JESUIT MISSIONARIES IN JAPAN UNDER TOKUGAWA SHOGUN
Rei Christianae apud Iaponios Commentarius ex litteris annuis Societatis Jesu annorum 1609. 1610. 1611. 1612
Augsburg, Christophorum Mangium, 1615.
FIRST EDITION. pp. (xii) 296 (xii), two blanks lacking, two present. Roman letter, some Italic, woodcut initials, head and tail-pieces, large woodcut emblem of the Society of Jesus on verso of T6. Very slight marginal spotting in places, a very good, clean copy in contemporary vellum, recased.
First edition of Trigault’s account of events in Japan 1609-12 compiled from the annual letters, written in Portuguese, by Joao Rodrigues Girao. He was an extraordinary linguist, author of the “Arte da lingoa de Japan” and the Japanese-Portuguese dictionary published in 1603 at Nagasaki. Nicolas Trigault, who had just spent close to two years in China, returned to Europe in December 1614 to launch a (hugely successful) propaganda campaign for the China mission, and was in Rome to attend the general congregation of the Jesuits that met from November 5, 1615, to January 26, 1616. He brought these letters with him specifically for the advancement of this mission, in order to obtain new funding and new missionaries in Europe for both China and Japan. The work is dedicated to the Emperor Matthias.
The letters cover a pivotal moment in the Japanese history of the Jesuits, who were desperately trying to avert conflict with Japan’s new ruler, the Tokugawa shogun. The Jesuits were also looking for exclusivity in Japan, as the Franciscans were creating difficulties by preaching openly, something that antagonised the new Japanese regime, and would in part lead to the severe and violent persecutin of all Christians in Japan in 1614. The annual letters, apart from their political and religious information, also constitute 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. They were of the most vital interest to all those considering embarking on the great gamble of the Far Eastern trade. Joao Rodrigues Girao, as a fluent Japanese speaker, was involved at the highest level of the interaction between the Japanese and Jesuits, and provides extraordinary insight into trade negotiations, the shifting political situation, and the delicate balancing act required to ensure the safety of the mission.
This edition is quite rare, with only one copy on ABPC in the last thirty years, and six in European libraries.
BM STC Ger. C17, T714. Cordier, BJ, col. 272. JFB T173, ‘undoubtedly published as part of the author’s purpose in returning from the East to promote the Jesuits’ missionary effort there.’