Origin of the work:
1649 Leszno (Latin)
1649 Leszno (Czech)
1869 Prague (Czech, under the title Obraz Jednoty Českobratrské)
Comenius’ edition of the eighth book of a historical treatise by the Polish Reformed nobleman Jan Łasycki.
The Polish writer Jan Łasycki (1534-1605) travelled through a number of countries, and held that the Czech Unitas Fratrum was the best of all the evangelical faiths. He wrote a work about it, which he dedicated to Karel the Elder of Žerotín, and which in 1585 he sent to the Brethren that they might correct it where necessary and publish it for the benefit of their church. The treatise remained, however, set aside, and it was Comenius that first took an interest in it. He did not however publish it in full, but only in part, as is clear from the title.
The first edition of the Latin text began with a foreword dated August 21st 1649. It continues with the 33 chapters of the eighth (and last) book of Łasycki’s work, in which Łasycki praises the morals and practices of the Bohemian Brethren, their ecclesiastical regulations, spiritual administration, way of life and preaching, and approach to the table of the Lord. Comenius then provides a brief summary of the contents of the preceding seven books, which dealt with the history of the Brethren from their split with the Waldensians to the end of the 16th century. Finally, extracts are provided from those books, and in conclusion Comenius justifies his publication of the text.
Somewhat later in the same year, Comenius published a Czech translation of the Latin text under the title Pana Jana Łasyckého šlachtice polského Historie o původu a činech Bratří českých kniha osmá, jenž jest o obyčejích a řádích, kterýchž mezi sebou užívají (The Polish nobleman Jan Łasycki, his History of the origins and deeds of the Bohemian Brethren, book the eighth, as well as on the customs and regulations that they use among themselves). The foreword of the Czech edition is dated October 29th 1649.
The edition is dedicated to the remaining Brethren, who remained faithful to their church. After the unfavourable Peace of Westphalia, which left the Czech Lands to the Habsburgs and sentenced the Czech emigrants to permanent exile abroad, Comenius tried to hold onto that which had served the Brethren throughout their existence, in particular the strict rules and customs of the church, which were little respected by its younger members. He speaks of how a cruel fate has overtaken his fellow believers because they have strayed from the path shown them by their forebears. He has therefore put Łasycki’s book in to print that it might lead his co-religionists to a knowledge of the better, older way of the church of the Brethren, and to bring home to unfaithful their guilt in falling into apostasy from their church; these he urges to come back to the correct path.
For further study, see also:
Foreword to the work, J. V. Novák & J. Hendrich, Jan Amos Komenský, jeho život a spisy. Prague 1932, pp427-429
Jan Kumpera, J. A. Komenský, poutník na rozhraní věků. Prague & Ostrava 1992, pp249-251