De expugnatione civitatis Rigensis livoniae metropolis.

Riga, N. Mollinus, 1622.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. 60 unnumbered leaves, (*2), A-P4 (L3 signed C3), fold-out map and index. Roman letter with italic. Attractive double page, folding engraved map of Riga, highly detailed woodcut headpiece and initials, double fillet typographic border throughout. Light age yellowing as usual, edges speckled red, margins trimmed throughout not affecting border lines, fold-out key to map with minor repairs. Map in good condition, re-fixed to stub, light glue stains to centre fold and outer edge, tiny holes to centre, left edge fractionally trimmed outside plate mark. Very good copy, crisp and clean, in C18 limp marbled paper binding, a bit worn. Preserved in modern box, red morocco and marbled paper, gilt title on spine.

Uncommon, crisp, first edition of an anonymous pamphlet concerning the surrender of the Livonian city of Riga to Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1621. Riga was besieged and captured as part of Gustavus Adolphus’s intervention in support of German Lutheranism during the Polish-Swedish War (1621-1625). Published in a Latin and German edition, the pamphlet contains four letters written by and to the Senate of Riga concerning accusations advanced by Krzysztof Radziwiłł, a Polish-Lithuanian military officer who took part in the resistance against the Swedes and to whom the volume is dedicated. The first and second letters, which seek to justify the voluntary surrender of the city, are addressed to the Polish king, Sigismund III Vasa, and to Radziwiłł himself. The third letter contains Radziwiłł’s accusations to the Senate. Committed to the ideal of the ‘miles christianus’, Radziwiłł saw as a betrayal the authorities’ decision to relinquish the city’s political and religious freedom after just one month and a half. The last and longest letter is a reply from the Senate detailing the causes of the capitulation of Riga. Although the Senate’s reply focuses on the delayed dispatch of backup troops and the wish to spare the inhabitants any further suffering, major factors behind the surrender were also the bad state of the city’s fortresses and the weakness of its armed forces.

The very attractive, well-preserved fold-out map, which looks at the besieged city from the east, was made by Heinrich Thum and printed by Nicolaus Mollyn, who had moved from Antwerp to Riga in 1588, to establish the first printing press in Livonia. Thum’s aerial map bears many similarities to Georg von Schwengeln’s ‘Vera Delineatio Memorabilis obsidionis Rigensis Metropolis Livoniae’, a perspective of Riga under Swedish siege produced in 1621, but no priority has been established. Like von Schwengeln’s, Thum’s map is decorated with the arms of the kings of Sweden and shows a bird’s-eye-view of the city and the landscape around it, crowded with soldiers on horseback, battles, and ships of the Swedish Navy sailing through the mouth of the Daugava river. It is very elegantly engraved and in such fine detail that topographical features and individual buildings are easily identifiable. The city’s skyline is based on Thum’s view of Riga from the river, printed by Mollyn in 1612.

Only Yale copy recorded in the US. No copies recorded in the UK.

Gołuszka, Polnische Drucke und Polonica 1501-1700, P 1764. See Buchholtz, Geschichte der Buchdruckerkunst in Riga, pp. 35-36, 56; J. Kunowski, Ekspedycyja inflantska 1621 roku (Białystok, 2007).


Print This Item Print This Item