In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Polish Literature: Renaissance

  • Introduction
  • Primary Texts, Rare Editions, and Bibliographical Listings
  • English-Language Anthologies
  • Introductory Works
  • The Historical Backdrop
  • An Educational, Economic, and Architectural Flowering
  • Poetry and Literature
  • Mikołaj Rej (1505–1569)
  • Jan Kochanowski (1530–1584)
  • Women Writers

Renaissance and Reformation Polish Literature: Renaissance
Barry Keane
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0405


It is speculated that Poland’s earliest connections with European humanism came through scholarly and diplomatic correspondence, which resulted in influential humanist manuscripts and ideas being brought to the kingdom. With some approximation, the golden age of the Polish Renaissance spans the 16th century. Echoing the cultural instincts of the European Renaissance, Polish writers and scholars, supported by the patronage of Poland’s far-seeing royal household and political and ecclesiastical powerbrokers, forged a vernacular culture that drew on Poland’s folk traditions and the received literary store of the Ancients. Although Italian practitioners dominated the fields of art and architecture, in the humanist and scientific fields native Polish talents proved exceptional, leaving lasting legacies and penetrating deeply the worlds of learning and literature. The Renaissance in Poland was also characterized by a determination on the part of the ruling classes to avoid the bloodletting of the Reformational and Counter-Reformational zeal, which had been seen elsewhere on the European continent.

Primary Texts, Rare Editions, and Bibliographical Listings

An astounding number of digitized primary texts and rare editions are available through digital libraries associated with municipality libraries, the National Library (Biblioteka Narodowa) network and university libraries. The holdings are so numerous and diverse that informal advice serves best here, which is to simply Internet-search (best results through Google) the Polish title together with the key words bliblioteka cyfrowa (digital library). The search will almost always be successful, and catalogue pages have an English option. An important online bibliography dating back to 2000 can to be found at Old Polish Literature. For online biographies, see also the Virtual Library of Polish Literature.

  • Old Polish Literature.

    This Internet site tracks the publication of critical editions and scholarly works with a year-by-year catalogue. Also to be found here are English translations of some literary works and biographical essays.

  • The Virtual Library of Polish Literature.

    This UNESCO flagship project run by the Institute of Polish Philology at the University of Gdańsk looks to present works of Polish Renaissance literature (and the literature of other periods) in their richness and originality, with poetic texts representing the entire poetic output of a given writer.

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