The sources for this study are varied. Where possible I have consulted the archives of printers, booksellers, and teachers. But for the history of schoolbooks proper, I have privileged above all the title pages, prefaces, and appendixes of printed textbooks and works on pedagogical theory. These undoubtedly offer the most authoritative information about the intentions of authors and publishers. Sometimes they tell us all we can know about a given author or teacher. Always they tell us what the editors and authors wanted us to know, even though it is often maddeningly unlike what we really want to figure out.


Advertisements on the title page, 1519 (click to enlarge - 454 KB jpeg image)

Advertisements on the title page, 1519 (click to enlarge - 454 KB jpeg image)

As the fifteenth century turned to the sixteenth, it became more and more common to festoon new texts and new editions of ancient texts with commendatory letters and poetry, that is, with endorsements. Schoolbooks, naturally, were usually endorsed by teachers. Lisa Jardine has shown how these commendations evidence networks of patronage and circles of intellectual acquaintance. As such they point up how textbooks could be more than popularizations for students. They were also important loci of intellectual debate among humanists. Prefatory texts must be read as self-conscious advertising prose; but they sometimes also offer more candid remarks. There are moments when teachers, authors, editors, printers, or publishers speak directly about two subjects that concern this book deeply -- how teachers got new schoolbooks into print, and how students used them. (36)

Open Bibliography (330 KB pdf)
(36)  On the humanist commendatory preface: Jardine 1993, 175-180; Farenga 1994; Munzi 1994, 103-106; Flood 2003, 145-147; Jones 2004, 196-206; Crane 2005, 32-59; Kaufman 2006, 166-167, 178-181.

Posted by admin on September 16, 2008
Tags: Introduction

Total comments on this page: 3

How to read/write comments

Comments on specific paragraphs:

Click the icon to the right of a paragraph

  • If there are no prior comments there, a comment entry form will appear automatically
  • If there are already comments, you will see them and the form will be at the bottom of the thread

Comments on the page as a whole:

Click the icon to the right of the page title (works the same as paragraphs)


No comments yet.

Jane Wickersham on paragraph 1:

This paragraph is the best expression of the inherent frustration of being an historian! And yet having the patience to sift through what is there does pay off, as it did here.

October 4, 2009 6:28 pm
Paul F. Gehl on whole page :

An important new study of editorial paratexts is Marco Paoli, La dedica, storia di una strategia editoriale, Lucca, Maria Pacini Fazzi, 2009.

June 18, 2010 10:43 am
Paul F. Gehl on paragraph 2:

This image shows one of the internal title pages to the Opera omnia of Mancinelli published at Venice in 1518. Each fascicle contained one or two short works and they could be purchased separately, so a title page like this was an advertisement for the work in this pamphlet. The first paragraph here dedicates the work to a prominent citizen of Mancinelli’s home town, and to his son, one of Mancinelli’s students. The six-line poem that follows is addressed to the student and tells him what this textbook will help him learn.

June 18, 2010 10:49 am

You must be login to comment.
Create an account or login