This latest batch of incunabula includes a bound volume containing six independent Latin grammatical texts. These texts are primarily associated with Johannes de Garlandia, a 12th century grammarian whose most famous work, the Dictionarius has been described by one 20th century scholar as ‘in one sense, the first of all dictionaries.’ The works in this volume seem intended for schoolboys with a rudimentary understanding of Latin who were in need of honing more complex grammatical ideas. De Garlandia commands them in his essay Synonyma ‘to come and listen to him for he will teach them.’
Our volume was bequeathed as part of the Hamilton collection, which has a strong foucs on Greek and Latin classical texts. Its 16th century binding indicates the early marriage of these independent texts. This practice of binding together texts of a cognate subject matter was relatively common in this period. The books themselves were produced by various 15th Century French and German printers, and the volume includes one unique printing of de Garlandia’s Verba Deponentalia from an anonymous printer in Lübeck who is known as the ‘Printer of the Breviarium Lubucense’.
Johannes de Garlandia
Cornutus cum comment.With Cornutus novus by Otto de Lunenborch.
This first item in the volume is an arrangement of short lines of Latin with an accompanying explanatory commentary. The commentary has a range of applications. Generally, it gives some interpretation of the lines. Note in this page on the right for example, the commentary talks of ‘avaricia’ (greed), ‘luxuria’ (luxury) and egestas’ (want). In most occasions, the roots of a particular word are given, for example, ‘assit venit ab assum’, ‘plena…a verbo pleo,es,evi.’ The commentator also makes sure to note any key details about a word’s grammar, generally giving details in regard to case, gender and voice. At the end of this particular item moreover, there is also a key word index for quick reference to the discussion of a particular word (eg. ‘Assum’ in the key word index refers back to this folio, vicesimu sexto).
Johannes de Garlandia
The second item in this volume covers synonyms and would no doubt have been used as a tool to help expand vocabulary. This item is arranged into groupings of synonyms accompanied by an explanatory commentary. The groupings themselves are arranged into larger sections by letter of the alphabet. For example, this page details synonyms of the letter a – ‘auget et augmentat’, ‘aggregat accumulat’ and ‘ampliat amplificat’ – with the commentator adding some extra synonyms of different letters to further aid understanding. The commentary then discusses aspects such as grammar along with selected information about etymology.
Samuel de Monte Rutilo
Synonyma partium indeclinabilium
The third item in this volume is also an essay on synonyms, more specifically detailing synonyms in their indeclinable adverbial form. It is presumably intended as a reference work, with the sets of synonyms arranged into lists by meaning – so a list of adverbs of doubt are followed by a list of adverbs of certainty and a list of adverbial synonyms of tardiness are followed by a list of adverbs of speed. The list of synonyms (donating speed/doubt/tardiness etc) themselves are accompanied by a short sentence giving some context to aid translation.
Johannes de Garlandia
Nomina et verba defectiva
This item covers types of irregular nouns and verbs. This text is split in two – ‘De nominibus defective’ (Concerning defective nouns) and ‘De verbis defectiva’ (Concerning defective verbs). The section on nouns details specific examples where problems may occur over Latin noun endings due to irregular or defective noun forms (common examples covered are nouns that only appear in a plural form or are particularly unusual because they take a plural number when other nouns of the same derivation do not). In the verb section, de Garlandia gives examples of common defective verbs (verbs with an incomplete conjugation system) with a particular focus on gerunds, gerundives and supines.
Johannes de Garlandia [pseudo-]
Composita verborum. Commentary by Johannes Synthen
The fifth item in this volume is once again formatted with lines of Latin text along with an accompanying commentary. The focus in this item is on a discussion of verbal conjugations, with a particular focus on the conjugation of compound verbs. The most interesting aspect of this text is the presence of the German vernacular, giving translations to specific Latin words or phrases.
Johannes de Garlandia
The final item in this volume covers deponent verbs (verbs that are active in meaning but take a passive form). De Garlandia states that he wrote this essay after observing ‘the errors that very many men make by being ignorant of the difference between deponent verbs and passive verbs.’ This item is organised by basic meaning of the verbs discussed. A heading is given at the start of each new section, merely indicative of the types of verbs of a particular meaning to be covered within. For example, the headings include ‘ad auxiliandum’, ‘ad laborandum’ and ‘ad cogitandum.’ The title is then followed by sets of key words for analysis. Therefore, ‘ad cogitandum’ (for thinking), for example, is followed by ‘suspicor’ (to suppose) ‘meditor’ (to consider) and ‘arbitror’ (to judge). The form of these verbs is then discussed in a following commentary. The commentary aims to highlight verbs that are deponent in structure and in doing so discuss where confusion may arise and where verbs may be wrongly translated as passive. The commentary also cites some examples where words are derived from these the key verbs (for example, verbs with additional prefixes).
One striking factor, especially for me as a recent Classics graduate, is the high level of Latin understanding required to read these texts. Rather than being faced with the daunting prospect of grammars solely in Latin, the Latin students of today are now very used to reading commentaries in their native language. For this reason, I found these texts very challenging to work with. However there is a parallel with modern Latin education here. Despite the medieval student’s Latin competence, the difficulties they clearly encountered in their education are exactly the same as those faced today. Students, for example, still struggle with deponent verbs and still confuse gerunds and gerundives. A rather reassuring thought.
Very little research has been undertaken on these grammars, and indeed on de Garlandia himself. Yet these texts are a very useful and insightful tool not merely for students of the Latin language but also for researchers interested in the history and development of education.
The latest ten books described on the project website are:
Garlandia, Johannes de: Cornutus cum commento (Hagenau: Heinrich Gran, 1489.)
Garlandia, Johannes de: Synonyma (Reutlingen: [Michael Greyff], 1487)
Samuel de Monte Rutilo: Synonyma partium indeclinabilium ([Speyer: Johann and Conrad Hist, not after 1490])
Garlandia, Johannes de: Nomina et verba defective ([Mainz: Peter von Friedberg, ca. 1493])
Garlandia, Johannes de [pseudo-]: Composita verborum. (Strassburg: [Johann Prüss], 1490)
Garlandia, Johannes de: Verba deponentalia ([Lübeck: Printer of the Breviarium Lubucense (GW5376), ca. 1490])
Jacobus de Voragine: Legenda aurea sanctorum, sive Lombardica historia (Nuremberg: [Anton Koberger], 2 Apr. 1496)
Bartholomaeus Anglicus: De proprietatibus rerum ([Basel: Berthold Ruppel, ca. 1479-80])
Vincentius Bellovacensis: Opuscula (Basel: Johann Amerbach, 13 Dec. 1481)
Anonymous: Attila flagellum Dei [Italian] (Venice: Gabriele di Pietro and Filippo di Pietri, 20 Jan. 1472/3)
Categories: Special Collections