Descriptio Moldaviae’s Latin Manuscripts Circulation throughout Eighteenth-century Europe


  • Andrei Mirea Faculty of History, University of Bucharest


Keywords: Dimitrie Cantemir, Descriptio Moldaviae, Latin manuscripts, G. S. Bayer, A. F. Büsching, G. F. Müller.


Addressing the thorny question of disseminating Descriptio Moldaviae and the circumstances of its Latin manuscripts’ circulation in eighteenth-century Europe, this analysis benefits from some lesser known sources, such as the correspondence between Anton Friedrich Büsching and Gerhard Friedrich Müller (especially letters from 1760, 1765, 1769 and 1770), a paragraph from a journal concerning the Russian Academy library (1772), a report on the library of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (dating from 1777), and a rare catalogue listing the manuscripts kept at the Asian Museum of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg (published in 1846). I demonstrate that Descriptio had only five Latin manuscripts (not fourteen, as previous interpretations hazardously suggested). Ms. A (with a newly dated redaction between 1716–1718) and Ms. B were never carried through Western Europe, but remained during the eighteenth century in Russia, in St. Petersburg. Ms. C, mainly based on Ms. A and Ms. B with improvements made by the copyist, was written sometime between 1750–1760, and represent the Latin manuscript used to draft the German editions of Descriptio, travelling therefore with Büsching to Central Europe, from St. Petersburg to Berlin (1765), and afterwards sent back to Moscow via St. Petersburg (1770–1771). I discuss also the fate of two other Latin manuscripts of the book, now lost, which I have named Mss. B1 and B2, because they are directly or indirectly related to the activity of Bayer, who writes Ms. B in 1726–1727, by organizing some materials associated with Descriptio offered him to systematize and to homogeneously pen down by the Cantemir family after the author’s death.