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- At the height of its power in the 15th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania ruled over the territory of present-day Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine, and parts of Estonia, Moldova, Poland, and Russia. In the Union of Lublin of 1569, the Grand Duchy and the Kingdom of Poland merged to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The commonwealth had a highly developed legal and administrative system, based on local land courts that decided civil cases involving the gentry and castle courts that dealt with other local matters, including criminal cases. Courts were required to maintain detailed records of their proceedings, which were kept in old Byelorussian and in Polish. In the 19th century, the court records of the Grand Duchy were centralized in Vilnius, and eventually became part of the manuscript collections of the Vilnius University Library. The library now holds 543 books of court acts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania dating from 1540 to 1845. These books are a unique source for the histories of Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. Shown here is the Zemaitija land court year book for 1596. Zemaitija, also known as Samogitia, means lowlands and refers to the northwestern region of Lithuania bordering the Baltic Sea.
Type of Item
- 275 pages, no cover on spine; 34 x 22 x 4.5 centimeters
- Watermarks: Habdank, Jelita (Polish coats of arms), horseshoe. Old signature on land inventory: 20a, 23; line number 315.