This article focusses on the distribution of Sino-European books in the broad scholarly world: how did these books that are intercultural regarding authorship, content, and material aspect, reach their potential readers? And how widely were these books distributed? It investigates the extent to which these books were included in private libraries from the late Ming until the mid-Qing (1582–c.1823). Book printing had become very efficient in the second half of the sixteenth century and collecting books, both in printed and manuscript form, had become one of the favourite hobbies of (retired) scholars. Some of them accumulated very large libraries, and the catalogues of a few of these have been preserved.
Thirty-seven of the still extant catalogues of these libraries contain references to Sino-European books. These references provide the opportunity to investigate the distribution of such intercultural texts over a span of two hundred and fifty years. This article begins with a general presentation of these catalogues. Subsequently, individual catalogues are described in chronological order. When possible, a description is included of the collector’s link with European missionaries or Chinese Christians, as it is through these connections that the intercultural encounters around these texts took place. Next, by tracing the frequency of appearance of the works, this article explores what the extant catalogues can tell us about the distribution of Sino-European books. Finally, the focus moves to the ways the collectors classified these works in their catalogues. By investigating the bibliographic categories, this analysis reveals the intercultural negotiations that took place in the creation of the Sino-European book world.
A unique characteristic of the cultural contacts between China and Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is the intercultural circuit of books that was established: European books travelling to China, and in return Chinese books travelling to Europe. Within this circuit, a large number of intercultural books was translated and published in Chinese or in European languages, thus becoming the source material for new publications. This special issue of EAPS focuses on the Chinese pole of this cross-continental textual exchange, where the printing of Sino-European books was facilitated by the presence of a well-established print culture. By analysing a unique collection of these Sino-European books, the following two articles investigate their production and distribution from the late Ming until the mid-Qing period (1582–c.1823). As such, they provide insights into the emergence of an intercultural ‘book world’. The following introduction sets the scene for the two articles.
This article focusses on the production of Sino-European intercultural books in China from the late Ming until the mid-Qing (1582–c.1823). It seeks to answer questions such as: where were the Sino-European books printed? How did the printing places evolve over time? And which factors influenced this evolution? It does so by investigating the private publishing places of these books, which have been referred to as ‘tang printing’ (tangke堂刻) or more specifically ‘church printing’ (jiaotang ke教堂刻). By using historical and geospatial data visualization, this article locates, maps, and analyses the production centres of Sino-European books over the course of more than two centuries. It further puts the evolution of this industry in the context of the available printing techniques, the social actors, and the relevant socio-political changes. This investigation shows that the technology of woodblock printing and the flexibility and elasticity of the labour force made the expansion of publishing Sino-European texts relatively easy. As will be discussed below, the regional spread of printing centres over the course of time was determined by internal factors linked to social actors, such as the number of European missionaries and their productivity, and by socio-political external factors, such as periods of persecution and exile. After delineating the printed artefacts that are used for this research, this article establishes a historical and geospatial narrative of the development of this intercultural ‘book world’, visualizing its evolution through digital humanities methods. In doing so, it gives unique insight into the printing history of the early Sino-European encounter in China.