On the problems of old Polish manuscript books: 17–18th-centur y copy books and collections of documents of public life
In the 17th and the first half of the 18th century, manuscripts in Poland played a role nearly equal to that of print in promoting literary works and documents related to public life (political journalism, written newspapers, copies of speeches and letters by state dignitaries, copies of various official documents), in order both to inform the public and influence its opinion with regard to political events. This was accompanied by collections of such materials compiled at the instigation of and for the needs of private individuals. The collections varied considerably with regard to the selection and internal ordering of the documents as well as the appearance of the collections. This was a consequence of various motives behind the compilation of such collections and the functions they served. The least professional and systematic of them were the silva rerum manuscripts. This was connected to the nature of these manuscripts, which were also used to make various notes, copy fragments of works, recording management and medical advice, etc. In addition to the silva rerum sets, there were also collectors’ and documentary sets, compiled with a clear purpose of gathering and recording this type of materials. In some cases they took the form of multiple volume collections characterised by variety and richness of the material collected (hence the name miscellanea) and uneven level of editing. The most specialised form of manuscripts were thematic sets of source materials, with well thought-out contents and structure, and meticulous production. They had all the attributes of manuscript books, serving as source “publications” of sorts. The development of this type of source “publications” began in the late 17th century (e.g. collections of materials documenting the story of the 1696–1697 and 1733–1735 interregna) and continued during the reign of Stanisław August Poniatowski (1764–1795).