Home » Product » Nova Descriptio Totius Regni Polonici Nec Non Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae cum suis Palatinatibus Castellaniis ac Confinis

Nova Descriptio Totius Regni Polonici Nec Non Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae cum suis Palatinatibus Castellaniis ac Confinis

  • Author: Augustinus Gudicanus
  • Publisher: Johann Antonius Kinckius
  • Date: 1658
  • Dimensions: 32.8 x 30.5 cms


Exceedingly scarce mid 17th Century map of Poland depicted in symbolic zoomorphic national form as a resplendent crowned eagle

About this piece:

Nova Descriptio Totius Regni Polonici Nec Non Magni Ducatus Lithuaniae cum suis Palatinatibus Castellaniis ac Confinis

Copper-engraved map. Traces of old folds, now flattened and lightly strengthened with archival tissue on verso. Narrow margins, expertly extended to sides and bottom for better presentation. Barely visible tiny pinhole at old fold juncture upper left. Faint traces of textual offset to map verso, from where originally folded into book, without any show-through to recto image. Fine modern hand colour.

A striking and exceedingly scarce zoomorphic map, originally a folding plate bound in to Borusssian author Augustinus Gudicanus’ mid 17th Century description of Poland, Polonia, sive nova regni Poloniae, in Aquila, ejusdem regni insigni, descriptio et chorographia, published by Johann Antonius Kinckius in Cologne in 1658.

The totemic symbolic association between the form of the white eagle and the independent nation state of Poland dates back to the earliest origins of Polish history. It is said that it originates over a millenium ago, when three legendary brothers, Lech, Czech & Rus, leaders of migrating Slavic tribes, were moving across Central Europe in search of lands where they might establish permanent settlements. Legend reports that Czech became the founding father of the Czech state & nation, that brother Rus moved further East and became leader of the Ruthenian Cossacks, whilst  the third brother Lech travelled further to the north, until, at the head of his tribe, he reached the edge of a great forest. A giant white bird circled overhead and eventually landed on a nest in a nearby oak tree. Taking the bird’s presence as a good omen, Lech declared that the spot would become their tribal capital and be named Gneizo (the old Polish word for nest) and that the white eagle would be their symbol. The town of Gneizo, some 30 miles from Poznan, is generally credited as being the first capital of Poland in this early Slavic period.

The formal association between the white eagle and the Polish monarchy emerges in the 10th Century with the foundation of the Piast dynasty under Bolesław Chrobry in 1025. A powerful symbol of unification, it became recognized not only as the king’s royal symbol but as the official coat of arms of a reunified Poland at the coronation of King Przemysł II at Gneizo in 1295, in the process acquiring a golden crown, golden beak and golden claws, set against a red coloured backdrop, a design scheme and colour palette that continues through to the coat of arms of present-day Poland. In 1386 Władysław Jagiełło, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, accepted Christianity with his people, married Jadwiga, the Queen of Poland, and was crowned King of Poland, thereby amalgamating the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with those of Poland. The White eagle again provided an important symbolic element of this union and a wonderfully scuplted example adorns Jagiello’s tomb in Wavel Cathedral. Although the crown was periodically removed, these basic symbolic elements of the Polish coat of arms have remained relatively unchanged through the ensuing centuries. At times of national crisis, during the Independence struggles of the 19th Century and particular during the World wars of the 20th Century, the white eagle has been repeatedly suppressed by occupiers and invaders but has survived untrammelled as an enduring and powerfully totemic symbol of Polish national unity, resistance and independence.

Published in 1658 in Gudicanus’ description of Poland, it is perhaps no coincidence that such a symbolic image should have been produced at this precise time. Throughout the 1650’s the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (as the monarchy of Poland was known at this time) was in a state of national collapse and ongoing crisis known as “The Deluge” (popop). For much of the decade Poland and Lithuania were at war with eastern neighbour Russia and also endured the rapacious occupation of the Swedish armies of its northern enemy, King Charles X, cousin of the last of the Polish Vasa kings, John II Casimir. John II Casimir failed woefully in underpinning his status as  king by losing the loyalty & support of many of his own native nobility and provincial administrators.

It seems plausible that Gudicanus’s book and map appeared at around the time of the important Treaty of Hadiach in September 1658, by which the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth sought a long-term union and alliance with Ukranian Cossacks in the south. By the terms of the Treaty a Duchy of Ruthenia would be created and its territories amalgamated with the lands of the Kingdom of Poland and Duchy of Lithuania under one Parliament (sejm) and one King, creating one single Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian Commonwealth and Kingdom. Though there is no reference to the new Ruthenian Duchy, the regions of Ukraina and Kosacki  clearly fall under the open wings (literally) of Gudicanus’ Polish Eagle. In the following years, whilst the implementation of the Treaty was ratified by the Polish sejm in May 1659, the Treaty was never fully endorsed by the Cossacks themselves (for whom Muscovy and Russia were the more natural political ally) and its terms were never fully implemented, eventually being overtaken by events on the ground, culminating in the Treaty of Andrusovo [1668]. The latter finally brought hostilities between Russia and Poland-Lithuania to an end, dismantling any  residual elements of the Treaty of Haidach and restoring the Cossacks to a predominantly Russian sphere of influence.

Examples of Gudicanus book and map appear to be exceedingly scarce. Though recorded in numerous institutional collections, we have been able to locate only two examples of this map (one with the accompanying book) being offered for sale at auction or through the trade in the last ten years.

References: Niewodniczanski, Imago Poloniae I, H1/6, p.40 & Ill. p.41