1738 · London
In the annals of early Westerners writing about China, the members of the Society of Jesus rank high for the quantity and quality of their writings. Louis Le Comte (1655–1728) began his novitiate in October 1671, was sent to China as a mathematician and a member of the 1687 Jesuit mission under the leadership of Jean de Fontaney, and returned to Europe in 1691. In 1696 he published his Nouveaux mémoires sur l'état présent de la Chine: It caused great debate within the Chinese Rites Controversy.
This is => the first 18th-century edition of the English translation of that work, here with a cancel title-page in black and red, changing the publication date from 1737 to 1738, and notably => printed for a woman bookseller. It begins with an engraved frontispiece portrait of Emperor Cam-hy (i.e., K'ang-hsi) signed "M. Vander Gucht sculp." The other plates depict "The throne of the emperor of China" (folding), "Outom-Chu, a tree in China," "The observatory at Pekin" (folding), and a folding table of "All the words that form the Chinese tongue" (!!).
The work is a classic in the field of early European accounts of China, of missions to and in China, and of travel in general. Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the first edition and may have done so for the work's sections on education.
ESTC T140502; Goldsmiths'-Kress 3379?; DeBacker-Sommervogel, II, 1356; Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, I, 40-41. Recent quarter calf, round spine, raised bands, gilt ruling above and below each band; gilt center devices in four spine compartments. Marbled paper sides. Light age-toning to title-page; apart from an old touch of inkstaining at the tips of pages in one section, a very few stray stains only. A very nice copy. (Inventory #: 40384)