Customs and Culture in Poland under the Last Saxon King

Selections from Opis obyczajów za panowania Augusta III by father Jędrzej Kitowicz, 1728-1804
$111.00 / €95.00 / £90.00
Publication date: 
412 pages

Jędrzej Kitowicz was a parish priest in central Poland with a military and worldly past. In his later years, after putting the affairs of his parish in order, he composed a colorful chronicle of all aspects and walks of life under King August III. He seems to have written mostly from memory, creating in the process the most complete record that exists of society in eighteenth-century Poland. A man with omnivorous tastes, a keen sense of observation, and a wry—at times bawdy—sense of humor, Kitowicz’s realistic and robust literary technique has been compared in its earthiness and evocativeness to Flemish genre painting. A noteworthy example of eighteenth-century writing and narrative talent, his Opis reveals an astounding visual memory and a modern ethnographer’s eye for material culture.

The present book consists of fifty-one chapters, including all of the most celebrated ones, from Father Kitowicz’s Opis, complete with a comprehensive introduction. Topics include religious beliefs, customs and institutions, child-rearing, education, the judiciary and the military. Particularly vivid are the descriptions of the lives of the nobility, ranging from cooking through men’s and women’s wear to household entertainments and drinking habits. A commentary by the editor introduces each chapter.

Glossary of Commonly Used Terms
Jędrzej Kitowicz: To the Reader

I. Religious Beliefs and Institutions of Piety
1. Religious Denominations in Poland
2. On Piety
3. The Hospital of the Baby Jesus
4. The Maiden Canonesses

II. Religious Customs and Ceremonies
5. Manger Scenes
6. Floral Sunday
7. Ash Wednesday. Dark Matins
8. The Passion Service and the Flagellants
9. Easter Processions and the Entombment Ceremony
10. The Resurrection Procession and Corpus Christi Procession
11. Easter Monday and St. John's Eve

III. Child-Rearing and Early Education
12. Child-Rearing
13. The Education of Children Past the Age of Seven
14. Public Schools
15. On Student Privileges
16. How Dąbrowski Lost His Head

IV. Legislature and the Judiciary
17. On the Sejms
18. Eating and Drinking at the Sejmiks. Vetting Delegates
19. The Marshal's Courts
20. On Torture
21. The Crown Tribunals
22. The Singlesticks Circle
23. Deputival Honors and Parades
24. The Conclusion of the Tribunals
25. The Radom Commission

V. The Military
26. The Crown Foot Guard
27. The Company Circle
28. The Company Deputation for Tax Collection
29. The March of the Hussar and Armored Companies
30. Foreign-Style Regiments
31. The Hetmans
32. The Sich and the Haidamaks
33. On Orders

VI. Lives and Entertainments of the Nobility
34. Old-Fashioned Cookery
35. New-Fashioned Cookery
36. Noble Tables and Banquets
37. On the Potato
38. Of Beds and Bedding
39. On Noble Palaces and Homes
40. On Costume or Dress
41. Women's Wear: Headgear, Mantles, and Hoop Skirts
42. Of Snuff and Snuff Boxes
43. Of Bags and Watches, Rings and Pins
44. Household Entertainments
45. Of Carnivals and Kuligs
46. Masked Balls
47. Of Drinks and Drinking
48. On the More Famous Drunkards
49. Of Carriages and Conveyances
50. Public Convocations

VII. Peasant Life
51. On Peasant Customs

Appendix: Reading Kitowicz in Context
Appendix: List of Texts Not Included

"Oscar E. Swan’s English edition of Kitowicz’s Description is a terrific addition to the scholarship on the history and literature of early modern Europe. Swan’s treatment does not merely translate an interesting work for curious readers. His translation, annotation, and commentary are self-admittedly novel and bold in interpretation, and they demonstrate the text’s wide-ranging scholarly applicability. It emerges well contextualized for a diverse audience, attractive as either a secondary or primary source, either literary or historical. This edition is especially useful as a model for scholars who desire to make sources from less commonly studied languages or cultures accessible to a wider readership."
"Eines der bedeutendsten Quellenwerke zur polnischen Geschichte ist nun auch in einer westsprachlichen Übersetzung zugänglich. Kennern war dieses Buch über die Sitten in Polen zur Zeit der Herrschaft des zweiten Wettinerkönigs August III. (1733–1763) schon lange bekannt, und es ist auch häufig in historischen Arbeiten zur frühen Neuzeit in Polen ausgewertet worden. Wer sich für die Geschichte des alten Polens interessiert, findet hier einen höchst informativen und amüsant zu lesenden Text, der in manchem von der klassischen Narration zum 18. Jh. in Polen abweicht und gerade dadurch weitere Neugier wecken kann."