The website Valvasor.org serves to provide information in the English language about the life and work of the 17th century European nobleman and polymath Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor (1641-1694) and about his great collection – Iconotheca Valvasoriana, published for the first time as a facsimile edition in 2008.
Baron Johann Weichard von Valvasor (in Slovenian: Janes Vajkard Valvasor) was an Austrian/Slovenian nobleman, native of the Duchy of Carniola, today the central part of the Republic of Slovenia. The territory of the Duchy of Carniola had been a part of the Holy Roman Empire, then a province of the Hapsburg Empire (1364 to 1918), after that a constituent part of Yugoslavia (1918 to 1991) and today the Republic of Slovenia.
Valvasor was born in Ljubljana into a wealthy noble family. He was a polymath: scholar, scientist, traveller, soldier, historian, cartographer, historiographer, ethnographer, and publisher. He travelled widely in Europe and Africa, recording and studying, and distinguished himself as a commander of Carniolan regiments during the Osman- Hapsburg wars in 1685. In 1678, for his scientific study of the intermittent Lake Cerknica, one of the hydrological phenomena of the Kras region in Slovenia, Valvasor was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific organization in the world.
For its historiography – as a historical source and a chronicle of the times – it was unprecedented in Europe. It is the first comprehensive study of the Duchy of Carniola, then a province of Austria. The Duchy had an area of 9,990 km² and population of 510,000. Due to Valvasor, we know what cities and towns, castles and monasteries looked like in the 17th century and learn about how the people of the region went about their daily lives and customs. It is an invaluable treasury of information and research of a specific area in Central Europe.
The monumental work of 3,532 pages and 528 images is divided into 15 books in four parts. It is written in German, then the official language of the Austrian Empire, and is distinguished for its engravings and copperplates. The work is also unique for the way it was set up as a scholarly, printing, artistic and publishing enterprise, and as the first printing workshop in Carniola. Valvasor established his copper-engraving and printing workshop at his Castle Bogenšperk in Lower Carniola (Dolenjska region), 40 km east of Ljubljana, with a group of collaborators – copper engravers, sketching artists, writers and printers. Today Castle Bogenšperk is open to the public as a museum. Valvasor’s workroom and equipment is displayed and his printing workshop, where visitors are shown the execution of printing and paper-making demonstrations, has been recreated.
Published at Nürnberg in Germany, the work was aimed at the German-speaking countries of central Europe, then numbering a population of over 10 million. In its original German, it has been used as a historical source in teaching Slovenian history for two hundred years. Several editions of selected texts and images from The Glory of the Duchy of Crain, have been translated and published in Slovenian. The entire work Slava Vojvodine Kranjske is now in the process of being published in Slovenian language in five volumes, by the Dežela Kranjska Institute, appearing annually from 2009 to 2013. An English translation is anticipated in due course.
Iconotheca Valvasoriana is the personal collection of prints and drawings purchased by Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor during 14 years of travel throughout Europe (1659 – 1672). It is comprised of 17 volumes in folio format, bound in leather; including 7,752 prints and drawings by Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacques Callot and German, Austrian, Dutch, Flemish, French, Italian, English and Carynthian masters of 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The collection has been preserved in the format arranged by Valvasor: by theme, technique and nationality of the authors.
Now in the Metropolitan Library of Zagreb, the original Collection is part of the Croatian State Archives. It is held in the Department of Prints and Drawings of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts as the major collection of old graphic and drawings in Croatia. It contains works of all the significant graphic artists of Europe of the period. Bishop Aleksandar Mikulić purchased the collection in 1691, together with Valvasor’s library of 1520 books for the Archiepiscopal Library of Zagreb.
The first facsimile edition of the original collection was published in 2008 by the Janez Vajkard Valvasor Foundation of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana. It was initiated in 2000 by the co-founder, chief editor and project leader Dr. Lojze Gostiša. The facsimile edition is a printing masterpiece and the most challenging printing project ever undertaken in Slovenia. It had taken ten years to complete. Each artistic work is accompanied by critical commentary in three languages: Slovenian, English and Croatian.
The Collection was printed as a critical edition of one hundred numbered copies. The first numbered copy of the edition was presented to the Valvasor Museum in Castle Bogenšperk. Editions have been gifted to institutions around the world. Among them are: the Metropolitan Library in Zagreb, the Royal Society of London, European Commission in Brussels, and the National Library of China in Beijing. It is now on display at the World Exhibition Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne is the next great library to receive the gift of Iconotheca Valvasoriana on 27 September 2010. The program is to include: the display of the facsimile collection of 17 volumes, and a multimedia presentation on Valvasor and his work, as well as the Launch of the website Valvasor.org. Screenings of the multimedia presentation will be shown daily to the general public in the Library during the following weeks in October.
The donor of the Collection is the Book Agency of the Republic of Slovenia. The event is the project of the Institute for Slovenian Studies of Victoria Inc. The website and the multimedia presentation was developed by Neuropolis Institute in Ljubljana
The website, the multimedia presentation and the event are sponsored by the Government Office for Slovenes Abroad of the Republic of Slovenia.