EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE TO THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE IN 1453: ONE OF ONLY 60 COPIES PRODUCED
(CONSTANTINOPLE) LEONARD OF CHIOS. LANGUS, Godefridus. De Capta a Mehemethe II Constantinopoli [Fall of Constantinople]. Paris: Didot le Jeune for Charles Stuart, 1823. Quarto, original full black embossed morocco, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $4200.
Very rare first edition of two important eyewitness accounts of the fall of Constantinople at the hands of Mehmed II in 1453, with engraved folding plan of the city—one of only 60 copies printed for Charles Stuart to distribute privately. Handsomely bound in full morocco in the ‘relievo’ style.
Leonard of Chios (d. 1482), a Catholic prelate and the Pope’s emissary to Emperor Constantine XI, became a witness to Mehmed II’s successful assault on Constantinople and the city’s fall to Muslim troops in 1453. He escaped the slaughter and returned to Chios, where he penned this account to the Pope; the letter was first published in 1544. Godefridus Langus was apparently also an eyewitness; his account first appeared in print in 1594. Manuscripts of these works were acquired by Britain’s ambassador to Paris, collector and amateur historian Charles Stuart, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779-1845). Stuart had the manuscripts transcribed by Jean-Baptiste L’Ecuy and published 60 copies of this work to be given away privately, not sold. The work has consequently always been very rare and desirable. Dibdin’s “Library Companion” mentions a “very beautiful, curious, and interesting quarto printed by Sir Charles… the only copies of this work I have seen in England are those in the libraries of the Duke of Bedford, Earl Spencer, and the Reverend Stephen Watson.” The binding of embossed ‘relievo’ morocco is quite possibly by the trade binders Remnant & Edmonds, who were the leading producers of this kind of elaborately embossed binding. Their process to make leather appear to be intricately carved wood was found so ingenious and convincing that the firm was awarded a medal for binding at the 1851 Great Exhibition. Atabey 705. Blackmer 1909. Brunet III, 984. Engraved armorial bookplate of Michael Tomkinson, Franche Hall, Worcestershire; catalogue excerpt tipped to rear flyleaf indicates that this copy was lot 1257 in the Tomkinson sale at Sotheby’s on July 3, 1922.
Light foxing to text. Handsome ‘relievo’ binding very nearly fine. Quite scarce.