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Comenius - Didactica Magna - Explore new mechanisms of teaching



Type of spiritual experience


Comenius proposed and implemented a series of textbooks of an entirely new nature. It was Comenius, for example, who first championed more accessible textbooks, written in a pupil’s native language instead of Latin.  The first-published of these was the Janua Linguarum Reserata (The Gate of Tongues Unlocked), issued in 1631. This was followed later by a more elementary text, the Vestibulum, and a more advanced one, the Atrium, and other texts. In 1658 the Orbis Pictus was published, probably the most renowned and most widely circulated of school textbooks. It was also the first successful application of illustrations to the work of teaching.

It needs to be remembered that the printing press was only introduced to the West by Johannes Gutenberg, around 1440.  They very quickly caught on and by the 16th century, the output from them had already risen to an estimated 150 to 200 million copies.  In 1620, Francis Bacon wrote of printing as one of three inventions that had changed the world.  But these presses were manually operated.  It wasn’t until the 19th century, that the old hand-operated Gutenberg-style presses were replaced by steam-powered presses allowed printing on an industrial scale.  Thus in a sense Comenius’s proposals were very radical for his time and must have stretched the boundaries of the technology a great deal.

These days I am certain he would have been active in the promotion of the Internet and the provision of vast libraries of online books, videos and so on that students and anyone interested in learning, could access freely.

A description of the experience

The Great Didactic of John Amos Comenius -  Translated into English by M. W. Keatinge, M.A.1967

The art of printing though difficult, costly and complicated can reproduce books with greater speed accuracy and artistic effect than was formerly possible….

It is easy to imagine how impractical the first attempts of the inventor of printing must have appeared, in comparison with the simple use of the pen; but the event showed of what great use the invention was:

Firstly, by means of a printing machine two youths can now produce more copies of a book than could have been written by two hundred in the same time.

Secondly, manuscript copies differ in the number and size of their pages and the individual lines do not correspond to one another, while printed copies are as alike to their original as one egg is like to another and this to great advantage.

Thirdly, it is impossible to tell if manuscripts are correct without revising them and comparing them accurately with the original and this a laborious and wearisome task.  But in the case of printed books the correction of one proof ensures the accuracy of thousands of copies…

Fourthly, only firm and stiff paper is suitable to write on but printing is possible on thin and flimsy paper.

Finally, it is possible for  men who are unable to write to be the most excellent printers.


The source of the experience


Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image


Observation contributed by: Margaret Booth