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A: Altstadt, Mainz, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

Possibly the First Printed Edition Donatus's "Ars minor", the Most Widely Used Medieval Grammar

Circa 1454
Fragment in the British Library (B.M. IB, 66) of the Mainz printing of Donatus, about 1455, in an earlier state of the 36-line Bible type. 

Fragment in the British Library (B.M. IB, 66) of the Mainz printing of Donatus, about 1455, in an earlier state of the 36-line Bible type. 

Around the year 350 Roman grammarian and teacher of rhetoric Aelius Donatus wrote the Latin grammar book, Ars grammaticaDonatus was the teacher of St. Jerome.

"His Ars grammatica, especially the section on the eight parts of speech, though possessing little claim to originality, and evidently based on the same authorities which were used by the grammarians Charisius and Diomedes, attained such popularity as a schoolbook that, in the Middle Ages, he became the eponym for a rudimentary treatise of any sort, called a donet. When books came to be printed in the 15th century, editions of the little book were multiplied to an enormous extent. It is also the only purely textual work to be printed in blockbook form (cut like a woodcut, not using movable type). It is in the form of an Ars Minor, which only treats of the parts of speech, and an Ars Major, which deals with grammar in general at greater length.

"Donatus was a proponent of an early system of punctuation, consisting of dots placed in three successively higher positions to indicate successively longer pauses, roughly equivalent to the modern comma, colon, and full stop. This system remained current through the seventh century, when a more refined system due to Isidore of Seville gained prominence" (Wikipedia article on Aelius Donatus, accessed 01-15-2011)

About 1454 an edition of the Ars minor by the fourth-century Roman grammarian Aelius Donatus was printed in Mainz in the type of the 36-line Bible (sometimes also called the DK-type). The year of printing is uncertain.

A fragment containing leaves 6/9, preserved in ULB Darmstadt, and catalogued by the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue as ISTC No.: id00314700, might be the earliest of the circa 435 different printings of the small grammar book printed in the fifteenth century. Nearly all copies of all editions of this work survived only in fragments, indicating that copies were mainly read out of existence. One other fragment preserved in Berlin is also estimated to have been printed in 1454: ISTC No.: id00314850.

Because so many of the surviving copies of Donatus are fragments we may deduce that there may have been further fifteenth century printings, of which no copies survived.

Fuessel, Gutenberg and the Impact of Printing. Translated from the German by Douglas Martin (2003) 30.

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