Folio (12 x 8 inches). Engraved allegorical title-page, double-page engraved maps of "Svevia" (Bavaria) and Wirtenberg, 40 (of 41, without plate 31 of Leipheim) double-page engraved plates of birds-eye views, and 15 full-page plates of views (early leaves loose). Contemporary full vellum over paste-board, yapp fore-edges, the title in manuscript on the spine (upper joint split but holding, inner hinge broken, lacking ties).
Provenance: near contemporary bookplate removed from the front paste-down; later engraved book label with the monogramme J.M.S. on the front paste-down.
First edition. A comprehensive and beautifully illustrated description of Swabia (German Schwaben, Latin Suevia), from Merian and Zeiller's "Topographiae Germaniae" series (16 volumes 1641-1654). With its capital at Augsburg, Swebia was "a medieval duchy in the lands now forming southwestern Germany. Its territories covered the area now occupied by Baden-Württemberg (including the Black Forest) and parts of western Bavaria (to the Lech River) and northern Switzerland. It owes its importance to its strategic position between the upper reaches of two of Europe's most important rivers, the Danube and the Rhine...In 1376, 14 cities, for their own protection, organized themselves into the Swabian League of Cities. The League grew to eventually include over 32 cities from Basle in the west to Regensburg in the east, from Constance in the south to Nürnberg (Nuremberg) in the North. In 1488, a new grouping, now simply styled "Swabian League" was formed by these cities, the larger principalities and even individual knights, for the purpose of maintaining internal stability. When in the 16th century, the Holy Roman Empire began to organize around the Kreis, literally, "circle", these states called themselves the Swabian Kreis" (Harald Pleiner online). Nowadays Swabia is understood to be the area around Württemberg, south of the Danube, inclduing Lake Constance, or Bodensee, and the Rhine, called Oberschwaben, and the region between Iller and Lech, called Bavarian Swabia.
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