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About James Dobreff

As a Latinist, Neo-Latinist and historian I have always been captivated by unpublished scientific manuscripts or collections of personal correspondence. Once I find a manuscript that seems interesting I research the historical background of the author and the contents. If the text has never been published, I transcribe it and systematically represent all of the physical changes in the text (corrections, deletions, additions, etc.). The edition then provides a foundation for a deeper exploration of the text and its author.
My dissertation was published as Hermannus Samsonius to Axel Oxenstierna: Latin Correspondence from 1621 to 1630 with Linguistic and Historical Commentaries (Lund 2006). This historical critical edition provides a unique window into the personal, political and often polemical world of one of northern Europe's leading theologians and his relationship with the famous statesman Axel Oxenstierna. As the Swedish chancellor of state Oxenstierna was the organizational genius behind the Swedish victory in the Thirty Years' War and is considered the intellectual founder of the modern Swedish state. My second volume is underway.
Perhaps the most widely appealing product of my research has been the resurrection of the once obscure eighteenth-century naturalist Daniel Rolander (1723-1793). This son of a poor Swedish country farmer studied with the famous naturalist Carl Linnaeus at Uppsala University before departing for the Dutch plantation colony of Suriname in South America. The entire journey and expedition lasted two years. Rolander described everything of interest from those years in a 700-page manuscript. I organized the English translation of the manuscript, translating over half of the pages and proofing and editing the translations of three other translators who worked with me. IK Foundation published our translation in a beautifully bound volume as Daniel Rolander, The Suriname Journal: composed during an exotic journey (London 2009) in The Linnaeus Apostles - Global Science & Adventure. Europe, North- & South America. Volume 3, Book 3. Pehr Löfling and Daniel Rolander.
A large portion of my research over the last five years has focused on composing and researching a historical critical edition of Rolander's unpublished original manuscript Diarium Surinamicum, quod sub itinere exotico conscripsit, Daniel Rolander. The edition now awaits its publication at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (The Catholic University of Leuven) in Belgium. My research into Rolander has sparked a wide-ranging reassessment of this previously neglected and maligned author. The rare-books library James Ford Bell Library honored my work by selecting me to deliver the 49th annual James Ford Bell Lecture at the University of Minnesota (delivered 6 Oct. 2011). As a guest lecturer I have spoken at the Royal Geographical Society of London, the University of Amsterdam, the Botanical Gardens in Paris, the Botanical Gardens in Naples (Italy), the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (Leiden), the University of Manitoba, Lund University (Sweden), Uppsala University (Sweden) and four times at Hagströmer Library at Carolinska Institute (Sweden).


Present Assistant Professor of Classics, College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston

Contact Information

Telephone: 617-287-6120