MAFFEI, Giovanni Pietro (1536?-1603). Histoires des Indes, De Jean Pierre Maffee Bergamesque, de la Societe de Jesus. Où, il est traicte de leur decouverte, navigation, & conqueste faicte tant par les Portugais que Castillans. Ensemble de leurs moeurs, ceremonies, loix, gouvernemens, & reduction a la Foy Catholique. Translated by François Arnault de la Borie (d. 1607). Lyons: Jean Pillehotte, 1603.
8° (170 x 102 mm). Contemporary French (Lyonnaise?) mottled calf, gilt single-fillet border on covers with centrally gilt-stamped vine cartouche, raised bands, acorns gilt-stamped in spine compartments, early paper lettering piece with manuscript title (front hinge cracked). Provenance: extensive early manuscript notes on fly-leaves; Chateau de Rosny (bookplate with motto “La Solitude”).
FIRST EDITION IN FRENCH. Translation of Maffei's Historiarum indicarum libri XVI (first published Florence, 1588), by François Arnault de la Borie. This is one of the earliest official accounts of the Jesuit missions in the Far East, including the letters and life of Ignatius Loyola.
“Based on primary materials and written in elegant Latin, Maffei’s Historiarum Indicarum ‘received an enthusiastic reception all over Europe. The way had been prepared for its appearance by the enthusiasm aroused by the Japanese embassy. Like Mendoza’s book on China, it hit the market when curiosity about the Far East was at its height.... Unlike many of the letters from the East, Maffei’s work is couched in careful language and rhetorical flourishes that are notably few. Even Valignano, who had warned that Maffei’s work should not be published until it had been seen in the East, appeared to be happy with his discussion of Japan. In 1603, the Jesuit Visitor [i.e. Valignano] wrote from Macao: ‘Of all those who have so far written about Japan, none has done it with greater precision or in better order than Father G. P. Maffei.’
“‘Most of Maffei’s work is concerned with the Portuguese conquests and the Jesuit stations in India, the East Indies, and the region of the Arabian Sea to about 1557. The first five books appear to follow rather closely the model of Barros. Book VI, dealing with China, like book XII, which is mainly concerned with Japan, is heavily indebted to Valignano’s account of those countries. The appendixes of letters ... were almost all written either about or from Japan in the years between 1549 and 1574. While reproducing here many of the same letters which he had earlier appended to his translation of Da Costa’s book [i.e. Acosta’s Rerum a Societate Jesu in Oriente gestarum], Maffei appears to have exercised greater care in the selections which he made for this second compendium. Furthermore, this second effort did not suffer from the excisions and revision of the Roman censors. In fact, it is worth observing that it originally appeared in Florence, and that none of the subsequent editions was produced in Rome’ (Latch I pp. 325-6)” (Bernard Quaritch Ltd., catalogue 1226: “The Society of Jesus, 1548-1773,” 134, re. Cologne, 1593 ed.).
RARE: RLIN only records two copies of the French edition, both dated 1604. De Backer & Sommervogel V, col. 299; Sabin 43782 (citing only a 1604 imprint, based on Carayon record 752).