The Alphabet of Donisso Donissi is a collection of proverbs and accompanying commentaries compiled over a period of four centuries. The earliest sections of the work date to the first century after the Second Montaignean Migration. Over time, more letters, proverbs, and commentaries were added, resulting in a text with almost no tonal or topical consistency.
As it was originally conceived by Donisso Donissi, the Alphabet was a compilation of thirty proverbs, each of which began with a different letter of the Old Montaignean Alphabet. The majority of the proverbs were moral in nature, teaching moderation and modesty, as can be seen in the proverbs from letters “Ð” (The poor is one who holds not little, but who lusts for more) and “K” (Joy in striving is chaos, not industry, for the soul).
The accompanying commentaries provide brief examples of the proverbs through biographies of rulers and heroic figures. This had lead many to assume that the work was intended as a mirror for princes, though some argue that Donissi’s tendency to focus on the excesses of contemporary figures and the morality of historical figures made it a social critique. Modern scholars, however, value it mostly as an historical record of the Second Migration and period immediately following.
Donissi’s work was rather popular,garnering many imitators and continuations. As early as fifty years after it was first published, editions were circulating with thirty-five letters. Within a hundred years, the standard version had forty letters. Most of these additional “letters” were common consonant clusters or numbers.
After this point, additions stop attempting to mimic Donissi’s style, continuing the Alphabet with fictional letters. The commentaries also change from historical exempla to mystic contemplations. This shift is most easily seen in Letter 42, which is itself as long as the entire text up to that point, casually drifts between five different languages, often mid-sentence, and frequently breaks into long digressions on alchemy, molybdomancy, and animal husbandry. After this point, the Alphabet’s only semblance of coherence come from the fact that the new commentaries agree that letters inherently contain mystic power. On all other topics, however, the work holds no consistency, as seen in Letters 58, 60, 61, and 63, which appear to be part of an ongoing debate about the genders (both grammatical and biological) of the stars.
- Yitzak Mnyshov the Younger