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Stock# 93228

Herberstein on Russia (1571) with Alberti on Italy (1567).

In a Handsome Elaborately Tooled Binding.

With the First Modern Map of Russia.

This volume includes two important early European works, both in Latin editions: Alberti's Italy (1567) and Herberstein's Russia (1571).

Herberstein's account of Moscow, first published in 1549, stands as one of the most important works concerning Russia and its ethnography written from first hand knowledge of the country by von Herberstein, who resided there in his role as Austrian ambassador. The work includes a fine map of "Moscovia", and a bird's-eye city view of the city.

Herberstein's book includes 3 maps, the first modern plan of Moscow and two maps of Muscovy, one topographical and one including physical features. In his work on the early cartography of Russia, Leo Bagrow notes:

Herberstein was twice at Moscow-in 1517 and 1526. Herberstein's knowledge of a Slavonic language facilitated his intercourse with local inhabitants on his travels in Russia, and his academic education gave him a desire for knowledge of a country so little known to Western Europe. He missed no opportunity to question the people he met, not only on the customs and government of the country, but also on its geography, and particularly that of the border regions. He verified the information he collected by cross-questioning different persons on the same subject, and he also tried to obtain various written documents and records of itineraries. He attempted to procure maps too, but as these, besides being very scarce, were kept strictly secret by the authorities, he tried to persuade those whose knowledge he could trust to prepare maps for him. According to Lyatsky, who however made this statement after having left Russia, he had asked him to compile a map but met with a refusal.

Herberstein does not tell us whether he succeeded in obtaining cartographic materials from any other person. But he certainly obtained plenty of oral information and some graphic material too. Thus we know that Grigoryi Istome and Vlasiy and Dmitriy Gerasimov, separately, described to him the navigation from the mouth of the North - Dvina, round Scandinavia, to Denmark. Somebody else gave him a travelling guide from the Dvina to the Ob'. By the time he came to Moscow this route was already fairly well known: in 1491 Andrey Petrov and Vasiliy Ivanov Boltin were dispatched to the Pechora in quest of silver ore; in 1499 Prince Kurbskiy led an expedition to the Yugor region and crossed the Ural.

Herberstein reprinted the travelling guide to the Pechora and the Ob', and we know that it already contained information on the town of Kumbalik, i.e. Pekin. The reference to a sea-route by the north coast of Europe and Asia to China made by Paolo Giovio, following Gerasimov, suggests that Herberstein had also been told about this route at Moscow. About the campaign against the Kazan' Tartars in 1524 Herberstein had heard direct from one of its participants, Voevoda S. Chelyadin, whom he had met earlier (1514) at Vilna, where Chelyadin was living as a prisoner of war after the battle at Orsha. Herberstein helped and comforted him at that time and gave him 20 ducats.

At last, in the 1540's, Herberstein began to sort the materials he had collected and to write up his Notes. The first edition of his Rerum Moscovitarum comentarii, containing a copper-engraved map, appeared at Vienna in 1549. This map however was preceded by another, with the same title, which had been engraved by Hirsvogel three years earlier. . . .But this map was of larger format (560 x 358 mm.) and would have had to be folded to fit the book. This presumably explains the production of a second map in reduced size (261 x 160 mm.). There are practically no alterations in this second map, save the omission or addition of a few names. The only notable alteration is the introduction of the Solovki. Comparing the two with each other or with later issues, we must bear in mind that the repetition of an engraving by different masters is naturally not merely a reproduction or a copy of the original-certain divergencies in the disposition of the names and their writing will always occur, especially if the map has been re-engraved for a new publisher, or in a different language.

Sigismund Herberstein was Emperor Maxmillian I's ambassador to Russia, who made two official trips to Moscow. Born in 1486, in what is now Slovenia, and was then part of the Holy Roman Empire, he was knighted by Maximilian I in 1514, received his first diplomatic appointment in 1515 and undertook many more missions during the following thirty-eight years. Aside from his visits to Russia, he went to Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Poland, Bohemia and Hungary. His work frequently involved arduous and dangerous journeys. In all, between 1515 and 1553, Herberstein participated in 69 foreign missions, which traveled throughout much of Europe, including Turkey.

During his travels in Russia, he made extensive observations. Herberstein was able to communicate freely with the Russians because of their knowledge of Slovenian as both Slovenian and Russian belong to the Slavic languages. It is likely that he wrote his first report about life in Russia between 1517 and 1527, but that early text has not survived. In 1526 was asked to write a formal report on his experiences in Russia, but it languished in archival obscurity until he could find time to revise and expand it. The result was his greatest work, a book written in Latin under the title Commentarii Rerum Moscoviticarum (Comments on Muscovite Affairs), first published in 1549. This book became the main source of knowledge about Russia in Western Europe.

Alberti's Descrittione di Tutta Italia

Bound with Heberstein is the 1567 Latin translation of Leandro Alberti's Descrittione di tutta Italia. The work was first pinted in 1550. It is praised for containing many early topographical and archaeological observations, even if some of the historical narrative is weakened by Alberti's close following of earlier writers, mainly his fellow Dominican, Annius of Viterbo. This latter famously staged a well-publicized fraudulent archeological dig at Viterbo in 1493, during which marble scuptures of mythical figures appeared to be unearthed; in fact the statues had all been planted at the site beforehand by Annius's accomplices.

Alberti, a Dominican historian, was a native of Bologna. He entered the order in 1493, and was soon thereafter sent to Rome to serve under his friend, Francesco Silvestro Ferraris. He published a book about famous Dominicans, as well as chronicle of his native city of Bologna. However, he is chiefly remembered for the present work, his Descrizione d'Italia, which appeared originally in Italian, printed in Bologna in 1550.


These Latin editions of Alberti and Herberstein are very rare in the market.

Condition Description
Folio. Contemporary pigskin over beveled-edge wooden boards, elaborately tooled in blind, four raised bands on spine. Two leather-hinged brass closures. Some moderate wear to binding extremities. Two works bound in one. Alberti: [20], 815, [51] pages. Title vignette, woodcut initials. Early manuscript scribbling on title, and slight abrasion (printing not affected). Signatures: ([dagger])⁴ (*)⁶ A-P⁶ Q⁸ R-3X⁶ 3Y⁴ ⁶ (:)⁶ ([triangle of 4 dots])⁶ (*)⁶ / Includes index: (?)1recto-(*)6recto. Errata leaves: 3Y3verso-3Y4recto. Herberstein: [12], 227 pages, [1 page, full-page woodcut of coat of arms], [18 pages, index], [colophon leaf]. Woodcut title vignette, 3 double-page woodcut maps, 8 woodcut illustrations (most full-page, including a bison, bull, modes of transport and riding equipment, and a portrait of Grand Duke Wasili). Several large historiated woodcut initials. Signatures: a6, [ ]6, b-u6, x4, y6. Upper fore-edge corner torn on f. o6 (pp.155-157), slightly affecting printed border. Minor unobtrusive older outline dampstaining to scattered leaves (mainly final 40 leaves or so of Herberstein), and to lesser extant in upper gutter region of the three maps of Russia. Otherwise a remarkably clean example, generally in solid very good condition. Occasional marginalia in a neat early unknown hand.
Alberti: Adams A471. Herberstein: Adams H302. Karrow 40/4.6. TMM II, 314. Németh, S.K. Hungarica H 796. Gołuszka, M. Polonica P 444.