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Dear Brother, Gracious Maecenas. Latin Letters of the Gyldenstolpe Brothers (1661-1680).

* Dear Brother, Gracious Maecenas. Latin Letters of the Gyldenstolpe Brothers (1661-1680). By Raija Sarasti-Wilenius. Suomalaisen Tiedeakatemian Toimituksia Humaniora, 374, Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae. Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, 2015. 457 pp. Raija Sarasti-Wilenius is a lecturer in the Latin language and Roman literature at the University of Helsinki, and secretary of the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies. Almost two decades ago she became very interested in the many Latin letters exchanged between members of the Gyldenstolpe family that are kept at Uppsala University Library (Sweden), and it can easily be understood why. The material she presents is amazing, for several reasons, and it gives quite remarkable insights into the daily life of an educated family in seventeenth-century Sweden. For the sons of Michael Wexionius-Gyldenstolpe (1609-1670), who was the first professor of history and politics at the Royal Academy of Turku (Finland), which at its foundation in 1640 was the third university in the Swedish realm, the usage of the Latin language as a means of communication was certainly vital from a very early stage in their education. Some of the texts in the present edition of no less than 190 letters, covering the period 1661-1680, were written already when they were only five or six years of age. Accordingly we can see, in chronological order, how these brothers of a recently ennobled family are improving their rhetorical mastery of the language and how they use letter-writing as a means of career and network building. But among such ambitious specimens we also find simple examples of daily communication, delivering down-to-earth gossip and news on family affairs. We find here both high and low, and this is exactly what makes the collection so fascinating. It is a privilege to be able to come so close to people who lived in the seventeenth century!

However, if the main purpose of Sarasti-Wilenius's book is to make a beautiful edition of these letters, it also accomplishes much more than that. The material is contextualized in several ways, by introductory chapters containing biographical information on members of the Gyldenstolpe family, as well as by discussions of the letters themselves, on aspects such as language (orthography, syntax, morphology, vocabulary) and style, topics and thematic elements. Alongside the letters in the edition, the editor always presents a summary in English for those readers who are not well-versed in Latin. After the text, there is a brief commentary that explains peculiarities in the Latin texts. The book ends with the relevant indices. Considering the huge amount of textual material that is edited, the decision to have summaries instead of full translations of the letters, and a rather concise commentary treating the most urgent matters, seems to be a wise one. The focus here naturally lies on the edited texts.

It is therefore also very satisfying to see that the letters have been edited for the most part according to sound principles, with preservation of the original spelling, retention of capital letters, and modernization of the punctuation, among other things. Personally I would also have left out the accents, which just as the editor says are "inconsistent and incomplete" (64). If this may be a matter of personal taste, however, there are more reasons to doubt if some of the corrections of "clear misspellings" (64) can be justified. In many places, for instance, the editor has 'corrected' features that reflect an orthographical uncertainity and that are typical of the time, as she herself acknowledges (26-30). The corrections of promtiorem to promptiorem and assumsi to assumpsi (78), exolvere to exsolvere (214), and concilium to consilium (344), among others, all violate her own principle, since the features they represent can be found in her list of typical deviations from classical usage, and accordingly could not be called 'clear misspellings.'

In the valuable introductory chapters and in the commentary, the reader may detect a certain degree of inconsistency in treatment as well. Several words in the section on vocabulary, for instance, lack supporting references to other dictionaries or books. A word like ocrea, in the sense 'boot' (35), can be attested in both Hans Helander, Neo-Latin Literature in Sweden in the Period 1620-1720. Stylistics, Vocabulary and Characteristic Ideas (Uppsala, 2004), 135 and Jonas Petri Gothus, Dictionarium Latino-Sveco-Germanicum ... (Linkoping, 1640), s.v. ocrea, but is left without further references, and it is difficult to understand why, when other words have them. The latter dictionary, which must be regarded as the most relevant of all for the edited letters, on the whole seems to have been somewhat underused. The word hypocaustum, for instance, on 375 is explained as 'a warm room,' with a reference to Henrik Florinus, Nomenclatura Latino-Sveco-Finnonica (Turku, 1678). But here it does not refer to a warm room in general, but to the sauna in particular, I would argue. This sense can be attested in Gothus.

Be that as it may, such trivial details are on the whole quite insignificant. Raija Sarasti-Wilenius's fine edition of the Latin letters of the Gyldenstolpe brothers is in all respects an important and very valuable contribution to our knowledge of epistolary practice and daily life in an up-and-coming family on the outskirts of seventeenth-century Europe. (Peter Sjokvist, Uppsala University, Sweden)
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Title Annotation:NEO-LATIN NEWS
Author:Sjokvist, Peter
Publication:Seventeenth-Century News
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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