James Hamilton was the last teacher in a long line, stretching back to hoary antiquity, of a method for teaching languages based around studying texts with glosses and interlinear translations. For example, the medieval manuscript of the Rule of St Benet contains interlinear versions in Anglo-Saxon. This method was used for well over a thousand years.

John Amos Comenius (seventeenth century) and the philosopher John Locke in the eighteenth century were strong proponents of this system of teaching language though text . By the early twentieth century the method had disappeared from our classrooms, and even from private instruction. The entire system and methodology has vanished without a trace; were it not for Google Books, James Hamilton's tract linked to above would be lost to all but the most assiduous scholars - it suffered the same fate as the Adler-Ollendorff textbook, and only four physical copies of this text survive in the world's libraries. The same goes for the Hamiltonian textbooks themselves - the physical copies are rare.

Even today, almost no students of the classics use this method, despite its evident success as a practical system; it produced scholars who were able to use Latin in the real world, scholars who could read, write, and speak the language.



Comenius recognised that the main problem with getting to grips with Latin was not, oddly enough, the grammar, but the vocabulary.

To this end, he devoted a huge amount of time creating specialist texts such as the Januae Latinitatis Vestibulum, the Orbis Sensualium Pictus, the Januae Latinitatis Fundamentum, the Janua Linguarum Reserata, the Schola Ludus and others the to help a student acquire the 10,000 or so words needed at a minimum to be able to read ancient texts in Latin. Another author active in this area was Pexenfelder, whose Apparatus Eruditionis was also written to help students learn the massive vocabulary needed to be able to read ancient texts.

We now know that Comenius was correct, as Ernest Blum wrote in his 2008 essay

" In the last half of the 20th century, an explosion of computer-based studies of large texts, called “corpora,” has demonstrated that the number of words needed to read foreign-language books exceeds by several multiples the amount of vocabulary that is acquired by most foreign-language students. This huge vocabulary gap explains why it is impossible for most students to read extensive, sophisticated materials in foreign languages. Even many who are academically involved with foreign languages must depend heavily on dictionaries, consult translations, and accept reading with blind spots because of time constraints. "

The main problem is that once one leaves the high-frequency words behind, a student wanting to gain command of Latin has a massive problem. Almost all the words outside of this small group, are low-frequency words. This is the effect of what is knows as Zipf's Law - that almost all words you will encounter in your reading of an ancient text, will be rare - up to twenty words on an average printed page of a classical text.

More saliently, the more unusual and rare a word is in a sentence, the more important that word is likely to be, in terms of overall meaning.


In 1703, the philosopher John Locke had produced a specialist interlinear text of Aesop. Other teachers involved in this method at this time were John Stirling DD, and John Clarke, and the publishers to University College London, John Taylor and Co. Hamilton made the system famous, under the rubric “Système Naturel” . Stirling put his energy into writing Latin paraphrases; some of these he issued with a parallel English translation, notably his edition of Culmann's Sententiae Pueriles.


The Hamiltonian Interlinear System gets you reading in Latin from day one. Reading, wrote Hamilton, “is the only real, the only effectual source of instruction. It is the pure spring of nine-tenths of our intellectual enjoyments. . . . Neither should it be sacrificed to grammar or composition, nor to getting by heart any thing whatever, because these are utterly unobtainable before we have read a great deal.”


The Latinum Institute recognised the importance of this system, and has incorporated it into the study programme.

Our audio versions of these texts take three forms: specialist recordings in Latin-English-Latin give you early access as a student to texts that would otherwise be too irksome to read, such as Aesop's Fables - entertaining as they are, they have a very rich vocabulary. Without the method of simultaneous translation as you listen, the texts would be too hard to read.

A number of these specialist recordings can be found at all levels of the course.

The second and third forms are related, but rely on you using the printed text, as the material is presented only in English audio, or only in latin audio - and while you listen your eyes follow along in the interlinear text. This method is highly efficient, but less flexible as it requires you to have the pdf text open in front of you as you listen.



