Gouvea, Antonio de (attributed), 1592-1677
sive Sententia Comitiorum Imperij Sinici pro innocentia Christianæ religionis lata juridicè per annum 1669. & Ivssv R.P. Antonij de Gouvea Soc. Iesu, ibidem V. Provincialis Sinico-Latinè exposita in Quam Cheu metropoli provinciæ Quam tum in Regno Sinarum. Anno Salvtis Hvmanæ MDCLXXI.
Quam tum [Canton] : Jesuit Press, 1671. First Edition.
Small folio, contemporary Chinese wrappers (detached); woodblock title page featuring the Holy Initials and the instruments of the Passion within a sunburst; ff [ii], 43; printed xylographically on one side of the sheet only, on double rice paper folded at the fore-edge in the Chinese style; text in Latin and Chinese; a fine copy housed in a custom-made clamshell box of full crushed morocco lettered in gilt.
Although the Jesuits had brought a printing press with movable types to Macau as early as 1588, only a few works were printed on it prior to the press being transferred to Nagasaki in 1590. From this date the Jesuit missionaries in China reverted to the use of xylographic (woodblock) printing. Between 1662 and 1718 a total of eleven books were printed using xylographic blocks in various locations in China under the auspices of the Jesuit missionaries. Innocentia Victrix was the third such book to be printed in this period. It contains, in three Chinese scripts (old, modern and cursive) with phonetic transcription and Latin translation, the copy of the imperial edict of the young Emperor Kangxi recording official tolerance of the Christian religion, as well as astronomical observations and calculations made by the Jesuit fathers at their observatory in Peking. During this period there was much opposition to the presence of the Jesuits in China, as it was commonly feared that the missionaries would create a foothold for an attempted takeover by the Portuguese. It was not only their religion that was treated with suspicion, but also their scientific knowledge (in particular, of astronomy), which frequently challenged calculations made by court scholars. In a very real sense, possession of a copy of Innocentia Victrix would have provided a missionary with the hope of diplomatic immunity, as well as impressing upon prospective converts the idea that imperial protection might be extended to those deciding to adopt the Christian religion.
Although the compilation of Innocentia Victrix is generally attributed to Antonio de Gouvea, the Portuguese vice-provincial, it is also possible that either a Flemish missionary, de Rougement, or an Italian, Lubelli, was responsible. Only a handful of extant examples are known.
Cordier, Sinica, 822-5; Boxer, Some Sino-European xylographic works, 3; de Backer-Sommervogel, III, 1637: “Ouvrage excessivement rare.”