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About Epistolae

Epistoalae is a collection of letters to and from women in the Middle Ages, from the 4th to the 13th century. The letters, written in Latin, are linked to the names of the women involved, with English translations and, where available, biographical sketches of the women and some description of the subject matter or the historic context of the letter.

The letters were originally collected and translated by Professor Joan Ferrante of Columbia University, mainly from printed sources. The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning has collaborated with Professor Ferrante to develop a free, online repository of the collection.

Epistolae is meant to be a cooperative project. It designed to allow for future additions and translations of letters, as well as corrections to the texts or to the information offered. Some scholars and presses have already contributed letters and translations, and their contributions are gratefully acknowledged in the text. Users are invited to participate by sending material or inquiries to Contributions, fully acknowledged, will be put online after review for accuracy and style by a small board of scholars.

For the time being, please send suggested corrections or additional information about the texts already online, but check with us before sending additional letters or translations since only some 800 letters of the over 2000 that have so far been collected are now available online. Texts will be added periodically. If you have translations with accompanying material for other letters and wish to contribute them, or if you have knowledge of letters from archives and manuscripts or from published chronicles that may not be known to us, please let us know.

A few notes for readers not familiar with medieval letters: it was common practice for those women and men who engaged in correspondence to dictate their letters to secretaries who not only copied them but sometimes edited them before sending them, and letters were copied and collected by recipients as well as by senders. One can not, therefore, assume that the words are precisely those of the sender, but in general, unless an intentional deception was involved, they represent the views or intentions of the senders.

Names can be spelled in various ways; we attempt to give the most common variations.

Biblical references may not correspond to the text the reader is familiar with. Usually they refer to the Vulgate, but some writers cite other versions, other writers give an approximation as if it were an exact quotation.

Latin texts may be taken from older editions because of copyrights, but most of them do not differ substantially from later editions.

Advisory Board

Anne Clark, University of Vermont
Carmela Franklin, Columbia University
Alison Beach, Ohio State University
Kimberly LoPrete, National University of Ireland
Karen Green, Columbia University


Credits 2014

Faculty Partner
Joan M. Ferrante, Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature

Executive Producer
Maurice Matiz

Dan Beeby

Project Manager & Developer
Ashley Kingon

Jed Davis


Credits (earlier releases)

Executive Producers
Frank Moretti
Maurice Matiz

Project Managers
Mark Phillipson
Ted Bongiovanni

Anders Pearson
Gordon Campbell

Interface Development
Zarina Mustapha

What is Epistolae?



Meet Prof. Joan Ferrante



Research Resource