[MONTANUS, Arnoldus (1625-1683)]
Ambassades mémorables de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales des Provinces Unies vers les Empereurs du Japon
Amsterdam: Jan Van Meurs, 1680. 2 parts in one volume (as issued), folio. (13 7/8 x 9 inches). Title in red and black with integral engraved vignette. Engraved additional title, 26 engraved maps and plates (1 folding map, 4 folding plates, 21 double-page plates), 70 engraved illustrations, occasional engraved initials and head-pieces.
Contemporary speckled calf, neatly rebacked and cornered, spine in seven compartments with raised bands, red morocco lettering-piece in the second compartment, dated at the foot of the spine
First edition in French of this important work on Japan, a work whose illustrations "represent a high-water mark in book illustrations of the 17th century" (Lach).
Designed to complement his similar work on China, this work was compiled by Montanus from records of Jesuit missions to Japan in 1649 and 1661, and published by Jan Van Meurs for the Dutch East India Company. Van Meurs had received the necessary permission to publish both a Dutch and a French edition in 1664, but it was not until 1669 that the Dutch edition appeared, to be followed shortly after by translations in German and in English using Van Meurs plates. In the present edition, the frontispiece and four of the original large plates were recut, and many of the text illustrations are reversed or mirrored. This edition is the first to include the plate of Fort Zeelandia in Taiwan. Montanus' work amounts to a massive history of all aspects of Japan as it was then understood by the West and contains "more firsthand information about Japan than any other post-1650 publication" (Lach).
The work primarily concentrates on providing accounts of Japanese politics, culture, religion, and military affairs. In addition, Montanus gives descriptions of the various western attempts to make contact with Japan: these naturally concentrate on the VOC (or Dutch East-India Company) embassies. The account of the Dutch 'Blokovius-Frisium embassy' comes from previously unpublished material, and other VOC embassies described include those of Zacharias Wagenaer in 1657 and Henry Indyk in 1661. Topographical information is wide ranging (for the time) and includes Montanus' descriptions of the towns of Nagasaki, Hirado, Osaka, Sakai, Kyoto, Shizuoka, and Edo, as well as the mysterious 'boiling waters of Singok'. The sociology of Japan is also described in some detail, with accounts of Japanese customs (bath-houses, wrestling, gardens) endeavors (whaling, wine-making), and mores (including crime and punishment with accounts of murder, the burning of widows, blood-baths, and various tortures).
The magnificent maps, plans, and illustrations cover Japanese costume, cities, flora and fauna, religious ceremonies, military techniques and include a plan of Nagasaki, large folding views of Miako and Edo, a scene of the destruction wrought by an earthquake at Edo, action portraits of samurai, an illustration of a religious ceremony at the temple at Beelden, formal meetings between western ambassadors and the Japanese Imperial Court, and a plate showing the Emperor's throne.
Cordier Japonica 385;Cox I:325; Lach Asia in the Making of Europe III, pp.1873-79; Landwehr VOC 525.