Crackawer Schreib Calender auffs Jahr…1627.

[Olomouc?, n.p., 1627]


FIRST EDITION. Small 4to. 18 unnumbered ll., A-B4 C6 D4, plus 12 ms. ll. interleaved. Large Gothic letter, in red and black. Woodcut t-p in red and black within floral frame with putti, the Hapsburg arms, and the word ‘Crackawer’ flanked by armed angel and devil, at centre, portrait of scholar (the author?) holding a globe within architectural oval surrounded by four putti with astronomical instruments; full-page woodcut arms of the Moravian Margraviate to verso; numerous tables with zodiac signs and stars. T-p a little frayed and dusty, detached at foot, slight age yellowing, disbound. A remarkably well-preserved copy, extensive notes in French and German on interleaved ll. and occasionally to margins.

A remarkable ephemeral survival of the early history of the Czech press—probably the only surviving copy (‘Bibliographisches Handbuch’). Its author, Pawel Herka (1595-1648), was a Polish mathematician and astronomer from Kurzelow; after studying under Jan Brożek, he taught Practical Geometry at the Krakow Academy and was later canon at Krakow cathedral (‘O Astronomii’, 151; ‘Encyclopedja powszechna’ XI, 638). Herka published calendars in Polish (1619), Hungarian (1628 and 1630, and almanacs for the years 1627 and 1632), and this German calendar of 1627 recorded only in the present copy. As typical of almanacs, this work features a table for each month specifying the days, saints, planetary positions, zodiac signs and weather forecast; each table is followed by a blank page with the same typographic frame, for annotations (hence ‘schreib’). The last four leaves instruct the reader on the workings of the zodiac (here handsomely illustrated), the best days for purgation, baths and bloodletting. The woodcut arms of the Margravate of Moravia suggest that it was probably produced in Olomouc (Olmütz), the capital and a major printing centre. The city was also the place of publication of Alexander Milesius’s ‘Crackawer Schreib Calendern’ printed in 1618-21 by Jobst von der Burck, of which Herka’s was probably a continuation (‘Bibliographisches Handbuch’). Olomouc printers and booksellers ‘supplied primarily the Moravian town fairs, but also did considerable business with Bohemia, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Vienna’ (‘Books in Czechoslovakia’, 19-20). ‘Calender’ was probably written in German because, after the disastrous Battle of the White Mountain in 1620, the Czech Lands lost their cultural independence to the Habsburg Empire; ‘the progressive traditions of national culture were curbed whilst the Czech language was gradually substituted…by German’ (‘Ческая книга’, 98-99); or, like Milesius’s previous calendars, it simply sought to cater to a broader audience.

This copy was extensively annotated in French and German by two contemporary owners writing at the same time, as in a few cases their notes follow one another. They were army officers posted in Brieg (Poland), probably during the conflict involving Christian IV of Denmark during the Thirty Years’ War (1625-29). The French annotator was especially worried about death. He mentioned receiving letters from his wife, who at one point advised him to write up his last will and testament; he also wrote about dreaming that his mother had died. Other notes mentioned Colonel Strozzi, heavy snow falls, the receipt of cartridges, the discovery of blood, a ‘great danger’ and leaving Spiz (Wrocław) towards Vienna. The German soldier wrote copious (and more hastily penned) annotations—almost a diary—mentioning battle outcomes (‘the squadron was halved’) and orders given by colonels, with mentions of figures like the Counts of Hahn and Brandenburg, and the Irish Colonel (‘Oberst’) Walter Butler.

A unique example of C17 ephemera of unusual provenance.

No other copies recorded on WorldCat.

Not in Estreicher, Bibliografia polska, Cantamessa, Huzeau-Lancaster or Duveen. F. Kucharzewski, O Astronomii w Polce (1872); Bibliographisches Handbuch der Kalendermacher von 1550 bis 1750; A.S. Myl’nikov, Ческая книга: Очерки историй (Moscow, 1971); Encyclopedja powszechna (Warsaw, 1862), vol. 11; E. Ryznar and M. Croucher, Books in Czechoslovakia (Wiesbaden, 1989).


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