Quintilian, and J.S. Watson. Institutes of Oratory. Edited by Lee Honeycutt, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition. Book 10 Chapter 1.
Quintilian book 10 chapter one is a rather lengthy instruction on the value of reading broadly. The competent orator needs to be in the habit of reading, writing, and speaking (Quintilian X.1.2). He compares this practice to the training of an athlete. The ongoing practice sharpens the learned skills (Quintilian X.1.4). Wise judgment about word and structural choices is learned through extensive and intelligent reading (Quintilian X.1.8). While it is possible to learn well by hearing speakers, reading is also helpful. Quintilian advocates reading as it allows careful analysis which will not be swayed by the orator’s speaking style (Quintilian X.1.17). He compares careful analysis to digestion of food. It takes time and care.
Most important, Quintilian says, is reading “none but the best authors...and such as are least likely to mislead him who trusts them” (Quintilian X.1.20). Repeated reading allows attention to the overall structure and the details. Considering opposing viewpoints is also of great value (Quintilian X.1.22). Quintilian gives numerous examples of speeches on opposite sides of issues. He also reminds his readers that the best of authors still are imperfect (Quintilian X.1.24). A breadth of genre is also important. Poetry is of great value to the orator (Quintilian X.1.27). History is also of great value (Quintilian X.1.31). Above all, knowledge of facts from history is of great help to an orator (Quintilian X.1.34). Philosophers have yet another style of discourse. Their arguments and logic are helpful, though the style is less useful in oratory (Quintilian X.1.36). While many might ask for a list of authors to be read, Quintilian hesitates to do so. Any attempt will be incomplete (Quintilian X.1.41). However after discussing some of the general characteristics of various periods, locations, and types of literature, Quintilian goes on to list a large number of important authors, beginning in paragraph 46. Of interest and value are his observations of the particular characteristics of the different authors.