The Correspondence of the Gyldenstolpe family

Primary Contributors:

Raija Sarasti-Wilenius and Minna Vesa, University of Helsinki


Letter by Daniel Gyldenstolpe to Nils Gyldenstolpe dated 20 August 1676. (Nordin 469:45; image courtesy of Uppsala University Library)

Nils Gyldenstolpe (1642–1709), Swedish statesman, started his career as secretary of Per Brahe, Lord High Stewart of Sweden. He proceeded in the field of politics and diplomacy, serving, for instance, as Swedish Ambassador to the Hague. In 1690, he was appointed Royal Councillor, Governor of the future King of Sweden, Charles XII, and Chancellor of the University of Lund. He was also raised to the title of count in the ranks of nobility. His nomination as Secretary of State in 1705 marked the climax of his career. He was married twice, first to Christina Wärnschöld, daughter of the Swedish War Councillor Johan Wärnschöld, and subsequently to Margareta Ehrensteen, daughter of the Swedish Secretary of State and Chancellor at Court Edvard Ehrensteen. During the last five decades of his life, Nils Gyldenstolpe collected a large number of manuscripts and letters of which nearly six hundred were written by his family members, the majority of them by his father and five brothers.

Nils Gyldenstolpe’s father Michael Wexionius-Gyldenstolpe (1608/09–1670; before 1650 known as Wexionius) graduated from the University of Uppsala and completed his studies in the universities of Marburg, Wittenberg, Leiden, Groningen, and Amsterdam. In Sweden, he served as headmaster of the Cathedral School in Växjö until he was appointed Professor of History and Politics at the newly founded Academy of Turku in Finland in 1640. From 1647, he acted also as Professor of Jurisprudence. In 1650, he was raised to nobility and assumed the name of Gyldenstolpe. He held his two professorships until 1658, when he was appointed Assessor of Nobility in the Turku Court of Appeal, the highest court in Finland. He served as judge until his death in 1670. He was married to Susanna Crucimontana (1617–1669). The couple had twelve children, of whom six sons and three daughters reached maturity.

The eldest of Nils Gyldenstolpe’s siblings, Gabriel Gyldenstolpe (1640–1666), made a career in the Swedish army but died at the age of just twenty-five when serving as quartermaster in Riga. Daniel Gyldenstolpe (1645–1691) began his career as Per Brahe’s secretary. After the death of his father in 1670, he became Assessor of Turku Court of Appeal, also serving as District Judge in Western Finland. He was married to Helena Christina Grass, daughter of Gustaf Grass, the Vice-President of the Turku Court of Appeal. Samuel Gyldenstolpe (1649–1692) served as Librarian at the Library of the Academy of Turku until he was appointed Professor of History and Politics in 1671; he had to resign from this chair on grounds of immorality and served thereafter as a district judge in Western Finland. The youngest brothers Carl (d. 1710) and Gustaf (d. after 1679) both made a career in the Swedish military.

Far less is known about the three sisters. The eldest, Susanna Gyldenstolpe married Enevald Svenonius (1617–1688), Professor of Theology at the Academy of Turku, and had fifteen children. Sophia Gyldenstolpe (d. (d. 1713) married Henrik Silfversvan (d. 1709), a captain in the Swedish military, and had seven children. The youngest daughter Sara Gyldenstolpe (d. 1719) married Johan Spofvenhielm (1650–1705), assessor at the Turku Court of Appeal.


Partners and Additional Contributors

The metadata of the Gyldenstolpe family letters currently in the database are based on the editorial work and commentary by Raija Sarasti-Wilenius, Professor of Latin language and Roman literature at the University of Helsinki. The collation and further commenting of the metadata for EMLO was made by Minna Vesa and funded by the University of Helsinki.


Key Bibliographic Source(s)

Raija Sarasti-Wilenius, ‘Dear Brother, Gracious Maecenas. Latin Letters of the Gyldenstolpe Brothers (1661–1680)’, Humaniora, 374, Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae (Helsinki, 2015).


