Les Costumes du peuple polonais


Les Costumes du peuple polonais
suivis d’une description exacte de ses moeurs de ses usages et de ses habitudes. Ouvrage pittoresque.
G. Silbermann for Librairie Polonaise, Paris and Strasbourg, and Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1841.

In stock

Les Costumes du peuple polonais


In original publisher’s boards: the first edition of one of the very few books on Polish costume, chronologically the third such book listed by Colas.

“Rare” (Solovev).

Compiled by the Polish political activist and literary critic Zienkowicz (1808-70), who fled to France during the Great Emigration, the work bears a strong political statement. Dedicated “Aux amis de la cause polonaise”, it begins with a lyric introduction defending the national character of Poland, “this nation [which] no longer exists but in the regrets or hopes of the people”. Zienkowicz denounces in particular the “cruel and ridiculous” Russian decree, which forbade the use of national costumes. His work further covers the history of Polish peoples and regional characteristics, but also analyses wider aspects: a whole chapter is dedicated to Polish music, another explains the social structure of the country and the book ends with the description of the Polish army.

Zienkowicz’s text is accompanied by magnificent plates lithographed by John Nepomuk Lewicki (1795-1871) – an outstanding engraver, lithographer, draftsman and a leading Polish painter working in exile. The illustrations are highly finished, showing Polish peoples in the region-specific costumes set against attractive backgrounds. The work includes also sections on Ukraine and Lithuania.

After the Third Partition of Poland (1795) the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was divided among Prussia, the Austrian Empire, and the Russian Empire, which effectively ended the Polish-Lithuanian national sovereignty until 1918. Russia’s attempts to further suppress the country’s political and cultural freedoms led to an armed rebellion in 1830–31, known as the November Uprising, in which Zienkowicz himself took part. The defeat of the uprising in autumn 1831 led to a mass emigration of the intelligentsia that became known as the Great Emigration.


4to (29.5 x 23 cm). [viii] including half-title and title, 125, [ii] pp., with [2] ll. of music and 39 hand-coloured lithographed plates heightened with gum arabic by Simon after J. Lewicki and A. Wittmann, plate captions in Polish, French, German and English, tissue guards; some spotting, occasionally heavier. Publisher’s green printed boards, brown cloth spine; some spotting and soiling, a bit rubbed, especially at edges.


Colas 3115; Lipperheide 1391 and K63; Solovev Kat.105, 158a (70 rub.).


Stock ID: 89749