The Exhibit.

Bruce Peel's current exhibit, Legacy of Empire, marks the 10th anniversary of the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies. Its Director, Franz A.J. Szabo, has drawn on the unique and valuable collections which make the University Libraries one of North America's top 5 in this area.

The exhibit begins with two early maps of Hungary in Case 1, but I didn't get that far. Walking into the side room with the catalogue in my hand, I was drawn toward the nearer Case 3 and the enormous cartouche mounted across the back. Slack-jawed and staring, I finally let out a breath and picked the catalogue back up.

The cartouche is from Regna Galiciae, et Lodomeriae,... [The Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria]. Jesuit astronomer Joseph Liesganig began the survey, which was completed by Joseph Marx von Lichtenstern, a military surveyor. There are no dimensions given for the 49 sheets which make up Regna Galiciae..., but the entire map must be seven or ten feet wide. The cartouche includes personifications of Galician rivers, scenes from local life, and local produce. At the top right a surveyor is at work. At the left of the map, three other plates are displayed, while the remainder are in the slipcase behind. The three plates include the area around Sambir [Sambor], a key map to the set, and a legend. Judging from piano-key border, the key map is the top left corner of the set.

What surprised me about the cartouche is the complete absence of any military symbolism. Galicia and Lodomeria were acquired by Austria following the First Partition of Poland (1772). You would think that a major, early map of this new territory would praise the royal victory. However, Szabo writes in a later entry that, "the first partition of Poland was initiated by Russia and Prussia, and Austria only reluctantly participated in it to maintain the balance of power ..." (31) Perhaps this 'reluctance' led to a more subdued, idyllic illustration. Eventually, I staggered away from the monster in Case 3 and tried to start again.

Case 1 holds two early maps of Hungary: Hungariae, from the Ortelius atlas, and, Regni Hungariae, by Samuel Krieger. Both of these are from the recent donation of important Hungarian maps made to the William C. Wonders Map Collection by J. Eugene Horvarth.

The remainder of the items in the case are from the Salzburg Collection and highlight the diversity of its volumes. Among the law books on the upper shelf is a 1488 edition of, On Part One of the "Infortiati"... (Milan), the oldest work in the collection. The lower shelf shows a range of bindings, from the thickest volume (cardboard covers) to one of the smallest (vellum). Several seventeenth-century volumes bear covers made from medieval vellum manuscripts. The cover of the second item, published in 1560, was made from a page hand-written over four hundred years earlier! The three on the far right have been "bound in a bifolum [?] from the 'Sanctortale' section of a medieval breviary dating from the twelfth or thirteenth centuries." (21)

By this point I think I was already reaching sensory overload and I kind of glazed over the second case. This holds three maps, as well as the town plan on the upper shelf. (The third is on the left side of the case.) The three maps show various districts known as the Circles of Bohemia. "Originally controlled by the nobility, Circle administration became the principal instrument of the central government at the local level under Empress Maria Theresia (1740 - 1780)." (22) The town plan is part of a broadsheet - a leaflet or early type of newspaper - again, from the Horvath Collection. The Hapsburg "recapture" of Raab [Gyor] from the Ottomans (1598) is the subject of this piece of state propaganda.

The books focus on "Historical Documents of the Baroque Era." The revolt of Bohemia's Protestant nobles against Emperor Ferdinand II in 1619 was the first salvo of the Thirty Years' War. In Articles Adopted by the Estates of Bohemia (Prague, 1619), they defend their repudiation and replacement of Ferdinand. Eleven years later, with Ferdinand II appearing victorious over the rebels and their allies, Michael Caspar Lundorp wrote the first history of The Bohemian - German War..., praising the Emperor. Lundorp never lived long enough to see the war widen to include France, Sweden, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Catholic Italians enter the fray. Ferdinand III signed treaties with Sweden, France, and the German states in 1648, in a series of treaties known collectively as the Peace of Westphalia. Published copies of three treaties are included here, along with three folio volumes of Codicus austraici (1777).

Back at Case 3,... Geez, would you just look at that map.

Below the map (centre) is the first published biography of Maria Theresia, the 24 year-old Queen fighting for her survival in the War of the Spanish Succession. Two propaganda pamphlets are at right - one justifying the Austrian role in the partition of Poland, the other explaining her position in the Seven Years' War. On the two lower shelves are the official legal collections edited by Joseph Kropaschek. Under the enlightened absolutism of Joseph II and his successors, Kropaschek compiled the laws and decrees of Maria Theresia (8 vols.), Joseph II (18 vols.), Leopold II (not incl.), and Francis II (15 vols.). The neo-classical title pages of several volumes are displayed. Finally, a state manual on torture is in the right corner. The catalogue explains that while these practices were sanctioned by the legal reforms of Maria Theresia (1750s & 60s), "on January 2, 1776 the use of torture was abolished in the Hapsburg Monarchy." (39) Constitutio criminalis Theresiana, with its detailed procedural diagrams, was published in 1769.

