Wolfgang Ratke and the “Ratichians”

Since the ideas of Wolfgang Ratke, aka Ratichius, influenced all of his successors, friends and foes alike, the whole bunch of pedagogues of the seventeenth century interested in reforms is routinely called “Ratichians.”


CoCP2MemorialWolfgang Ratke (Ratichius, Ratich)

On May 7/17,1612, when the princes of the Holy Roman Empire gathered in Frankfurt to elect a new emperor, a scholar showed up and presented a breakthrough in education. Oddly enough, it wasn’t a thick book written in Latin, but a single sheet of paper in German.

“Memorial, given to the German Empire at Election Day . . .

“Wolfgang Ratichius knows, with the help of God, and to serve the whole Christendom,

“1. how to teach Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and other languages in very short time, to old and young, so they understand it and can pass it on,

“2. how to prepare a school to teach and propagate all arts and faculties, not only in High German but also in all other languages,

“3. how to introduce a common language, a common government, and finally a common religion in the Whole Empire and keep them peacefully.

“To prove all that he will give a written example in Hebrew, Chaldean, Syrian, Arabian, Greek, Latin and High German language, from where one can form an opinion on the whole opus.”

Ahem. An august target if I may say so. But the man born as Wolfgang Ratke in Wilster/Holstein on October 18, 1571 was never an overly humble man. (BTW: No images of Wolfgang Ratke are available on the Internet. If you enter his name in Google, you’ll always see a picture of Philipp Jakob Spener; I have no idea, why)

Wolfgang graduated at the gymnasium in Hamburg, studied from summer 1593 on in Rostock and Helmstedt, learned several modern and classical languages in Leyden, and during the same time prepared himself to change the world. After he returned to Germany in 1608, he began to visit city councils and princes and tried to get support for a realization of his ideas.

He perhaps never realized that all men were massively annoyed by him. His best supporters were women, especially the two daughters of Prince Ludwig of Anhalt, Dorothea Maria, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar and Anna Sophia, later Countess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt.


The former was widowed in 1612 and served as regent for her seven surviving sons. Ratke was recommended to her by Johannes Lippe, her sister’s former teacher.

She hired him as teacher for her sons, but they soon encountered the “Ratich-effect,” too. Duke Ernst, for example, wrote in his diary how harsh the man was. And Prince Ludwig of Anhalt-Köthen, Dorothea’s brother, considered him unable to “habituate to court rites.” (In 1619, he even arrested him and kept him in prison for half a year, but I don’t want to skip the most important years.)

So, in 1613 he had to leave Weimar again, Dorothea gave him 100 fl. and a “Gnadenpfennig,” a coin containing her image, to show her appreciation for him. She also got him positive reports on his methods from professors in Jena. Her sister gave him 500 fl. and a recommendation letter addressed to the city council of Frankfurt.

He went to Frankfurt, and worked on the implementation of his ideas, together with other scholars sent by different princes.

During this time, he designed a structure of teaching with two major branches “Dogmatica” or “Lehre,” which structures the content of education, and “Didactica” or “Lehr-Art” (way of teaching), which for the first time lists subjects a teacher should master.

The “New Method”


Ratichius refused to specify his methods in writing for a long time, he “wanted to sell them to kings and emperors” he allegedly said to Comenius.

But, pressured by his sponsor, Price Ludwig of Anhalt-Köthen, he wrote a summary in thirteen points:

1)            The art of teaching is a common permeating opus, from which nobody, boy or girl, old or young, can be exempted.

2)            Because the fear of the Lord is the right wisdom, not only all lections should start with a prayer, but also the very first tuition of reading and writing should be based on God’s word.

3)            The youth should be taught in not more than one language at a time, and not accepted to another one, before they have learned and comprehended this one.

4)            All should be done by the order of nature, which has the habit of progressing from the simple to higher, and from the well-known to the unknown.

5)            The student shouldn’t memorize rules he doesn’t understand.

6)            All arts [meaning the seven free arts] shall be taught first in short terms, and then in a comprehensive way.

7)            All should be targeting harmony and unity, not only the languages shall be done consistently, nothing should be taught in one art, which is contradicted by another one.

8)            All teaching must be done first in the mother language, from there in the other languages, too.

