HELMOLD VON BOSAU and ARNOLD VON LÜBECK

HELMOLD VON BOSAU and ARNOLD VON LÜBECK Chronica Slavorum

Lübeck, Literis Jacobi Hinderlingii, Heinrich Bangert (ed.), 1659

£2,350.00

FIRST EDITION thus. 4to, pp. (xxiv) 568 (lxiv). Roman and italic letter, some Greek and gothic. Engraved frontispiece depicting the Slavic gods Radegast, Živa and Perun, t-p within engraved architectural border with standing figures of a Saxon and a Wend, busts of Henry the Lion (1129-1195) and Saint Vicelinus of Oldenburgh (1986-1154) in roundels at head and tail. Ink stain to lower edge of 6 ll. and to pp. 527/8 (affecting one word), blank margins of pp. 251-254 a bit soiled from the press, some deckle edges. A very good, clean copy in contemporary vellum, gilt label. Acquisition note and prices 1660 to front paste-down.

Important first complete edition of the ‘Chronica Slavorum’ revised from the manuscripts, and the first edited and commented on by the German philologist and historian Heinrich Bangert (1610-1665). This edition comprises the Slavic chronicles by Helmold von Bosau and, for the first time, the complete text of the continuation written by Arnold von Lübek with a detailed commentary. These works by Helmold and Arnold appeared together in two previous editions of 1573 and 1581, both lacking several chapters of Arnold’s text.

Helmold von Bosau (ca. 1120-1177) was a Saxon historian and priest. His ‘Chronica Slavorum’ describes the Saxon colonisation of the area east of the lower Elbe, in eastern Germany, and the conversion to Christianity of the ‘Wends’ or Polabian Slavs, namely the Slavic inhabitants of the region. Divided into two books (Liber I and II in this edition), it covers the period from Charlemagne to c. 1170, and it is the most important source of information regarding the history of this territory in the 12th century. For these chronicles, Helmold relied on the previous accounts of Adam von Bremen and on the verbal testimony of the friend Vicelinus: represented on the title page, he was a bishop of Oldenburg who contributed with his missionary work to converting the Slavs. Remarkably, Helmold dedicates several pages to the pagan tribe’s religion, culture and society. He informs us that the Baltic Slavs believed in a single heavenly God, although ‘otiosus’ (i.e. inactive), but also alludes to a hierarchy of divinities. There was clearly a certain curiosity in the 17th century for these pagan cults, because three of the major gods are represented in the beautiful engraved frontispiece of this edition. From left to right, we see: ‘Prono’ or Perun, the god of sky and lightning, ‘Ridegast’ or Radegast, god of hospitality and ‘Siwa’, or Živa, goddess of life and fertility.

The Benedictine abbot Arnold of Lübeck (ca. 1150-1214) extended Helmold’s chronicles from 1171 to 1209, adding five more books (Libri III-VII in this edition). The main focus is on the history of the Welf dynasty, that Arnold greatly admired: from Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, to his son and successor Henry VI and the Wendish Crusade, up to Otto IV. There are also references to the third and fourth crusades.

Every book is divided into chapters that include a numbered list of contents at the beginning, followed by the text of Helmold or Arnold and a final section with Bangert’s systematic commentary.

VD17 3:300015H; BL Ger. 1600-1700, H755; Graesse III p. 237; Brunet III, p. 91. Not in USTC.
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