Tebaldi excerpted grammatical teachings from many books, choosing only what seemed to him most valuable for a basic understanding of the subject. The result was largely a paradigm book in which the author and printers made good use of several styles and sizes of type, graduated headings, and generous white space to frame and clarify the content. It is clear, moreover, that Tebaldi himself had a hand in the design. He said his chapters will vary in length, depending on what he felt the subject required; and he marked his text for graded study on the assumption that it could be used with students of different ages and different levels of experience. Although he assumed students would be set to memorizing rules, he also included material, clearly marked with a dagger (" ) that should not be committed to memory and which should, indeed, be omitted entirely in a first review of the subject with younger students. (77)

Other experiments in design anticipated the highly analytical and hierarchical manuals printed in the seventeenth century. As early as 1581 at Venice, the printer Giorgio Angelieri offered an extensive Latin grammar which was almost surely intended to rival the comparable, comprehensive grammar of Alvares, then still fairly new on the market. Angelieri employed a variety of design elements to make his closely set pages of small type more readable and easier to follow than the cluttered Libri tres of Alvares There are paradigms in columns, points of doctrine numbered in the margins, and chapters outlined with brackets and sub-brackets. As Tebaldi would insist his printers do a decade later in Brescia, Angelieri made good use of white space to ensure the legibility of his tiny types.

This Angelieri grammar is a bit of a mystery. I have found only a single fragmentary copy and the compiler listed on the title page, Richardus Hesius Amorfortius (1547-1631), was a Dutchman studying in Italy who seven years later became a Jesuit. Like the later grammar of Tebaldi, this one explicitly claims on its title page to be a compilation of the best bits from earlier textbooks, "collected, authored, emended, and set in order" by the young and unknown "Richard Hees of Amersfort." It is hard to imagine that his slender credentials would have lent any particular authority to the book on the Venetian market, but the claim may have been a sort of anti-Alvares marketing. The Jesuits of the Collegio Romano were presenting their new single-author grammar as authoritative because of the singular learning of the Portuguese school master. Angelieri may have accepted the anthology from (or assigned the compiling work to) the young Hesius by way of spiting the concerted publicity campaign on behalf of the official, single-author Jesuit grammar. In any case, the advanced design of the book must have been a deliberate attempt to improve on that of the Venetian editions of Alvares. In the end, Hesius was an ironic choice for a rival to Alvares since what little we know of his later career suggests that he subsequently spent forty years teaching Alvares's grammar in Jesuit colleges at Brescia, Bologna, and Piacenza. (78)

As in other fields of study, the late sixteenth century also saw many books ostensibly marketed for self-study of Latin. We have already seen that the proverb collection of Kaspar Schoppe fell into this category. (79) Schoppe was one of the Jesuits' sharpest critics in political and theological forums. His works on pedagogy also took direct aim at Jesuit educational methods. Schoppe was a talented marketer of his own textbooks, but his anti-Jesuit feeling was not mere marketing. When he criticized Alvares for nearly insane elaboration of the grammar textbook, he was also offering a broader critique of the Jesuit political and missionary program. (80)

Self-study books typically contained extravagant claims on the part of their authors about how fast and easy it was to learn with their "new" methods. A good example is the grammar proposed by the Franciscan Bonaventura Buratto at Milan in 1608. The title page informs us that the book "contains the foundation of all [Latin] grammar in a new order and with facility for memorization." There are 368 pages of very full and clearly organized information, arranged on highly diagrammatic pages. Buratto offered a graded-teaching pattern, and though he claimed the book was for self-study, it could as easily serve as a reference grammar for those who had already studied Latin. (81) Interestingly, the printer was Pandolfo Malatesta, who published the nostalgically conservative grammar of Giovanni Alberto Bossi in these same early years of the seventeenth century. Malatesta was the founder of a printing dynasty that would last into the eighteenth century at Milan. His willingness to offer textbooks in such radically different styles is testament both to his marketing ambitions and also to the variety of non-Jesuit or anti-Jesuit possibilities in the educational marketplace.


  • Open Bibliography
  • (76) I have found only two copies of the Institutiones; it was probably not very successful.
  • (77) In the same years, Tebaldi edited a collection of fables for young readers; see Faerno 1591.
  • (78) Hesius the Jesuit seems to have appeared in print officially only after 1620, and then as an editor and adapter of Alvares; see BCJ 3:348 and 4:337 and Van der Aa 3:218.
  • (79) Schoppe 1628a; above, section 2.19
  • (80) Schoppe 1671, 89-95.
  • (81) Morigia 1595, 183 describes the Franciscan school at Milan.
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