9)            All should be done without force and reluctance. So no student should be beaten by his teacher to enforce learning, but only because of wantonness or fiendishness, and not by his teacher, but by another appointed supervisor [means principal].

10)       The arts and sciences shouldn’t be taught in Latin or Greek alone, as was custom until now, but also in High German language.

11)        Schools shall be established by difference of language and at different places.

12)        Each school shall have its own teachers and principals, who should regularly report to the secretaries of education in the council.

13)        As boys are taught by teachers, girls should taught by able woman teachers.

These rules were always feverishly discussed. Most subsequent pedagogues decided that they were basically correct, but not realizable.

The extreme idea of rule #9 that it should be possible to keep peace in a classroom without a cane was commonly refused by German pedagogues until the late-twentieth century.

But rule #8 immediately changed the whole German scholar school system. The German language became important, and so more parents from the middle class of craftsmen and merchants decided to allow their children better education.


The next years saw him in Augsburg, Ulm, and back in Weimar, where the duchess forced him to promise that he would “write down all his methods for printing, stop his offensive speeches and beware of calamities and damage.” But his old enemies at the court didn’t stop sneering at him, and Johann Kromayer introduced Ratke’s methods in Weimar without asking him, so he moved to Erfurt, then, in 1616, invited by the landgrave of Hessia, to Waldeck, and on and on.

In February 1618, he was imprisoned in Lörrach, because he hit a noble’s dog in an inn. In March, he had to leave the town and remembered that Prince Ludwig of Anhalt-Köthen had invited him.

In April 1618, Ratke arrived in Köthen. There a new school was founded with six classes for 231 boys and 202 girls. The three lower classes were only taught in German, the fourth and fifth in Latin, and the sixth in Greek. Hebrew and French were also offered as optional languages.

This is the first German school with a “secondary” part.

The rules for this school said explicitly that the teacher for the lowest class should be a condescending man, not required to speak any other language but German.

In November, Ludwig made a contract with seventeen different professors for providing textbooks and encyclopedias in all the subjects to be taught at the school.

The prince, supported with money from the Saxe-Weimar court (10,000 Thaler total), also funded a print shop, bought a number of lead fonts from the Netherlands, hired six printers from Saxony, and bought enough paper from Quedlinburg to print a complete set of new grammar textbooks written by Ratke and the other professors.

But our friend, a strong Lutheran, soon came into conflict with the Calvinist society, with Superintendent Adam Streso, and all teachers, when he for example insisted the children had to learn the Ten Commandments in the Lutheran variant. Also, they started with all six grades at the same time, and Ratke hadn’t considered the problems the students in the higher classes had when thrown into the cold water of his methods.

During the year 1619, his relationship with the prince decayed more and more, and finally Ludwig had enough. In October, he ordered the arrest of Ratke and his imprisonment in Warmsdorf Castle. Judging by his impertinent answers to the prince’s requests, Wolfgang didn’t realize in the least that he was in danger of execution or imprisonment for the rest of his life.

Eight months later, Ratke, under pressure by the prince and the Calvinist clergy, finally signed a paper stating that he had promised much more than he could keep (true) and that he had pretended other people’s works were his own (not true).

On June 22, 1620, he was handed a horse and 100fl. and allowed to disappear from the principality.

First, he went to Halle to revive his connection with Sigismund Evenius. The dean of the gymnasium suspected that Ratke’s name was a little too spoiled to keep him there, so he wrote a recommendation for the mayor of Magdeburg.

Ratke moved to Magdeburg, and shortly after he arrived, all of the pastors sent a letter to Prince Ludwig asking about the repercussions of the new method. Ludwig’s answer was full of praise for the method, but he doubted that “Ratke as a quarrelsome, despicable, double-minded, termagant, and defaming human might bring much good.”

Wolfgang had another good takeoff and then another hard touchdown when Evenius was given the job as the principal of the gymnasium, which he had expected for himself.

In 1622, he left Magdeburg, moved to Rudolstadt, and gave Hebrew lessons to his most reliable supporter, Anna Sophia. She was the only one supporting him without any reservations, even when the master court chaplain of Dresden, Matthias Hoë von Hoënegg, condemned him completely.

