Matxin de Zalba's Letter - 1416

Matxin de Zalba's Letter - 1416 Facsimile Edition

Spain — 1416

An exchange of letters as a priceless linguistic and historical find: the most extensive Basque text from before the 16th century

  1. Spoken in the mountains of Northern Spain, Basque is the oldest and most isolated language in Europe

  2. Martín de San Martín (1380–1429) and Matxin de Zalba (ca. 1390–1446) corresponded on the same sheet with one another

  3. This 15th century letter switches between Navarro-Aragonese Romance and Basque, employed for personal matters

Matxin de Zalba's Letter - 1416

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Matxin de Zalba's Letter - 1416

Few other languages are as interesting to linguists as Basque, which has been spoken in the mountains of Northern Spain for millennia, predating both Latin and Greek. This bilingual letter is the most extensive Basque document predating the 16th century and is of tremendous value to historians and linguistics alike. It records a friendly exchange between two high-ranking officials in the Kingdom of Navarre.

Matxin de Zalba's Letter – 1416

Here we have the most extensive Basque text predating the 16th century to survive to the present. Uncovered in the Archivo Real y General de Navarra, where it is stored under the shelf mark Comptos, Registro 339, f. 109, it represents a priceless linguistic and historical find of the 20th century. It is a bilingual letter written in an elegant Gothic cursive script, an exchange between Martín de San Martín (1380–1429), the secretary of King Carlos III of Navarre (1361–1425), and the chief treasurer of the kingdom, Matxin de Zalba (ca. 1390–1446), also known as Martín Sánchez de Zalba. Both men produced a significant body of documents in their administrative roles, allowing for this letter to be considered within its historical context. Although initiated by San Martín regarding issues of taxation, e.g. deductions granted to specific nobles, de Zalba writes most of the content. They both wrote on the same sheet, directly answering one another’s questions in a document that would have been hand delivered back and forth. Both men also switched to Basque for more personal sections of their letters, such as in the salutations and closing lines, or when discussing personal matters. Official matters are related in the language of Navarro-Aragonese Romance, and it is possible that they chose to switch to Basque in order to guard their personal matters from prying eyes. This is a truly fascinating glimpse into late medieval Spain.


Alternative Titles
Machín de Zelba's Letter
Brief des Matxin de Zalba von 1416
Correspondance between two senior officials

Available facsimile editions:
Matxin de Zalba's Letter - 1416 – Comptos, Registro 339, f. 109 – Archivo Real y General de Navarra (Navarra, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Editorial Mintzoa – Pamplona, 2016
Limited Edition: 365 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Matxín de Zalba's Letter - 1416

Editorial Mintzoa – Pamplona, 2016

Publisher: Editorial Mintzoa – Pamplona, 2016
Limited Edition: 365 copies
Binding: The facsimile comes in a double-layered acrylic glass and is delivered together with the study volume in a box measuring 32 x 30 x 60 cm. This is covered with Italian gold embossed Ultrasuede and lined with gold satin. The closures of the box are historically appropriate to the period.
Commentary: 1 volume by Peio Monteano Sorbet
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
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