Trude Dijkstra
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On 27 June 1667, the publisher Jacob van Meurs was summoned before the Amsterdam notary Hendrick Westfrisius for his illegal publication of Athanasius’s Kircher’s monumental description of China, China illustrata (1667). Fellow Amsterdam publisher, Johannes Janssonius van Waesberge, had instigated the summons, as he was the holder of a privilege issued by the States of Holland to publish the book.1 Much was at stake here: a publication such as China illustrata could do much to further a publisher’s career. China held a great appeal to the Dutch public, and printers and publishers were quick to recognise the commercial possibilities. As a result, what started out as a trickle of works on China at the end of the sixteenth century soon swelled to a deluge of publications. Over the course of the seventeenth century, many books, journals, newspapers, and pamphlets would devote their attention to this so-called Middle Kingdom (Zhongguo 中國).

Van Waesberge had good reason to worry over the illegal publishing antics of his competitor, Van Meurs. For, even among the hundreds of works on China published in the Dutch Republic, Kircher’s China illustrata stood out. Not only was it a veritable encyclopaedia of the Chinese Empire, ranging from religious practises, social customs, and languages to China’s natural wonders, it was also a beautifully produced book: illustrated with many fine engravings, charts, and maps. Due to its alluring form and compelling content, the work promised to be a commercial success from the outset. The publication also came at the right moment as the 1660s were an opportune time for printed works on the Middle Kingdom. In 1667, Dutch readers could turn to the now-regarded ‘classics’: Jan Huygen van Linschoten’s Itinerario (1595), Juan González de Mendoza’s D’historie ofte beschryvinghe van het groote rijck van China (1595), or Willem Lodewijcksz’s and Cornelis Matelief’s reports on the earliest Dutch expeditions to Asia. If readers wished, perhaps, for something more current, they could always consult Jesuit accounts of China, which were also regularly published in Holland: Matteo Ricci and Martino Martini proved exceptionally popular. On top of that, a growing number of overviews of the Chinese Empire had been published: Johan Nieuhof’s Het gezantschap der Neêrlandtsche Oost-Indische Compagnie, aan den grooten Tartarischen Cham, den tegenwoordige keizer van China (1665) being one of the most eye-catching. Moreover, newspapers, journals, and news digests with further reports were widely available. This steady flow of information coming from the Middle Kingdom fuelled public debates in print on the implications of intercultural contacts between China and Europe, and readers always seemed to be clamouring for more.

Chinese religion and philosophy, especially the teachings of Confucius, played a particularly important role in these books and printed works. Missionaries of the Society of Jesus in China had transformed Confucius into the protagonist of Europe’s interactions with the Middle Kingdom, presenting the sage and his teachings as essentially compatible with Christianity. This position was influential and not without success. For instance, in 1667, the same year Kircher’s China illustrata was published, the Dutch playwright Joost van den Vondel could even exclaim that: ‘Confucius, known throughout China, … twenty centuries ago planted golden morals on the land, and in the cities’.2 However, the last quarter of the seventeenth century saw the first stirrings of what came to be known as the Chinese Rites Controversy. Not happy with the Jesuit interpretation of China and its religion and philosophy, Roman Catholic authorities began to push back against this accommodating approach towards Confucianism. Polemics and justifications were written back and forth and, as a result, the volume of works on China increased further still.

No wonder Van Meurs wanted a piece of the action in 1667, much to the chagrin of Van Waesberge. The latter had paid Kircher the considerable amount of 2,200 scudi, entitling him to the sole rights to all his books. Additionally, the publication of a book like China illustrata was an expensive venture on account of its large folio size, high quality of paper, and numerous copper engravings and maps. It comes as no surprise that, when Jacob van Meurs issued a pirated edition, Van Waesberge started legal action. Nonetheless, it did not get out of hand: notary Westfrisius ordered Van Meurs to hand over all remaining copies to Van Waesberge, together with the copperplates and woodcuts. In return, Van Waesberge paid Van Meurs 3,400 guilders for his losses.