She let him introduce his method at the newly founded girls’ school in Rudolstadt. In the meantime, she wrote letters to all former friends of Ratke trying to convince them to start a new cooperation. With the mediation of Balthasar Walther, he met with Kromayer and others in Zwätzen near Jena. Ratke did another three-hour-monologue, and Kromayer wrote in his report to Anna Sophia that “he is still the old Ratichius trying to reform the entire world at once . . . But the world will not be obedient to him.” He finished “because he started all this good way of teaching, we cherish him very much—notwithstanding his behavior—and he has earned a lifelong salary.”

She finally managed to persuade Ratke to sit down and write books about his method. She did not manage to reverse the expulsion order from Anhalt, so Ratke stayed persona non grata there. In 1627, he was invited to Weimar by the new Duke Wilhelm to work as a kind of external consultant on the educational reform introduced by Kromayer.

Ratke went to Weimar, read Kromayer’s books, and, of course, condemned everything that did not originally come from himself. Saved by the bell—or, better, by approaching enemy troops—the episode had no further repercussions for him.

Delayed by more troop movements, Ratke arrived in Jena in 1628, and again worked on books together with some of the friends Anna Sophia had gathered.

In 1629, Duke Wilhelm of Saxe-Weimar ordered another examination of Kromayer’s continuing reforms by Ratke. There was no meeting, but only exchange of papers. Afterward, Ratke wrote to Anna Sophia, “Kromayer’s New Methodus is completely buried, and Didactica triumphs.” But in fact, Kromayer stayed on his way. Ignoring all of Ratke’s objections, he published all of his works by summer 1630, denying that anything originated from Ratke.

Since the war was flaring, Ratke moved to the castle of Könitz (near Kamsdorf) in 1631. Anna Sophia informed Gustavus Adolphus about Ratke’s inventions during the four days the king stayed in Erfurt after the Battle of Breitenfeld. Since Gustav moved on to Mainz, Axel Oxenstierna invited Ratke to Erfurt in January 1632. Oxenstierna later said to Comenius that he was very disappointed when Ratke, instead of talking to him, only handed him a heavy book. “I did the tedious work [reading the book], and found that he diagnosed the defects of the schools very well, but lacked the proper medicine,” Oxenstierna continued. After this meeting, Ratke moved to the castle of Kranichfeld, Anna Sophia’s widow seat.

OTL, The Swedish court appointed Ratke as tutor for Gustav’s daughter, Kristina. The king’s death in the Battle of Lützen prohibited the realization of that plan.

Shortly thereafter, Ratke suffered from a stroke, disabling his tongue and right hand. He died in Erfurt two years later, on April 27, 1635.

There is no information in the 1632-grid or canon, how he ended up being appointed secretary of education for the SoTF, but it is very likely that Anna Sophia was string-pulling again. She is the sister-in-law of the count of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Kranichfeld is only ten miles from the Ring of Fire.

Sigismund Evenius


Sigismund Eue was born between 1585 and 1589 in Nauen (Brandenburg), son of a cloth-maker with relationship to lower nobility in Pommerania.

In 1602, he started studying at Wittenberg University, graduated as Magister of Philosophy in 1608, and joined the faculty in 1611, teaching mathematics and philosophy.

Soon his reputation exceeded Saxony, and he got requests from Hamburg and Danzig to become principal of their respective Latin Schools.

He refused and instead in 1613 he became principal of the Gymnasium in Halle. He married, had three sons, but his wife died in 1621, and only one son called Martin survived.

It is very likely that he learned of Wolfgang Ratke’s publications from the very beginning. He even organized a non-authorized publication of the basics of the “New Method” in Halle.

In 1618, the two met for the first time in Köthen, where Evenius was sent by Halle’s city council to learn about the method. Evenius managed to stay two days with Ratke, listening to the never stopping monologue. He then wrote a report for his council strongly supporting Ratke’s theories, but dissecting Wolfgang’s practical abilities, which made him Ratke’s best foe.

A central part of Evenius’s report “Formul und Abriß” (formula and compendium) was a definition of ten different grades starting with a basic “school” to learn reading and writing, the second grade for introduction into religion, a “schola artium Germanicae,” and several grades dedicated to different languages.

