1697 · 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 edition of the English translation of that work. 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 this edition and may have done so for the work's sections on education in that kingdom.
Provenance: Signature of M. Middleton dated 1699 at top of the frontispiece. Later in the collection of the Pacific School of Religion (properly released).
Wing (rev. ed.) L831; ESTC R15898; Goldsmiths'-Kress 3379; DeBacker-Sommervogel, II, 1356; Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, I, 40. Contemporary modest Cambridge-style binding of speckled calf; very nicely newly rebacked. Small institutional stamp on title-page and in margin of one other page. A very good copy. (Inventory #: 36372)