Antiquariat Jürgen Dinter

Greek Grammar - Luscinius, i. e. Othmar Nachtgall (sold)

Progymnasmata Graecanicae literaturae — Strasbourg 1523

Progymnasmata Graecanicae literaturae. — Iohannes Knoblouchus typis excusit Argentorati. 1523

Strasbourg, Knobloch , 1523

8vo (168 x 101 mm). a-i8: [14] ff., 87, [1] pp., [14] ff.  Spots on pp. 4 & 5, and scribblings on 56, 57; last leaf with a short tear in upper margin. Later calf, spine renewed even later. – VD16 N 32; Adams L-1731; ustc 687319.


Two inscriptions in Latin (to blank verso of the title-page) by an early Scottish owner Johannes Harris Scotus, i.e. John Harris of Scotland, one dated 12 October 1561; the other 28 June 1563.

Another 16th-century owner’s signature of Johannes [i.e. John] Jeanes (signed twice on verso of the final leaf, next to the printer’s device. Most likely a 16th-century member of the Jeanes family (with variant spellings Janes, Jenys, etc) of Chilthorne Domer in Somerset, England, some descendants of which have been recorded in colonial Virginia (see Renee Newman, Records of the Jeanes-Janes Family of England).

¶ “Othmar Nachtgall’s grammar, entitled Progymnasmata Graecanicae literaturae, was [first] published in Strasbourg by Johann Knoblouch in 1517. In the dedicatory letter […] Nachtgall specified that his grammar was intended to supplement the manuals – particularly Chrysoloras’s Erotemata – used at that time in Strasbourg for the teaching of Greek. The original 1517 version contained only eighteen leaves; after the introductory material (letters, diphthongs, and abbreviations), Nachtgall dealt briefly with prosody, accents, and the eight parts of speech. […]

Othmar Nachtgall, or Luscinius (1480 – 1537) was a humanist, jurist, theologian, and musician. After learning Greek in Paris from Aleandro, he returned to his native Strasbourg, where he promoted the study of Greek language and literature. In the foreword ‘to the reader,’ Nachtgall claimed that he composed his grammar in very few days […] and expressed his confidence that, although others had dealt with the same matter more extensively, students might benefit from his systematic exposition of Greek grammar. […] Nachtgall added to the grammar a section for those intending to study Greek by themselves (Auctarium quo docetur qua ratione citra praeceptoris operam Graece discere possis).

This section consists of some Greek epigrams, chosen because they are “quite cheerful and somehow taken from practical life” (festiviora et ex medio quodam modo usu vitae deprompta). For these epigrams, he provided a word-by-word Latin translation and explanatory notes covering both grammar and contents.” (F. Ciccolella: ‘The Making and Remaking of Philipp Melanchthon’s Greek Grammar’, in: When Greece Flew Across the Alps: The Study of Greek in Early Modern Europe, p.186-8)

Otmar Nachtgall, was born in 1478 in Strasbourg; in 1508 he went to Paris, where he studied Latin and Greek, then studied canon law at the Catholic University of Leuven, in Padua, and in Vienna, where he also studied music. Subsequently he travelled in Greece and Asia Minor, returning to Strasbourg in 1514. Here he became associated with Jacob Wimpheling and Sebastian Brant and mingled in literary circles. In 1515 he was appointed organist at the church of St. Thomas, and also received a vicariate; in addition he taught both in the school of the Knights Hospitallers and in the cathedral school. Having lost his ecclesiastical position in 1521 he moved to Augsburg in 5123, and later (in 1529) he was made cathedral preacher in Freiburg im Breisgau, where he died in 1537.

Although an ardent Humanist and an opponent of Scholasticism, Luscinius did not become a supporter of the Protestant Reformation. For a while, he certainly seems to have had some sympathy to it. After 1525, however, he was regarded as a reliable Catholic. The Fugger family made him preacher at the church of St. Moritz, and he became the most important champion of Catholicism in Augsburg.

In the introduction, no less than 24 pages, to his book, Luscinius praises the humanists Reuchlin, Erasmus, Melanchthon and others and attacks ecclesiastical and scholastic dogmatism with great vigour. In the 1521 edition, the polemical direction of the introduction is specifically stated on the title page; in Botley’s translation: „A dedicatory letter on the usefulness of Greek and on the stiff necks of certain fools who, having condemned it, and savaged it in pubic assemblies with their critical teeth, falsely dress themselves in the opinion of knowledge.“ Elsewhere it says „carpere norunt omnia, nihil docere“, „They know how to criticise everything, but they have nothing to teach.“ 

Device: Knobloch’s printer’s mark has the title Ἡ Ἀλήθεια above the image of the naked Veritas figure emerging from its hidden cave or grotto out of a broken rock; below the image in Latin „The long-hidden truth emerges“ on the left in Hebrew „Truth grows out of the earth“, on the right the epigram attributed to Menander or Gellius „ἄγει δὲ πρὸς φῶς τὴν ἀλήθειαν χρόνος“, „Time brings truth to light“. 

The last three quotations were only added two months after the printer’s mark was completed. Neither the Hebrew nor the Menander epigram actually fit the picture. In view of the erupting rock and the eruptive event, there can be no question of „growing out of the earth“; the right-hand epigram requires the depiction of two figures, namely Time and Truth, but only Truth is present. Compositions of both figures, Truth and Time, which helps her to come to light, only appear in the 1530s.

Whether the printer’s mark is an expression of the „battle-cry of one of the heroes of religious enlightenment“ (Saxl) I leave open. The „diu“ in the Latin line and the apparent suddenness of the rock breaking open may suggest this. However, since the beginnings of the Veritas signet go back to the pre-Reformation period, especially the collaboration with Luscinius/Nachtgall, the signet’s incorporation of the ancient topos may also point to the humanist program of the printer Knobloch. The woodcut is by Hans Baldung Grien. The figure of truth is surrounded by garlic, a reference to the printer’s name – a bizzare combination.

See Botley, Learning Greek …, 2010, pp. 42-44 and passim. (Botley, p. 44, writes that in the 1523 edition „the provocative prefatory letter has been removed without comment …“ Apparently that’s not the case. Only the mention of the introduction on the title page has been omitted.)