Magnum Opus

The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola (Die Ehre des Herzogthums Crain / Slava Vojvodine Kranjske) is the last of Valvasor’s published work and by far the most important.

The work represents the highest peak of creative cultural identity on European soil until the national revival of the Enlightenment. In its very creation, the work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola was a transnational project, combining people and works of art, which saw Germans, Austrians, Italians, Slovenians, a Croat and two Dutch painters gather on Slovenian territory around the author, an Austrian nobleman and member of the Royal Society of London. It also transcends, to this day, all local and national boundaries, as it describes a large segment of common European history, while giving special attention and recognition to the historical and cultural area of central Slovenia, the southern part of Austria, and the northern and western part of Croatia, which is now considered the foundation of a common European cultural heritage.

Valvasor visited the German countries in 1684-85 and at that time arranged an agreement for the printing of his work in Nueremberg. At Endter’s workshop Valvasor persuaded Erazem Francisci (1627-1694) to work with him as editor and assistant. Francisci was a famous lecturer, polymath and professional writer. He worked as editor and co-author and he performed his task professionally and scrupulously. It is largely owing to him that the work can be read even today in readable German. He also did a great deal to expedite the publication of the book. In its written form it came into existence in four years and not in sequence. The first part describes the events to 1686, the second part covers the next two years to 1688, the third and the fourth to 1689. The last event in The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola is mentioned in July 1689 – in the fourth part.

There has been no book of this kind anywhere in Europe. It is important for its historiography and as a historical source, it is an invaluable treasury of information and a kind of encyclopedia of a specific area in central Europe, occupied by Slovenian people in Valvasor’s time and today. More than anything else the work is a comprehensive study of the land of Valvasor’s birth – Carniola/ Crain/ Kranjska.

The work is divided into 15 Books in four parts; at the beginning there is a substantial preface – altogether the book is comprised of 3,532 pages, 24 appendices and 528 pictures. The text is arranged in two columns and after each title the exact contents are listed for each chapter.

There are 56 pages in the preface, one illustration and one appendix. First of all there are eight pages of Valvasor’s dedication to the State of Carniola, written in April 1689 (in the year when the book was published), and there is his explanation of the beginning of the work. There is also the only existing portrait of Valvasor. The work is completed with the poetical dedication, common in those days. The poems indicate the author’s connections to the literary circles in southern Germany. Among eight poems there is one in Slovenian language, signed with his pen name, Jožef Sisentschelli. The introduction continues with the description of the context of each separate book written by Francisci and is concluded with the alphabetical list of the writers who appear in the Book (11 pages with about 1,300 pieces and the same number of the authors).

The first part of the monumental edition consists of Books I-IV and all together there are 752 pages, 54 pictures, 4 appendices and the stress is placed on scientific value.

Book I is signed by Francisci and is a short book; 96 pages are divided into 8 chapters, underpinned by 7 illustrations. It brings the discussion about the names of the peoples who in the ancient times lived in Carniola. The author establishes the source of the name Carniola and speculates without presenting a historical basis.

Book II has 200 pages. It is different by its contents and the value. It has 27 pictures, one large supplement and it is very different from the first book. It is a short topography (topography and geography) and it represents the exposition of the whole work. It really is the first book of this monumental work that presents the country. It is divided into 83 chapters, which bring a kind of statistical review of Carniola. The author tries to explain in a simple fashion the land and natural phenomena he observes. There is the map of Carniola and the first detailed illustration of “the kozolec” (hayrack).

Book III has 168 pages of scientific descriptions. In 38 chapters Valvasor and in parts Francisci describe mountains, rivers, lakes, the weather, the damage done by the weather (especially hail), illnesses, plants, animals and mines. There is a special chapter about herbs; the witch’s ointment was mentioned and this provoked a long Francisci’s remark. Superstition is a kind of red thread of this book where Valvasor moves away from various kinds of superstitions. There are also very important reports about coal, an inventory of dormice (polh) and about the experiments with certain antidotes. In addition, there are 12 pictures.

Book IV was planned before the publication of Schoenleben’s Carniola. It is of medium length; with 232 pages and in 53 chapters, and it deals with natural rarities of the country – fossils, stones, natural forts, walking or traversing snow-covered territory (the skiers of Bloke). The author gives great attention to the subterranean – the Kras (Karst). He gives high praise to Kras, especially the Predjama. Special attention is focused on the Lake Cerknica – there are 78 pages of the description and to supplement the book there is the only appendix in the book – a panoramic map of Lake Cerknica; and 7 illustrations.

The books from V to VIII are the second part of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, with 836 pages of text, two pages of the remarks and corrigenda, 40 pictures illustrating the text and one appendix.

Book V represents the beginning of the second part of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola. The author of the text is Erazem Francisci who in the 268 pages and in 16 chapters mostly discusses the most ancient peoples who inhabited Carniola till the arrival of the Franks. The first appendix offers a short description of former towns and settlements. The description is taken from the reports of the writers of the antiquity. Valvasor wrote the second appendix, with a description of inscriptions on stones and old coins. There are 13 pictures in the book.

