NIEUHOF’S JOURNEY TO A NEW COURTWITH INFLUENTIAL ILLUSTRATIONS

L’ambassade de la compagnie orientale des provinces unies vers l’empereur de la Chine, ou Grand Cam de Tartarie, faite par les Srs. Pierre de Goyer, & Jacob de Keyser, illustrée d’une tres-exacte description des villes, bourgs, villages, ports de mers, & autres Lieux plus considerable de la Chine … premiere partie. 

Leiden, Jacob de Meurs, 1665. 

Two parts in one vol., folio, pp. [14], ‘290’ (recte 294), [2], 134, [2 (list of plates, blank)], with engraved title-page, engraved portrait frontispiece of Colbert at start of dedication, large folding engraved map, and 34 folding engraved plates (Kiangsi (p. 121) and Peking (p. 220) misbound); title printed in red and black with engraved vignette, a further 109 engravings printed in-text, woodcut head- and tailpieces and initials; occasional marginal dampstaining to first part, browning to a few plates, map browned with linen reinforcement to folds and 2 small wormholes; a good copy in contemporary sprinkled calf, spine gilt in compartments and lettered directly in gilt, page edges speckled in brown and red; endcaps chipped, lacking headband; large armorial bookplate of the Pianelli de la Valette family to both pastedowns.

£3500

Approximately:
US $4435€4099

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L’ambassade de la compagnie orientale des provinces unies vers l’empereur de la Chine, ou Grand Cam de Tartarie, faite par les Srs. Pierre de Goyer, & Jacob de Keyser, illustrée d’une tres-exacte description des villes, bourgs, villages, ports de mers, & autres Lieux plus considerable de la Chine … premiere partie. 

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Lavishly illustrated first French edition of Nieuhof’s travels through China from 1655 to 1657. 

Having previously been employed by the Dutch West India Company in Brazil, Nieuhof joined the Dutch East India Company (or ‘VOC’) in 1650 and was stationed for a number of years in Batavia (Jakarta), where he was eventually appointed steward of the embassy in 1654.  The following year Nieuhof served on one of the embassies sent by the VOC to Peking (Beijing) with the intention of convincing the Qing emperor to open up trade relations on the south coast following the VOC’s failed attempt to end the Portuguese monopoly on trade to Macao.  Leaving Canton (Guangzhou), the embassy travelled northwards through Jiangxsi, Anhui, Jiangsu, and Hebei provinces, reaching Peking in July 1656 before embarking upon their return trip in October of the same year: in total, the journey stretched over 2400 kilometres, and although the party was unable to discuss trade arrangements with the emperor, they did gain permission to visit the court every eight years.  Nieuhof compiled the notes and sketches from his journey upon a brief visit home in 1658, but the work itself was not published until 1665.  While the first part of the work describes Nieuhof’s journey, the second contains a general description of the Chinese empire.  It remains one of the most important early modern non-Jesuit studies of China. 

First printed in Dutch and published in French in the same year, Nieuhof’s account was rapidly translated into German (1666), Latin (1668) and English (1669); with the exception of the English translations, all editions are the product of Jacob van Meurs, a noted Dutch publisher and engraver who specialised in heavily illustrated large folio works, particularly within the fields of geography and travel.  As a result, the present copy also contains perhaps the most famous and influential feature of Nieuhof’s account: the more than one hundred engravings of Chinese people, towns, and landscapes, which were commissioned by Meurs to help market the book and were based on Nieuhof’s own sketches.  The style of the illustrations has often been credited with helping make chinoiserie fashionable in Europe and they went on to heavily influence western artistic depictions of China for decades to come (see Jing Sun, The Illusion of Verisimilitude: Johan Nieuhof’s Images of China (Leiden University, 2013)).   

Although the folding plate of Paolinxi appears on the list of plates (crossed out in manuscript in our copy), it was never issued in this edition and appeared first in the Latin edition of 1668 (see Lowendahl). 

STCN 840054262; Brunet IV, 77; Cordier, Sinica III, 2345-6; Lowendahl I, p. 65. 

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