Learned Societies, Freemasonry, Sciences and Literature in 18th-Century Hungary: A Collection of Documents and Sources
The present collection of primary sources, comprised of printed and manuscript materials, offers a new approach to the history of learned societies and Freemasonry in Hungary in the 18th century. Materials include academic proposals, regulations of learned societies and reading circles, letters, pamphlets as well as Masonic constitutions, rituals, orations, essays, and a sentimental novel. In addition to the Latin- and German-language documents, some Hungarian-language sources of special importance are published in English translation. The sources in the first part of the collection illustrate the growing desire and ambition among Hungarian intellectuals for establishing national literature and science, and for raising the level of general literacy among the population. Starting from the diagnosis that, compared to other European countries, Hungary was quite backward in terms of cultivating the sciences, several people emphasized the need to raise the standards of public education, while others thought that establishing learned societies or scientific academies could change the situation. The examination of the history of learned and secret societies shows that in 18th-century Hungary social culture could develop within the framework of Freemasonry. The functioning learned societies and reading circles were established at the initiative of lodge members, and a large number of the authors of the proposals were also Freemasons. The establishment of learned societies was motivated by the ideas which were also the guiding principles of the Freemasons: spreading enlightenment, promoting the well-being of the people, and supporting the sciences and the arts. The editors intended to bring to an international audience the selected materials which warrant further research and examination.