However, the damage was done and the relations between the two publishers remained frosty. When a contract was drafted in 1672 between Van Waesberge and the engraver Coenraet Decker, the latter was explicitly prohibited from working with Van Meurs: ‘That also the same Coenraet Decker, as long as he is working on any drawings or designs of the aforementioned Van Waesberge that belong to the aforementioned books, he cannot etch or cut any plates or such alike for any other person, whether they are bookseller, plate cutter, printers of plates or others, whoever they are, and he especially may not etch or cut for Jacob van Meurs, nor provide any advice, help and assistance or instructions to the same Jacob van Meurs or to anyone else’.3

Figure 1
Figure 1

Frontispiece of Athanasius Kircher, China illustrata (Amsterdam: Johannes Janssonius van Waesberge, 1667) Allard Pierson Amsterdam (Band 4 B 5)

Figure 2
Figure 2

Frontispiece of Athanasius Kircher, China illustrata (Amsterdam: Jacob van Meurs, 1667) Allard Pierson Amsterdam (OM 63-728)

In the decades to come, Van Meurs and Van Waesberge would both go on to publish books on China. In 1670, Van Meurs issued Olfert Dapper’s monumental Beschryving der keizerryks van Taising of Sina (Description of the empire of China or Taising). Reissues of Johan Nieuhof’s embassy of the East India Company to China and other travelogues and geographies by authors like Jan Jacobsz Struys and Arnoldus Montanus also emerged at this time. Van Waesberge, in turn, made good use of his privilege by publishing another ten of Kircher’s books, which included translations of China illustrata in Dutch and French. Together with newspapers, journals, news digests, and pamphlets, these books brought the Middle Kingdom to readers in the Dutch Republic, opening up the way for extensive and far-reaching discussions and polemic debate. Numerous Dutch authors, translators, editors, printers, binders, and publishers earned their living in this segment of the book market.

This study discusses how Chinese religion and philosophy were represented in printed works created in the Dutch Republic between 1595 and 1700. Focusing on a variety of printed media, the aim is to shed new light on the representation of an often-contentious subject matter to readers and the publishing strategies of the producers. To this end, an analysis of form, content and material-technical aspects of various text types, mainly in Dutch and French, will provide insight into the ways an early modern public of readers (very much divided on religious, political, economic, and linguistic fronts) could take note of Chinese religion and philosophy. Furthermore, this analysis hopes to reveal the ways this knowledge was embedded into seventeenth-century Dutch perceptions of themselves and the foreign world.

Over the course of the following chapters, the notion is put forward that the interpretations and understandings of Chinese religion and philosophy were the result of processes of textual transmission in which producers played a fundamental role. The transmission of texts and images never follows a straightforward course and much can be learned by tracing processes of transtextuality from creator to consumer, by accounting for publishing strategies and marketing structures, and by studying the reciprocal effects of print on the intended audiences.4 In other words: this study assesses the importance of authors (including translators), printers, publishers, editors, illustrators, and booksellers in shaping the cultural consumption of China. Accordingly, the focus is on text type and content and the analysis assigns equal importance to both. As such, this examination will show that there was no singular image of Chinese religion and philosophy during the seventeenth century, but rather a varied array of notions on the subject. Perceptions often differed according to type and aim of publication, in addition to a variety of motives and considerations related to the cultural, political, religious, or economic background of the producers.5

Scholarship on the Middle Kingdom and Europe during the early modern period has been increasingly inclusive in its approach towards the Western interpretation and appreciation of Chinese religion and philosophy.6 Researchers are becoming aware of the intricacies involved in the various processes of textual transmission; however, there remains a gap in knowledge of how the printing press influenced and facilitated the dissemination of early modern perceptions of the Middle Kingdom. And while the field of book history has shown itself mindful of concepts related to textual transmission through print, there are few studies that combine these subjects. As such, this study examines which images of Chinese religion and philosophy were put forward through text, paratext, and illustration of printed works produced in the Dutch Republic between 1595 and 1700. It further explores how these images reflected contemporary Dutch artistic, literary, religious, and philosophical discussions in order to ask the following questions: to what extend did the type of publication influence the manner in which China was discussed, and to what degree were these viewpoints enabled, shaped, and limited by processes of textual and visual transmission?

