In the autumn of 1848 the seniors in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts were permitted to take a one-term course in Italian, taught by Louis Fasquelle, Professor of Modern Languages. It was recorded in the faculty minutes that sixteen seniors (exactly two-thirds of the senior class) were examined in Italian on December 20, 1848, and that all but one of them passed.
Italian was not offered again for nearly a score of years. In 1867-68 it was listed, along with Spanish, as a second-semester senior elective in five of the six programs in the Literary Department. For the next several years, although neither language was mentioned in the list of requirements and electives, a course in Italian extending through "a portion of the collegiate year" and a similar one in Spanish were announced in the brief general description of the work in modern languages. It was at least tentatively decided in 1870-71 that these two courses should be alternated, each of them to be given once in two years. In 1872 George S. Morris, then head of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, reported that during the second semester, "with the permission of the faculty," he had taught a two-hour elective course in Italian for juniors and seniors. From the Calendar it appears likely that the plan of alternating Spanish and Italian was followed continuously, though with some irregularities, until June, 1887.
The Calendar of 1878-79 was the first in which the names of the teachers regularly appeared with the names of all courses, and also the first in which the content of the Italian course was definitely, though briefly, outlined. Cuore's Italian Grammar and Foresti's Italian Reader were the texts which Morris used. According to the definition of "full" (i.e., five-hour) courses, a fixed number of which were required for graduation under the regular "credit system" that went into effect the same year, the two-hour course in Italian was regarded as a "two-fifths course."
E. L. Walter took charge of the Department of Modern Languages in the winter of 1880. He taught Italian to thirty-eight students, who, he reported, completed about half the grammar and read about twenty-five pages in the Page 724reader. In his published report to the president he urged that greater facilities in Romance languages be offered, for "no earnest student of literature can afford to be ignorant of the languages of Dante and Cervantes."
Some progress toward this goal was made when, in 1883-84, a one-year course in Italian (two hours credit each semester) was offered. In the meantime, beginning in 1881-82, a prerequisite of a year of French, or its equivalent, had been established, and I Promessi sposi had been substituted for Foresti's Italian Reader. Even more significant, however, was the introduction of a two-hour semester course in Dante, first given by Professor Walter in 1888, only a year after he had been made head of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. In addition to the course devoted to the Divina Commedia, a one-hour course in the Vita Nuova was begun in 1892-93 by Raymond Leslie Weeks (Harvard '90, Ph.D. ibid. '97), Instructor in French. After Weeks left in 1893 Professor Walter took charge of the course and continued to give it and the regular Dante course until 1898, the year of his death.
From 1893 to 1923, the date of his retirement, Professor Moritz Levi, in addition to teaching French, offered courses in Italian. Others who at one time or another have been engaged in the teaching of Italian are: William A. McLaughlin, Herbert Douglas Austin (Princeton '00, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins '11), George Livingstone Hamilton (Harvard '95, Ph.D. Columbia '03), Stephen Scatori (Tulane '14, A.M. Michigan '18), Michele de Filippis (Brown '20, Ph.D. California '33), John Revell Reinhard (Harvard '15, Ph.D. ibid. '21), and Aubrey Tealdi (Lic., R. Ist. Tec. Livorno '00).
At one time or another between 1898 and 1930, Levi, McLaughlin, Hamilton, Austin, and Reinhard gave the Dante course, which had been expanded to include the Vita Nuova and a consideration of Dante's minor works, and which was extended over two semesters. In 1914-15 Austin introduced a graduate course of two semesters called the Origins of Italian Literature, and in 1925-26 Reinhard introduced as graduate courses the Renaissance, the Novellieri, and Petrarch.
In 1930 Camillo Pascal Merlino (Harvard '23, Ph.D. ibid. '28) was invited to take charge of all instruction in Italian. In addition to the courses available up to this time, the following new offerings, usually given in cycles, were admitted to the curriculum: Composition and Conversation; Italian Literature from 1870 to the Present Day; the Masterpieces of Italian Literature; and Introduction to Old Italian Language and Literature, including special treatment of Petrarch and Boccaccio. A Dante course in English was offered for the first time in the summer session of 1936. In 1937 Merlino accepted a position at Boston University.
The elementary Italian course, in addition to advanced work, is taught by Vincent Anthony Scanio (Buffalo '30, Ph.D. Michigan '37), who joined the department in 1931 as an instructor. There are at present three sections of this course, one of which is designed especially to meet the needs of the students of the School of Music.
There is now a complete curriculum in Italian with courses of a practical, literary, and historical nature, thus allowing for an undergraduate major as well as for a program of studies leading to the master's and doctor's degrees.
Library facilities. — In addition to a very adequate collection of Italian texts and scholarly publications on the language, literature, and history of Italy, the General Library now contains several special collections of much value. Professor Walter bequeathed to the University his own library of about 2,100 volumes, of which some 800, including Page 725nearly 500 Dante items, comprised the nucleus of the Italian collection.
The Pèrcopo collection of 1,500 volumes, the private library of the late Professor Erasmo Pèrcopo, of the University of Naples, was purchased in 1928. It includes, besides many single publications, 278 volumes containing more than four thousand research articles and monographs, many of which are very rare or otherwise inaccessible in this country. The collection is now fully catalogued.
In 1932, Mrs. LeRoy Crummer presented to the University thirty-nine rare editions of Castiglione's Il Cortegiano. These, added to the ten already in the library, make this without a doubt one of the finest collections of its kind in the world. Probably the largest and most valuable library of Italian dialect dictionaries outside Italy is the special collection of 124 purchased in 1933.