RICCI, Matteo (1552-1610) -- Nicolas TRIGAULT (1577-1628), editor. De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu. Ex P. Matthaei Ricii eiusdem societatis comentariis libri V ad S.D.N. Paulum V. In quibus Sinensis Regni mores leges atq. instituta & noua[e] illius ecclesiae difficillima primordia accurate & summa fide describuntur. Auctore P. Nicolao Trigautio. Augsburg: Christoph Mang, 1615.
4° (197 x 155 mm). With final blank leaf. Engraved title-page by Wolfgang Kilian (1581-1662) illustrating the Jesuit missionaries Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci flanking a map of China, folding engraved plate with diagram of Ricci's tomb in China. 17th-century German blindstamped pigskin over beveled wooden boards, covers with blind rolled borders of medallion portraits, floral and foliate designs surrounding central allegorical figures on sides, fore-edge clasps and catches, edges stained blue. Provenance: early inscription on rear paste-down, dated 1616, listing cost for “Bibliopola” (bookseller) and “Bibliopega” (bookbinder); Donaueschingen, Fürstliche Fürstenbergische Hofbibliothek (inkstamp on title verso).
EXTREMELY RARE FIRST EDITION OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL WESTERN DESCRIPTION OF THE ORIENT since the 13th-century account by Marco Polo. Trigault was born at Douai in 1577 and joined the Jesuits when he was 17 or 18 years old. After spending a decade teaching in the Society's colleges, he petitioned to be sent as a missionary to the 'Indies', finally securing passage in 1607. He seems to have arrived in China in about 1610, and was in charge of the mission in three provinces. At this time, the Japan mission, founded by Francis Xavier (1506-1552), overshadowed that of their brethren in China; but Trigault was part of a band of missionaries that, through Matteo Ricci's (1552-1610) influence and diplomacy, had managed to obtain prestige in the Ming empire by becoming the first westerners to learn Mandarin and offer new forms of knowledge to the Chinese elite. Seeing the need to promote their cause and secure better patronage in the Society's hierarchy, the China Jesuits decided to send Trigault back home and entrust him with the sensitive task of bringing attention to their successes in China.
Back in Rome, Trigault was fêted as a celebrity, no doubt helped by the curiosities he had brought with him, and undertook a lengthy continental promotion tour lasting some four years. Part of Trigault's approach was to publish the manuscript memoirs of Ricci from Italian into Latin. By 1614 he had completed this task, amending the contents to include an account of the latter's death and funeral. In 1615, while travelling through Augsburg, he had this published as the present work. The folding plate illustrates Ricci's tomb in Beijing -- an exceptional burial for a westerner granted by the Ming emperor Wanli (1563-1620) -- and was used by Trigault as justification of the importance and influence of the China mission.
Nevertheless, Trigault realised that his task was sensitive -- in effect he was attacking the Society's administration and accusing the Japan mission of neglect -- and so, rather diplomatically, the engraved title shows Xavier as equally important as Ricci, the two pillars of Jesuit influence in the East.
“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, and then closed behind him by an incredulous public, who received the greater part of his fabulous narrative as the beguiling tales of a capricious traveler. [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 on the 17th century ... It opened a new world” (Gallagher, China in the sixteenth century; the journals of Matteo Ricci, pp. xvii-ix). A VERY FINE COPY.
TRIGAULT’S BOOK COMPRISES THE PRIMARY SOURCEBOOK FOR RICCI’S CONTRIBUTIONS, AND PROVIDES THE EARLIEST EUROPEAN ACCOUNT OF CHINESE SCIENCE.
Trigault's publication was a great success, and was reprinted almost immediately, with Latin editions in 1616 and 1617, and was published in French in 1616, German in 1617, Spanish in 1621 and Italian in 1622. VERY RARE: According to American Book Prices Current, only one copy of this 1615 edition has sold at auction since 1975 (Sotheby's, Nov 7, 1985, lot 413). The original manuscript by Ricci was not published until 1911.
Cordier Sinica I, 809; De Backer & Sommervogel VIII, 239; Lust 836; Morrison II, 466; Streit V:2094.