Tractado em que se co[n]tam muito por este[n]so as cousas da China, co[m] suas particularidades, [e] assi do reyno dormuz. Gaspar da CRUZ.
Tractado em que se co[n]tam muito por este[n]so as cousas da China, co[m] suas particularidades, [e] assi do reyno dormuz
Tractado em que se co[n]tam muito por este[n]so as cousas da China, co[m] suas particularidades, [e] assi do reyno dormuz
Tractado em que se co[n]tam muito por este[n]so as cousas da China, co[m] suas particularidades, [e] assi do reyno dormuz
Tractado em que se co[n]tam muito por este[n]so as cousas da China, co[m] suas particularidades, [e] assi do reyno dormuz
"The First European Book Devoted Exclusively to China" -- Lach
Evora, Em casa de Andre de Burgos, 1569 [title] / 1570 [colophon].

Tractado em que se co[n]tam muito por este[n]so as cousas da China, co[m] suas particularidades, [e] assi do reyno dormuz.

4to in eights [19.1 x 13.9 cm], (88) ff., with woodcut arms and border on title page and woodcut initials. Bound in stiff vellum, manuscript title to spine, red ink borders to covers, marbled end papers. Only very minor rubbing to spine and boards, book label of H. P. Kraus inside upper cover. Sympathetically washed, very small mend to title and to fol. b ii not affecting text, very minor mends to worming in outer margin of a few leaves, a few contemporary annotations and minor marginal stains.

Very rare first edition of this eyewitness account: “the first European book devoted exclusively to China” (Lach, I.1, p. 330). This highly important work, the first printed book published in the West on the subject, served as the primary source on China for European authors and their readers - most of whom never set foot in the East - for many decades following its publication.

In 1548 Gaspar da Cruz, along with ten fellow Dominican friars, departed for Portuguese India with the purpose of establishing a mission in the East. Cruz visited Goa, Chaul, Kochi, and Portuguese Ceylon. In 1554 Cruz was in Malacca and thence left for Cambodia on a (failed) attempt to found a mission there. In 1556 he was in Guangzhou bay on the island of Lampacao and later went to Guangzhou itself to preach.  By 1560 he had departed China and by 1565 he was on his return to Portugal where he published the present work in Evora in 1569/70.  His Tractado provides a highly unusual and remarkable eyewitness account of Ming China, including many details never before published in the West. Comparing the work to the more renown account of Marco Polo’s travels to Asia, Boxer remarks: “there can be no doubt that the Portuguese friar [Cruz] gives us a better and clearer account of China as he saw it than did the more famous Italian traveler” (Boxer, p. lxiii.)

Although some information about China had entered Europe through general histories on the Orient (such as the writings of the Portuguese historians Fernão Lopes de Castanheda [c. 1550-1559], João de Barros [1496-1570], and Damião de Goes [1502-74], or, as was the case with Galeote Pereira, formed part of a Jesuit annual relation, “these accounts were not books on China, but only parts of books which dealt incidentally with China” (Boxer, p. lxii). Cruz’s intention, by contrast, was to produce a book wholly on China, as is clear from its title and preface.  It is, notes Rogers, “the first Renaissance book on China to appear in print” (– Europe Informed, p. 87). Even the inclusion of several leaves at the end of the book on Ormuz where the author stopped on his way back to Europe “is obviously an afterthought of the printer, as Cruz makes no allusion to this appendix in the preface in which he outlines the scope of his work” (Boxer, p. lxii).

Cruz uses (and dutifully cites) the few early written sources available to him “but adds much information from his own experience, particularly about Chinese social life at Canton which clearly fascinated him. Among many more things, he does not forget to describe his pet Cantonese song-birds, who turned December into April with their singing … He is the first recorded (and for a long time only) European to appreciate Chinese music, and he found Chinese practices of husbandry and navigation in many ways superior to those of Europe. He made good use of his eyes and ears during his short stay in Kuangtung [Canton/Guangzhou]; and he took the trouble to obtain translations of Chinese state documents and private letters which greatly enhance the value of his work. The unbounded admiration which (in common with his countryman Galeote Pereira) he expressed for many aspects of Chinese life and work forms an interesting contrast to the more critical attitude of Fr. Martin de Rada” and other subsequent writers (Boxer, p. lxi). “From the astuteness and accuracy of his minute observations on Chinese customs, both religious and secular, it is clear that he probably took detailed notes while at Canton” (Lach, I.ii, p. 748), and integrated this information into his discussions which include geography, architecture, social structure, craftsmen and merchants, agriculture, costume, funerary practice, slavery and justice, police and prisons, women, the status of the emperor, relations with Portugal, the Islamic presence in China, and plagues and natural disasters.

 Marco Polo’s (1254-1324) famous account of Asia, though written earlier than that of Cruz (and first appearing in print in 1477), was devoted not to Cathay itself, but generally to the “Kingdoms and Marvels of the East,” and, according to Boxer, in those passages that do discuss China, Polo’s work is notoriously unobservant, especially about aspects of daily life and culture. Polo, in contrast to Cruz, fails to mention the Great Wall, the importance of tea, the custom of foot binding, fishing with the aid of trained cormorants, the practice of artificially hatching eggs, the antiquity of Chinese book printing, or the peculiar characteristics of Chinese writing, all details that would become signposts in Europe’s conception of China. Where Polo’s “associations in China were chiefly with foreigners,” Cruz was “a missionary of more than ordinary zeal and energy” and used his local contacts to pen this “exceptionally honest” account (Boxer, pp. lxii, lxi).

 In 1560 we find Gaspar da Cruz at the Portuguese fort at Hormuz, and after some three years he returned to India before departing for Portugal for good in about 1565. Cruz arrived in Lisbon in 1569 at the height of the great plague of that year, and after administering to the ill, he himself succumbed to the epidemic on February 5, 1570. The Tractado is dated 1569 on its title page and February 20, 1570, on its colophon, suggesting that Cruz had drafted the work before his return to Portugal but did not live to see its publication. The Tractado is his only published work.

 It should be noted that 17th-century Iberian writers regularly cited Cruz in their booklists of texts relevant to the Far East [see Rogers, p. 87, no. 72].) The Tractado was translated/paraphrased by numerous writers, both Spanish and English, but the widest diffusion of Cruz’s narrative came when Juan Gonzales de Mendoza, who relied heavily on Cruz' work, published his Historia of 1585 which became a pan-European bestseller through its numerous translations. There is also an abridged translation of Cruz in Samuel Purchas’ Pilgrimes, Part III (London, 1625), but in terms of quality, Cruz would not be surpassed until the fundamental China texts of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628) in the 17th century.

An English translation of Cruz’ Tractado with an important historical introduction is published in C.R. Boxer, South China in the Sixteenth Century.

Provenance: from the personal library of H. P. Kraus.

Other than the present copy, we have found no auction records or dealer listings for this work going back at least 45 years.

 * A. J. Anselmo, Bibliografia das obras impressas em Portugal no século XVI, no. 390, p. 108; Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, col. 2063; Barbosa, II, p. 348; F. M. Rogers, Europe Informed; D. F. Lach, Asia and the Making of Europe; C. R. Boxer, South China in the Sixteenth Century.

 

Price: $285,000.00

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