Obnovené právo a Zrízení zemské dedicného království Ceského.

Prague, 1627.


Folio. (iii) 238 (v) ll. unsigned and unpaginated. Binding 22 x 30.3cm, text block 13 x 24cm , approx. 32 lines per page. Black ink in a cursive Czech hand, sidenotes in Gothic and addenda in a German Gothic hand. contemp ms. herbal remedies on ffeps. larger headings, sidenotes, and an index, title with elaborate ink flourishes. Some age yellowing, a very good, clean copy, all edges black. In black calf over wooden boards, spine with raised bands, lacking clasps. Ownership inscription of Jana Vacsl. Rozumasky, 1884, on fly.

A very rare, elegantly written manuscript in Czech of the entire legal resettlement of Bohemia carried out by Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II (1578-1637). After his victory at the Battle of White Mountain (1620) over Frederick V, Elector Palatine, Ferdinand determined to eliminate any Protestant threat to his power and consolidate Hapsburg control over Bohemia. The ordinances contained here overturn Rudolph II’s 1609 Letter of Majesty that codified religious tolerance, and forbid all confessions except Catholicism and Judaism. They abolish the elective monarchy, destroying the balance of power between estates and consolidating all power in the Emperor, while restoring the once disenfranchised Catholic clergy to the first estate. Legislative power is confined entirely to Ferdinand, and his role in hearing appeals from the courts equally strengthened. The oath of allegiance is revised; once sworn to the commonwealth, it is now to the king alone and the continuing possession of public office, position, and estates depended on this oath being taken. In addition, patents to the nobility become entirely at the discretion of the King, who in turn sidestepped the tradition of appointing only Bohemian natives and moved the court from Prague to Vienna. The changes introduced here resulted in the reassignment of over one-half of all estates in Bohemia, much of the primarily Protestant nobility was effectively dispossessed, fled as rebels or faced execution.

Consistent with this policy of ‘Hapsburgisation’ these ordinances also elevated the German language to the same official status as Czech, although by 1627 it was already the language spoken at Court. A German edition of these ordinances was printed in 1627 as Verneuerte Landesordnung des Erbkönigreichs Böhaimb, with an incomplete Czech edition including only articles up to F.1 (about a third of the book). No Czech edition was printed until 1888, in Leipzig, edited by the legal historian Hermenegild Jire_k. This complete contemporary Czech translation, matching the German even to the “Index or Ordering of the Titles of the Renewed Land Order” after the text, is a rare and vitally important work in the legal and constitutional history of the Czech people.

The Strahov Monastery owns the only other complete copy we have found, although without the additional six and a half pages in German Gothic hand included here, after the index. These pages contain a transcription of a letter dated 11 September 1654 that summarises the contents of the Land Order, addressed to Primate Graf Jaroslav von Bubna, quite possibly for whose use the manuscript was written. The quality of production indicates a commission for a client of importance. Despite the predominance of German at the highest levels of government, accurate and complete Czech translations would have been necessary to ensure enforcement and consistency between both essential.

Sayer, “The Coasts of Bohemia”, 45. Evans, “Making of the Hapsburg Monarchy”, 198-200.


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