Letter writing was the major branch of rhetoric in the High Middle Ages (
ars dictaminis) and Renaissance (
ars epistolandi). As the primary source of discourse it played major roles in the history of education, the Latin language and literature, and its relation to grammar and oratory (
ars arengandi). The letters are also a very rich source ranging from Church and State correspondence to social hierarchies and fiction.
Several hundred authors, recognized as precursors of the Humanists, produced treatises, manuals, formularies and model letter collections found in a few thousand largely unstudied manuscripts. This is the third and final volume of the
Medieval and Renaissance Letter Treatises and Form Letters, a singular reference work, a manuscript inventory of texts, most of which were examined in situ by Emil J. Polak in almost nine-hundred libraries and archives. The repertory is arranged alphabetically by country and city with standard details for each manuscript. Four indexes conclude the work.
Emil J. Polak, Ph.D. (1970), Columbia University, is Professor of History Emeritus after almost half a century in the City University of New York. He has published two volumes of
Medieval and Renaissance Letter Treatises and Form Letters. His research has taken him to almost nine hundred libraries and archives in thirty-six countries.
This reference work is essential for scholarly institutes, public and private research libraries, and archives and serves as a research tool for Medieval and Renaissance specialists and advanced students for work on Latin letter writing, rhetoric, oratory, education, and grammar.