In this week's Mailbox: Manuscripts of Emperor Charles IV's autobiography; the oldest circus company in the Czech Republic; recent audio problems on Radio Prague. Listeners quoted: Joe T. Vosoba, US; David Eldridge, UK.

Charles IVCharles IV Hello and welcome to Radio Prague's Mailbox programme in which we answer your questions and reply to your comments.

You may remember that in March this year the National Library in Prague managed to purchase a rare manuscript at an auction in Paris. It was a fragment of a Latin translation of the Czech 'Chronicle of Dalimil', dating from around 1340. It is thought to have been commissioned by Czech King John of Luxembourg or his son, Emperor Charles IV. Joe T. Vosoba from the United States sent us this request.

"The article about the Chronicle of Dalimil brought to mind a question: Is there an English translation of King Charles IV's autobiography? A Czech translation? (I assume he wrote it in Latin). Where is the original located? Can it be viewed by the public? How can I read it?"

Charles IV wrote his autobiography in Latin. He himself wrote the first fourteen chapters covering the years 1316-40 and an unknown confidant then wrote the remaining six, covering the years 1341-46. Several manuscripts have been preserved although none of them is the original one. The oldest and most valuable, created during Charles's life, is a parchment manuscript owned by the Austrian National Library, the Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek, in Vienna.

Three other known manuscripts come from the time of Charles's son Wenceslas IV, a parchment in Vienna and two paper manuscripts, one in the possession of the Capitular Library of Prague's St Vitus Catherdral and the other in Brno. Some manuscripts previously in the possession of the National Library have been returned to a Czech noble family after 1989 to whom they used to belong before the Second World War. A number of old Czech and German translations have been preserved - and they serve as cross-reference for modern translations of the Latin original.

As far as English translations are concerned, I found reference to one from 1935 by B. Jarett which is part of Charles's biography by the same author and a recent one, from 2000, by Balazs Nagy, published by the Central European University Press.

I'm sure you can find out with the libraries whether they are planning any exhibitions displaying the manuscripts or whether they can be accessible otherwise.

Czech translations have been published readily in recent decades and there are several versions available to Czech readers.

Now back to the audio problems some of our listeners experienced last month. Our shortwave expert Oldrich Cip contacted the WRN or World Radio Network and this is what the organisation's Technical Shift Leader Alessandra Rebello replied:

"WRN has indeed experienced bad reception with Radio Prague, precisely on 22nd August. We can confirm that the signal strength has improved since and is currently above its previous level. Our engineer took the opportunity to review the antenna position to ensure the bad reception was not linked to misalignment. Everything was found at expected position and OK. Our investigation shows that the bad quality found on Radio Prague audio was related to poor weather conditions, since it was continuously raining over London area. As you may know, Eurobird footprint reaches our region around the area where the signal strength starts to decrease and it can be affected by poor weather conditions more than it would normally be if we could point to the satellite from its epicentre. There is no other account of issues with this service since then."

This has been confirmed by our listener David Eldridge who sent us this e-mail:

"The signal on 5930 kHz for the early evening transmissions has improved considerably and is much clearer. I don't recall hearing any special faults with your transmissions, but that might be because it was an occasion I listened on the Internet."

So I hope everything is fine now and you can enjoy Radio Prague broadcasts in good audio quality.


And finally we need to repeat our competition question for September. In our series of famous Czech-born people we are now asking about a woman.

"She was born in 1965 in the Moravian town of Prostejov. Her parents left Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion and moved to Sweden. They left their two children behind believing they could be brought out later. But the Czechoslovak authorities would not allow it and the ensuing battle for the kids made headlines in Sweden. Finally the family reunited after seven years but the father soon left the family. As a teenager, our mystery woman was discovered by a photographer friend who sent photos of her to a modelling agency. She quickly became a successful model appearing on the covers of prestigious magazines. She was chosen twice by People magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world and also appeared in a number of movies."

Please send us your answers by the end of September to the usual address Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic or English@radio.cz. Until next week, thanks for listening.