The “German arts school” was the biggest difference to Ratke’s concepts. It contained arithmetic and geometry, music, optic, astronomy, geography, and “physica,” natural sciences.

From 1620 on, he worked as advisor in questions of education for Sigmund Hesse, mayor of Magdeburg. So when the principal of the gymnasium in Magdeburg died in 1622, Evenius became his successor, much to the disgust of Ratke, who wanted that job for himself.

Evenius married again, Anna Agnes, the youngest sister of the famous pastor Dr. Christian Gilbert de Spaignart. They had three more children. Christian Andreas, the youngest son was just three years old when Tilly’s troops sacked Magdeburg. There are different reports, but most likely Sigismund had to watch when Croats killed several of his students. He then paid all his money to get his family and himself out of the burning city.

After two more years, and two jobs as principal in Reval (appointed directly by Gustavus Adolphus) and Halberstadt he was hired as principal of the Gymnasium in Regensburg after the city had been conquered by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. There he met Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, and followed him to Weimar, still with his wife and three children, hired as “consiliarius scholasticus” for a salary of 100fl. per quarter. Evenius wrote suggestions how to move from a “Latin” school to one teaching realities and religion. He also wrote schedules, curriculums and textbooks. One of the latter was the first (before Comenius) illustrated textbook for religion classes. He died in 1639 from the plague, never seeing the fruits of his work.

Obviously, all that didn’t happen NTL, so his fate after the sack is unknown at the moment.

Johann Kromayer


Johannes Kromayer was born in Döbeln/Saxony, studied in Leipzig from 1597 on, and worked as pastor in Eisleben during his studies. In 1600, he finished as Magister of theology.

In 1613 he came to Weimar as court-preacher, and became General Superintendent in 1627.

He was the spiritual counterpart of the secular teachers I mentioned before, constantly in touch with them, and despising Ratke even more than they did.

As early as 1618, he wrote a “German Grammar to the New Method,” explaining the whole German language from an enumeration of all letters (including the three umlauts) over the different types of words with pre- and suffixes, all tenses and cases, syntactical rules and so on. Apart from some strange and inconsistent spelling, this book is still valid today.

He was one of Ratke’s biggest foes, later denying that anything of his own works derived from Ratke.

There is nothing contradicting that he is NTL still head of the Lutheran church in the county of Saxe-Weimar and member of the council of new Duke Albrecht.

Andreas Reyher

Im Namen meines Herren Jesu Christi. Ich, M. Andreas Reyher bin gebohren im Flecken Heinrichs in der Fürstl. Grafschaft Henneberg nahe an Suhl gelegen im Jahre Christi MDCI den 4. Maji gleich Mittags zwölff UhrAndreas Reyher’s eigenhändiger Lebenslauf In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ. I, Magister Andreas Reyher was born in the hamlet of Heinrichs in the Princely County of Henneberg located near to Suhl in the Year of Christ MDCI on May 4th, at noon.Andreas Reyher’s CV written by his own hand


His father, Michael Reyher, was a wine merchant, like many of the people in this village, buying wine in Southern Germany and selling it in the vicinity, buying weapons in Suhl and selling them in Southern Germany.

Andreas attended the village school in Heinrichs between 1608 and 1614. He learned reading and writing and “a little figural singing,” (all quotes from his aforementioned CV) but not more during six years.

Because he ought to follow his father in the family business, but showed “no interest for horses and wagons,” his father planned to send him to Magdeburg to learn a merchant’s trade. So he was sent to the Latin school in Suhl to learn more mathematics and the international trade language, Latin.

In the two following years he walked to Suhl every day, “and home in the evening with particular passion,” and showed the behavior of a real bookworm. Through pressure from Andreas’s brother-in-law—he was the youngest of five children—his father finally resigned himself and sent Andreas to the school in Schleusingen, which had become a Gymnasium illustre in 1577 by order of the last count of Henneberg, Georg Ernst. For the seven classes from “Septima” to “Prima” with an all-time high of 426 students in 1616, they had a faculty of eight teachers, including principal Jakob Sorger.

The gymnasium had an associated “Kommunität,” a dormitory for “20-30 poor boys,” founded by Count Georg Ernst. Ten of the places were completely free, the others had to pay half boarding.