The Latin Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church, with an Interlinear Anglo-Saxon

The Gospel According to Saint Mark Latin and Anglo Saxon


L'Homond Traduccion literal e interlineal del Compendio de la historia santa

Torella, Joan Brevis ac Compendiaria Syntaxis Partium Orationis Institutio


Comstock's Epitome Historiae Sacrae: On an Improved Plan, in Two Volumes

The Fables of Aesop: Adapted to the Hamiltonian System

Aesop's Fables: As Romanized by Phaedrus : with a Literal Interlinear John Taylor

Æsop's Fables, in English & Latin, Interlineary by John Locke

The Gospel of St. John, in Latin: with an interlineal

The Gospel of St. Mark. Greek, Latin, and English interlinear

Eutropii Seven Books of the History of Rome

The Odes of Horace: first two books, with the scanning of each verse,

Horace (John Stirling DD)

C. Sallustii Crispi Opera, adapted to the Hamiltonian System

A Selection from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, adapted to the Hamiltonian

Ovid Selections from the Metamorphoses and Heroides of Publius Ovidius Naso

The Four Orations of Cicero Against Catiline, Adapted to the Hamiltonian

Cicero Laelius

Historiæ Sacræ: Adapted to the Hamiltonian System

L'Homond's Epitome Historiæ Sacræ adapted to the Hamiltonian system

Cornelius Nepos Adapted to the Hamiltonian System

The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis: With a Literal Interlineal

The Eight Books on Medicine of Aurelius Cornelius Celsus

The First Book of Virgil's Aeneid, with a Literal Interlinear Translation (John Taylor) Another version here

Virgil's Works: With the Original Text Reduced to the Natural Order of Construction by Hart and Osborne

Virgil's Bucolics

Livy interlinear (David McKay and Co)

Virgil (David McKay and Co)

Caesar (David McKay and Co)

Horace (David McKay and Co)

Cicero (David McKay and Co)

Sallust (David McKay and Co)

Ovid (David McKay and Co)

Juvenal (David McKay and Co)

Cornelius Nepos (David McKay and Co)

Mathurini Corderii colloquia selecta, an Engl. tr. by S. Loggon (vertical format)

Gregory's Conspectus. A literal interlineal translation


Fables de Phèdre avec la construction du latin (Wandelaincourt)

Fables de Phèdre en latin & en françois, avec les fables de la Fontaine

Abrégé de l'histoire de S. Sévère, avec la construction du latin (Wandelaincourt)

Cicéron discours pour Marcellus:

Discours contre Verrès, sur les supplices: expliqué en français

Virgile : L'Énéide. expliquée en français suivant la méthode des coll`eges

L'Énéide: livre premier ; Expliquée en français suivant la méthode des collèges

Discours pour Milon , expliqué en français suivant la méthode des collèges par deux traductions : l'une littérale et interlinéaire

Horace. Les Odes, expliquées en français, suivant la méthode des collèges


The text of the Iguvine inscriptions


Xantis Pagnini The Prophets


First Lines in Greek; or, the Sermon on the Mount,

Analecta Graeca Minora: Adapted to the Hamiltonian System

The Gospel of St. Mark. Greek, Latin, and English interlinear

A selection from Lucian's dialogues, with a literal interlinear translation

A selection from the histories of Herodotus, with a literal interlinear

Homer's Iliad (David McKay and Co)

The Iliad of Homer: With an Interlinear Translation : for the Use of Schools

Xenophon's Anabasis (David McKay and Co)

The First Part of Xenophon's Memorabilia of Socrates (John Taylor)


Perrin's Fables; adapted to the Hamiltonian system

The Gospel of st. John [in Fr.] adapted to the Hamiltonian system

Milton's Paradise Lost Traduction littérale, mot à mot & interlinéaire en François


