Connected Central European Worlds, 1500-1700

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Illustrating the Theory and Practice of History: The Epitome Frontispiece of Bohuslav Balbín

Anna-Marie Pípalová, University of Cambridge

This paper will examine the ways in which the Bohemian scholar Bohuslav Balbín (1621-1688) visually depicted his theory of history in the frontispiece to his work Epitome rerum Bohemicarum. Although Balbín never wrote a full treatise on historical theory and methodology, he articulated his (changing) views on the matter at several points in his career both textually and through frontispieces. Focusing on the Epitome frontispiece, which depicted the difficult travails of historical writing, this talk will examine the iconography which Balbín used to depict his historiographical theory as well as its intellectual precedents. It will further consider Balbín’s frontispiece within the context of other historical frontispieces at the time, and the political and intellectual context leading up to Balbín’s particularly negative conception of history as illustrated in the Epitome. This negative conception of history arose out of the political struggles and the prolonged censorship conflict which the work faced in Bohemia and marked a key moment in Balbín’s intellectual career. Assessing Balbín’s earlier, written statements about the theory and practice of history as well as his later work in the Miscellanea, this paper will consider the role of the Epitome in Balbín’s view of history and in his historical career.


Anna-Marie Pípalová is a PhD Candidate in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge, working on seventeenth-century Bohemian scholarship. Her research examines the historical and geographical texts produced by a group of scholars and associates of Bohuslav Balbín (1621-1688), and the way these works attempted to negotiate a post-White Mountain Bohemian identity and patriotism. Her MPhil research focused on the hagiotopographies of Bohuslav Balbín, their status as scholarly works, and their contribution to a debate about the status of Bohemia in post-Westphalian Europe. She is currently on a prestigious IEG Mainz Fellowship in Mainz.