Valvasor Research at Present – Some Open Questions

Written by Branko Reisp, 1989


The first short biography on Valvasor, written by J.G. Dolničar (Thalnitscher) in 1715, appeared in a bibliography of Carniolan writers, Ectypon bibiothecae publicae Labacensis, whereas the first article was published in the Viennese journal Archiv fur Geographie, Historie, Staats- und Kriegskunst in 1815. In the 1860s P. Radics commenced his research on Valvasor, which later became his primary concern. The result of this endeavour was a monograph entitled Johann Weikhard Freiherr von Valvasor (geb. 1641, gest. 1693), published in 1910. At the same time A. Kaspret was also involved in a study of Valvasor’s work. His treatise “Valvasor als Historiker”, which appeared in Mitteilungen des Musealvereines fur Krain in 1890 is one of more important works in this field. The emergence of a new research generation was marked by I. Merhar’s work Valvasor als Ethnograph, which was issued as a summary of his study in 1910. A more decisive break with predecessors was made by F. Stele. His studies, “Valvasorjev krog in njegovo grafično delo” (Valvasor’s Circle and his Graphic Work) and “Valvasorjeva Ljubljana” (Valvasor’s Ljubljana), which were published in Glasnik Muzejskega društva za Slovenijo (The Gazette of the Slovene Museum Society) in 1928, are considered basic works on this activity of Valvasor, which was hardly known until then. By that time, new editions of two Valvasor’s works had appeared as well: Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Krain in 1877-1879, and Das Erz- Hertzogthum Kärndten in 1882, both issued by J. Krajec at Novo mesto. Topographia Archiducatus Carynthiae antiquae et modernae completa was reissued in a facsimile edition in 1928.

In recent decades, introductions to translations into Slovene and to facsimile editions of Valvasor’s writings have been written by M. Rupel. E. Cevc, and B. Reisp for the following works: Valvasorjevo berilo (Valvasor’s Reader), translated by M. Rupel; Prizorišče človeške smrti v treh delih (Theatrum mortis humanae tripartitum), translated by J. Mlinarič; facsimile editions of Dominicae passionis icones, Topographia Ducatus Carnioliae modernae, Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Crain, and Topographia Archiducatus Carintiae antiquae et modernae completa.

These editions testify to the great interest in Valvasor’s work among the wider public, whereas both the scope and results of research work had done little justice to it. Thus, there appeared a scientific and a broader, cultural need for a modern monographic study. This need was answered by B. Reisp, whose monograph Kranjski polihistor Janez Vajkard Valvasor (The Carniolan Polymath Johann Weichard Valvasor) appeared in 1983. In 1984, a facsimile edition of Ovidii Metamorphoseos icones, published by Valvasor at Bogensperk in 1680, was reissued. Introductions were contributed by B. Reisp, K. Gantar and E. Cevc. In 1987 another significant work, prepared by B. Reisp and P. Simoniti, appeared under the title Korespondenca Jsneza Vajkarda Valvasorja z Royal Society (The Correspondence of Johann Weishard Valvasor with the Royal Society).

It seems that research work will continue to be twofold in the future as well, that is, it will include both completion of data on the life and work of J. W. Valvasor (and also on other members of the Valvasor family), as well as the cultural-historical evaluation of his personality on the one hand, and, on the other, more extensive research work evaluating the content of the individual fields of his works in all their diversity. Existing archive sources make study of the former topics possible, whereas lack of such sources imposes limits on efforts which could cast light on still unsolved and less examined individual questions, some of which are indicated.

In addition to research on formal data and the cultural-historical examination of Valvasor’s personality, there are wide and diverse possibilities concerning content analysis of his work. Editions with a topographic, historical or art focus provide opportunities for more profound insights into his interests and inclinations. Because his works from the field of natural sciences have not been preserved. Valvasor as naturalist and technician is hardly known. If this aspect of his work has been preserved, he would certainly be considered even more unique and of even greater European significance. Our present knowledge of him, however, makes the message of his work quite clear for both the present and the future. He strove to learn about his homeland, maintaining a deep respect for tradition and wanting, at the same time, to forge links with the world; he valued knowledge and work, advocated harmonious coexistence among people, and was well aware of the interdependence between man and nature.