David Hilchen (1561–1610) was an influential, maybe the most influential humanist and lawyer from Riga, the legal councellor of his city, secretary of the Polish king and Notarius of Wenden. In 1600 he was sentenced to death in Riga for high treason, against which he appealed to the Polish king – a process which finally happened to continue for about 8 years. He went to exile and lived 1603–1610 in and close to Zamość (Poland). Finally the Polish king Sigismund III decided in favour of Hilchen and restituted him in all his rights.
David Hilchen has also been renowned and active as legal counsellor and author of various acts and statutes as well as a thorough reformer of education and administration in Riga. But his interests were not restricted to law and diplomacy; he created also a certain opus as poet and e.g. commented the Acts of the Apostles.
Hilchen left a collection of about 800 mostly Latin letters, partly written by himself, partly sent to him. The letters are preserved in two main manuscripts in Riga LVVA as well as in Linköping Library, but additional single pieces in about ten libraries in different European corners. As first step, establishing a concise catalogue of his letters has been the aim of our research group, of which the first part is already published and available. While editing and commenting his letters in the framework of our project, various historical, legal, educational, and literary problems from the Early modern Europe have arisen and provide valuable material for more detailed research.
The aim of our conference is to discuss our findings within an circle of experts as well as the interested public. The nature of our research task and Hilchen’s vita requires in this context not only interdisciplinarity – meaning that research in the fields of literature, law, linguistics, history and their respective societal connections are equally significant –, but also internationality in terms of partly considerably varying national perceptions of Hilchen as public figure. Hilchen’s letters are an especially vivid medium demonstrating these entanglements, and the conference organizers hope that they will provide the base for fruitful discussions and new insights for all involved.
The conference is organised by the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences in the framework of its personal research funding project PUT1030 “Masterpieces of Humanism in Livonia: David Hilchen’s epistolography as a source of language, literary, juridical and educational history”.