RARE AND EXTRAORDINARILY ILLUSTRATED ACCOUNT OF CHRISTIAN PERSECUTIONS IN JAPAN
De Christianis apud Japonios triumphis sive de gravissima ibidem contra Christi fidem persecutione exorta anno MDCXII usq. ad annum MDCXX libri quinque.
Munich, Rader and Raphael Sadeler, 1623.
FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. (xvi), 518, (ii). Roman letter. Finely engraved title page depicting St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius Loyola, angels above, engraved printer’s device on verso of last, seventeen full page engraving depicting the execution of Christians in Japan (one with revised engraving superimposed), floriated woodcut initials, “Assistentia Germania Societatis Jessu” in contemporary hand at head of title. Light age browning, slight foxing, the occasional marginal thumb mark, small tear to lower blank corner of D1. A good, clean copy, with excellent impression of the engravings, in contemporary vellum over thin paste boards, remains of ties, fly leaves loose.
First edition of this rare, extraordinarily illustrated, and important account of the persecution of Christians in Japan from 1612 to 1620, a period in which Japan closed itself off from the rest of the world and suppressed Christianity entirely, effectively expelling all Europeans and executing Christians of all denominations. Nicolas Trigault was a distinguished member of the Jesuit mission to China, which he had joined in 1610. He returned to Europe in 1615, travelling on foot through Persia, Arabia and Egypt, to obtain a fresh supply of recruits for the mission.
In 1618 he departed for China and was followed by forty-four volunteer missionaries. He described his travels in the first detailed account of the empire published in Europe. Before his trip to China, Trigault completed a summary of the Japanese mission from 1609 to 1612, and four books concerning the triumphs of the Christians during recent persecutions in Japan, to which he added, whilst in Goa, a fifth book bringing the narrative up to 1616. The work was printed in 1623, with a small additional text continuing the missionary saga from 1617 to 1620, and a list of two hundred and sixty-eight Japanese martyrs.
There was also added a list of the thirty-eight houses and residences (including two colleges, at Arima and Nagasaki), which the Jesuits had been obliged to abandon, and of five Franciscan, four Dominican and two Augustinian convents from which the inmates had been driven. The work was rapidly translated into French and Spanish. Trigault’s work was almost entirely derived from the annual Jesuit letters sent from Japan, and from his conversations with survivors of the persecutions. It is the best contemporary account of the great persecutions of Japanese Christians in the early Tokugawa period, providing detailed and vivid accounts of the events.
The seventeen extraordinary engravings, depicting the torture and execution of the Japanese Christians, were most probably made by Raphael Sadeler, and are very finely executed and designed. Trigault wrote extensively on the Far East and his account of the persecution of Christians in Japan is a classic of its time. Illustrated editions of the early Jesuit accounts of Japan are extremely uncommon.
BM STC Ger. C17th T713. Cordier, BJ 295. Streit V, 1305. De Backer & Sommervogel, VIII, 242.8.