Memory. Such was the ordinary and sufficing curriculum. It was allowed to be varied with a part of the Ethics; but in this age we do not find the Politics; and the Rhetoric is never mentioned. So, also, the really valuable biological works of Aristotle, including his book on Animals, appear to have been neglected.
Certain portions of Mathematics always found a place in the curriculum. Likewise, some work on Astronomy, which was one of the quadrivium subjects.
All this was given in Latin. Greek was not then known (it was introduced into Scotland in 1534). No classical Latin author is given; the education in Latin was finished at the Grammar School.
Such was the Arts' Faculty of the fifteenth century: a dreary, single-manned, Aristotelian quadriennium. The position is not completely before us till we understand further the manner of working.
The pupils could not, as a rule, possess the text of Aristotle. The teacher read and expounded the text for them; but a very large portion of the time was always occupied in dictating, or "diting," notes, which the pupils were examined upon, viva voce; their best plan usually being to get them by heart, as any one might ask them to repeat passages literally, while perhaps few could examine well upon the meaning. The notes would be selections and abridgments from Aristotle, with the comments of modern writers. The "diting" system was often complained of as a waste of time, but was not discontinued till the third, or present, university dynasty, and not entirely then, as many of us know.
The teaching was thus exclusively text teaching. The teacher had little or nothing to say for himself (at least in the earliest period). He was even restricted in the remarks he might make by way of commentary. He was as nearly as possible a machine.
But, lastly, to complete the view of the first period, we must add the practice of disputation, of which we shall have a better idea from the records of the next period. This practice was coeval with the universities; it was the single mode of stimulating the thought of the individual student; the chief antidote to the mechanical teaching by text-books and dictation.
The pre-Refomation period of Aberdeen University was little more than sixty years. For a portion of those years it attained celebrity. In 1541 the town was honored by a visit from James V, and the university contributed to his entertainment. The somewhat penny a-lining account is, that there were exercises and disputations in Greek, Latin, and other languages! The official records, however, show that the college at that very time had sunk into a convent and conventual school.
The Reformation introduced the second period, and made important changes. First of all, in the great convulsion of European thought, the ascendency of Aristotle was shaken. It is enough to mention two