Eduard in Schottland, ein historisches Drama. Adapted to the Hamiltonian

Die Geschichte des kleinen Jack [by T. Day] übers. von A. Mensbier

Selections from the German Poets, with interlinear translations Falcke Lebahn


The English instructor: No. I, in English and Hindusthani,


The Book of Genesis in English-Hebrew, accompanied by an interlinear


The Gospel of St. John, in Italian, adapted to the Hamiltonian

A selection from Italian prose writers: with a double translation

Panizzi: Stories from Italian Writers: With a Literal Interlinear Translation

Vittorio Alfieri's Merope ... With an analytical and interlineal translation


The Gospel of St. John, in Spanish: Adapted to the Hamiltonian System



Lilie's Rules construed. Whereunto are added Tho. Robinson's Heterodites

Phædrus, Construed. The Fables of Phædrus Construed Into English

Barnabas Hampton Prosodia construed, and the meaning of the most difficult words

The comedies of Plautus, construed literally and word for word by dr. Giles.

The Germany and Agricola of Tacitus, construed literally


The tragedies of Euripides, construed literally

Matthaeus Drift The Greek Grammar Construed, for the Help of Young Beginners.

The Odyssey ... Books I-II, Construed Literally and Word for Word by Dr Giles

The Iliad, construed literally and word for word: by dr. Giles

Longinus on the sublime; construed literally and word for word;


Before studying Comenius' Janua Linguarum Reserata you should first study the Januae Latinitatis VESTIBULUM and the ORBIS SENSUALIUM PICTUS. Both of these texts have audio lessons produced by the Latinum Institute, and these texts and their recordings can be found in the Beginner and Beginner Plus listings.

Comenius recognised that the main impediment to learning Latin was not, oddly enough, the grammar, but the massive mountain of vocabulary a student needs to learn to be able to read Classical Texts.

This is why the Latinum Institute places such an emphasis on bilingual recordings, and shadowing; these are the fastest way to learn massive amounts of vocabulary rapidly, while maintaining interest in your studies.

Learning vocabulary with flashcards etc is mind numbingly boring - learning with text is somewhat better - and you get to learn the words in their natural habitat; vocabulary learned in context is better understood. You are more likely to stay the course this way.

Comenius thought that a vocabulary of around 8,000 words was needed at the bare minimum. We now know, through sophisticated computer analysis of the Latin corpus, that this number is nearer 10,000 words.

This system of learning through text is ancient, and there is an interesting discussion of this method in this article by Ernest Blum, in 'The America Scholar', 2008. The earliest examples of this sort of text that survive are the somewhat unfortunately named "hermeneumata"; our examples date to the second century. Comenius deliberately set out to copy this format, and we can say with confidence that his teaching system is authentically Roman!

Comenius wrote his Januae Latinitatis Vestibulum, Januae Latinitatis Fundamentum, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, and the Janua Linguarum Reserata in order to address this issue.


Comenius: Orbis Sensualium Pictus

Comenius: Vestibulum Technicum

Comenius: Janua Linguarum Reserata

Comenius: Vestibulum et Janua Linguarum Reserata (Robotham)


Comenius : Porta linguarum trilinguis reserata et aperta.


Comenius: La Porte des langues ouverte, pour apprendre la langue latine


Comenius: Ianua linguarum reserata aurea


Comenius: Orbis Sensualim Pictus

Comenius: Ianua Aurea Linguarum


Bertuch: Novus orbis pictus juventuti institutuendae et oblectandae, complectens


Comenius: Orbis Pictus Immutatus

Comenius: Januæ linguarum vestibulum majus


Gailer: Neuer Orbis Pictus für die Jugend oder Schauplatz der Natur


Comenius: Januae Latinitatis Vestibulum


Comenius: Orbis pictus graeco-latinus, usui studiosae juventutis accommodatus


Comenius: Schola Ludus ( Minor historical note: Samuel Pepys read this book "entertained myself with" were his words on 24 June 1666, as recorded in his diary) A translation exists into German.