Andreas was admitted to the Tertia after an entry exam in January 1616. Normally children had to stay for three years in the first and last of the levels of this school and two years in each of the levels between. Andreas however moved to Sekunda after the harvest holidays in 1617. Although he was sick for three months in 1619 (when his mother died), he finished school in summer 1621.

In December 1621, he moved to Leipzig to attend the university, and started studying theology and philology. Due to the economic troubles of that time (“Kipper-und-Wipperzeit”) he had to work as home teacher for sons of Georg Winckler, a merchant and a friend of his father’s, the mayor Friedrich Mayer, “and other upscale people in rather big number.” This work showed him how much he loved teaching children, and additionally gave him free lodging and a yearly salary of 20 fl.

In the meantime, he had become baccalaureus in 1624 and magister in 1627. In March 1631, he was hired as professor.

In 1629, he published tables for learning Greek, between 1630 and 1632 he did the same for logic, physics, ethic, policy and economy. But after the sack of Magdeburg, when Tilly’s troops approached Leipzig, he did his old friend Mayer a favor and accompanied the mayor’s family into the safety of Dresden.

He possibly went back to Leipzig, but was seen in Coburg shortly afterward.

OTL he was appointed principal of the gymnasium in Schleusingen by Duke Johann Casimir the year after. In 1634, Croats devastated Suhl and the area around including his home village Heinrichs, and his father was killed. Schleusingen was spared because a high official was an old friend of General Isolani. After a plague wave in 1634 and a famine in early 1635, his school went down to 86 students. The dormitory was closed in 1637. The last part of his outstanding salary of more than 250 fl. from that time was paid in 1657 after a personal intervention by Duke Ernst.

The School Reform in Gotha

Everything described in this section will of course not happen in the new timeline, but this sheds an interesting light on how education was handled in Germany in the early modern era, and how different school politics was—and still is—here.


When Duke Ernst of Saxe-Weimar in 1640 inherited part of the properties of Johann Ernst of Saxe-Eisenach with the newly founded duchy of Saxe-Gotha, he found nothing but devastation.

As much as I’m personally fond of the old duke, he has to be blamed for not caring for the part of his duchy he inherited from his brother in 1633.

Croats under General Isolani had plundered nearly every village and town between Nordhausen and Coburg in 1634, and nobody had any money to repair the damage.

First thing Ernst did was get himself an able team of councilors. He contacted Salomo Glassius, professor of theology in Jena, and made him General Superintendent in Gotha.

A pastor named Christoph Brunchorst was already designing a new official Bible together with Sigismund Evenius, until the death of the latter.

Duke Ernst already knew Andreas Reyher, who had just moved to Lüneburg to become principal of the gymnasium. But Ernst executed his preemptive rights as Reyher’s sovereign to call him back to Gotha. The Lüneburgers were not amused, but couldn’t do anything.

Ernst ordered the consistory under Glassius to perform a complete “visitation” of all villages and parishes in his duchy. They prepared a questionnaire to all pastors with over 80 detailed questions about the status of their parish, the number of people attending communion and confession, and the number of people being able to read, write and do mathematics on a ten-step scale between “good” and “nothing.” This visitation started in 1642 and took until 1645 to complete.

Meanwhile, Reyher was ordered to collect all information about the “New Method” and distill it into new school law. In the year 1642, his results (435 numbered chapters) were printed with the title Special and peculiar report, how by divine bestowal the boys and girls in the villages and towns of the duchy of Gotha—those who represent the lowest heap of pupils—can and shall be taught quick and useful. This document was later called the Gothaer Schulmethodus (School Method).

Apart from the enormous share singing took in this first edition, which was in the second edition reduced from 40 pages to two, the rules were kept, slightly modified and expanded by “Realien” (the scientific subjects Evenius had designed for the German arts school) over the next thirty years. It didn’t only contain rights and obligations of students, but also those of teachers, principals, pastors, and parents.

New German schools based on this document were founded in all villages and towns of the duchy, and shortly after the saying spread in Germany that “the peasants in Gotha are more educated than the nobles elsewhere.”

