REOPENING THE DOOR TO CHINA

De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu. Ex P. Matthaei Ricii eiusdem Societatis com[m]entariis, libri V … In quibus Sinensis regni mores, leges atq[ue] instituta et novae illius ecclesiae difficillima primordia accurate et summa fide describuntur. Auctore P. Nicolao Trigautio Belga ex eadem Societate.

Augsburg, Christoph Mang, 1615.

Small 4to, pp. [12], 646, [10 (index, errata, colophon)], [2 (blank)]; with engraved title incorporating Ricci’s map of China and portraits of St Francis Xavier and Ricci, folding plan (with explanatory text) of the villa in Peking converted into a church with Ricci’s tomb (bound facing p. 1), engraved initials, head- and tailpieces; a4v and b1r strengthened at gutter, a few tears (without loss) to folding plan, small wormhole to lower gutter of quires O-V, occasional light foxing; overall very good in contemporary blind-tooled pigskin over wooden boards, covers with concentric frames incorporating medallions, brass catches to upper cover, remains of clasps, bevelled edges, four raised bands to spine with ‘Sina’ written in second compartment, edges red; small tears at head of spine, covers rubbed; ink inscription at head of title ‘Coll. Olom. Soc[ieta]tis Jesu Cat. inscript. an[n]o 1621 sub Lit. XV num. 47’ (i.e. the Jesuit College at Olomouc).

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De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu. Ex P. Matthaei Ricii eiusdem Societatis com[m]entariis, libri V … In quibus Sinensis regni mores, leges atq[ue] instituta et novae illius ecclesiae difficillima primordia accurate et summa fide describuntur. Auctore P. Nicolao Trigautio Belga ex eadem Societate.

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First edition. The ‘most influential description of China to appear during the first half of the seventeenth century. Trigault, the procurator of the Jesuits’ China mission, translated and augmented the pioneer missionary Matteo Ricci’s journal, aiming to elicit support for the mission. The De Christiana expeditione, therefore, is essentially a translation of Ricci’s Italian journal. Trigault, however, did not merely translate the journal; he omitted or changed many passages, rearranged its parts, and added material from other Chinese missionaries to complete the story and to depict China and the Jesuit mission in a more favorable light. The resulting volume contains a history of the Jesuit mission in China from its inception in 1583 until Ricci’s death in 1610, the same year in which Trigault arrived in China. It includes a wealth of information about China in the chapters which recount the history of the mission, prefaced by eleven chapters describing Chinese geography, people, laws, government, religion, learning, commerce, and the like. The De Christiana expeditione, despite its departures from Ricci’s original journal, provided European readers with more, better organized, and more accurate information about China than was ever before available’ (Lach III pp. 512-3). Three Latin editions had appeared by 1617, and translations were published in French (1616, 1617 and 1618), German (1617), Spanish (1621) and Italian (1622). Extracts in English were included in Purchas his pilgrimes (1625), but the first full edition in English, by L. J. Gallagher, did not appear until 1953. The Italian manuscript of Ricci’s original text remained unpublished until 1911.

‘The appearance of Trigault’s book in 1615 took Europe by surprise. It reopened the door to China, which was first opened by Marco Polo, three centuries before, and then closed behind him by an incredulous public, who received the greater part of his fabulous narrative as the beguiling tales of a capricious traveler … [It] probably had more effect on the literary and scientific, the philosophical and the religious, phases of life in Europe than any other historical volume of the seventeenth century … It opened a new world’ (Gallagher pp. xvii-xix).

Cordier, Sinica 809; Sommervogel VIII, 239; Streit V, 2094.

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