PREGIUDIZI DELL'EUROPA ESPRESSI IN UNA MASCHERATA NEL GIAPPONE. Venice, 1788. 38 pp., 10 pp. publisher's adverts. 18x12 cm. Uncut in original wrappers.
A curious pamphlet of exceptional rarity, and unknown to the librarian of the Bibliotheca Marciana in Venice. This anonymous work purports to describe a masked ball in Nagasaki, financed by a Dutch merchant named van der Welber. The entertainment includes various tableaux of European culture, in which such figures as Plato, Aristotle, Cervantes, and Pierre Boyle are portrayed. The full version of the title includes the suggestion that the Japanese masque be revived for the next carnival in Italy for entertainment and public instruction. It seems more than likely that the entire mise-en-scene is imaginary, and that this pamphlet is no more than a piece of political satire. A number of clues, principally the carnival, suggest the use of Nagasaki as a sobriquet for Venice, thus enabling the author to comment with impunity on the manners and customs of la Serenissima. If this assumption is correct, then the pamphlet might appear to be written somewhat along the lines of Montesquieu's 'Lettres persanes'. Indeed, the Italian text also makes use of the Troglodyte allegory. The choice of Japan would appear to be most uncommon in this genre of writing. Possibly the author sought to continue a trend of thinking begun in the 16th century by Italian missionaries, with their favourable reports on the prevailing conditions in Japan. One thing is certain: the name of van der Welber is not recorded in the annals of the Dutch East India Company. Since the Dutch were at that time the only Europeans permitted in Japan, a Dutch character was necessary to give the tableau what little veracity it has. An extraordinary item which would repay more careful study. We are grateful for the assistance of John Julius Norwich, and Giulia Ajmone Marsan. Not in NUC, Melzi, or the usual reference works.
Subjects: Rare Books
Available, as of: 12/02/2018
Was item 581 in printed List 191.
Record produced by Hanshan Tang Books, www.hanshan.com.