SCARCE TURCICUM – NO COPIES IN THE US
Commentariorum Chotinensis Belli.Danzig, Georg Forster, 1646
FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. (xii) 198 (ii), last blank. Roman letter, little Italic. Engraved t-p with Victory, the triumphant King Sigismund III and captured Turks, decorated initials and ornaments. First gathering margins a little finger-soiled, light age yellowing, worm trail to upper blank margin of first few gatherings, light marginal water or oil splash in places. A good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, ms. ‘Ex Cathalogo Librorum Andreae Wachlowyz Consuli Leopolien[sis] 1649’ at t-p foot, ms. ‘M Lud[ovico] Valeriano Alembek M.D. ablatus ab Adm(?) Rel(?) Patre Pisarski P(?)nitenti(?) eccles[iae] metropo[litae] Leop[oliensis] 1693 13 8brij’ to *2.
This copy was in the library of the Polish physician Ludwig Walerian Alembek (1642-1704), the owner of ‘one of the largest private libraries’ in Poland (Różycki, ‘Alembekowie’, 83-4). This he inherited from his father, Walerian (d.1676), physician and noted bibliophile in Lwow, who was acquainted with Mark and Jan (later King Jan III) Sobiecki, sons of the author of this work. Trained at Cracow, Paris and Montpellier, Ludwig practised medicine at Lwow, and was probably the physician of Jan III, as well as city syndic. His library comprised books on medicine, philosophy, history, politics, mathematics and very early auction catalogues. Several had been acquired from local collectors in the mid-C17, e.g., (as this) from the heirs of the syndic Andrzeja Wachlowicz (c.1655). After Ludwig’s death, the collection was divided. This copy was given to a Father Pisarski, from the Church of Lwow, in 1693.
A good copy of the scarce first (and only) edition of this important ‘Turcicum’—an historical work on the Polish-Ottoman wars. ‘A rare book, banned by Jan, King of Poland, son of the author’ (Bauer). Jakub Sobiecki (or Sobieski, 1590-1646) was an aristocrat, military officer and Parliamentarian, as well as father of King Jan III. After a campaign in Muscovy, he took part, in 1621, in the Battle or War of Chocim (also Khotyn or Hotin), in which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the allied Cossacks fought against the Ottoman army of Osman II. Though neither truly prevailed (despite the celebratory illustration on the engraved t-p), the Polish-Lithuanian army stopped the advancing Ottomans. The event captured the popular imagination thanks to Sobiecki’s account. After an account of the complex diplomatic negotiations between Sigismund III and Sultan Osman II, the work proceeds with the march into Moldavia led by Skinder Bassa, and the ominous start of the war: ‘Prodigies were observed for the atrocious war, the absence of the sun at midday and earthquakes in parts of Moldavia, Podolia and Russia’. There follows an intense chronological narrative of the march and battles, with lists of major officers, and the hardships of war, even leading to military sedition, due to delays in food supplies and the overall difficulties of the route (e.g., bandits, the necessity to repair bridges before crossing). In among the propagandistic rhetoric, the eyewitness experience of Sobiecki emerges in the vivid and tragic accounts. The Turks are presented, following the Counter-Reformation stance, as blood-thirsty barbarians, who, among other things, ferociously tortured and slaughtered many Cossacks. The first few pages of Book II are devoted to the Ottoman army, its numbers and composition, and its military music (‘the ungrateful sound of a great number of wind instruments and trumpets horrified the ears’). It is became the main source for W. Potocki’s epic poem ‘Transakcja wojny chocimskiej’ (1670). A scarce, important work of Polish history for the Ottoman wars.No copies recorded in the US. Estreicher XXVIII, 348; Paisey IV, S2245. E. Różycki, ‘Inwentarz ksiażek Lwowianina Ludwika Waleriana Alembeka z 1704 roku’, Roczniki Biblioteczne 50 (1996), 110-38; E. Różycki, Alembekowie i ich ksiegozbiory (2011); J.-J. Bauer, Bibliotheca librorum rariorum universalis (1772), vol.4, 89.