Jan Amos Comenius

Digital Calendar and Archive

People involved: Vladimír Urbánek, Iva LelkováKateřina Horníčková

Partner institution: Institute of Philosophy, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague


Jan Amos Comenius (1592–1670), the Moravian pedagogue and pansophist who provided the inspiration of much of the activity of Hartlib and his circle, provides another opportunity to expand the global dimensions of the Project. Thanks not least to Hartlib, Comenius’s influence was felt throughout Europe, and in his native country he emerged as a figure emblematic of Czech difficulties and aspirations.

A pioneering educational theorist, a visionary utopian reformer, the last bishop of the Czech Unity of Brethren, and a witness to the devastating impact of the Bohemian revolt of 1618–20 on the Protestant communities of his homeland, Comenius is also a man whose itinerant career as refugee intellectual took him through most of the Protestant world: from his native Moravia, through Bohemia, Silesia, Germany, Poland, Prussia, Hungary, Transylvania, Sweden, England, and the Dutch Republic.

Rationale for Inclusion

Comenius has become the focus of intense scholarly interest, institutionalised especially in the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. Indeed, Czech scholars have long intended to publish a critical, annotated edition of Comenius’s correspondence. However, this aspiration has hitherto been frustrated by a long list of difficulties. Chief amongst these is a unique set of material conditions. Unlike John Wallis, whose lengthy intellectual career played itself out entirely within an exceptionally durable institution, Comenius spent his adult life wandering across the face of Europe and twice saw his personal papers destroyed. These same wanderings established contacts and dispersed letters everywhere: letters to or from Comenius have been located in some thirty-six libraries and archives across thirty-two European cities. This has made the collection of Comenius’s correspondence a laborious and piecemeal enterprise. While the bulk of his letters are now available in print, they do not exist in a single critical edition, but are instead scattered through numerous publications, many of which are over a century old, uncritically edited, and rare in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Photograph by Éva Füzesséry, reproduced with kind permission of the Semmelweis Museum, Library and Archives of the History of Medicine

Vladimír at the Budapest workshop.


Iva at work in the union catalogue.

comeniusletter‘Unlike John Wallis, whose lengthy intellectual career played itself out entirely within an exceptionally durable institution, Comenius spent his adult life wandering across the face of Europe and twice saw his personal papers destroyed …’

As a first step towards a new critical edition, the Prague group has assembled a database of letters written by Comenius and currently found throughout numerous libraries, archives, and publications. Given the overlaps between Prague’s Comenius calendar and Oxford’s proposed Hartlibian one, this will be completed and published under the auspices of the Cultures of Knowledge Project. The existing database will be upgraded, expanded and (where necessary) translated, and reworked into conformity. Moreover, copyright for all of this material will be obtained, and the basic database of Comenius’s correspondence complemented with digital facsimiles of the manuscript letters themselves. This upgraded resource will form the basis for the new, critical, and fully annotated edition of Comenius’s complete correspondence, to be published within the standard edition of his Opera Omnia currently being prepared by the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague.

Outputs & Presentations

Primary Outputs

Launch Comenius Catalogue

Recent Secondary Outputs

  • Vladimír Urbánek, ‘Bádání o J. A. Komenském a intelektuální dějiny raného novověku’ [‘Research on J. A. Comenius and Early Modern Intellectual History’], in Marie Koldinská and Ivo Cerman, eds, Základní problémy studia raného novověku (Forthcoming, Prague 2012).
  • Vladimír Urbánek, ‘Suisei, Sekai no Shumatsu to Barajujushiso no Ryuko – Cheko Purotesutanto Chishikijin no Shumatsuronteki Taibou’ [‘The Comet of 1618, the End of the World and the Rosicrucian Furore: The Eschatological Expectations of Czech Protestant Intellectuals at the Beginning of the Thirty Years War’], in K. Fukasawa and M. Sakurai, eds, Yuai to Himitsu no Yoroppa Shakai Bunkashi (Tokyo, 2010), pp. 133-154.
  • Iva Lelkova, ‘Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) and his Influence on Natural Philosophy in the Czech Lands’  (DPhil, University of Prague, November 2011).

Recent Presentations

  • Iva Lelková, ‘Review of Anna Marie Roos, Web of Nature: Martin Lister (1639-1712), the First Arachnologist’. Dies Bibliographicus (Seminar Series, Czech Academy of Sciences, January 2012).
  • Vladimír Urbánek, ‘Political Thought of Comenius and Campanella: Anti-Machiavellianism and Universal Monarchy’. XXVIIIth International Comeniological Colloquium (Comenius Museum, Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic, October 2011).
  • Vladimír Urbánek, ‘Chiliasmus Crassus versus Chiliasmus Subtilis? The Roots of Comenius’s Millenarianism’ (Invited Lecture, Warburg Institute, University of London, June 2011).
  • Iva Lelková, ‘Princes, Courtiers, and Scholars: Athanasius Kircher’s Correspondence Network, 1632-1680′. Mapping the Republic of Letters (Conference, CINI Foundation [Venice]/Stanford University, March 2011).
  • Vladimír Urbánek, ‘Prophecy and Pansophia between an Upper Hungarian Village and Amsterdam: Networking and Propagation of Mikuláš Drabík’, Encyclopaedism, Pansophia, and Universal Communication, 1560-1670 (Workshop, Semmelweis Museum, Library, and Archives of the History of Medicine, Budapest, April 2010).
  • Vladimír Urbánek, ‘Early Irenic Writings of Comenius and the Polemic with the Pirna Community of Bohemian Lutherans’, Educational Reform, Philosophy, and Irenicism, 1560-1670 (Workshop, Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cracow, July 2009).
  • Vladimír Urbánek, ‘The Reception of Alsted’s Eschatology among Bohemian Exiles: Partlicius, Skála and Comenius’, Apocalypticism, Millenarianism, and Prophecy: Eschatological Expectations between East-Central and Western Europe, 1560-1670 (Workshop, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, January 2009).

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