Maciej Dominik Dogiel, the School Reformer and the First Publisher of Lithuania’s Historical Sources

Maciej Dominik Dogiel was a monk of the Piarist Order, a historian and a publisher of historical sources of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland. He also published the first collection of international treaties of the Polish and Lithuanian Commonwealth, worked as a teacher and reformed the school system and education programs. A representative of the intellectual elite during Augustus III’s reign, Maciej Dominik Dogiel was born 6 August 1715 into the family of low-rank nobility in the village of Gembule near Lida. He died in Warsaw 24 February 1760.

Studies in European universities and a decisive acquaintance

Dogiel began his studies at the Piarist School in Shchuchyn, a town in the Lida powiat. He spent seven years there before moving to the town of Lubeshov to continue studies and to become a Piarist monk at the age of just 15. He started working as a teacher at the Piarist School in Shchuchyn in 1732 and taught syntax, grammar and poetry at the Piarist College in Vilnius since 1736. An excellent theorist, he found a practical application for his theories in 1740 when he published his first piece of poetry, a panegyric to the Ogiński family, in Vilnius. His career took shape when he started working as a teacher for Ignacy Scipio del Campo whose father Jozef, the Elderman of Lida and later the marshal of the court of the GDL, became Dogiel’ patron. Dogiel accompanied Ignacy during his travel abroad in 1745–1746 and used the excellent chances to attend lectures in philosophy, law, history and mathematics at the universities of Leipzig, Paris, and Strasbourg.

In Leipzig, Dogiel became acquainted with German lawyers and historians. In Paris, backed by Nicolas Lenglet du Fresnoy (1674–1755), the French erudite, historian, bibliographer and alchemist, the Piarist monk from the GDL used a unique opportunity to study the collection of Lenglet du Fresnoy’s manuscripts and to analyse the diplomatic codes of France, Germany and Italy he found in libraries. In addition to that, he followed the developments around the negotiations between France and the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (further PLC) as the two sides were preparing a treaty between Luis XV of France and Augustus III of Poland signed in 1746. Therefore, we can assume that it was in Paris that Dogiel came up with the idea of preparing a publication of a collection of international treaties made by Lithuania and Poland.

Innovations in teaching: Dogiel introduces dance lessons

Dogiel arrived in Vilnius in 1747 when, after coming back from foreign travel, he became the rector of the Piarist College in Vilnius (Collegium Nobilium Scholarum Piarum). Subtly and unhurriedly, he started introducing new education programs in the College trying to avoid any resistance from conservative parents of his students. The programs were based on the ideas of Stanisław Konarski (1700–1773), a Polish pedagogue, educational reformer, and writer. Dogiel emphasised studies in mother tongue, history, law, and geography. He introduced lessons of the French language and dance.

In 1754, Dogiel set up a printing house, one of the best such organisations in the entire PLC, next to the College. (The printing house worked until 1836.)

In 1756, he opened a boarding school for young nobles while also taking care of construction of the new Piarist Church in Vilnius.

In the footsteps of Polish and Lithuanian diplomatic documents

Although the reorganisation of the College and its education system required plenty of time and energy, Dogiel worked hard collecting and systematising historical sources.

He was convinced Poland and Lithuania must have their diplomatic code published, because he knew many foreign countries had done that and was sure this kind of work would be important for scholarship and useful for the education of politicians and diplomats.

Through the mediation of Michał Fryderyk Czartoryski, the Grand Chancellor of the GDL, Dogiel introduced the idea of publishing the code to king Augustus III. The king expressed his support and bestowed Dogiel with the title of “the envoy of the Republic and Senate”. In 1748, Dogiel was busy collecting materials for his publication in France, the Netherlands and the German states before continuing the work in Konigsberg in 1756. Wishing to include only the authentic documents, he also worked in the archives of the PLC, such as the treasury of the Kingdom of Poland in Wawel, the Archive of the Lithuanian Metrica, and the Radziwiłł Archive in Nesvizh. In late 1754, Augustus III issued a privilege to publish the compilation of diplomatic documents, while in 1755 Dogiel was granted financial support from the state to print the code on the condition that it is published only after receiving the approval from the Chancellors of Lithuania and Poland.

The publisher faced confrontation from Russia and indifference in the PLC

The gruelling toil was aggravated by many disappointments. In 1754, fire destroyed part of his collection of sources. After launching the subscription campaign in 1757 in seven cities of the PLC (Warsaw, Krakow, Vilnius, Danzig, Torun, Lvov and Poznan; twelve red zlotys for all volumes), only 20 readers ordered the publication. In addition to that, the Russian envoy made a stand against the publishing of the second and third volumes which included treaties with Russia and diplomatic documents from Lithuania. Despite the various obstacles, Dogiel presented in 1758 the first volume of his splendidly illustrated The Diplomatic Code of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Latin: Codex diplomaticus Regni Poloniae et Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae) to the king during a solemn audience in Warsaw. The collection included treaties with the German states, the Czech state, France, Venice, Spain and the Netherlands – 480 documents overall representing the period between 1067 and 1732. In that same year, 1758, Dogiel published in Vilnius the first history of borders of Poland and Lithuania, the collection of documents Limites Regni Poloniae et Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae.

No appreciation for the selfless work

Dogiel lived through difficult times in 1759, because his publication turned out to be unsuccessful and its 700 copies lay in a warehouse, while the publisher himself was burdened with debts to his subscribers. In addition to that, superiors of the Piarist College received complaints concerning the property deals Dogiel had signed (he had bought the Scipions Palace and the Sluszko Palace in Vilnius for the College) and the modernisation of the education programs. The publication of the fifth volume of treaties, which included documents related to the history of the Duchy of Courland, a fief of the PLC, offered him little comfort. He travelled to Warsaw in 1760 expecting to present the collection to Karl Christian Joseph of Saxony, the Duke of Courland and Semigallia, and to solve the problems of the Piarist monks. The trip was fatal, because Dogiel died February 24 before his 45th birthday at the Professor House of the Piarist College in Warsaw. Only the fourth volume of the planned eight books of documents has been published after his death (in 1764). All other materials he had collected and prepared for publication remained in manuscripts.

Literature: J. Kurkowski, Maciej Dogiel (1715–1760), Warszawa-Lida: Towarzystwo Kultury Polskiej Ziemi Lidzkiej, 2006. 

Ramunė Šmigelskytė-Stukienė