Russia in the 16th century Russia - with the three maps

HERBERSTEIN, Sigismund von, Paul ODERBORN and others

Rerum Moscoviticarum auctores varii, unum in corpus nunc primum congesti

Publication: Francofurti, Cl. Marnius & Ioann. Aubrius, 1600.

HERBERSTEIN, Sigismund von, Paul ODERBORN and others, Rerum Moscoviticarum auctores varii, unum in corpus nunc primum congesti

Important edition gathering Herberstein’s famous description of early Russia together with other related works, to give a wide-ranging understanding of Muscovy. With aristocratic provenance, in contemporary binding, and complete with its famous illustrations and maps, including Moscow’s first printed plan.

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£6,500

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Our Notes & References

A tall copy with wide margins of this compilation containing the first detailed eyewitness ethnography of Russia: “the most important historical and ethnographical work on early 16th c. Russia” (Dr Rima Greenhill, Stanford University), a country largely unknown to Europeans at that time.

With contemporary provenance: from a major aristocratic French library, built over several generations, mostly in the 16th and 17th centuries, to reach more than 40,000 volumes. Many are now part of various French public libraries, including the Bibliothèque nationale.

Herberstein (1486-1566), an Austrian diplomat who was twice sent to Russia as the Habsburg ambassador to Moscow in 1517 and 1526, was the first foreign visitor to speak the language, read Cyrillic and record his experiences. The book was so warmly welcomed among the courts in Europe that “from its original publication in 1549, it became a veritable ‘Baedeker’ of travel narratives… [Herberstein] can be said to be almost singlehandedly responsible for the European image of Russia over several centuries” (Dr Rima Greenhill, Stanford University).

Herberstein’s work was considered of such value that for many decades to come, travellers to Russia were strongly advised to read it before travelling, as was the case with the English poet George Turberville. “In one of his letters from Russia during the mission of 1568-69, headed by Thomas Randolph, Turberville advised his friends never to venture to this barbarous land and, to stress his point, referred them to Herberstein’s Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii: “To Sigismundus’ book repair, who all the truth can tell.” To the present day no serious study of Muscovy can be undertaken without reading Herberstein.”

This 1600 edition is largely based on the 1556 Basel edition, which displayed significant changes in quality of content and of illustrations from the previous ones. It incorporates an important and useful illustration: three fine maps, along with elaborate woodcuts showing the Grand Duke (Tsar Vasilii III), Muscovites, bisons, aurochs etc. The map of Moscow is the first printed plan of the city, probably drawn by Herberstein himself, who was not a cartographer but here reveals a commendable talent as a draughtsman. This woodcut became very famous, in particular through the use by Braun & Hogenberg.

This edition includes a number of other works describing the Grand Duchy of Moscovy, including Paulo Giovio’s De Legatione Basilii magni Principis Moschoviae ad Clementem VII; Tilmann Bredenbach’s Historia belli Livonici; Paul Oderborn’s scarce Ionannis Basilidis magni Moscoviae ducis vita; and Reinhold Heidenstein’s De Bello Moschovitico commentarium.

Provenance

Bigot de la Turgère (arms to spine); Lyon Jesuit stamp to title.

Bibliography

VD 16, M 1038 (under Marne); Ulianinskii 3977; for Bigot: Guigard, Armorial du Bibliophile, pp. 95 ff.

Item number

2502

 

Physical Description

Folio (35.5 x 22.5 cm). Letterpress title with woodcut printer’s device, [11] ll. preliminaries incl. a full page woodcut of Tsar Vasilii III with text to verso, 445 pp. incl. two genealogical tables, the last one folding, and [28] ll. index with one full-page armorial woodcut, with 3 double-page woocut maps and 5 full-page woodcuts in text, ornamented head pieces and multi-line initials.

Binding

Contemporary brown calf, gilt fillets to covers, spine with raised bands, gilt lettering to a compartments, gilt coat of arms to others, red edges.

Condition

Binding rubbed and scratched, joints anciently repaired and this repair now lifting, top of spine also anciently repaired with small part of gilding missing; some browning throughout, sometimes stronger, incl. on one of the maps, light marginal waterstain to a few leaves, minor small marginal worming to a few leaves towards end, repaired.

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