China as Renaissance model state
Il Magno Vitei di Lodovico Arrivabene Mantoano
in questo libro, oltre al piacere, che porge la narratione delle alte cauallerie del glorioso vitei primo Re della China & del varioso Iolao... Verona Girolamo Discepolo 1597
First edition. Small 4to (21 x 15 cm), pp.[xxiv], 576 (mis-numbered '526'), [20, index], [2, blank]. A very good copy bound in 19th-century polished calf by Bedford, neatly rebacked. A few marks to calf. All edges gilt. Text washed.
Cordier BS 17; Lach II, 2, pp.219-222; Lach & Foss, p.18; Löwendahl 35. COPAC records copies at the British Library, Manchester, and Oxford (two copies) only.
A chivalric romance set in China, which is depicted as the most virtuous nation known to mankind. Enzolom, a governor of ancient China, is portrayed as an exemplar of the excellent prince and the perfect captain. The eldest of his sons, the great Vitei, is the most valiant and wisest of all knights and kings. It is in the strange ambience of China that these exemplary men live and perform their great deeds.... It is... the first in a long line of didactic works in prose in which China is celebrated as a model state. In short, the China that was revered in the Enlightenment is anticipated in this work of the late sixteenth century' (Lach II.ii pp. 220–23). Often seen as a purely literary fiction, this romance was grounded in substantial research by the author. Arrivabene drew from Mendoza's popular history of China, other contemporary European sources, Jesuit reports, and Ramusio's collection of travels for his literary depiction of China. Lodovico Arrivabene (circa 1530-1597) was the leading literary figure of the Gonzaga court at Mantua from 1589, well-known for his cosmopolitan interests.