FROIS, Luis Nova relatio historica de statu rei Christianae In Iaponia, et de Qvabacvndoni, hoc est, monarchae Iaponici trucidatione binis epistolis

Mainz, ex officina typographica Ioannis Albini, 1598


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. 93 [i.e. 95] (i). Roman letter. Small woodcut printer’s device on title, woodcut initials, head and tail-pieces, light general browning (poor quality paper). A good copy in modern calf antique.

Rare first edition of these two important and detailed letters by Frois, the first concerning the state of the Christian leaders and Jesuit missions in Japan in 1595 and the second dealing with the death of Hidetsugu the nephew and retainer of Hideyoshi (referred to in this letter by his common name Taicosama). The Portuguese Jesuit Frois was one of the leading members of the Jesuit mission in Japan and his reports are highly esteemed for their attention to detail and concrete data. By the 1590’s the predominately Jesuit Christian mission in Japan had made considerable progress, with nearly three hundred thousand converts. Frois worked for some years under the Provincial of India in charge of reporting on East Asia to the church in Europe, and in 1563, at the age 31, he arrived in Japan, at Nagasaki. In 1565 he journeyed to Kyoto, but with the downfall of his protector, Ashikaga Yoshiteru, he was forced to take refuge in Sakai. In 1569 he met Nobunaga, (the first of the great Japanese Generals who nearly unified Japan under his leadership) and received permission to proselytize. He spent the ensuing years in missionary work while writing The History of Portuguese Territories in East India. In his capacity as interpreter he travelled widely in Japan, was party to much inside information on affairs of State and witnessed many of the events that shaped Japan for some 250 years. The first letter is a general review of the year recounting events of especial importance with respect to the Society, dealing with particular places and Jesuit residences, providing detailed accounts of their political, social and religious circumstances. The second work is an extraordinary account of the death of Hidetsugu who was nominally the regent of Japan or Kanpaku, though all power effectively resided with his uncle Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi had made Hidetsugu, his only relative, his heir, though with the birth of Hideyoshi’s son in 1593 to his mistress, this situation became untenable. Finally, in 1595, Hidetsugu was accused of plotting a coup and ordered to commit suicide, his allies were banished and his children and mistresses executed, with the exception of his one month old daughter. Frois’ account is particularly detailed and knowledgeable giving much detail on the complex political background to the events and paints a picture of Hideyoshi as a cruel and vindictive leader. A good copy of these important letters from a most important period in Japanese history.

BM STC C16th Ger. p.324. Streit, IV, p. 498. Not in Cordier, Japonica.
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