The Correspondence of Ioannes Dantiscus

Primary Contributors:

Corpus of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Texts and Correspondence, Anna Skolimowska

Portrait of Dantiscus from Philipp Galle, Imagines L. doctorum virorum, qui bene de studiis literarum meruere, cum singulorum elogiis (Antwerpen, 1587).

Ioannes Dantiscus (1485–1548)

Dantiscus was born in Gdańsk on 1 November 1485. His father, Hans (Johannes) von Höfen (d. before 1532), was a merchant and a brewer; his mother, Christina Scholcze (Schultze) of Puck died in 1539. He was educated at the parish school in Graudenz [Grudziądz] before moving to the university of Greifswald. Between 1500 and 1503, and probably also in 1507, he studied intermittently at the Cracow Academy, where his tutor was Paweł of Krosno.

In 1500 Dantiscus began his service at the court of the Polish King Jan Olbracht (1459–1501). He was appointed initially as scribe in the chancellery of Jan Łaski, who was a royal secretary until 1503 when he became Grand Chancellor. Dantiscus participated in the campaign against the Tatars and Wallachians in 1502, and two years later he was appointed scribe in the royal chancellery of the new king Aleksander Jagiellon (1461–1506).

In November 1505, Dantiscus received a subvention from the King that enabled him to continue his studies in Italy. He travelled overland from Gdańsk through Denmark, France, and Germany to Venice, and from there he made his way by sea (via Corfu, the Peloponnese, Crete, Rodos and Cyprus) to Jaffa. He continued on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, journeying as far as the border of Arabia, and visiting also Mount Sinai. On his way back north, he is known to have stopped at Sicily, Naples, Campagna, and Rome, returning in February 1507 to the court of Sigismund I (1467–1548), who had succeeded to the Polish throne. Eight years later, Dantiscus accompanied Sigismund to the Pressburg-Vienna Congress and took up the position (as secretary of the Polish legation at the Emperor Maximilian I’s court) that launched him on his illustrious diplomatic career and which lasted for more than a decade and a half and involved significant travel around Europe. Maximilian granted Dantiscus a knighthood, the title of doctor of both canon and civil law (utriusque iuris), comes palatinus, and poeta laureatus, and his diplomatic activity was valued highly by the Polish royal court as well as by the imperial court (his coat of arms was augmented by Emperor Charles V in 1528). Dantiscus returned finally to Poland in July 1532.

As a neo-Latinist, Dantiscus was valued highly by his contemporaries. His poetic output dates back to his student days and he used different poetic genres throughout his life—epigrams, elegies, epithalamia, silvae, occasional poems, epitaphs. His poems, like his letters, involve a variety of topics—court life, love, politics, history, mythology, autobiographical elements, and theology. In addition to his vast correspondence (including a report from the Battle of Obertin, Victoria Serenissimi Poloniae Regis contra Voieuodam Moldauiae Turcae tributarium et subditum parta 22 Augusti 1531, published in the form of a letter), his prose survives in the form of official records, envoy’s speeches, and memorials. Although Dantiscus kept in contact with the initiators and supporters of church reform—he exchanged letters with Philip Melanchthon, he knew Luther personally, and he corresponded with Erasmus of Rotterdam—as a church official in Prussia he counteracted sharply the spread of the Reformation.

In recognition of his diplomatic activity, Dantiscus received a number of church benefices before, in 1537, he was elected as bishop of Ermland, an office he held until his death in Heilsberg on 27 October 1548.


Partners and Additional Contributors

The inventory of Dantiscus’s correspondence has been contributed by the web publication Corpus of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Texts & Correspondence, which is part of the project ‘Registration and Publication of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Correspondence’ conducted at the University of Warsaw where it is directed by Anna Skolimowska.

Members of EMLO and the ‘Registration and Publication of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Correspondence’ project are grateful to the ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters’ COST Action, directed by Howard Hotson and Thomas Wallnig, for funding to attend the ‘Preparing metadata for upload to a union catalogue’ Training School held at Tallinn in March 2018.



In the course of his official duties, Dantiscus established a great many contacts within the scholarly and cultural communities of Renaissance Europe. A number of the friendships he made lasted long after his return to Poland and his correspondence continued with such figures as the imperial diplomats Cornelis De Schepper and Sigmund von Herberstein, with Christian II’s chancellor Godschalk Ericksen, the Spanish humanist Alfonso de Valdés, philologists such as Ioannes Campensis, Lazaro Bonamico, Conrad Goclenius, the geographer and astronomer Gemma Frisius, the German poet Helius Eobanus Hessus, the bankers Anton Fugger, Albrecht Cuon, Hieronymus Sailer, and Heinrich Ehinger, Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés, and many other individuals among the political, cultural and economic elite of the time. The list of Dantiscus’s correspondents known to us today includes about 650 names.

Of the 6,117 letters, over half are written in Latin and more than a third in German, with the remainder in Spanish, Polish, Italian, Dutch, Czech, and French. A precise breakdown of statistics may be found on the CIDTC website under ‘Ioannes Dantiscus’s Correspondence in Numbers‘.

Scope of Catalogue

Each letter record in EMLO is linked to its equivalent record in the Corpus of Ioannes Dantiscus Texts & Correspondence [CIDTC] database, where further information about manuscript representations and previous publications of the letter may be found, as well as the explanations for complicated date reconstructions. Users should be also aware, that primary names of places and persons can differ in EMLO and in CIDTC as the modern place name is used in EMLO, with the early modern variant being recorded as a synonym.

At the time of the inclusion of Dantiscus’s correspondence inventory into EMLO (2018–21), CIDTC is still under development, but the basic metadata of the letters has been completed. Just over half (c. 64%) of the letters are available in CIDTC as full text and texts of further letters are being added constantly, together with their accompanying commentary and indexes. Updates will be made at regular intervals to the metadata displayed in EMLO, but users are advised to consult, via the links provided, the record displayed in CIDTC for the most complete and up-to-date information.


Further resources

Corpus of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Texts & Correspondence, ed. Anna Skolimowska (Laboratory for Source Editing and Digital Humanities, Faculty of ‘Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw).

The correspondence of Ioannes Dantiscus in numbers.

Manuscript sources for Dantiscus’s correspondence.

Printed sources for Dantiscus’s correspondence.

Major works concerning Dantiscus.

Source editions and works concerning Dantiscus.

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