‘Mol v drahém rouše…’ [A Moth Clad in Goodly Apparel]. A Collection of Proverbs by Jakub Srnec of Varvažov and Its Latin Sources

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Abstract

In 1582, the first printed collection of Czech proverbs by Jakub Srnec of Varvažov, Dicteria seu proverbia Bohemica, was printed. It became the basic source of the material for later collections of this kind by J. A. Comenius, J. Dobrovsky and others. It was inspired by the Adagiorum chiliades by Erasmus of Rotterdam. Based on them, it was divided into centuria and decades. Unlike other early modern collections of proverbs, it does not contain only the Latin translation of the mentioned proverbs - its Latin explanatory component is much richer. This is connected with the fact that the collection was originally conceived as a teaching aid for Srnec’s private school for pupils from noble families. Each proverb is accompanied by a number of related, explanatory or antithetical sentences, which resembles the genre of the collections of sentences. The authors of the sentences are given in the margins. There is a large share of ancient classics, medieval anonymous proverbs and biblical quotations. Less than one-third are quotations from early modern authors. Logically, Erasmus is the most represented among them, followed by relatively unknown Christoph Aulaeus, a professor at the university of Erfurt, with his collection of moralistic distichs. The third in terms of the number of quoted statements is the popular early modern educationist Juan Luis Vives. Based on other quoted Humanists and their works, it is possible to infer when the core of the work originated. Most frequently, Srnec used quotations from educational and moralistic handbooks, more rarely also from theatre plays with religious themes. The main aim of the publication of the collection was to prove that Czech proverbs could match not only Latin and Greek ones but also those in other living languages that had already been published for a rather long time. Unlike some educational Lutheran collections of proverbs, Srnec’s collection was not only to enlighten but also to entertain and to make the subject matter taught more pleasant for the students. Not only in that but also in the title chosen and the graphic design, it could have been inspired by the contemporary German collection of proverbs Proverbialia dicteria by Andreas Gartner. The circumstances of the collection’s origin are explained by the author in an extensive preface, in which he deliberately quotes a wide range of proverbs taken from Erasmus’s Adagia. A Czech translation of selected passages of the preface is attached to the article.

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