JESUIT MISSIONARIES IN CHINA
Relatione delle cose piu notabili scritte ne gli anni 1619, 1620 & 1621 dalla Cina.Rome, per l’erede di Bartolomeo Zannetti, 1624
FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. 252. Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut device of Society of Jesus to t-p, decorated initials. Minor foxing or slight age browning in places, occasional light marginal damp stain. A good copy in contemporary Italian limp vellum, title inked to spine. Modern Chinese monochrome bookplate printed on silk.
Good copy of the first edition of this important account of missionary expeditions in China by the Jesuits Manuel Dias (fl.1610s), Venceslaus Pantaleon (1588-1626) and Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628). All three made major contributions to Sino-European cultural exchanges: Dias introduced the telescope from the Netherlands in 1610; Pantaleon reported important astronomic observations from China; and Trigault encouraged the Chinese translation of European works on science and religion and produced the first system of Chinese Romanisation. The ‘Relatione’ includes letters written by the three missionaries as well as a narrative account touching on diverse topics—the Chinese government, political situation and society, and Jesuit travels and missions. Special attention is devoted to the Eastern Tartars—a population not yet fully known to Europeans. The ‘Relatione’ describes the Tartar threat against China, including monstrous presages that anticipated their arrival—dragons, comets, rivers of blood, and a two-headed calf—and their cunning attacks to defeat the Chinese despite their lesser numbers—e.g., by pretending to be merchants and being allowed unguarded into a fortified city. Through such accounts, Jesuits missionaries generated a coherent body of information on Eastern civilisations for a European audience.Cordier, Sinica 813; Voyages and Discoveries of Early Travellers, I/2, 48. Not in JFB.