Rerum a societate Jesu in oriente gestarum volumen.

Naples, ‘apud Horatium Salvianum’, 1573.

Small 4to, ff. 236, [2]; some faint dampstaining towards end of volume, inked-out ownership inscription on title, but a very good copy in contemporary limp vellum with remains of ties; unidentified armorial blindstamp at head of title.


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Third and best edition of the earliest detailed history of the Jesuit missions in the East, especially Japan. Included for the first time in this edition are five pages of Japanese characters in printed facsimile, ‘Specimen quoddam litterarum vocumque Japonicarum; desumptum e regis Bungi diplomate’ (ff. 225–8), which reproduce a letter by the daimyo of Bungo (Kyushu), Otomo Sorin, permitting the Jesuits to build a church on his land in 1552. The previous editions (Dillingen, 1571; Paris, 1572) did not include this. As Alden notes, the present 1573 Naples edition also includes material on the martyrdom of Inácio de Azevedo and other Jesuits en route to Brazil (ff. 229–236). Some copies of this edition have a variant title-page with the imprint ‘in ædibus Decii Lachæi’.

Acosta, a Portuguese Jesuit, taught at Coimbra, where he had unrivalled access to the letters from the Jesuits in the East that form the basis of his history. His manuscript, written in Portuguese, was sent to Rome and translated into Latin by Giovanni Pietro Maffei, a Jesuit novice and skilled Latinist, who had been selected by the Jesuits to prepare an official history of their eastern mission. Maffei added to Acosta’s work what is in fact the overwhelming bulk of the present book, devoted entirely to Japan and entitled ‘De Japonicis rebus epistolarum libri quinque’ (ff. 73–224), which was based on letters sent from the Jesuits working in the region. Among the letters used by Maffei are Xavier’s celebrated report of November 1549 from Kagoshima and two from the Japanese convert Paul (who accompanied Xavier), one from Goa in 1548, the other from Kagoshima in 1549.

Alden 573/27; Cordier, Japonica 59 (listing the contents); Laures 138 (imprint not specified; two copies: Sophia, Ueno); Sommervogel V 294–5; Streit IV 958. OCLC records five copies in the US (Cleveland, Columbia, Folger, Minnesota and Rutgers). COPAC records the British Library copy only.