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The revival of classical learning during the Renaissance prompted European scholars and educators to write treatises on the ancient arts of persuasion and eloquence. Now modern students of rhetoric, linguistics, etymology, speech, and the history of languages can take advantage of these materials through this collection of works published between 1500 and 1900.

Of the 117 works reproduced, approximately two-thirds are British rhetorics written in English or Latin, while the remaining one-third representing the continental rhetorical tradition are written in Latin, French, or Italian.

Compiled in the 1950s by the Speech Association of America, this collection emphasizes the elocutionary aspects of rhetoric and will therefore primarily interest students and researchers in speech and debate. Among works of this type are manuals on public speaking such as John Henley's The art of speaking in publick: or an essay on the action of an orator; as to his pronunciation and gesture. Useful in the Senate or theatre, the court, the camp, as well as the bar and pulpit (1727).

Scholars in linguistics will discover rich resources in such early grammar books and studies of language as:


  • Lord Monboddo's Of the Origin and Progress of Language (1792)
  • Anselm Bayly's An Introduction to Languages (1758)
  • John Brightland's A Grammar of the English Tongue (1712)

As the study of rhetoric becomes increasingly more important to writing teachers, they can enhance their programs with such early works on the teaching of writing as John Walker's The Teacher's Assistant in English Composition (1808). And linguistics scholars and historians of education can mine this collection for early textbooks in both Latin and vernacular languages.

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