Cooper, Michael (trans.)
- This Island of Japon - Joao Rodrigues' Account of 16th Century Japan
Kodansha, Tokyo, 1973.
First edition: hardcover, octavo; maroon cloth boards with gilt spine titling, decorated endpapers; 354pp., colour frontispiece and monochrome plates. Owner's name. Faint spotting to upper text block edge; a few scattered spots on half-title page; dustwrapper spine panel slightly faded and mild wear to edges. Very good to near fine. Wrapper now professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film with white paper backing. The importance of the early Jesuit missionaries' eyewitness account of Japan in that colourful and eventful period between the rise of Oda Nobunaga and the implementation of the 'closed-country' policy by the Tokugawa Bakufu in 1639-40, has long been recognized by historians, both Japanese and western. Of all the missionaries - indeed of all the Europeans - who visited or lived in Japan during the 16th-17th centuries, none knew the country, the people, and their culture, better than did Joao Rodrigues. A Portuguese who arrived in Kyushu as a 16-year-old lad in 1577, when Otomo Yoshishige was a power in the land, he remained in the island-empire, with the exception of a short trip to Macao in 1596, until his expulsion from Nagasaki in 1610. At the time of his death at Macao in 1633, he was still actively working on the draft of his manuscript History of the Japan Mission. Portions of this work (from later copies) were used by previous historians such as the Jesuit Fathers Cros (1900) and Schurhammer (1923-72), but the work as a whole has only been thoroughly analysed and publicized by Michael Cooper. This Island of Japon contains all the information about Japan which Rodrigues wrote and which is likely to be of interest to the modern student of the period. Fr. Cooper has purged the rambling Portuguese text of numerous irrelevant digressions and needless repetitions, with the result that the English translation reads more smoothly and coherently than the original. All the material concerning Japanese culture, in the more restricted sense of the term has been retained, and herein lies the real importance and interest of Rodrigues' work. His grasp of Japanese literature, his appreciation of Japanese art, his knowledge of the tea-ceremony and of many other distinctive aspects of Japanese culture, were not to be attained by any other westerner until the 19th century. An indispensable book of the Momoyama and Keicho periods, and it is excellently edited, illustrated and produced. - From C.R. Boxer
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