El escritor es autodidacta y se ilustró solo a base de leer todo lo que caía en sus manos.The writer is self-taught, and he has acquired all his knowledge by reading everything that fell into his hands.
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
Las cosas funcionaban así: el maestro estaba allí para ilustrar a sus alumnos, que se limitaban a escuchar y callar.Things went like this: the teacher was there to instruct his pupils, who just listened to him in silence.