MERIAN, Matthaeus (1593-1650) and Martin ZEILER (1589-1661). Topographia Bavariae, das ist Beschreib. und Aigentliche Abildung der Vornembsten Stätt vnd Orth in Ober- und Nieder-Beyern, Der Obern Pfaltz, und Andern, zum Hochlöblichen Bayrischen Craiße gehörigen Landschafften. Frankfurt: Matthias Merian, 1644.
Folio (12 x 8 4/8 inches). Engraved title-page, 2 double-page engraved maps of Bavaria and Bohemia, 31 double-page engraved plates of views and plans, 12 full-page plates of views and plans (apparently lacking 4 plates of views), one vignette, extra-illustrated with 4 plates of views in Salzburg. Modern vellum backed 16th-century red and black letterpress paper boards, vellum corners.
First edition. A comprehensive and beautifully illustrated description of the Rhenish Palatinate from Merian and Zeiller's "Topographiae Germaniae" series (16 volumes 1641-1654).
Published as the reign of Maximilian I (1573-1651), Duke of Bavaria, 1598-1622, Elector of Bavaria and Lord High Steward of the Holy Roman Empire, 1623-1651, was drawing to a close, a reign dominated by the Thirty Years' War during which Bavaria suffered terribly, and which broke out in 1619. No other "German prince of that time possessed an army so well organized and equipped. Its commander was the veteran soldier from the Netherlands Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, who, austere himself, knew how to maintain discipline among his troops. The fortifications at Ingolstadt on the Danube were greatly strengthened, and Munich and other towns were surrounded by walls and moats. Well-filled arsenals were established in different places as preparation for time of need... The youthful Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, defeated Tilly, the veteran leader of the army of the League at Breitenfeld (1631), and in a battle with Gustavus Adolphus near the Lech, 16 April, 1632, Tilly was again vanquished, receiving a wound from which he died two weeks later at Ingolstadt. Although the siege of this city by the Swedes was unsuccessful, Gustavus plundered the Bavarian towns and villages, laid waste the country and pillaged Munich... After the death of Gustavus Adolphus at the battle of Lützen (1632) Bernhard of Weimar, unmolested by Wallenstein, ravaged Bavaria until he received a crushing defeat the battle of Nordlingen (6 Sept., 1634). Even in the last ten years of the war the country was not spared from hostile attacks. Consequently Maximilian sought by means of a truce with the enemy (1647) to gain for Bavaria an opportunity to recover. The desired result, however, not being attained, he united his forces to those of the imperial army, but the allied troops were not sufficient to overthrow the confederated French and Swedes, and once more suffered all the terrors of a pitiless invasion. The fighting ended with the capture of the Swedish generals, 6 Oct., 1648, and the Peace of Westphalia was signed at Munster, 24 Oct. of the same year. The material benefits derived by Maximilian from his attitude in politics were meagre: the Electoral dignity, the office of Lord High Steward, and the Upper Palatinate. The abstract gains, on the other hand, appear far greater. Not only since then has Bavaria had the second place among the Catholic principalities of Germany, ranking next to Austria, but for centuries a strong bulwark was opposed to the advance of Protestantism, and the latter was, at times, even driven back" (Catholic Encyclopedia).
Born in Basel, Switzerland and a pupil of Jacob van der Heyden, Merian joined the Frankfurt publishing house of Johann Theodor de Bry in 1616 and, the following year, married de Bry's daughter Maria Magdalena. He became one of the most prominent members of the publishing family, known throughout Europe for his engravings of cityscapes and landscapes, his scientific books, and achieved his greatest acclaim as head of the family publishing house following the death of his father-in-law in 1623. He rapidly and almost single-handedly built up the house to become one of the most important in Europe, etching most of the plates himself until about 1645, when he increasingly relied upon the help of a growing staff of assistants and pupils among them Wenceslaus Hollar, Rudolf and Conrad Meyer of Zurich, and his sons-in-law Christoph Le Blon and Melchior Kusel. After his death in 1650, Mathaeus' sons, Mathaeus and Caspar continued his monumental "Topographia" series of Europe. Catalogued by Kate Hunter