Origin of the work:
This is a Latin grammar intended for use in schools.
After his time at the Leszno Gymnasium Comenius took an intense interest in linguistics, the field in which he achieved his most lasting successes and worldwide fame. In terms of language teaching he concentrated on Latin, as this was used in international relations and without it, it was impossible to obtain higher education.
This in turn led him to working up his first Latin grammar for gymnasium students, with appropriate declensions and conjugations.
The book contains all four of the sections normal at the time. In the introduction, the author dedicates the book to teachers of Latin. He relates that he wanted to make learning a game for students, that it might not take whole decades. For this reason, he has made several changes to the usage applied hitherto. Nevertheless, he does not claim that this is the best method: should anyone find a better, they should use it.
The first part of the textbook, the etymologia (etymology, teaching about words), considers speech sounds, syllables and words. Words are divided by their numbers of syllables, origins, composition and meaning. There are primary or important words and secondary words, co-important. Secondary words clarify the meaning of primary words by the addition of adjectives to substantives and adverbs to verbs, or modify its use through prepositions, giving proper expression of feeling in interjections or linking with conjunctions. Every part of speech has its significance, which the author considers in detail.
The second part, the syntaxis (syntax) provides instruction on the composition of sounds in syllables, syllables in words and words in sentences, and on the division of words into syllables.
The third part, the prosodia (prosody) concerns itself with the pronunciation of sounds, syllables, words and sentences, and teaches about accents.
The fourth part, the orthographia (orthography) provides direction on the correct writing of sounds, the distinction of similar sounds, and the origin of words, and also devotes attention to the graphic depiction of large letters. Correctly written words are placed in the context of correct pronunciation; some words can be distinguished only by sound; only known words can be shortened. The division of sentences is also considered.
An addendum treats derivatives and their meanings. In the book, Comenius encourages precision and conciseness in definitions and a clear style, and avoids minor details; nevertheless, he does not steer clear of extensiveness. The main drawback of the work is that it teaches a foreign language in that language; this made Comenius’ grammar less accessible. It was this which awoke the massive response to his textbook the Janua linguarum reserata (The gate of tongues unlocked), which he compiled at the same time and in which, in later editions, the Latin text was accompanied by text in the national (mother) tongue.
For further study, see also:
J. V. Novák & J. Hendrich, Jan Amos Komenský, jeho život a spisy. Prague 1932, pp190-192
Jan Kumpera, J. A. Komenský, poutník na rozhraní věků. Prague & Ostrava 1992, p241