There are three prefaces in Christian Gottlieb Mielcke’s (1733–1807) dictionary Littauisch-deutsches und Deutsch-littauisches Wörter-Buch (1800). The first is written by the compiler himself; the second by Daniel Jenisch (1762–1804), a Berlin theologian and linguist; and the third by Christoph Friedrich Heilsberg (1726/7–1807), a counsellor in the Königsberg Chamber of War and Domains and inspector of East Prussian schools. The ‘Friend’s Note’ (Nachschrift eines
Freundes) of the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) is placed after all of them. It is a friendly, quite short, one-and-a-half-page commentary on the Lithuanians and their language, written in free form, and cannot be called a true preface.
The article analyses the circumstances of the appearance of Kant’s ‘Friend’s Note’ in the dictionary, and discusses the ideas expressed in it.
The practice of translating government decrees into Lithuanian and publishing them for Lithuanian speakers living in Prussia has been known since the late 16th century. It stemmed from the policy of multi-lingualism which emerged under Duke Albert, and the establishment of the Reformation in Prussia. Most Lithuanian translations of Prussian government decrees known today date from the 18th century. At that time, the best experts in the Lithuanian language were engaged in their translation and publication. After the potential of Königsberg in Lithuanian studies declined in the second half of the 18th century, efforts to concentrate these activities in the area of Prussia that was still densely inhabited by Lithuanian speakers and called Lithuania at that time, became more active. The article analyses how this change was exploited by the Mielcke family, who were active in Prussian Lithuania. Christian Gottlieb Mielcke, who held a humble cantor’s position in the remote parish of Pillkallen, initiated a discussion on the principles of the edition of Lithuanian hymnals in 1781. His brother Daniel Friedrich, the priest at Ragnit, wrote a complaint about the quality of translations of government decrees into Lithuanian in 1788. This was the beginning of a dispute that eventually involved the Mielcke family in the translation of government decrees.