THE FIRST OCCURRENCE OF CHINESE CHARACTERS IN A EUROPEAN BOOK

Historia de las cosas mas notables, ritos y costumbres del gran Reyno de la China. Con un itinerario del Nuevo Mundo.

Medina del Campo, Santiago del Canto, los herederos de Benito Boyer, 1595.

£3,950

8vo. ff. (xii), 348, (x). Roman letter. Title in red and black, woodcut device on verso, white on black woodcut initials, woodcut Chinese characters. Light age yellowing, repair to lower blank corner of title, text parts restored to last 4 lines of dedication, in perfect pen facsimile, upper corner of ff. 198 and lower corner of ff. 211 similarly restored, worm trail in upper outer blank margin expertly restored in places, just touching a few letters, a few outer blank corners repaired. A good copy, bound by Emilio Brugalla in 1941 in blue crushed morocco for Isidoro Fernández (1878–1963), covers with his gilt supralibros, spine with five raised bands, gilt-lettered title and palce, inner dentelles and board edges gilt, all edges gilt.

Rare edition, the eighth published in ten years of the first major work on China and the first European book in which Chinese characters occur. All early editions in the original Spanish are now rare. It includes the celebrated ‘Itinerario del nuevo Mundo’, details of Tordesillas’ voyage from Manila to China, the first Franciscan mission to China in 1579 and the account of the Canary Islands, Santo Domingo, the Philippines, Japan, Malacca and Coromandel, along with Loyola’s account of the discovery of New Mexico by Antonio d’Espejo which was never published separately. An English translation by Robert Parke was published in 1588. It was the first major survey of China and ran to some 33 editions between 1585 and 1613.

“This work, the first great book about China to be published in Europe, was a compilation of material Mendoca had obtained from a few Spanish missionaries, both Augustinians and Franciscans, living in the Philippines who had visited the southern coast of China for brief intervals. Mendoca’s principle source was the learned Martin de Rada. This wonderful book contains a four-page sketch of the history of China, from Emperor Yao to the Wan-li Emperor of the Ming dynasty. Mendoca probably got much of his information from the papers of de Rada, including Chinese books he had bought during a short visit to Fu-chien province, that he had had translated by Chinese people living in the Philippines. (…) Though brief, this summary gives a historical dimension to this first book about China to be presented to the European reader, a work that was printed in forty-six editions in seven languages in the first fifteen years after it came out.” Thomas H. C. Lee “China and Europe: Images and Influences in Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries.”

BM STC Spain C16th. p 89. Palau VI, 105501. Cordier Sinica I:9. JFB G170. Alden 595/32. Not in Sabin or Church.

L1581

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