As I am getting near to the end of Adler's Grammar - and my speed at marking up the text is increasing, I am looking forward to my next project, connected with providing online resources for someone wishing to become fluent in Latin. And so, with an eye on the next step in developing my Latinity, I have started to make preparations for phase II:
Latinum’s Comenius Project
Project Outline August 2008
John Amos Comenius ( March 28, 1592 – November 15, 1670) was a European Educator, who wrote an important series of school textbooks. These were textbooks covering the complete curriculum, as Comenius conceived of it. His view was that an education should be both universal and encyclopaedic. The textbooks were written in Latin, and come in a gradated series. The aim of these textbooks was to get the students to become fluent in Latin, as school was taught in Latin - but the textbooks were not LATIN textbooks, but general schoolbooks, covering the subjects we now recognise as history, politics, the sciences, &c.
As such, these books are of enormous utility to the student of Latin, as they cover areas of knowledge with which we are somewhat familiar, and they provide a wealth of vocabulary, and knowledge about real things in the world – while at the same time giving us an insight into the mindset of the Renaissance, in a manner that no amount of academic study can give us – for by studying the course outlined by these textbooks, we become one of Comenius’ students, and are transported back in time. At the same time, we build up and strengthen our Latin.
Comenius' textbooks were very famous, and some editions remained in active classroom use until the early 1800's. Most editions are bilingual (Latin plus some other European language, including Hebrew and Classical Greek), some are trilingual or more, with the text running in parallel columns.
The Magna Didactica
The first text Latinum will present will be Comenius’ Orbis Sensualim Pictus.
We will use the first American edition, in English and Latin, as this is available on Google Books.
This book is Comenius' foundation textbook, and it covers in a very basic format, all the main areas of knowledge as they were understood in the seventeenth century – biology, physics, geometry, trades, philosophy, music, recreation, law, politics, etc. This book was written for six to seven year olds, but it serves quite well for adults as well, although each topic is of course only treated in the barest of outlines.
Each lesson is an ‘object lesson’, and all the words given are illustrated in drawings that accompany the lesson, aiding in memory and understanding. The lessons are interesting historically, as they describe the processes of long extinct trades, adding to your store of Latin words related to everyday life.
In order to progress to Comenius’ higher level textbooks, it is necessary to master the vocabulary in the Orbis Pictus – and going through the book seven or eight times will be necessary – possibly more. The Orbis will give you a vocabulary of a few thousand words. Once I have marked the text up for quantity, I will record it.
Several editions of the Orbis Pictus, with parallel translation in a variety of languages (German, Czech etc) can be viewed here as well:
The next text in Comenius’ series is the Vestibulum to the Janua Linguarum. This is a very rare text, and no online version of it is available that I am able to access. I have not been able to locate an antique copy either - and even were I to do so, the probable outlay of over £1500 prohibits. If some kind soul finds a copy and buys it for me as a present, I would be most pleased!
In the absence of this text, I will use 1796 text of Johann Georg Lederer: Der Kleine Lateiner. This text follows the outline of the Orbis Pictus very closely, while introducing some material some material from the Janua, and thus serves admirably as the ‘next step up’. This text is in German and Latin.
The Janua Linguarum Reserata Aurea uses the same chapter outlines as the Orbis Sensualim Pictus, but the material is fleshed out in much more detail. The edition I currently have located is in Latin, Classical Greek, and French. I have also purchased a copy of the critical edition, which is a synoptic edition drawn from five editions of this work. Copies of the Janua Linguarum can be viewed as scans at the Comenius Library in Japan. The texts of the Janua are available in a variety of languages - Latin + French + Italian + German + Greek + various Eastern European languages.
This section will be the delightful book called Schola Ludus, where the material of the Janua Linguarum Reserata is presented in short dialogues and ‘plays’ – although these are not dramatic plays, but rather expositions, using conversation. They are, to my mind, reminiscent of a modern radio talk-show or documentary programme. These 'theatrical presentations' develop the educational themes in the Janua in more depth. This text is available online as individual photographs of the pages, and can be found at the Japanese archive of Comenius texts as well.
If I ever complete the project to this point, I will record what survives of Comenius' Atrium.
Comenius also produced a students' Latino-Latinum dictionary as part of his grand project. If this were ever reprinted, it would be a great service as no such dictionary exists in print at present.