MAFFEI, Giovanni Pietro

MAFFEI, Giovanni Pietro Histoires des Indes, … : Où il est traicté de leur descouuerte, navigation, & conqueste

Lyon, par Iean Pillehote, 1604


8vo. pp. [iv], 953, [xlvii] A10, B-Z8, AA-ZZ8, AAA-QQQ8, RRR4. Roman letter, some Italic. Title with woodcut device of the Society of Jesus, woodcut initials, grotesque head and tail-pieces, contemporary mss autograph and ex dono at head of title, partially erased, engraved armorial bookplate of William Stirling Maxwell (Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, 9th Baronet, 1818-1878, Scottish politician and historian) on pastedown. Light age yellowing, pale waterstain on first few leaves, rare minor marginal mark or spot. A very good, clean copy, in late 17th calf, covers bordered with a double gilt rule, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, richly gilt in compartments, William Stirling Maxwell’s device blind stamped on upper cover, his monogram on lower. Joints head and tail restored, spine a little worn, extremities rubbed. a.e.r.

Rare second edition (an exact copy of the first published Lyon 1603) of the first French translation of this important account by the humanist Giovanni Pietro Maffei (c. 1533-1603) of Portuguese discoveries and missionary work in China, Japan, India, the East Indies, Persia, Brazil and other parts of America. His work is divided into 16 books; book VI deals specifically with China and features what is apparently the first description of tea by a European author. The translation is by François Arnault de la Borie. This classic history of the Indies, edited by Maffei utilises firsthand materials in the form of letters from the Jesuit missions, together with a life of the order’s founder Loyola. The work includes the accounts of Ignacio Azevedo and the Brazilian martyrs, and also a few letters by Francis Xavier; it provides considerable and valuable detail on contemporary China and Japan, their society, customs, languages and beliefs, as well as an account of their first dealings with the Western world. “In Maffei’s Historiarum Indicarum Libri XVI, which was published shortly after the Japanese legates left Europe, it is book XII which is mainly concerned with Japan. This account, and the other references to Japan scattered throughout the book, is heavilly indebted to Valignono’s Historia. Maffei treats Japan in two way: he provides a general description and a briefer account of the missions successes prior to Valignano’s arrival in Japan in 1579. … No work available in Europe before Maffei’s sought to bring out so explicitly the differences, minute and great, between Japanese and European practices and values. Some of his contrasts might have been taken directly from Frois’ distichs had he had them at hand. For example, he notes such minor differences as the fact that Europeans admire white teeth while the Japanese blacken theirs for beauty’s sake. On differences in character there is an abundance of material. In adversity and tribulation the Japanese, unlike the Europeans, show incredible control of their emotions. The Japanese have a highly developed sense of honour and propriety. The children speak quietly, are moderate in their demands, and mature in behaviour. The people in general are acute, sagacious, and well disposed by nature. In fact, “they surpass in judgement, docility, and memory not only the oriental but also the occidental nations.” These traits are as characteristic of peasants and children as they are of the nobility. The lowliest farmers are almost civilised in their habits, highly vigorous and talented, and possess facial features which are not crudely rural. The children learn to read and write Latin much more quickly than European schoolboys.” Lach ‘Asia in the Making of Europe, Volume I: The Century of Discovery.’ “Maffei writes extensively about Brazil, describing it very accurately” (Borba de Moraes), in fact devoting three chapters to the subject. The work contains an account of Columbus’ discovery of the New World, the voyages and discoveries of Amerigo Vespucci and also gives an account of Cabral’s voyages in Brazil. This French translation of this important work is much rarer than the latin editions.

USTC 6900427. Brunet III 1291. Sabin 43782; JFB. M56. Alden. 604/43. “cf. 1603 edn of which this is perhaps a reissue with altered imprint date”. Borba de Moraes II:10. Pagès, ‘Bibliographie Japonaise’ p. 3. Graesse IV, 334.
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