In cases like this, a modern reader might suspect that the editor is just not being very scrupulous about the original. But this would miss an essential aspect of Latin grammatical writing and publishing. There are really only two cases in which much originality is to be expected in grammar and therefore in which a new grammatical text does not merely rewrite traditional teachings. There is the rare transformative moment when a pedagogical genius succeeds in radically reforming a curriculum. And there is the slower and more archaeological process by which the grammatical usage of a particular past age is reconstructed and reclaimed. The humanist endeavor of the fifteenth century claimed to be both of these things; but in fact it was original only in the second, archaeological sense of identifying a coherent period of great Latin and recreating it for contemporary use. (101)

The fruits of such philological work necessarily invited rethinking and rewriting the basic textbooks, and the extraordinary productivity of  Mancinelli was occasioned by this need. But the force of classroom tradition meant that teaching methods did not change much in the first age of print. Indeed, the inertia of the old manuscript culture meant that Mancinelli met opposition even on the level of reforming the most basic classroom texts, the demonstrably faulty Donat and Cato. His enemies, whom he described as ignorant men who knew how to teach only the faulty Latin they themselves had learned, were teachers at the most basic level with careers like his own. For some such elementary teachers, rote memory was not only a fundamental teaching technique, it was also the limit of their own learning and intellectual ambition. Their discipline was a grammatical fundamentalism with an inviolable scripture, the poor medieval Donat.

When Mancinelli turned to original literary and philological work, he had to tackle the weighty reputation of Lorenzo Valla, the first great archaeologist of classical Latin. Here he met resistance not from fundamentalist grammar masters but from a considerable cadre of followers and other admirers of the justly famous philologist. These were learned men, comparatively speaking, and Mancinelli probably found their opposition baffling. They were willing to accept Valla's conclusions and to adopt the taste for classical usage he propounded, but without understanding or actively taking up the critical methods that got Valla to those conclusions. Mancinelli excused himself to this audience with an explanation that his own methods were just an extension of those pioneered by Valla. But Mancinelli eventually placed these men in the same category of intellectual sinners -- the stubbornly ignorant who have learned something one way and do not intend to un-learn it. The true humanist, for Mancinelli, was one who had internalized not only the classicizing taste but also the methods of Valla and who was willing to carry on his critical work.

Josse Bade, then, and other editors of grammatical texts at the turn of the century were continuing two strands of editorial work-in-progress, work well begun by Valla, Mancinelli, and their contemporaries. Both traditions conduced to instability for grammatical textbooks. First, like grammatical writers for centuries before and after, the humanists worked ongoing transformations on the texts used in the classroom to make them more useful for students. They were limited in what they could do with some of the most widely used elementary texts, but even those were not absolutely fixed. Other propaedeutic texts were understood to be mere sketches of what a good grammar master might want to use in class. Textbooks of this sort, including much of the mnemonic verse Mancinelli devised, had a high degree of fluidity. They were subject to change and addition at any time. When Bade substituted his own mnemonic verses for Mancinelli's at the start of the Carmen de figuris, he was indulging in this sort of pedagogical license.

Secondly, even normative texts -- reference grammars, dictionaries, commentaries on the major school authors, and the classical authors themselves -- were subject to continuous revision, not because they were inherently unstable like class texts but because of the ongoing progress of humanist research. The example of Josse Bade is again instructive. Whether editing Mancinelli's commentary on the Ad Herennium, incorporating Mancinelli's notes on Virgil into his own editions, or adding a second layer of commentary to Mancinelli's Lima in Vallam, Bade was playing the humanist philologist. The professional conventions in this case were the same that Mancinelli had observed in his own scholarly editing -- to reproduce and label what came from earlier philologists, to argue with it openly when it seemed wrong or misleading, or else to omit it selectively. By the 1490's it was essential in advertising such editions to claim that they incorporated the opinions of many scholars. The public for classical editions wanted as much of the scholarly apparatus as they could get.


Aldo Manuzio, already within Mancinelli's lifetime, would offer a completely different publishing model. The Aldine editions were not just handsome new packages. They succeeded because they were careful, scholarly editions of the classics that presented only text and no commentary at all. It was a daring experiment, made possible only because Aldus's reputation and that of the editors he employed was already well recognized. Only well into the next century would the pedagogical potential of such editions be fully realized.

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(101)   Percival 1988a. One of the more radical grammatical reforms, that of Pomponio Leto, was largely unsuccessful. His philological results were accepted by many other scholars, but his attempts to reform teaching were ignored; on him, see Zabughin 1910, 216-223.

