Difesa de’ missionarii cinesi della Compagnia di Giesù, in risposta all’apologia de’ PP. Domenicani missionarii della Cina, intorno à gli onori di Confusio, e de’ morti; opera di un religioso teologo della medesima Compagnia.

‘.In Colonia. Per il Berges’, 1700

Small 8vo, pp. 553, [6]; insignificant dampstain in fore-margin of a few leaves, short worm-track in lower margin of a dozen leaves (not affecting text); a very good copy in contemporary vellum; slightly rubbed and soiled.

£1500

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First edition of this substantial defence of the Jesuit position in the Chinese Rites Controversy. It is a rebuttal of Noël Alexandre’s Apologia de Padri Domenicani missionarii della China (published, also under a false Cologne imprint, in both French and Italian in 1699); Alexandre, an eminent theologian at the Sorbonne, led the attack against the Jesuits in France.

In essence the Rites Controversy had its origins in the accomodation made in the late 16th century by Matteo Ricci to traditional Chinese religious practices and customs; an allied issue was the ‘Term Question’, whether the use of the Chinese terms T’ien and Shang-ti for God could be employed in a Christian context. After 1600, when the China mission ceased to be the exclusive preserve of the Jesuits, their policy was increasingly questioned by other missionary orders (notably the Dominicans), who argued that the Jesuits condoned superstition, even idolatry, and as such compromised the Christian message and the true ends of the missions in China.

1700, the date of publication, was an especially disputatious year in the Controversy, marked notably by the formal censure of the Jesuits by the Sorbonne and the Jesuits’ appeal to the Chinese Emperor to define the nature of the Rites (he assured them that the Rites were not religious but civic and social, but the Jesuits’ resort to his opinion only added to their opponents’ conviction that the Society was more inclined to follow the Son of Heaven than the Vicar of Christ: see J. S. Cummins, A question of rites, p. 235).

Cordier, Sinica 877; Sommervogel I 1301; Streit VII 2065.

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