Provenance Mysteries: De missione legatorum Iaponensium ad romanam curiam, rebusq[ue],

This week’s Provenance Mystery is De missione legatorum Iaponensium ad romanam curiam, rebusq[ue], by Duarte de Sande, printed in Macau in 1590. This is one of the first books to be printed in Macau according to The Libraries and Documents of Macau by Jorge de Abreu Arrimar. J.M. Braga, in The Beginnings of Printing at Macao (p. 35) claims it as the second book printed in Macau.

The marginalia found in this book is actually very scant. In the first image, the numbering in the left hand margin is that of Robert Ashley (1565-1641) the founder of Middle Temple Library. The marginalia in the right hand side, however, is not in his hand. The marginalia in the second image, ‘T. Joanna Aragon Neapolitanorus’ is both adding to, and correcting of the printed text- replacing Aragon (‘Aragoniorum’) with Naples, and adding the name of Giovanna d’Aragona. Interestingly, in this digital version of the work produced in 2010, the same corrections are made to the text (see p. 487).

While normally we would prefer to feature more copious annotations and evidence of provenance in these posts, it is worth highlighting this book for one particular reason. In her article, ‘Encounter as process’, Professor Nandini Das wrote that a copy of this book was obtained by Richard Hakluyt from the 1592 capture of the Portuguese ship, the Madre de Dios. In his Principal navigations, Hakluyt recounts how the ship was taken, and lists some of the treasures it contained, including many jewels which were stolen before the ship’s treasures could be transferred to the Queen. These jewels included a diamond which eventually found its way into the possession of Francis Langley, brother-in-law to Robert Ashley.

There are currently only 5 recorded copies of this book: two are in German collections, one in Spain, one in Italy, and one in Portugal. As this is the only recorded copy in a British collection, is it therefore possible that this is an annotated copy once owned by Richard Hakluyt?

To view a digitised version of the copy now in Seville go to:

If you think you recognise the ownership of this book, please do let us know at:

Renae Satterley, Librarian, April 2020

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