Extremely rare first edition of “Due Lettere annue della Cina del 1610 e del 1611” by the missionary Nicolas Trigault (1557-1628) about his travel to China comprising 263 pages, an essential complement to his “De Christiana expeditione apud Sinus” whose first edition was published in Augsburg this same year 1615.
Auverman & Payne 223; Lach III p.372; Löwendahl 55; De Backer, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, v. 8/9, 238. Unknown to Chadenat.
This book is one of the first detailed descriptions of China whose entire first part is dedicated to geography, political organization, education, trade, etc.
The four other parts are dedicated, each, to the different cities. This first edition has been translated and revised after the Italian manuscript, and published by Nicolas Trigault. This major work was remarkably successful, arousing new editions and translations: it gave a decisive impulsion to the sinological studies.
“The appearance of Trigault's book in 1615 took Europe by surprise. It reopened the door to China, which was first opened by Marco Polo, three centuries before (...), opened a new era of Chinese-European relations and gave us one of the greatest, if not the greatest, missionary document in the world (...). It probably had more effect on the literary and scientific, the philosophical and the religious phases of life in Europe than any other historical volume of the seventeenth century. It introduced Confucius to Europe and Euclid to China. It opened a new world.” (Louis J. Gallagner. foreword to China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journal of Matthew Ricci, New-York, 1953).
Trigault joined the Jesuit mission in China in 1610. Back in Europe in 1613, he published these two letters « della Cina del 1610 e del 1611 ». Written at the request of his superior, these two letters describe “the need to respect Chinese ways of dealing with foreigners, the contrast between the peace and order in China and the turbulence in Japan, and the desirability of making China into an independent province of the Society” (Lach).
Nicolas Trigault was born in Douai in 1577 and dedicated himself, with the study of sciences and oriental languages, to a career as a missionary. He went to Lisbon in 1606 and while waiting for the departure of the ship that was supposed to get him to the Indies, he drew the portrait of the perfect missionary in the life of F. Gasp. Barzis, one of St. Francis Xavier. Having embarked on February 5th, 1607, he arrived on October 10th in Goa. The delicacy of his health, that the sea had weakened even more, forced him to stop in this city. He left only in 1610 for Macao, from where he finally entered to China. Each day the missionaries were making huge progress in this vast empire. The desire to extend more and more their conquests led them into the furthest provinces, where they had numerous proselytes: thus it became indispensable to increase the number of these evangelic workers. F. Trigault was chosen to come back to Europe and give an account of the situation and the needs of the missions in China. Arrived in India he judged suitable to pursue his travel by land and, with a leather bag enclosing his provisions, he crossed, not without risking great danger, Persia, deserted Arabia and part of Egypt.
A merchant vessel carried his from Cairo to Otrente, from where he went to Rome. His superiors introduced him to Pope Paul V, who welcomed him with interest and accepted the dedication of the Histoire de l’établissement des missions chrétiennes à la Chine, which he had written after F. Ricci’s memoirs. The deserved success that got this work, the first one in which we found exact notions about China, undoubtedly helped him to reach the purpose of his travel. He left Lisbon in 1618, with forty-four missionaries, who had all asked, as a favor, the permission to follow him. Several died during the crossing: he got sick in Goa, and his life was in danger for a long time; but he finally recovered, and having embarked on May 20th, 1620, after two months of a perilous navigation, he reached Macao, from where he entered to China, seven years after having left. In charge of the spiritual administration of these three large provinces, he dedicated himself without respite to the functions of his administration, and yet, was able to find the leisure to learn about the history and literature of the Chinese. Exhausted, he died there on November 14th, 1628, in Nanjing.
Precious and extremely rare volume unknown to Chadenat in his bibliography dedicated to old travels (7210 books described).