When Evenius presented his ideas, Duke Ernst missed a special course for children who needed to read and write Latin (like the original course Reyher’s father had in mind), but didn’t target a scholar’s career. So the “Latinitas vulgaris” (common Latin) class was introduced based on Comenius’ Janua linguarum reserata. Other suggestions led to different curriculums with and without Greek or Hebrew. The two languages should be reserved for students who wanted to study theology, philosophy, or medicine.

Joachim Jungius


Joachim Junge (see also was born on November 1, 1587, son of a teacher at the Gymnasium St. Katharinen in Lübeck. His father died 1589, and his stepfather, Martin Nordmann, was another teacher at the same school.

So nothing was more natural for him than to attend the same school, where he soon started a career as clever orator and playwright.

In 1606, he finished school and started studying in Rostock, the same university Wolfgang Ratke had attended earlier.

His specialty soon became mathematics, or better the subjects considered “mathematics” then, especially metaphysics.

In 1608, he went to Gießen to study mathematica pura, mathematica mediae (scientific application of mathematics like optics, theory of harmony, or astronomy) and mathematica mechanicae (technical application of mathematics like physics or architecture). Only one year later, he graduated as Magister Artium, and started to teach the same subjects. In that period, he also spoke several times about the necessity to teach these subjects not only at university level, but also in schools.

After Ratke had presented his Memorial in Frankfurt, the landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, Ludwig V, selected him and Christoph Helwig (died 1619) to work with Ratichius, formulating the new method for print publication.

In 1615, back in his hometown Lübeck, Jungius started to study medicine, then went to Padua and there graduated as Doctor in 1619.

Back in Germany, he held lessons at different universities in Northern Germany (mathematics and medicine alike) until in 1629 he was hired as principal at the Academic Gymnasium in Hamburg.

He spoke and wrote a lot about “freedom of thinking and teaching,” which earned him enemies in the faculty as well as the Lutheran church.

During his life, he wrote books about mathematics, optics, biology, astronomy (he created a new star catalogue and studied sunspots), chemistry (he fought against alchemy and spoke with miners about the different salts and elements they knew), and several other scientific subjects.

A special creation of his is the word “Heuretica” (derived from “Heureka”) meaning the art of invention. He wrote a book with the same title and even founded a scientific society in Hamburg (“Societas Ereunetica”).

About 25,000 pages of unpublished thoughts (a quarter of those he originally left behind, the rest was destroyed during a fire in 1691) still exist in an archive in Hamburg, where he died without children in 1657.

NTL there will be nothing holding him back from visiting Grantville, and then writing dozens—no, hundreds—of articles along the line of “I was right and you were wrong.”

Johann Valentin Andreä


He was born in Herrenberg near Stuttgart on August 17, 1586, son of the Lutheran pastor. His grandfather, Jakob Andreä, had been chancellor of the University of Tübingen. His mother became head of the ducal pharmacy in Stuttgart after his father’s death.

In 1602, he started studying arts (history, literature, and the modern languages Italian, French, Spanish, and English) in Tübingen, and was one of the founding members of the esoteric society following the mystic Christian Rosencreutz, the so-called Rosenkreuzler (Rosicrucianism). The three main works of this society from the early-seventeenth century seem to come from him, for Chymnische Hochzeit (Chymnical Wedding) his authorship is proven.

(Note: The other about ten students, who were part of this group, are not relevant for this article, but still alive in the 1630s.)

After being fired from the University for being—most likely innocently—involved in a prank of his friends, he decided to leave Tübingen for a time. He started a long and winding journey with studying at nearly all universities of Europe and working as tutor for his living, accompanying young nobles on their Grand Tours.

In 1611, he returned to Tübingen, became tutor of young nobles, but didn’t stay until his employer died in 1612. During this year, he traveled to Genf, learning and adopting the Calvinist doctrine.

After one semester in Padua, he returned to Württemberg, and continued studying (Lutheran) theology in Tübingen, finishing in 1614. He also officially distanced himself from the Rosicrucianists. Later he told Comenius that all had originally been a students’ joke and a satire on the emerging secret societies.

