RERUM GERMANICARUM SUB MATTHIA, FERDINANDIS II. & III. IMPP. GESTARUM, LIBRI LV.
(Frankfurt am Main: Typis exscripti Wolfgangi Hoffmani, Impensa Matthæi Meriani, 1646-50). 349 x 216 mm. (13 3/4 x 8 1/2"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.
Once especially fine and still impressive contemporary panelled calf, covers bordered with gilt chain roll and framed in blind with inner and outer crescent, drawer-handle, and floral stamps as well as large fleuron cornerpieces, raised bands, spines ornately gilt in seven compartments, with titling in two and elaborate scrolling cornerpieces in the others, three of the compartments with floral lozenge centerpiece, armorial centerpiece in top compartment and calligraphic monogram and crown centerpiece at bottom, marbled endpapers. Woodcut headpieces, tailpieces, and initials, engraved title pages, vignette on printed titles, four illustrations in text, engraved portrait of Lotichius, and 115 VERY FINE ENGRAVED PLATES, the vast majority double-page, including six maps, and SIX FOUR-PAGE FOLDING VIEWS OF BATTLES. The flyleaf facing engraved title in each volume with German ownership inscription dated 1814. Brunet III, 1180; Graesse IV, 264. ◆Bindings variously rubbed, scuffed, and marked, small tears in backstrip at head and foot of first volume, but both volumes completely sound and still very pleasing, with bright gilt. The text printed on inferior paper stock (much different from that used for the plates), so perhaps half the text with foxing, mostly light to moderate, but a number of gatherings (mostly in first third of the second volume) obviously mottled or browned, one plate with two-inch tear to crease, another plate skillfully repaired in lower margin, other minor internal defects, but an excellent copy where it counts, with THE PLATES, PRINTED ON HIGH QUALITY PAPER, BEAUTIFULLY CLEAN AND BRIGHT.
This is a rare complete copy of a very substantial chronicle covering the reigns of three Hapsburg rulers, with detailed coverage of the 30 Years War. At least as important, it is a book full of wonderful engravings that provide a convincing view of the Medieval cities and other environs where the events in the present account unfold. The first of our Hapsburgs, Matthias (1557-1619), a son of the German emperor Maximilian II, became Holy Roman Emperor in 1612. Being childless, he was succeeded by his cousin Ferdinand II, who was immediately challenged by Frederick of the Palatinate, whom the Bohemian Protestants favored for emperor. This contest triggered the 30 Years War, which drew in most of Europe. The conflict raged during much of the reign of Ferdinand III (ruled 1637-57), although he was anxious to procure peace, which was arranged (with no clear winner) in 1648, two years after our author began to publish his history. A revered physician and professor of medicine, Johann Peter Lotichius (or Lotich, 1598-1669) was appointed official historian of the German Empire. Among his publications are medical treatises, Latin poems, a work in praise of women, and a general imperial history beginning with Caesar and ending with Ferdinand II. The present work is important to us mainly because of its engravings, most of them done by Matthaeus Merian (1593-1650), who was largely responsible for two of the most famous illustrated series ever published. The first, the "Theatrum Europaeum," was a massive set of 21 large folio volumes with a great deal of important historical text punctuated with often breathtaking engraved views. The second, called in aggregate simply the "Topographia," is a series comprising 30 folio volumes issued between 1642-88 and containing the largest number of engraved views of towns, villages, and castles ever assembled (Merian was responsible for the plates in the first 19 volumes, while his son and namesake furnished the others). In the present work, we see the same kind of engraved artistry that made Merian famous in these other, larger undertakings. Here, as in the other series, the intricately realized city views (not infrequently seen as the focus of animated battle scenes), are exceptionally fine in detail and delicacy, and they achieve a success in conveying a very strong sense of place and atmosphere that earlier atlases full of urban views did not approach. As with all of the Merian topographical works, this one has several exceptionally fine views of mostly walled cities and towns that appear to be remarkable in the fidelity of their historical detail, impressive in the crystalline vividness of their engraved line, and pleasing emotionally in the luminous tranquility they project. In our copy, these features seem to be heightened because of the richness of the engraved impressions. While single volumes (usually the part issued in 1646) appear on the market from time to time, both parts together and in contemporary bindings are much less frequently encountered. (ST18428)