Book VI has 102 pages with 12 pictures, mostly of national costumes. In 11 chapters Valvasor reports about the language, national costumes and traditions. There are very interesting notes about the two languages of Carniola, the Slavic and the German. German is the language of the upper class and the official gazettes. He calls the Slavic language “the language of our country”, spoken by country people and the uneducated. The book that was a century later praised by Anton Tomaž Linhart, 18th century Slovenian playwright, as the first attempt of literary history of Carniola, presents in the Appendix a chart of The Lord’s Prayer in Latin and in thirteen Slavic languages.

Book VII contains the history of religions on 120 pages. There are 17 chapters, and 8 images, the last one drawn by Valvasor. Religions are presented under the headings Paganism, Christianization, Protestantism, Counter-Reformation.

Generally there is much detail about the schism in Carniola in chapters 7 to 14, demonstrating the extent of Valvasor’s knowledge on this topic. Further on there is also a great deal about contemporary religious customs, superstitions, witchcraft and especially reports about people’s customs and traditions. From the perspective of national history, the book contributes a significant record of the installation of the Dukes of Carinthia.

Book VIII is the last one of the second part, and with 346 pages and 7 illustrations, one of the longer ones. It differs from the previous ones in that it is divided into sections, rather than chapters. Valvasor (Francisci helped him with the explanation about the schism) deals with the state councillors, patriarchs, bishops, monastic orders, history of the dioceses and the parishes in alphabetical order. As with the previous books Valvasor drew most of the information from early writers and from archival material (documents). The importance of the book is in that it gives statistical information from the Parish Registers (baptisms and deaths).

Books IX to XI are the third part of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola. They consist of altogether 1,128 pages and 2 pages of notes. This is the most important part of the work with the largest number of illustrations (370) and 9 long appendices.

Book IX – on 122 pages Valvasor writes about the administrative and constitutional organization of Carniola. The book also deals extensively with the noble families of Carniola. In twelve chapters there are descriptions of dignity, authority (inherited), service; two extensive chapters deal with the state governors and brotherhoods. A list of noble families is also provided. The section includes a register of the nobility’s coat-of-arms. There are 37 copper engravings and 62 coats-of-arms.  The author used primary sources for this section, referring to them in the text.

Book X is exclusively historical. It presents the political history of the dukes and state princes – the country rulers. On 274 pages (8 illustrations) and an appendix, there are 30 chapters that offer an overview of history from antiquity to the year 1689. The author of the book is Francisci who used classical historians for the earlier periods, and for more recent times he probably used as a basis the literature and writings provided by Valvasor.

Book XI is the most famous in the whole opus of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola. The book of castles, known also under this name, is the most extensive one. It has 730 divided numbered pages, 324 illustrations (that is 3/5 of all illustrations in The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola) and 13 copper engravings. Valvasor describes and illustrates towns, market towns, old and new castles, monasteries, in alphabetical order. At each and in order he deals with the German and Slovenian origin of its name, its location, history, other important information and interesting details. To compare with The Topography of the Contemporary Duchy of Carniola from which the author drew (most of the illustrations were published there and later just re-arranged for The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola), there are 26 new units added, so there are 337 descriptions altogether. The important castles, towns, monasteries and market towns are described in greater detail; the most extensive is the description of the capital city, Ljubljana. The book took the longest time to complete. Janez Vajkard Valvasor’s main sources were the archives and the field trips that he made.

The last part of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola (with the exception of Book XII which is added) is partly historical in content and is written as a chronicle. The last two books were for 200 years the main textbooks for Slovenian history. There are 814 pages, 5 appendices and 64 illustrations.

Book XII has 134 pages and 13 chapters and is a kind of topography of Croatia. The book describes the fortresses (Karlovac, Senj, Rijeka). In the book Valvasor praises the military abilities of Croatian people and the Uskok people. He has a high opinion about the people of Senj. Though a book itself is a logical continuation of Book XI, the manuscript was written earlier – already in 1686. Older writers and the archives are used as a source. There is one page, 3 larger appendices, and 18 pictures added to the book.

Book XIII was written by Francisci and it tells the story about the Argonauts, Jason, the foundation of Emona, the Illyrian-Japod wars with the Macedonian kings and about the wars with the Romans. There is a lot of writing in the book, which relates to the polemics with Schoenleben. Its 112 pages are divided into 6 chapters with 15 illustrations.

Book XIV is essentially a book of history. In 184 pages divided into 26 chapters, it covers the Roman period, migration of peoples and the time before the Austrian monarchy. The book deals with the same events, people and places as Book V, and also as in Book X about the state princes. Ten illustrations, related to historical themes supplement the text.

Book XV – the last book of the extensive opus is the chronicle of Carniola under Austrian rulers. There are 314 pages in 34 chapters, based on rich archival sources. It is decorated with a picture (Battle of Sisak) and 21 historical illustrations. At the end the editor included 2 unnumbered pages of remarks and corrections. According to the editor Valvasor gives us general information about Carniola and its borders, which can be gleaned from the written and printed reports. Recorded are events such as the beginning of the reign of the Habsburg family, everyday events (the tournaments of Gašper Lamberg), the myths (about the Water man/Povodni mož in Ljubljana that was later used by the poet France Prešeren) and battles with the Turks. The book represents an important source of Slovenian history of the period, marked particularly by Turkish incursions.