On this day in 1609, Edmund Coote was buried next to his wife. Who was Edmund Coote you ask? Well, let me tell you…
In 1596 Coote wrote The English Schoole-Maister: Teaching all his schollers, the order of distinct reading, and true writing our English tongue. This text would go on to become the most popular pedagogical manual of the early modern period. Along with Roger Ascham The Scholemaster, it went through twenty six separate editions between 1596 and 1656 and was still used as late as the mid-1700s, with the (ASTOUNDING) 54th edition produced in 1737.
I like to think of Coote as a bit of a controversial teacher, if only because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding his resignation from the King Edward VI Free School in Bury St Edmunds. He started working there as the school master in June 1596, produced and published his book, and then resigned for some reason the next May. Exactly why, scholars still don’t know.
He begins the book with something of a manifesto. Personally, I’m particularly fond of the part where he says that the schoolmaster shall “ease the poorer sort” and help them in “buying many Bookes”:
I Professe to teach thee that art vtterly ignorant, to Reade perfectly, to Write truely, and with judgement to vnderstand the reason of our English-tongue with great expedition, ease and pleasure.
I will teach thee that art vnperfect in eyther of them, to perfect thy skill in few dayes with great ease.
I vndertake to teach all my Schollers, that shall be trained vp for any Grammar Schoole, that they shall neuer erre in writing the true Orthography of any word truely pronounced: which, what ease and benefit it will bring vnto Schoole-masters, they best know: and the same profit doe I offer to all other, both Men, and Women; that now for want hereof, are ashamed to write to their best friends: for which I haue heard many Gentlemen offer much.
I assure all Schoole-masters of the English-tongue, that they shall not onely teach their Schollers with great perfection, but also they shall with more ease and profit, and in shorter time teach a hundred Schollers sooner, than before they could teach forty.
I hope, by this plaine and short kind of teaching, to incourage many to read, that neuer otherwise would haue learned. And so more knowledge will hee brought into this Land, and moe Bookes bought than otherwise would haue beene.
I shall ease the poorer sort, of much charge that they haue beene at, in maintaining their children long at Schoole, and in buying many Bookes.
Strangers that now blame our Tongue of difficulty, and vncertainty, shall by mee plainly see and vnderstand those things which they haue thought hard.
I doe teach thee the first part of Arithmeticke, to know or write any number.
By the practice therunto adjoyned, all learners shall so frame and tune their voyces, as that they shall truely and naturally pronounce any kind of stile, eyther in prose or verse.
By the same practice, Children shall learne in a Catechisme the knowledge of the principles of true Religion, with precepts of vertue, and ciuill behauiour.
I haue made a part of a briefe Chronologie for practice of reading hard Words, wherein also thou shalt bee much helped for the vnderstanding of the Bible, and other Histories: and a Grammer Scholler learne to know when his Authors both Greeke and Latine, liued, and when the principall Histories in them were done.
I haue set downe a Table, contayning and teaching the true writing and vnderstanding of any hard English word, borrowed from the Greeke, Latine, or French, and how to know the one from the other with the interpretation thereof, by a plaine English word: whereby Children shall bee prepared for the vnderstanding of thou∣sands of Latine words before they enter the Grammer Schoole, which also will bring much delight and judgement to others. Therefore if thou vnderstandest not any word in this Booke, not before ex∣pounded, seeke the Table.
If I may bee generally receiued, I shall cause one vniforme manner of Teaching: a thing which as it hath brought much profit vnto the Latine tongue, so would it doe to all other Languages, if the like were practised.
Finally, I haue giuen thee such Examples for faire Writing, whereby in euery Schoole all bad hands may be abandoned, that of thou shouldest buy the like of any other (which thou shalt seldome finde in England,) they alone will cost thee much more money than. I aske thee for my whole Profession.
If thou desirest to bee further satisfied, for the performance of these things; reade the Preface, where thou shalt also see the reason of some things in the first Booke, which thou mightest otherwise dislike.