To answer these cultural-historical questions, this study turns to tools and methods provided by the interdisciplinary field of book history. The study of the history of the book as a physical object carrying some form of text, be it in the form of a scroll, codex, or digital file, dates back to well before the invention of print, indeed, to the invention of the written word itself.7 Texts and their physical presence were often regarded not only as carriers of knowledge, but as objects of aesthetic pleasure as well. This estimation of textual carriers has made the book an object of study, where the physical form in which texts are contained takes centre stage.8 By studying, codifying, and classifying books and manuscripts, scholars tried to make sense of them.

This research implements a qualitative case-study approach, meaning that each chapter deals with one particular carrier of printed text: books, journals, newspapers, and pamphlets, which is a practical means to illuminate the impact of the physicality of the printed material on its content and on the dissemination of information.9 Additionally, and in keeping with the methodology of book history, the specific thematic cases have been selected based on the hypothesis that they showcase differing degrees of transtextuality; for instance, books reference other texts in a different fashion than newspapers do. The advantage of this approach is that it provides insights into the extent of representativity, or conversely, atypicality, of a given textual discourse. Put more concretely: this study not only explores various ‘versions’ of Chinese religion and philosophy in Dutch representations, it also reveals how widespread specific perceptions may have been. In sum, this type of assessment based on a combination of content, production, and materiality has the potential to disclose to us the complexities of the early modern representation of Chinese religion and philosophy.

Today, as in the seventeenth century, China holds a special place in the scholar’s imagination.10 The country exudes an air of intellectual possibilities, making images of China the subject of a great number of scholarly publications over the last decades.11 As the humanities become increasingly focused on a global perspective towards history, these publications often emphasise the interconnectedness between cultures in Asia and Europe. A wide range of topics has been covered by scholars, from (for instance) Sinology and art history to economic history and philosophy: often with a focus on the interactions facilitating the transmission of goods, such as porcelain, lacquerware, silks and spices as well as knowledge about medicine, philosophy, writing systems, and how this dissemination of goods and knowledge impacted upon the respective societies in which they were introduced.12 European interactions with Chinese religion and philosophy were of especial importance for the formation of representations of the Middle Kingdom and will be discussed in a later paragraph of this introduction, after we have considered some more general points.

Of special note are the comprehensive overviews of Dutch and Portuguese interactions with China by colonial historian Charles R. Boxer, and the monumental and indispensable Asia in the making of Europe (1965–1993) by historians Donald F. Lach and Edwin J. van Kley.13 These and subsequent studies have been invaluable in establishing the interconnectedness between Asia and Europe during the early modern period. These contacts primarily came about through trade and conquest, and missionary efforts by the Society of Jesus: both which have been the subject of extensive research. The role of commerce has, notably, been studied by maritime historian John E. Wills and sinologist Leonard Blussé.14 Wills was the first to publish a work solely devoted to the interactions between the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and China, while Blussé made invaluable contributions to the field by expanding the geographic focus beyond the Netherlands to include Batavia (then, the capital of the Dutch East Indies) into the research perspective.15 The Jesuits were Europe’s principal intermediaries with China during the seventeenth century.16 After arriving in the area at the end of the sixteenth century, they began the process of writing histories of their mission. As such, they were fundamental to the early study of China, which could be considered a form of ‘proto-Sinology’.17 David Mungello has carried out fundamental research on the intellectual consequences of these interactions, and Nicolas Standaert and Thierry Meynard have made many indispensable primary sources available, appending them with extensive commentary and analysis.18

In recent years, scholars studying interactions between China and Europe have increasingly approached the exchange of culture and knowledge in terms of mutual influence and circulation.19 Historians and sinologists have also begun to implement ideas and methods about the physical transfer of goods into a broader perspective of cultural and intellectual change.20 Furthermore, scholars are increasingly aware of the major influence of social, economic, religious, and political factors in the transmission of cultural information from China to Europe.21 Meanwhile, historians of the early or ‘radical’ Enlightenment have considered the way in which the intellectual world of early modern Europe assessed and classified the Chinese ‘other’.22 Recently, it has been noted how Chinese thought became an important instrument within early modern intellectual discourse in Europe. For instance, Thijs Weststeijn, Jonathan Israel, and Joan-Pau Rubiés have all underlined the influence of China on the broad spectrum of European intellectual thought.23