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

Total comments on this page: 8

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Alissa on whole page :

I believe Mancinelli’s willingness to continually correct and make changes to his printed texts shows his humanistic mindset that his personal experiences can change they way he learns and educates, and what he knows to be true. He was not content with the knowledge that he knew to be true in the past and he continually wanted to improve his texts for himself and his students. On the other hand, even if the mistakes in his texts really were the printer’s errors, it still shows the idea that education is always changing and can be improved. The invention of the printing press was revolutionary in more ways than one– it allowed for a continual conversation between scholars. Mancinelli also proves his humanistic educational style by urging other scholars, most likely other grammar scholars, to inspect his work and provide commentary. This shows the he valued the importance of community and understanding others’ opinions. I also think he embodies another human characteristic of diversity by teaching in several different cities; however, I do not see this sense of diversity in his general teaching since he mainly teaches about grammar and its related subjects.

It is obvious that Mancinelli was a competitive writer and educator throughout his entire life, which I think is extremely important to learning. However, is this necessarily a humanistic characteristic in education/ in general?

February 3, 2016 5:14 pm
Paul Gehl :

You raise several points here, Alissa, all of which point to the last part of your comment, the matter of competitiveness. This was certainly not new to humanist learning; indeed, one of the things the early humanists most disliked about medieval scholasticism was the pettiness of the arguments back and forth. The humanist ideal was one of rhetorical truth achieved by argument, to be sure, but typically within a context of collaboration. Mancinelli’s many scholarly commentaries were largely aimed at making the base text available to the broad public that printing made possible.

I’d have to think a little more about the ideal of diversity. Certainly what we mean by that would not fit the situation in Renaissance Italy. Mancinelli’s moving around from city to city probably had more to do with careerism than a love of being in different places.

February 3, 2016 7:23 pm
atheerr on whole page :

Mancineli was considered one of the most humanist in his generation . I knew that he was a grammarian and he taught in several cities such as Rome and Venice. He print his works and his poetry to do the best in his classroom and develop his students. He connected the teaching with the humanism.
What is his point in this relationship between these both?

February 3, 2016 11:08 pm
Paul Gehl :

I’m not sure what you are asking here, Atheerr.

For Mancinelli, as for most humanists, thiers was an integrative movement, which sought to bring all the arts and sciences to bear on an analysis of (and improvement of) the human condition. I think he would have resisted thinking of grammar as separate, even though that was his specialty.

February 4, 2016 5:17 am
Lily on whole page :

From what I gathered in this chapter, Mancinelli was truly a humanist writer and publisher. He fostered the importance of education, but also stressed the need for correction. He contested the works of major authors and didn’t take any of his own knowledge for granted. Mancinelli encouraged students to diversify their knowledge and opinions by looking at different interpretations of certain subjects.

I see many similarities between Mancinelli and Montaigne, a humanist in Renaissance France. They both draw upon the ideas of contesting ancient works that were never before doubted, discovering new knowledge at every point in life, and being open to different opinions.

However, in Chapter 25 “Sur l’education des enfants” in Book One of “Essais,” Montaigne draws upon the importance of conversation between students and teachers. He says that is essential for students to question the teachings they are being taught in class. This can come from having discussions with the teacher or opening their mind to new worldly experiences.

From what I gathered, Mancinelli mainly focuses on the discussion between teachers to figure out the best methods to teach students. He does not seem to mention much about the discussions in the classroom. Did Mancinelli see any good coming from conversation within in the classroom or was he more concerned with he discussions between editors, publishers, and teachers outside of the lesson plan?

February 4, 2016 12:16 pm
Paul F. Gehl on whole page :

You draw a useful comparison with Montaigne, Lily. An important thing to remember, however, is that Montaigne was born thirty years after Mancinelli’s death, and the first edition of his Essays came out only in 1580, fully a hundred years after Mancinelli’s first publications. Montaigne represents a highly developed version of humanism, strongly secularizing and literary, and aimed at adult readers. Mancinelli was a teacher, devout and religiously conformist, with rather more limited goals for his readers, who were after all mostly students.

There isn’t much evidence that Mancinelli encouraged conversation of the reforming sort that Montaigne presented as an ideal. Mancinelli clearly thought he was teaching ethics along with grammar, but he was doing so –expressly– by making his students master the content of salutary texts.

February 4, 2016 1:34 pm
Paul Gehl on paragraph 1:

In an important new article, Robert Black has analyzed the amount of material Aldo Manuzio took over from earlier grammarians for his highly respected introductory Latin grammar: “Aldo Manuzio Grammarian,” in Collectanea manuziana. Studi critici su Aldo Manuzio, ed. by P.D. Accendere and S.U. Baldassari (Florence: Le Lettere, 2017), pp. 65-92.

March 18, 2018 5:14 am
Paul Gehl on paragraph 6:

On Aldus as grammarian and publisher of grammars, see Richardson 2018, Bertini Malgarini & Vignuzzi 2017, and Black 2017 (cited at sections 2.04 and 2.05.

January 16, 2019 8:11 am

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