SEMEDO, Alvaro.

The History of the Great and Renowned Monarchy of China… Lately written in Italian… Now put into English by a person of quality… To which is added the history of the late invasion, and conquest of that flourishing kingdom by the Tartars…

London: Printed by E. Tyler for John Crook…1655

Small folio, pp. (x), 308, (2) adverts, engraved frontispiece portrait, folding engraved map, and 1 engraved portrait plate. Engraved portrait on p. (250), engraved map on p. (254), title within double ruled border, separate title-page to the appendix on the Tartar conquest, woodcut headpieces and some fine woodcut initials. Contemporary calf, rebacked with morocco and endpapers replaced (as many books in the Gaddesden Library were), spine gilt with brown morocco label, sides ruled in blind. Short (7 cm.) tear in map without loss, some very minor soiling on the title, but a fine, clean and fresh copy. Bookplate of the Gaddesden Library.

FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH, THE TRANSLATOR’S COPY. Thomas Henshaw “is the ‘Person of Quality’ who translated, from the Italian, The History of that Great and Renowned Monarchy of China (1655), by the Portuguese Jesuit F. Alvarez Semedo” (ODNB). Thomas Henshaw (1618–1700), alchemist and founder member of the Royal Society, formed the basis of the Halsey Library at Gaddesden Place. His only surviving child married Thomas Halsey of Gaddesden in Hertfordshire and they were the principal beneficiaries of his will. This book remained in the family until sold by Forum Auctions in September 2021, lot 56. It is not inscribed by Henshaw (the endpapers have been replaced), but very few books in the library were. Semedo spent 22 years in China as Portuguese Procurado General. First published in Madrid in 1642, this work is based on his personal observations, which include the state of the sciences and Chinese books on science. The second part, on the conquest by the Tartars, is based on Martino Martini’s De Bello Tartarico Historia (1654), the story of the Manchu conquest of China, a work that was at the time considered the best general description of China. Wing S2490.


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