Of particular interest to this study is how these varied notions of China trickled down from a narrow circle of merchants, missionaries, and radical thinkers into printed publications intended for a more general audience. Indeed, if the seventeenth century marked a defining moment in the history of intercultural contacts between China and the Dutch Republic, it was also a distinguishing moment in the history of print.24 First of all, Chinese religion and philosophy could never have become such an integral part of the intellectual discussion before this moment, as neither the content nor the medium of distribution had been in such an abundance before.25 Second, the emergence of cheaper print in this period, combined with the increased literacy among the Dutch, facilitated the dissemination of knowledge across a more varied audience. However, as we will discover, various physical elements of the printed works concerned had a strong bearing on this process of dissemination, with important ramifications for how the intended audience could perceive China and Chinese thought.

The complicated processes of textual transmission and intercultural exchange in print have recently been studied by Benjamin Schmidt. His Inventing exoticism (2015) assesses how Europeans came into contact with the foreign worlds of Asia, Africa, and the Americas through books printed in the Dutch Republic. He argues that the success of Dutch books came about through the ‘neutrality’ of their descriptions in print of the overseas world. According to Schmidt, Dutch printers and publishers, first among them the aforementioned defendant Jacob van Meurs, took a more universal perspective when representing the ‘exotic’ world, thereby foregoing mere ‘local’ interests. Schmidt also argues that Dutch book producers prepared their products ‘for appropriation as commodities’ by consumers all over Europe.26

As he also takes the book-historical properties of early modern works on China into account, Schmidt makes an important contribution to the history of the dissemination of knowledge and ideas about the Middle Kingdom. By further addressing the composition, mediation, survival, and transformation of written communication in print, the following aims to bring additional understanding of production, distribution, and reception of early modern knowledge about Chinese religion and philosophy to the fore. In doing so, I strive to move beyond the traditional hierarchy of contemporary sources. Historiography has given much attention to books by ‘great men’ such as Jan Huygen van Linschoten, Johan Nieuhof, and Athanasius Kircher. Their travelogues, itineraries, and histories have been rightfully pulled from their shelves time and again to emphasise the influence they had on the formation of European images of China and, subsequently, on the emergence of Chinoiserie in the early eighteenth century.27

Yet, the writings of these great men of travel and erudition represent just the tip of the iceberg of publications on China produced in the Dutch Republic between 1595 and 1700.28 As scholarship in general has moved away from the theory of ‘great men’, should we not also aim to move away from the idea that the history of China is but the biography of ‘great’ books? Much is to be found beneath the surface of the often-invoked histories of China in folio. Readers bought Athanasius Kircher’s China illustrata for its intellectual exposition and affluent (yet more general) readers turned to Jan Huygen van Linschoten, Olfert Dapper and Johan Nieuhof. People with less money to spend were supplied with information on China by Simon de Vries, and those wishing for sensational stories of travel and shipwreck could probably have afforded the small price for Bontekoe’s famous journal. Bringing these and other publishing strategies to light will both broaden and deepen our understanding of early modern representations of Chinese religion and philosophy.

Research about interactions between Asia and Europe has often used books for its sources, yet learned journals, newspapers, pamphlets, and periodicals have received less attention.29 One of the reasons for this paucity may be related to their ephemeral nature. Unlike monumental books in folio, usually furnished with a beautiful binding, many of these were never meant to last a month, let alone the three centuries or more that separates their production from today’s scholarly interest.30 Yet much has been preserved in libraries and collections the world over, and the expansion of digital tools certainly helped to spread the word on different types of publications and, at the same time, making them more easily available. While books are certainly among the most extensively used sources of this study, they are complemented by journals, newspapers, and pamphlets. The specific benefit of this varied source base is that it allows for a more thorough exploration of the influence of the form and presentation of print on the way in which knowledge about China and its religion and philosophy was transmitted. Furthermore, they affirm the varied nature of early modern European perceptions of the Middle Kingdom.

