Chinese Books and Documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome. A Descriptive Catalogue: Japonica-Sinica I-IV

By Witek, John W. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Chinese Books and Documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome. A Descriptive Catalogue: Japonica-Sinica I-IV


Witek, John W., The Catholic Historical Review


Chinese Chinese Books and Documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome.A Descriptive Catalogue: Japonica-Sinica I-IV. By Albert Chan, S.J. (Armonk, New York, and London: M. E. Sharpe. 2002. Pp. xliii, 626. $145.00.)

After the death of Francis Xavier on the island of Shangchuan off the southern coast of China in 1552, his confreres in the Society of Jesus continued to develop the mission in Japan that he had begun, but were also eagerly trying to enter China, which remained closed to foreigners. It was not until 1583 that Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607) and Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) successfully opened the first mission station in Zhaoqing, China, during the modern era. Although a few of their letters were printed shortly after their receipt in Europe, most remained as manuscripts which became the initial part of the collection that spanned the continuing presence of the Jesuits in China until the suppression of the Order there in 1775. The multivolume Western-language correspondence from China and Japan is known as theJaponica-Sinica collection and is divided by Arabic numbers. The Japanese and Chinese books written by Jesuits or collected by them as well as their reports from these missions are assembled under the title Japonica-Sinica I-IV. This latter collection in the Jesuit Archives in Rome is the focal point of the book under review.

In 1970 at the request of Father Edmond Lamalle, SJ. (1900-1989), then the Director of the Archives, Father Albert Chan began to compile this descriptive catalogue of the Japanese and Chinese section. The only guide until then was a list taken from the Latin short titles on the covers of the books and document folders, but at times lacking the identity of the authors. At best this was a preliminary list with only a vague overview of the contents of the materials. As Chan indicates, these Chinese books and documents (there are only a few Japanese works) are "not numerous" and some of the sets are"incomplete. …

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