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Dantiscus's Latin letters – introduction

Dantiscus wrote letters in Latin and German. Of these, 779 Latin ones and 916 German ones have survived. Though there exists a mention of an unknown letter in Polish (IDL 6514) and two office copies of letters in Spanish have survived (IDL 3806, IDL 3807), these are marginal instances.

Dantiscus addressed his Latin letters chiefly to the Polish royal court and European courts, to humanists, scholars and clergymen, using German for writing to his family, burghers and the German-language group of the Prussian gentry, to members of the financial elite (bankers and their agents), and to the courts of German princes.

The first known Latin letter of Dantiscus is from 1515. Latin letters predominate in the output from the period of his diplomatic travels (1515-1532), though the fact that he regularly received letters in German suggests that he replied to them in the same language.

The proportions change perceptibly to the advantage of German after Dantiscus’ appointment to the bishopric of Ermland (1537-1548), which is undoubtedly connected with the fact that he had to become more involved in local Prussian politics.

The primary sources for Dantiscus’ letters from the years of his diplomatic travels are mainly office copies from his archive and fair copies preserved in the royal office of Sigismund I (known as the Górski Collection). Far fewer fair copies of letters to correspondents not linked to the Polish court have survived. We also have a number of later copies. Regarding the time when Dantiscus was a bishop in Prussia, rough drafts and office copies dominate among the sources.

Remarks on the language of Dantiscus’ Latin letters from 1537 are published in the introduction to vol. I.1 of the series Corpus Epistularum Ioannis Dantisci. Because certain features of language, and also of writing as such, change over time, more general conclusions on these issues will be presented once the entire first part of the series, comprising Dantiscus’ Latin letters, is published. The introduction to vol. I.3 of the series is planned to include a description of the functioning of the office Dantiscus maintained as bishop of Warmia.

Anna Skolimowska
Translated from Polish by Joanna Dutkiewicz

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