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Book of the week: Viennae avstraiae vrbis nobilissime a sultano

title-page including post-contemporary inscription and penned number, perhaps a shelf mark

An Account of the siege of the noblest Austrian city of Vienna by Sultan Suleyman, the grandest Turkish tyrant, with an immeasurable army.

With courtesy and allowance of the mightiest Kaiser Carolus & his brother the illustrious King Ferdinand of Hungary and also Bohemia.

Viennae avstraiae vrbis nobilissime a sultano…
August[a]e Vindelicorum [Augsburg]: Siuanus Ottmar excussit, Anno M.D. XXX, Pridie Isus Augusti [14 August 1530] Sole edition

This is an anonymous firsthand account of the Ottoman siege of Vienna from 27 September to 14 October 1529. Commanding 90,000 troops and 400 ships, 34 year-old Sultan Suleiman I (“the Magnificent”) (1494-1566) sealed off the city, bombarded it daily and sapped its fortifications. Bad weather had slowed Suleiman’s army, enabling the arrival of 8,000 Germans and Spaniards who came to the aid of 12,000 Austrian civilians, peasants, and farmers only days before the initial Turkish advance on the aging walls of Vienna. Even so, the Turks outnumbered the defenders, who had only seventy-two cannon. The fortifications at Vienna were inadequate to resist bombardment. The majority of the defenders, experienced veterans of war, built earthworks, reinforcing the old walls. They burnt the buildings outside the walls so that they could not be used by the Turks as cover. For their part, the Turks set small villages on fire, signaling to the Viennese a dreadful approach. Church bells tolled a constant, ominous alarm. Turkish horsemen arrived on September 23, with Austrian heads raised on their pikes. On September 27, Suleiman joined the main body of his army, pitching his tent at a nearby village as his troops began surrounding the city. But an unusually early heavy snow had forced Suleiman to abandon nearly all of his heavy guns during the long march that had begun in May and lack of provisions forced retreat, ending, on October 13th, the first attempt by the Ottoman Empire to enter Austria.

A list of names of the Austrian and German leaders is at the end of this account. The work is attributed variously to Peter Stern Von Labach (fl. 1529-1530), an Austrian Secretary of War, and Paul Pesel, who wrote a report on the Ottoman siege of Vienna published in another work.

one of several spreads listing names of German and Spanish soldiers

The failure of the Turks to gain Vienna made news throughout Europe, described in fliers, leaflets, and pamphlets such as this. Silvan Otmar died ten years after he printed this work. Rare Books copy contains scattered marginalia and is bound in 19th century blue paper wrappers.

final page with errata, colophon

— With thanks to Ryan Cooper, Rare Books Assistant, for the translation of the title page. — LP

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