Sven Osterkamp
Ruhr University Bochum. Faculty of East Asian Studies. Professor

Early European owners of Jesuit prints and manuscripts from Japan: A view chiefly from book sale catalogues

The provenance of Jesuit prints and manuscripts from Japan now kept in collections across Europe and beyond is still understudied. It is thus often not sufficiently clear, when and how they left their country of origin, who their first owners in Europe were and how they were transmitted afterwards. Relying on hints in the objects themselves, but chiefly on hitherto largely untapped sources such as book sale catalogues, this paper provides an overview of owners of such Jesuit sources in 17th to 19th century Europe.

What emerges for the earliest times is the picture of an entire network of owners that was mostly based in the Netherlands, but also extended to England and Sweden, for instance. Several early owners exhibited close ties with the Dutch East India Company – whereas the direct involvement of Jesuits in the transmission of such materials was largely limited to cases in Southern Europe. During the course of the 18th century, the overall focus then slowly shifts from the Netherlands to France and Great Britain. This was in part due to acquisitions in Dutch book sales, but also due to specific historical events, such as the suppression of the Jesuits beginning in 1759, the British occupation of Manila (1762–64) and the suppression of monasteries at the time of the French Revolution.

Finally, in addition to details concerning the history of copies that have long been known, book sale catalogues also provide us with hints at the existence of further items that only await to be recovered from oblivion.