Les annales du japon, de la chine, et de mogor.

Liege, chez Art de Coerfvvarem Imp. juré. l’an, 1601


FIRST EDITION thus. 12mo. ff. [lxxxiv] A-G12. Roman letter some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on title, floriated woodcut initial, grotesque woodcut tailpieces,  typographical headpieces, autograph ‘V. Foster’ on fly, C19th bookseller’s ticket on title, ‘Graham and Son, Dublin’. Light age yellowing, title page a little dusty, the rare marginal spot. A very good copy in C19th three-quarter calf over marble boards, spine triple gilt ruled in compartments morocco label gilt lettered, all edges blue.

Exceptionally rare translation into French of these important Jesuit letters from Japan, China and India; we can find no copies in libraries, the only reference from Cordier Japonica, which cites an incomplete copy. It was the work of the Liegois Jean’Heur who published simultaneously a latin translation with the same publisher, either from the Italian translation or the Portuguese original. He dedicated the work to Prince Ferdinand of Cologne, Duc of Bavaria and the Jesuit Jean Oranus. The Jesuits were officially exiled from Paris from 1595 to 1604 so mission letters in French were often published in Antwerp, Louvain or more rarely Liege. The first two letters are from Japan at a crucial moment in its history and are by Francois Pasie and Pierre Gomer. Both report on the changing political conditions in Japan following Hideyoshi’s death in 1598. “Jesuit documentation is particularly useful for this turbulent period. The missionaries knew the country well enough to be able to express their personal opinions. Nevertheless, when explaining the evolution of the political situation in Japan to the outside world, they transmitted expectations that were very similar to those of the Japanese population in general. Thus, their accounts are particularly interesting and useful for our understanding of these decisive years that preceded the coming to power of the Tokugawa dynasty.” Joao Paulo Oliveira e Costa, ‘Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Christian Daimya During the Crisis of 1600.’  The annual letters, apart from their political and religious information, also constituted the only up-to-date first-hand account of Japan, its cities, economy, industries, armed forces, geography, climate and people, that was then available in western Europe.

The second letter is an early letter from Nicholas Lombard (Niccolo Longobardo) from China also addressed to Claude Aquaviva, which is full of detail observations of the Chinese mission including important insights into how the Jesuits were learning the Chinese language. “Longobardo arrived at Shaozhou from Macau in 1591 and served as Lazarus Cattaneo’s assistant, taking charge of the Shaozhou residence when Cattaneo went north the following year. Longobardo preached in the countryside, winning many converts among the villagers. In 1610, Matteo Ricci summoned him to Beijing, and, when Ricci died, Longobardo succeeded him. Longobardo was among a minority of Jesuit missionaries who objected to Ricci’s adoption of Tian and Shangdi (terms found in the Confucian classics) as translations for the Latin Deus (God)… He died at age 95, having worked about 58 years in China. Upon news of his death, Emperor Shunzhi sent government officials to attend his funeral and donated 300 taels of silver for his burial expenses.” Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity.

The final letter is from the Jesuit mission in Mughal India at the court of Akbar and is from the Jesuit Jerome Xavier, (grand-nephew of Saint Francis Xavier). It gives a remarkable description of the region of Kashmir which he compares favourably to that of Tibet. During the reign of Akbar, Father Jerome accompanied the Emperor on various expeditions throughout the Mughal Empire. He was sent, by popular election, to Lahore in 1595 and his stay there was marked by the hospitality of Akbar who provided Xavier and his two companions, Father Emmanuel Pinheiro and Brother Bento de Góis, with lodgings in his own palace and assigned a Muslim doctor to instruct them in Persian.

A very good copy of this important set of Jesuit letters, the only complete copy we have found in records.

Cordier, Bibliotheca Japonica. p. 234 (incomplete.)


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