Contents

In Nils Gyldenstolpe’s collection of letters and manuscripts housed in the Uppsala University Library (Nordinska samlingen, vols. 461, 468–470), there are a little less than 600 letters exchanged by members of his family over three generations between 1660 and 1708. The letters represent just a small portion of what must formerly have been an extensive correspondence between Nils Gyldenstolpe and his family. The majority of these letters are addressed to Nils Gyldenstolpe. Only a couple of letters addressed Michael Wexionius-Gyldenstolpe or to his other sons survive. Unfortunately, Nils Gyldentolpe’s own letters to his father, brothers, and sisters have not come down to us; there are, however, a number of extant letters from his correspondence with his wife and sons.

Most of the 600 letters are written in Latin. A few are written in Swedish, French, or in other languages. All the letters written by the female members of the family are in Swedish.

The letters provide insights into an educated family’s life in all its facets in the seventeenth century. Their special value is in telling us how young men were educated and how they found their way and built their careers in a seventeenth-century society marked by strict social hierarchy and networks of patron-client relationships. In addition, the letters offer many fresh biographical details, illustrate features and function of letter-writing between family members, and bear witness to the contemporary use of Latin as well as to the intensive rhetorical training. Roughly, the subject matters can be grouped into those concerned with political and larger-world news; local news; domestic-economic issues; family items; writer’s personal issues; client-to-patron relationships; and various congratulations.

Letter by Gustaf Gyldenstolpe to Nils Gyldenstolpe, n.d. (Nordin 470:45; image courtesy Uppsala University Library)




Provenance

After Nils Gyldenstolpe’s death the letters remained in the family’s possession for two further generations. Due to the bankruptcy of Nils Gyldenstolpe’s grandson, Count Nils Filip Gyldenstolpe (1734–1810), who had inherited the manuscript collection from his father, Ulrik Nils Gyldenstolpe (1689–1768), the collection was auctioned in 1787. It was bought by Bishop Johan Magnus Nordin, a keen collector of manuscripts. After Nordin’s death in 1814, the whole collection of Nordin, including the letters collected by Nils Gyldenstolpe, was acquired by Crown Prince Charles John (Karl Johan). He donated it to the Uppsala University Library where it constitutes the so-called ‘Nordin Collection’ (Nordinska samlingen).


Scope of Catalogue

At present, the EMLO union catalogue contains metadata of the 207 letters written by the Gyldenstolpe brothers Gabriel, Nils, Daniel, Samuel, Carl, and Gustaf. Letters by other family members are to be added at a future date.


Further resources

Bibliography

Raija Sarasti-Wilenius, ’Kirjeen rooli lapsuudesta aikuisuuteen. Gyldenstolpe-perheen latinankielinen kirjeenvaihto (1660–1708)’, in ’Kirjeet ja historiantutkimus’, ed. Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Anu Lahtinen & Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen, Historiallinen arkisto 134 (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki, 2011), pp. 114–140.

Raija Sarasti-Wilenius, ’Latin, Swedish and French – Some Considerations on the Choice of Language in the Letter Collection of the Gyldenstolpe Family’, in ‘Arctos. Acta Philologica Fennica’, vol. XXXVII (2003), pp. 159–172.

Annika Ström, ‘En frånvarandes samtal med en frånvarande. Bröderna Daniel, Carl och Gustav Gyldenstolpes brev till Nils Gyldenstolpe 1660–1679’, Södertorn retoriska studier, 5 (Södertorn högskola, Huddinge, 2017).

Annika Ström, ’Professor Michael Wexionius-Gyldenstolpes brev till sonen Nils 1660–1669. Utgåva av latinsk text med översättning’, Kungl. Samfundet för utgivande av handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia, Handlingar del 37 (Stockholm, 2014).

Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen, ’Sisaruksia ja sukulaisia. Suomalaisten aatelisnaisten kirjeenvaihtoa 1600- ja 1700-luvulla’, in ’Kirjeet ja historiantutkimus’, ed. Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Anu Lahtinen & Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen, Historiallinen arkisto, 134 (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki, 2011), pp. 141–62.

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