In Praise of Duchy of Carniola

The monumental ethnographic work on the land and its people

The book written in German language and published in 1989 under the title Die Ehre des Herzogtums Crain was the last published work by Janez Vajkard Valvasor (1641 – 1693), a native of Ljubljana, nobleman, commander in the Austrian army, historian and polymath.

Honoured and admired by his contemporaries, he received the great distinction of being made a member of the English Royal Society. In the following centuries Slovenian poets and writers used the book as a rich source for their own work. Today Valvasor’s book is recognized as an extraordinary work of scholarship and a unique contribution to the social history of Slovenian people and Slovenian lands.

It was an extraordinary and unique work in its own time, admired for its painstainking investigation, observation and vivid descriptions, as well as its scope. It is also destinguished for its engravings and copperplates. It is entirely due to Janez Vajkard Valvasor, that we know what cities and towns, castles and monasteries looked like in the 17th Century and how Slovenian people went about their daily lives.

Founded on archival materials which no longer exist, it also provides insight into an important historical period of Slovenian history: reformation and anti-reformation, Turkish incursions, peasant revolts. As importantly, he describes the life in cities, towns and villages. customs, beliefs and superstitions. Valvasor has produced much more than compilation of historical facts. He is interested in what people think and believe and so has given us a social history which is invaluable in giving insight into the 17th century Carniola and so the major part of what is now Slovenia.

In Praise of the Duchy of Carniola is a monumental work, comprised of 15 books, of 3532 A4 pages, bound into 4 parts; with 528 illustrations and 24 supplements. In it the author describes in detail, as he says,"after painstaking investigation, research and experience, "regions, valleys, fields, forests, mountains, flowing and standing waters, underground mountain lakes, particularly the miraculous Cerknica Lake, marvellous caves and many other unusual natural wonders, also plants, ores, mines, precious stones, old coins, animals, birds, fishes, etc., counties, great estates, castles, cities, towns, border fortresses, and their past and present owners and superiors, commanders, inhabitants, languages, customs, apparel, trades, occupations, religion, saints, patriarchs, bishops, religious orders, parishes, churches, monasteries, offices, courts, professions and families; also dukes, yearbooks, and old and new attractions.

Of particular value is the chapter on Ljubljana - the first complex history of the city. The other significant contribution is a detailed description of the functioning of the intermittent Cerknica Lake.

It is mainly due to his work In Praise of the Duchy of Carniola, that Valvasor has been called Slovenia’s Renaissance man (Lonely Planet Guide), our great polymath, a chronicler of his time, an exceptional humanist (Slovenian Magazine No1 1994). In his scientific method he was ahead of his time, in attitudes and judgements he did not see far beyond his environment and time. His greatest achievement is that he does not only see the great events, the castle and the church but he lovingly and with great interest describes the lives and customs of the common people. He is interested in everything that he sees. The past and the present, the natural wonders, the common and uncommon phenomena of life and nature, the beliefs, superstitions and archival records of events.
We find it surprising that he is interested in the origin of the Slavic peoples and he makes an valuable contribution in his investigation of the use of cyrillic and glagolitic script (old Slavic) in the 17th century, not only in Croatia and Serbia, but also in parts of Slovenian territory. His table of cyrillic and glagolitic script is an important record of the use and spread of the Slavic scripts.

Branko Reisp has this to say about the significance of Valvasor's unique contribution to the knowledge of Slovenia's past:
"Hardly any country of the time has been able produced such a work. With the description of Carniola, the central Slovenian region, Valvasor presented a comprehensive view of Slovenia and her neighbours in the second half of the 17th century, during the break between two historical periods, when religious battles finished and the Turkish danger was finally averted and life started to flow at an even pace with the promise of progress. So it was that the leading work of Slovenian historiography and a historical source was written, a rich treasury of information, an encyclopedia of Slovenia, not attempted for another 300 years."


Reisp, Branko, et al., Dvanajst velikih Slovencev, NUK, Ljubljana, 1994
Rupel, Mirko, ed. Valvasorjevo berilo, MK, Ljubljana, 1969