Origin of the work:
1632 probably Leszno; no longer extant
1657 Amsterdam, Opera didactica omnia I
1957 Prague, Opera didactica omnia I (phototype edition)
1986 Prague, J. A. Comenii Opera omnia, vol. 15/I
A textbook of the Latin language for beginners, preparing them in a simple manner for the study of Latin. By 1632 the Janua linguarum reserata (Gate of Tongues Unlocked) had already been in the hands of students for a year (see the entry for the Janua linguarum). While it met with success, teachers and the author himself came to believe that for beginners with no grammatical basis its material was too difficult. It was for this reason that in 1632 Comenius came to compile this short textbook for the lowest level of schooling, on a material basis with an eye on the grammar.
In the introduction Comenius describes the arrangement of the teaching material in the book, and the means in which it should be used. He states that he has gathered over a thousand of the most commonly used words and arranged them in short sentences in seven chapters. The first chapter contains simple connections of nouns and adjectives, the second nouns and verbs, and the third adverbs, prepositions and numerals, while the most commonly used conjunctions and interjections are scattered in various places. By way of simple sentences the fourth to sixth chapters introduce students to things of the home, the town and its environs, while the last, seventh, sets out the rules of the virtues. In terms of the use of the book, pupils should learn to read well and pronounce properly. To understand the meaning of the Latin text they should first recite the text in their mother tongue.
Having gone through the book twice the exercises will be retained in the memory such that in each lesson it will be appropriate to learn two to three sentences, which will be recited from memory the lesson’s end. To these are added declension exercises, first for nouns alone, and later for nouns with adjectives, all with the aid of the included declension tables. If several sentences are set out in the first lesson, then in the next the exercises should be written in a special exercise book that will lay the groundwork for written exercises. Verb conjugations will be practiced in the same way. Pupils will be familiarised with the diversity of, and in particular the differences between, the inflections of nouns and adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions. Having completed the Vestibule, it should be gone through again to ensure memorisation. Only then is it possible to go on to the next textbook, the Janua linguarum.
Even this book, however, caused difficulty for students, as the material was fairly extensive given their age, and the text was provided only in Latin, with no parallel in their national (mother) tongues. For this reason Comenius later re-worked the textbook and simplified it, in accordance with the development of his linguistic philosophy and system.
For further study, see also:
J. A. Comenii Opera omnia, vol. 15/I. Prague 1986, pp509-513
J. V. Novák & J. Hendrich, Jan Amos Komenský, jeho život a spisy. Prague 1932, pp216-217, 252
Jan Kumpera, Jan Amos Komenský, poutník na rozhraní věků. Prague & Ostrava 1992, p309