He started working as deacon in Vaihingen, and encountered a slew of moral decline, drunkenness, quarrels between neighbors and spouses, and profanation of the Sundays. He wanted to fight against these bad habits by introducing the Ten Commandments as official town law, collecting penalties for the poor. Of course, this project was doomed from the beginning.

But he wrote a total of forty books during this time about all his thoughts and experiences, which became quickly very famous among the German scholars. One of these is called Christianopolis, a Christian Utopia with an emphasis on education. It is not known how much he was inspired by Ratichius, but this book contained most of the thirteen rules mentioned above.

After he had become Superintendent in Calw (Black Forest) in 1620, he started another attempt to improve morality, this time by founding a society to help the poor, sick and young. The so-called “Calwer Färberstiftung” (Dyer foundation of Calw) OTL existed until 1923. They documented feeding about 110,000 poor people in five years, and when he left in 1638, the foundation had collected a capital of 18,000 fl.

During all this time, he was massively writing letters to the other Ratichians, and Comenius labeled his works as his biggest inspiration. He wrote nine hundred letters to Duke August of Brunswick-Lüneburg and his family, and received five hundred letters back.

Johann Amos Comenius

Moravus ego natione, lingua Bohemus, professione Theologus, ad Evangelii Ministerium jam Anno Christi 1616 vocatus.Johann Amos Comenius, Opera Didacta Omnia, 1657 Moravian by nation, language Bohemian, profession theologian, called into the service of Gospel from the year of Christ 1616 on.


The best known pedagogue of the seventeenth century and the only one who has several appearances in the 1632 canon (The Three R’s, and The Wallenstein Gambit, Ring of Fire; The Rudolstadt Colloquy, Grantville Gazette 1; The Anaconda Project, Episode 3, Grantville Gazette 14) was born as Jan, son of Martin from Komna (Komenský) on March 28, 1592 in Niwnitz, Southern Moravia (today Nivnice near Brno/Brünn in the Czech Republic).

His father, a wealthy miller, died in 1602, his mother and his two sisters soon afterward, and Jan was reared by distant relatives.

His family were members of the Jednota bratrská (Moravian Brothers), later called Unity of Brethren, who separated from the Catholic Church as early as 1467, fifty years prior to Martin Luther’s theses. (Note: don’t confuse their German name “Brüdergemeinde”—parish of brothers—with the name “Brüdergemeine” of a later descendant church founded in 1722.)

The brotherhood survived peaceful takeover attempts by the Dominicans and bloody pursuit by King Wladislaw II in the early sixteenth century. Martin Luther negotiated with them for joining his new confession, but they were too “Catholic” for his taste (celibacy and seven sacraments were part of their doctrine).

A confession written in 1575 (Confessio Bohemica) was verbally accepted by Emperor Maximilian II, and freedom of religion was finally given to them in written form by Emperor Rudolph II’s “majesty’s letter” of 1609.

During the finest days of the Brethren, Jan attended their gymnasium in Přerov (Prerau). He signed letters with “Jan Amos Nivnicensis” (from Nivnice).

From 1611 on, he studied Calvinist theology in Herborn (Hessia), and from 1613 in Heidelberg. He bought a manuscript written by Copernicus, in which he wrote his name as “Joannes Amos Nivanus Moravus.” The several names all don’t contain a real last name. Later he returned to his roots and used the Latinized form of his father’s byname “Comenius.”

When his money drew to an end in 1614, he aborted his studies, returned to Prerau, and worked as a teacher at the school until 1617. In 1616, he was ordained as pastor of the Brethren. In 1618, he moved to Fulnek, becoming elder of the parish, writing books and working on a map of Moravia, which he finished in his later exile in Amsterdam.

CoCP2Majesty Letter

In 1620, after the Battle of the White Mountain, Emperor Ferdinand II himself took the aforementioned majesty’s letter, and cut it into pieces. This can be still seen in the National Archive in Prague.

The Brethren went into hiding. Comenius was constantly fleeing along the Moravian border, while his wife and his two daughters died from a plague outbreak following the sack of Fulnek in 1622.

