VERBIEST, Ferdinand (1623-1688). Epistola di Ferdinandi Verbiest vice provincialis missionis sinensis, anno 1678, die 15. augusti ex curia Pekinensi in Europam ad socios missa. [Peking, 1678].
Small 2° (318 x 207 mm). 10 leaves, xylographically printed on native paper in Latin in the Chinese manner on one side only of folded sheets. (Slightly browned, first and final leaves with gutter margins stained with small repair from previous binding.) Modern patterned textile, early manuscript cover(?) label mounted on pastedown; cloth folding case. Provenance: Sotheby’s London, 27 June 1996, lot 227.
FIRST EDITION, xylographically printededition from wood-engravings cut to imitate a handwritten document, printed the year after Verbiest was made Vice Provincial of all Jesuit missions in China. This letter, dated the feast of the Assumption, urges his fellow Jesuits to come to the aid of the mission in China, which was in deep distress, short of men and resources, and emphasizes the role of astronomy in gaining the emperor’s favor. The letter was reprinted in Europe and translated into French (Paris, 1682), and is included in Verbiest’s Correspondance (1938, no. XXX, pp. 230-253), with two other letters of the same date.
“Verbiest was another Jesuit missionary who had won favor with the Chinese court because of his knowledge of mathematics. He it was who persuaded the Emperor to recall the Jesuit missionaries to Peking, whence they had been banished during the minority of Kang-Hi” (Cox I, p. 342).
Ferdinand Verbiest was a missionary and astronomer born in Belgium, 1623 who joined the Jesuit order in 1641. “In 1658 with thirty-five new missionaries he accompanied Father Martin Martini on his return to China after having secured at Rome the Decree of Alexander VII for the toleration of the Chinese rites … He reached Macao in 1659, and was exercising his ministry in Shen-si when in 1660 he was called to Peking to assist, and eventually to replace, Father Adam Schall in his astronomical labours… In 1677 Father Verbiest was appointed vice provincial, i.e. superior of all the Jesuit missions of China” (Joseph Brucker. “Ferdinand Verbiest.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York, 2009.) HE died at Peking, 1688. VERY RARE: according to American Book Prices Current only one copy (this copy) appeared at auction in at least the past forty years.
De Backer & Sommervogel VIII, 582 (both with Roman numerals in title); Pfister I, p. 361; see Streit V: 2454.