Paris, Jean Anisson, 1697.
[Followed by :] [Le Gobien]. Nouveaux Mémoires sur l’état présent de la Chine.
Paris, Jean Anisson, 1698.
3 parts in 3 volumes 12mo [163 x 94 mm] of : I/ 1 portrait, (16) ll., 410 pp., 1 folded table, 18 plates of which 3 are folded ; II/ (2) ll., 435 pp., (9) pp., 2 full-page plates; III/ (16) ll., 216 pp., (2) ll., pp. 217 to 322, (5) ll. Small burn on page 319 of volume 3. Ruled copy.
Red morocco, covers decorated “à la Duseuil”, richly decorated ribbed spines, gilt inner border, gilt over marbled edges. Contemporary binding.
First complete edition dedicated to king louis XIV of the Memories on the present state of China by Father le Comte ; it relates to the various books published about the missions.
The third volume is published here for the first time.
De Backer, III, 1512.
Le Père Louis Le Comte was one of the six missionaries mathematicians sent to Siam by the Society of Jesus with the embassy of the knight of Chaumont in 1685.
After staying for 2 years in Siam on the demand of Prince Phra-Naraï, the missionaries arrived in Nuing Po on 27 July, 1687 and in Beijing on 8 February, 1688.
Louis Le Comte made during his travels important astronomical observations describing is particular the passage of Mercury on the sun’s disk in 1690.
Appointed first to the mission of Chen Si, he traveledmore than 2 000 miles in 5 years and thus acquired a good knowledge of the country.
In his Mémoires, Louis Le Comte delivers a various and detailed wealth of information on China, still little known at the end of the 17th century: geographic description of the cities and countries, government, courts, religion, manners, lifestyle, Chinese civility, education, marriage, mourning, commerce, money, industries, climate, canals, rivers, navigation mode, pearl fishing, locks, trees and plants, fruits, animals (rhinoceros, chameleon), gardens, observation on the eclipses and the comets.
Back in France, Louis Le Comte became the confessor of the Duchess of Burgundy and took part in the almost century-long controversy between Jesuits and the missionaries of the Foreign Missions, who claimed that certain ceremonies practiced in China should be rejected as idolaters.
In these “New Memories” the father Le Comte defended the position of tolerance in his order.
“This work contains very curious details on Chinese manners, uses and industries. Portrait and copper-engraved plates”. (Chadenat)
The attractive illustration includes a portrait of the Emperor of China Cam-Hy by F. Ertinger, a folded table giving the “Collection of all the words that compose the Chinese language” and 20 plates out of pagination, some of them folded representing the astronomical machine of the observatory of Beijing installed by father Ferdinand Verbiest (zodiacal armillary sphere, equinoctial sphere, Horizon Azimutal, Sextant eight feet radius, celestial globe, etc.) and costumes (schoolboy, soldier, colonel, mandarin, undressed lady), as well as an interesting view of a craftsman operating a “machine to cut the magnet”.
The third volume, which is rarely joined to the first two contains “the History of the edict of the Emperor of China in favor of the Christian religion with clarification on the honors that the Chinese return to Confucius and to the death by Charles le Gobien”.
The work is dedicated to the Duke of Maine and is part of the historical relationship of the religious quarrel of that time.
Marquise de Maintenon only had the third volume alone.
Superb ruled copy with wide margins, complete with its 20 plates and its third volume in first edition, covered with luxurious contemporary bindings in red morocco decorated “à la Duseuil”.
The copy of la Vieuville, with one missing plate, with the third volume in second edition at the date of 1700, was sold for 192 500 franc by Sotheby’s Monaco on 17 June, 1990.
The copy described by Chadenat (2365), had the third volume at the date of 1702 and was missing its folded table.