During the next years, he lived with twenty-four of the Brethren in Brandeis (Brandýs nad Labem) on the properties of Karel starší ze Žerotína (Karl von Zerotin), a Protestant Bohemian noble who had managed to keep his properties from being confiscated, and helped victims of the counter-reformation following the Battle of the White Mountain. In 1624, Comenius married Dorothea Cyrillova, daughter of one of the eldest of the Brethren, and shortly afterward was on the run again. An Imperial order expelled all Protestant pastors from Bohemia.

Comenius’ magnum opus, Opera Didacta Omnia (1657), contains a chapter describing how he fled to Slaupna (Moravia) and hid on the properties of Baron Georg Sadowski. There he literally (visiting a library) stumbled over handwritings by a man called Elias Bodinus, who had died in 1618.

“When we [he and Johannes Stadius, another of the Brethren pastors] went for a walk on the dog days to visit the famous library at Castle Wilcitz, we suddenly stumbled over the ‘Didactica’ by Elias Bodinus, which had arrived from Germany just before. We read it and were provoked to write a similar book in our language. This plan was heartily greeted by the Brethren. Another Imperial edict, expelling all Protestant nobles, who denied religious conversion, spurred us.”

While still working at this book, the Brethren were hit by another wave of persecution, and Karl von Zerotin barely managed to pay for them and their printing presses to be moved to Leszno (Polnisch-Lissa, 60 miles northwest of Breslau in Poland) where another Brethren community existed since 1547.

Comenius became teacher at the gymnasium (some sources call him principal) and he continued writing his Magna Didactica, “youthful ardor and premature hope let me give it the byname ‘the Great.’ ”


This book contains a concept for a life based on education, morality, and religiosity.

Six chapters deal with man’s goals in life, twenty-two with a school education in the mother language, only two with Latin School and University.

The book was OTL finished in 1632 in the Bohemian language, but not published before 1841. In 1638, he started a Latin translation, and in 1657, this version was published.

Another book he wrote at that time is the source for his fame throughout the centuries.

Janua linguarum reserata (The Gate to the Languages Unlocked) is a revolutionary textbook; not a translation from any existing Roman source, but a textbook to learn Latin from scratch like the translations in a modern tour guide.

Within fifty years OTL, it was published in twelve languages; here is a page from the sixth edition of the English translation from 1638. More about this edition at

The last historical event before he showed up in Grantville for the first time was the death of his father-in-law and his election to bishop in 1632.

OTL he soon begged for release from his duties, and from 1636 on he was writing more and more textbooks, and didactical books to teach the teachers.

In 1658, another revolutionary book was published, Orbis Sensualium Pictus (The World Experienced in Pictures). Here he combined his Janua with the illustration ideas of Evenius to a book, which stayed the definite European textbook during the next three centuries. A complete, annotated English edition can be found here:; the original German edition from 1664 here

Christian Gueintz


The teacher for the next generation of pedagogues was born on October 13, 1592 in Kohlo (near Cottbus, Lower Lusatia). He attended at least six different schools until the age of twenty-one. In 1615, he started studying philosophy and theology in Wittenberg, finishing as Magister one year later and became professor in 1618.

In 1619, he was called to Köthen on recommendation of Wolfgang Ratke to help introducing the new method. During that time, he translated Ratke’s Grammatica universalis from Latin to Greek, and wrote his own Greek textbook, also in German language (Griechischer Sprach Ubung). He also married Catharina, daughter of Köthen’s deceased mayor Johann Brand (Bernd).

In 1622, he returned to Wittenberg studying law. After his graduation one year later, he was elected as member of the consistory of Wittenberg. In 1627, he was appointed principal of the gymnasium in Halle as successor of Sigismund Evenius.

OTL he mainly stayed in Halle until his death in 1650, but also worked part-time as professor in Jena. His membership in the Fruitbearing Society was the inspiration and motivation to write a German grammar and a German orthography during the 1640s.

Contrary to Ratke, he was a doer, and had very good relationships with people of different backgrounds. His mastership of law makes him perhaps a good choice for secretary of education in Magdeburg.


Basically the sometimes quoted American saying “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” is definitely not true for the early-seventeenth century in Germany. The men mentioned here, all commoners, had high reputations, and were theoreticians and practicians (with a noted exception) alike. They wrote books, were principals, discussed with high nobles, and mostly earned their money by teaching children.


Art Director’s Note: Thank you to Rainer for providing the images for this article.