Senate House Library treasures volume: featuring Garretson’s Latin textbook

“Among the first printed books were editions of the Latin Grammar which goes under the name of Donatus. These only survive in fragments. Schoolbooks in many editions of almost any size commonly survive in very few, and often unique copies, sometimes imperfect.” This is how Paul Quarrie, of Maggs, began his description of our copy of John Garretson’s English Exercises for School-Boys to Translate into Latin (1704), and it explains why we chose a tatty duodecimo school textbook, cheap at the time and badly printed with sloping type, as a treasure. The copy held at Senate House Library is namely the only known copy of the tenth English edition of this work. Seven English editions have been completely lost, with another nine known in one edition only.  Three Irish editions – the twelfth, twentieth, and twenty-first – are known also in single copies. The text of the book comprises typical sententia and some more distinctive invective. The invective includes a description of dolts who go from school to Oxford or Cambridge and learn nothing there, for “those that are unteachable at school, for the most part continue such” – unlikely to apply to scholars at the ancient Universities in today’s competitive environment.



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