Lettera annale del Giapone scritta al Padre Generale della Gompagnia [sic] di Giesu. Alli XX. di Febbraio M.D.L.XXXVIII

Autore: FROES, Luis (1528-1597)

Tipografo: Francesco Zanetti, in Piazza di Pietra

Dati tipografici: Roma, 1590

8vo (147x95 mm). 119, [1] pp. Collation: A8 B-O4. Jesuit emblem on title page and last leaf verso. The name of the author appears only as a signature at the end of the letter on l. O4r.  Register and colophon on l. O4v. Slightly later flexible vellum, blue edges. Old ownership entry on title page partly faded. Scattered foxing and staining, but a good, genuine copy.

Extremely rare first edition in Italian (reprinted in the same year at Milan and Brescia) of this Jesuit report from Japan, first published in Portuguese at Lisbon in 1589 and soon translated also into German (Dillingen, 1590) and French (Antwerp, 1590).

The book is printed by Francesco Zanetti, whose printing house was in Piazza di Pietra close to the Jesuits' Roman College. The years described by Froes were particularly tumultuous with so “many wars and revolutions in the year just passed [1587] [that] the Portuguese vessel could not set sail for Japan” (p. 3). As a matter of fact, in 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the Jesuits to leave the country and began persecuting the Christians. Froes describes the state of the church and the Jesuit works amid so many difficulties.

“The author Luís Fròis goes on to describe in some detail the events following the 23rd of July, 1587, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the Jesuits to leave the country within 20 days, and the subsequent persecution of Christians. Churches and other Jesuit housing were confiscated and in some cases destroyed. The Jesuit missionaries had to keep constantly on the move or to go into hiding. This first ban seems to have been only temporarily enforced. A crucial letter for the history of Japan” (Sophia University, Laures Rare Book Database).

“The range of the matters treated by the accounts was further expanded under the influence of Valignano, particularly in the case of the letters by Father Luis Frois (1532-1597). Ever since 1579, the length of the annual letters significantly increased and the reports came to focus singularly on all the different regions in which the Jesuit seminaries and residences were located” (S. Favi, Self Through the Other: Production, Circulation and Reception in Italy of Sixteenth-Century Printed Sources on Japan, Venice, 2018, p. 113).

Froes was born in Beja (Portugal) in 1528. He began his novitiate in 1547 and followed Father Barzée to the Indies in 1548. He first arrived in Japan in 1563. Active mostly in Kyoto, he would become the most prolific writer among the Jesuit missionaries in Japan. In particular, he was commissioned a História de Japam, that describes the history of the Jesuit mission in Japan up to 1593, but was not published until recently. Froes died in Nagasaki in 1597.

Edit 16, CNCE19919; Ascarelli, p. 109; Bunko, 114; Cordier, 111-112; De Backer-Sommervogel, III, 1035; Streit, IV, 465.