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 (330 KB pdf)
(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.

Posted by admin on September 19, 2008
Tags: Chapter Three

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Paul Gehl on paragraph 2:

Dugald McLellan, Antonio Mancinelli ad Orvieto cit. at section 3.01, pp. 63-64, assumes correctly that Mancinelli’s textbooks would have been available for use in his own classrooms in this period. Alas, we do not have direct evidence of their presence in the trade or any way of knowing which editions were available in which of the towns where he taught.

June 14, 2015 10:07 am
Elizabeth on paragraph 5:

While reading this paragraph I was reminded of the fourth paragraph of chapter 3.02, “Advertising Oneself.” There the text says that Pellisson’s embarrassment of his work suggests a difference between renown and worth of a publication. Then the following paragraph in 3.02 (paragraph five) contrasts Pellisson’s reaction to the flaws in his text with Mancinelli’s response to the flaws in his own work. Despite the different reactions, the idea of a difference between acclaim and quality seem to resonate with this section (3.09). Since Mancinelli eventually decided to reprint his texts, he was able to increase the quality of his work so that its worth could be closer to the acclaim that it received. In this way, the ability to reprint sounds like an important triumph for education. Additionally, I wonder how much more accessible it made educational materials to the masses. I was wondering if the prices of Mancinelli’s books would have been more competitive too– making the older editions more accessible to those without the means for a high quality education. From what I know about education during the Renaissance, some scholars (such as Montaigne) were mostly concerned with educating the nobles. Did Mancinelli’s production of textbooks– especially as he competed with himself– contribute to a more universal education?

February 3, 2016 6:59 pm
Paul Gehl on paragraph 5:

To take your last point first, Elizabeth, we do not have any good price data on Mancinelli’s books (or indeed on most printing of the 15th century). It is clear, however, that the small textbook-type booklets he wrote for students were relatively cheap. As one of your colleagues remarked at section 3.05, however, this meant that he was aiming for a market of citizen schools, not at the education of aristocrats.

As for the urge to correct, this is common to most scholars, but it was given new possibilities with the invention of printing. Printing meant that many more copies of an erroneous text could circulate, but reprinting meant that there was a new opportunity –fueled by market competition– to make the texts better in later editions.

Your point about acclaim vs. quailty is something I have thought a lot about. Printing made the manufacture of fame possible in a new way, one that scholars of the period have discussed but not come to final conclusions about.

February 3, 2016 7:33 pm
Paul Gehl on paragraph 6:

Further on Leto’s relations with the Venetian press and the commercial motives of Roman humanists in publishing in Venice, see: Piero Scapecchi, “Scrivere a mano, leggere a stampa,” in Pomponio Leto e la prima Accademia Romana, ed. by Chiara Cassiani and Myriam Chiabò, Rome: Roma nel Rinascimento, 2007, pp. 41-46.

November 12, 2016 4:07 pm
Paul F. Gehl on paragraph 3:

P. Casciano et al., “Materiali e ipotesi per la stampa a Roma,” in Scrittura, biblioteche e stampa a Roma nel Quattrocento (Vatican City: Scuola Vaticana di Paleografia, Dipolmatica e Archivistica, 1980), p. 238-240 point to a change in focus at Rome from classical publishing to smaller, occasional poetry and grammar booklets, starting about 1490.

November 18, 2016 9:08 am
Paul F. Gehl :

Further on this theme, several essays in Roma di fronte all’Europa al tempo di Alessandro VI (Rome: Roma nel Rinascimento, 2001), e.g. Piero Scapecchi, “Savonarola e la stampa,” ibid., 399-406, esp. 399-401; and Paola Farenga, “Le edizioni di Eucario Silber,” ibid., 409-439.

March 27, 2017 10:37 am
Paul F. Gehl :

Farenga, cit. in previous comment, 424-428, contextualizes Mancinelli’s Roman period publications among those of other grammarians published by Eucario Silber, then the leading printer in Rome. She also discusses, 435-439, the larger trends in publishing during the 1490s in the Eternal City, which was, more than was true in Venice, adversely affected by the Italian wars. As she notes, Rome never had as international a market as Venice; it was a smaller publishing world altogether.

April 3, 2017 11:27 am

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