A world revealed: first edition of the most influential firsthand account of China since Marco Polo
De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas
suscepta... Libri V. Augsburg Christoph Mang 1615
First edition. Small 4to (20.5 x 16 cm), pp.[xii], 111, (110)-646 [but 648 as p.111-2 numbered twice], [8, index], [2, errata, colophon], with the engraved title by Wolfgang Kilian, incorporating Ricci's map of China flanked by portraits of the author and St Francis Xavier. A very good copy bound in modern quarter calf, marbled boards. All edges blue. Bound without the folding plan and the final blank leaf; faint blue stain to fore-edge of initial leaves. Contents otherwise clean and fresh.
Auvermann & Payne 184; Cordier BS 809; Gallagher, China in the Sixteenth Century: the journals of Matthew Ricci: 1583-1610, pp.xvii-xix; Lach & Van Kley, Asia in the making of Europe, Volume III, Book One, pp.512-3; Löwendahl 54
This eyewitness narrative of the Jesuit mission to Peking became the 'most influential description of China to appear during the first half of the seventeenth century.... It includes a wealth of information about China in the chapters describing geography, people, laws, government, religion, learning, commerce and... provided European readers with more, better organized, and more accurate information about China than was ever before available' (Lach & Van Kley I pp.512–3). Its appearance '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 traveller.... [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 opened a new world' (Gallagher pp.xvii–xix). Matteo Ricci, the celebrated pioneer Jesuit missionary to China, died there in 1610. His journals were edited for publication by Nicolas Trigault, another member of the mission. The resulting book, first published in 1615, rapidly became popular: three Latin editions appeared by 1617 together with translations into French, German, Italian and Spanish. Although extracts were edited for publication in English in Purchas his pilgrimes in 1625, a complete English translation, the work of L. J. Gallagher, did not appear until 1953, under the title China in the sixteenth century. The Italian manuscript of Ricci's original text remained unpublished until 1911.