The Perspective Map of Lower Austria, around the corner in Case 4, is almost as impressive as the cartouche in the other room. The detail of these hiking maps is incredible: at a scale of 1:31,000 (one inch = 1/2 mile), shown in a bird's-eye perspective, give the impression of a black and white Google Earth. I can imagine nineteenth-century Austrians searching it to see if they can find their house. The 69-sheet, linen-backed map (3 vols.), with a pamphlet guide for each (Vol. 4), was the "creation of Franz Xaver Schweickhardt von Sickingen (1794 - 1858)" from survey work done during the 1820s. My pictures don't do justice to the finely detailed engraving. Regions around Vienna, Pressburg [=Pozsony/Bratislava], Klosterneuburg, Modling, and Baden are displayed.

The lower shelves hold several collections of political pamphlets, legal and diplomatic references, and historical journals, largely drawn from the Leseverin Collection. Szabo notes that the political reforms and decreased censorship of Joseph II, "unleashed a flood of relatively cheap pamphlets and brochures on political, social and confessional issues..." (43). He also points out that by 1815 and the Congress of Vienna, "the political climate had turned thoroughly conservative" after years of war with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

The final three cases of the exhibit reflect the modern history of Austria-Hungary, beginning with two detailed city maps of Vienna. The catalogue mentions that "the numbering of houses was ordered by Joseph II in the course of his introduction of military conscription..." (46) Once again, the mind reels at a parenthetical comment. This is completely in keeping with everything Andry taught me in Peasant Studies: the State can't draft / tax / regulate the population if it can't find them. I wonder if there was a period of resistance when people tore the numbers off. And I chuckle again at the episode of Trailer Park Boys where Ricky and Julian change the street numbers to save their grow-op from an impending raid. Szabo's point is reinforced by the maps, one of which even gives the name and profession of each home's occupants. Case 5 holds an "extremely rare" luxury (Crown Prince) edition of the 24 volume, Die Osterreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild. [The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in Word and Image.] (Vienna: 1886 - 1902) Covering all facets of life in the Empire, the "project was originally inspired by the Crown Prince, Archduke Rudolf", and includes "over 4,500 illustrations, created by 264 different artists from all parts of the Monarchy." (50 - 51) The final case holds examples of the journal of the art nouveau and impressionist Association of Visual Artists of Austria - Secession. Ver Sacrum, was published bi-weekly, then monthly, by Gustav Klimt, Alfred Roller, Kolo Moser, and others between 1898 and 1903. The tipped-in colour plates and marriage of design to text make this "one of the finest examples of a fin-de-siecle European art magazine." (54)

The Tangent.
Since I saw the Dangerous Voyage exhibit last July, I've been thinking about the text (and sub-text) of museum and library shows, something I've rarely thought about before. I start at the beginning and progress, almost always chronologically, through a subject which I rarely have any expertise in. At Dangerous Voyage I realized early on that I really didn't know what I was looking at, despite a better-than-average knowledge of books. What were they saying? What were they trying to tell me? I had the same feeling a few weeks later at the Body Worlds exhibit. Gawking at all those bodies and body parts, healthy and otherwise, I wondered, "Yeah. But what's your point?" An attendant detailed some of the cultural and religious accommodations the show has had to make in other countries, but no one could give me 'a narrative'.

I had a glimpse of the narrative at Sentosa Park in Singapore when I saw an elderly Japanese tourist glaring at an eight-foot photo reproduction of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. The photo was part of the exhibit on Singapore's history. I had just been through it and thought it was OK, but this guy was pissed off. I thought about that guy for a long time and still do. Was it a matter of culture? Most of the tourists at Sentosa are Japanese, so I can appreciate the text wasn't written for me, but how was it written for them? The text, as far as I could tell when I went back in to check, was that the Japanese had invaded the mainland at Kota Baru, moved down the peninsula, sunk a couple of British battleships, and captured Singapore. Then, a few years later, the Americans dropped The Bomb on Japan and the war was over. Here was text and sub-text. Just as the pregnant woman was kept in a separate room at Body Works, Sentosa had skipped over the period of Japanese occupation. I guess everyone has to pay the bills.

If, then, I were to take a stab at the text of "Legacy of Empire", I'd say that it was an exhibit of the Austro-Hungarians as a unifying, even civilizing, force in Central Europe. My knowledge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is pretty much limited to its role in the origin of the Great War, its conservative resistance to Balkan nationalism. The exhibit ends just prior to the Balkan Wars and makes little mention of the Revolutions of 1848. "Austrian enlightened absolutism transformed and modernized the province of Galicia,"(32) Szabo writes, but I wonder how the Galicians felt about it. Probably influenced by the Balkan Wars of the 90s, all the legal codes and ethnographic studies left me with another view. "Legacy of Empire" has me thinking about what remains after everything falls apart.

Legacy of Empire runs until (mid?) December, 2008 at the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library. Support my local library, s.v.p.


All quotes and page numbers (and most of the rest of the info in this entry) are from:
Szabo, Franz A. J. Legacy of Empire: Treasures of the University of Alberta's Central European Library Collection. (Edmonton: U. of Alberta P., 2008) Soft cover. 8 x 10 1/2" 60p. 35+ colour illus. + colour folding map on inner front cover. ISBN 978-1-55195-235-2

$25 Available through jeannine.green@ualberta.ca