Die Kaufmannsfamilien Fonne aus Westfalen im Lübecker Rußlandhandel. Biographische Anmerkungen zum Schreiber des Pleskauer Gesprächsbuches von 1607, Tönnies Fonne

Dirk Erpenbeck


This biographical contribution to merchant families involved in the late Hanseatic trade with Russia tries to put Tönnies Fonne, the alleged writer of the now completely edited "Pleskauer Gesprächsbuch 1607" (Pskov Manual of Spoken Russian), into the larger context of the Fonne families, who originally came from a village near Herford in eastern Westphalia. Similar to other migrants from that area (Pöppelmann, Fürstenau, Kock etc.) to the Baltic East their direct aim was the participation in Lübeck's Livonian and Russian trade via Reval, Narva and Pleskau.
Due to new evidence from archives in Westphalia, Reval and Stockholm it is now possible to follow the development of the Fonnes from the middle of the 16th to the late 17th Century, beginning in 1548 with Heinrich, who after trading in Braunschweig and Lübeck finally tried to establish a partnership with merchants in Reval. His stepbrother Hans I was closely linked up with some well known Lübeck Baltic dealers and is referred to as the owner of a copy of the old "Nowgorod Schra". Thus Hans' son Tönnies Fonne obviously carried on a family tradition when he was sent to Pleskau as a merchant apprentice and a language student before 1607, where he "wrote" the important "Manual of Spoken Russian and Low German".
In contrast to the successful business careers of both his father and his brothers Tönnies, however, seems to have failed to gain a secure foothold in Eastern trade; this may be concluded from his serious personal clashes with senior Lübeck merchants first in Pleskau and later in Narva, which had to be settled from 1608 to 1610 by the law courts in Narva, where he was found guilty in several cases. - There are some pieces of evidence that increase doubts as regards Tönnies' claim to the authorship of this language guide and strengthen other hints at his Status of a Compiler and learner only. In 1609, only a very short time after the first evidence of his ownership of the manuscript, Fonne decided (or was urged?) to transfer the valuable language guide to Heinrich Wistinghausen, another Lübeck merchant and neighbour. This decision almost coincides with two important events: the Narva court rulings surely were very detrimental to Fonne's career, and the internal crisis of the Lübecker Hof in Pleskau was followed by its external destruction and shutdown in 1609. Whereas Tönnies returned to Lübeck his two brothers Hans II and Gödert settled successfully in Reval and Narva some years later.
As most research on the manuscript so far has dealt with linguistic questions, now that the Westphalian background of the early Fonnes is established, it may be pointed out that some critical Low German lexical items of the Pleskau Manual should be checked for correspondences with the regional edition of the Chytraeus dictionary from the Westphalian city of Lemgo rather than the Rostock edition used for language analysis so far.