Central Europe's oldest spa town in colour

[HOSER, Joseph Carl Eduard]

Beschreibung von Teplitz in Böhmen

Publication: Prag, J.G. Calve, 1798.

[HOSER, Joseph Carl Eduard], Beschreibung von Teplitz in Böhmen

A scarce description of Central Europe’s oldest spa town, now in Czech Republic, with a fine double-page view with original hand-colour. Attractive example with royal provenance.

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Our Notes & References

First edition of this scarce account of a popular Bohemian spa town.

A lovely example with royal provenance and complete with the hand-coloured double-page view showing “Dopperlburg bey Toplitz”.

Known to the Romans as Thermae Constantinae and mentioned for the first time as early as in 1154, the Bohemian town of Teplice is the oldest spa resort in Central Europe. Meaning “hot spring” in old Czech, it became a popular venue for European monarchs and other distinguished guests, attracted by its scenery and sulphur waters: Beethoven met Goethe there in 1812.

Hoser (1770-1848) studied law, philosophy and medicine at Prague University and was a personal physician of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria from 1800. Not only a doctor, but also a prominent geographer, ethnologist, and art collector, he describes in this book the origins and history of Teplice’s baths, the various chemical constituents of their waters, and their curative powers. He also goes on with details on the housing available, the residents, the number of visitors and their nationalities, the physicians practising in town, and the attractions surrounding it.

With such unusually extensive information for a work of this kind, Hoser’s book resembles an early travel guide to the region, thus highlighting the gradual changes of the function of spa towns: “spas popularised a new perception of the landscape with a preference for mountains and the seacoast, forming the basis for the cultural assumptions underlying modern tourism… [which] helped to bring about social and cultural modernity” (Lotz-Heumann, who also mentions Beschreibung von Teplitz in Böhmen).

This first edition ends with a 3-pp. catalogue of works on Bohemia sold by Calve, all in German except for a Flora in Latin. It mentions another and very similar work by Hoser, the Beschreibung von Karlsbad: published just a year earlier in 1797 following the exact same format, it is much more commonly found than Teplitz, and its commercial success may explain why Hoser and Calve published the present work.

Scarce when complete: we could locate only one copy at auction in recent years.


Königliche Hand Bibliothek (small armorial stamp on title); From the estate of Geoffrey Elliott (1939-2021), banker of Russian descent, author of books on 20th-c. history. Geoffrey and his wife Fay were noted collectors, especially of Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh and other literary figures. Eastern Europe and Russia were also important themes: Geoffrey’s grandparents were interned in a Siberian tsarist prison camp before the October Revolution, and he focused most of his published works on the Cold War.

The Elliotts donated a significant part of their collection to the library of Leeds University in 2002, but kept the Russia-related items, which we consequently acquired.


Ute Lotz-Heumann, The German Spa in the Long Eighteenth Century: A Cultural History, Routledge, 2021.

Item number



Physical Description

Octavo (16.6 x 11.2 cm). Title, hand-coloured double-page engraving after F.K. Wolf, dated 1797, and 178 pp., with a folding letterpress table.


Late 19th century green calf spine over marbled boards, spine with raised bands with gilt fleurons in compartments, brown calf title piece, date and place in gilt at spine foot, marbled endpapers, red edges.


Hinges very slightly rubbed; minor foxing at beginning and end, otherwise fresh, attractive example kept in a recent brown cardboard slipcase.

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