Apart from the utilitarian conformity for printers of having common symbols and forms of expression for their productions, grammar became in the eighteenth and nineteenth century a science, a common shared body of knowledge.
It also became a science in terms of individuals who sought to popularise systems of their own devising, the use of which would enable language to be broken into parts, and for those parts to be identified and catalogued.
In Semicolon, Cecelia Watson observes:
… grammarians answered to complaints about grammar’s relative dullness and uselessness with rather ingenious rhetoric: grammar, they proposed, was a method of teaching students the art of scientific observation without requiring expensive or complex scientific apparatus. In service of this goal of teaching scientific skills, grammarians resolved to employ careful observation of English, because this gave them a way to use the methods of science to refine grammar; and they imported into their grammars some of the conventions of science textbooks, such as diagrams.
Which reminded me of the scene from the movie Dead Poets Society where John Keating and his class engage with the work of J Evans Pritchard on the science of poetic appreciation.
If this YouTube clip disappears I’m sure you can look up another version.
“We’re not laying pipe! We’re talking about poetry.”