This research tries to avoid regarding the author as the sole manufacturer of the information found within the works bearing their name. While writers gained new prominence in the seventeenth-century world of printing, in practice they still had little control over the creation of their books.31 Very few early modern publications, and those on China are no exception, were ever the product of their stated author alone. This study encounters numerous individuals who fundamentally influenced form and content of Dutch publications on China.

The key role in the process of production was played by the publisher. He or she drew up contracts with authors, built alliances with booksellers, negotiated with authorities, handled finances, supplies, shipments and publicity.32 Different people were involved with providing copy: most notably, the author, editor and translator. These were beholden in various degrees to the publisher: editors of newspapers and learned journals often had more autonomy than translators or professional writers. Throughout the hand press period (c. 1500–1800), publishers were sometimes also responsible for printing; yet, this was by no means always the case. Print shops employed numerous people, among them journeymen working the presses, typesetters, compilers, proof-readers, correctors, and printer’s devils or flies (the apprentices whose duties included inking type, cleaning, and hauling). With the exception of a few notable printers (Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp first among them), shops in this period very rarely had more than six presses. Books were generally issued in editions ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 copies, which were soon reprinted if the work proved successful. These were then sold by booksellers or in the publisher’s or printer’s own shop, which sold a variety of books as well as stationery such as notebooks and pens. Vendors traded stock with their colleagues (also internationally), ensuring a varied offering of printed works. It should be noted that print shops did not produce complete books but, rather, sheets of printed paper that the buyer could take to a binder. He or she would sew together the stacks of paper, often affixing an attractive cover made from flexible vellum or one attached to stiff wooden boards.33

In the seventeenth century, printed works were often illustrated with engravings and/or woodblocks. These were not necessarily the responsibility of the printer of the text, primarily because the relief technique of printing text and woodcuts was incompatible with the intaglio manner in which etchings and engravings were produced. Relief printing is a method where the printing block or woodcut is brought into contact with paper. Those areas with ink leave an impression on the paper, while the recessed areas are left blank. Intaglio illustrations, copper engravings and etchings, must be printed separately on a different type of press. Here, the image is incised (by etching, engraving, dry point, mezzotint or the later-developed aquatint) into a surface whereby only the lines hold ink. When paper is placed on top of the plate, high pressure is applied by a rolling press, which pushes the paper into the lines of the plate. Relief and intaglio illustrations can only appear on the same page if a sheet of paper is printed twice, on two different presses.34

Printing and publishing was a thriving industry in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, employing numerous people responsible for form, content, and material. A focus on the various producers, combined with attention for the various external circumstances that have a bearing on the production process, will show that images of Chinese religion and philosophy were more of a collaborative undertaking than the product of any single pen. This means that, in assessing a specific piece of printed work on China, the motives and rationale of its author should be supplemented by those of its producers.35 One of the most decisive of these motives would be economic considerations related to cultural consumption. Booksellers first and foremost wanted to sell books and, in order to sell as many as possible, their works needed to appeal to potential readers. This process is reflected in the form and content of the extant books, newspapers, journals, and pamphlets. Therefore, the printed works not only reflected the author’s perceptions of China, but also very much the publisher’s strategies.

Following economic rules that often govern cultural consumption, the sheer number of printed materials on China would indicate that the area indeed held a special place in the imagination of early modern European readers. Contact between Europe and China dates back as far as Hellenistic Greece; but, before the thirteenth century, interactions between the Middle Kingdom and Europe remained scarce. A period of uninterrupted contacts only commenced during the first decades of the fifteenth century when the Portuguese started trading in Southern China. These contacts further advanced over the course of the 1500s and, at the end of the century, various Europeans exhibited an ever-growing interest related to the Middle Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, as China took a firmer hold on the European imagination, it also became a more viable avenue of economic and cultural production in the form of print.

While Sino-European interactions and the European perceptions of China have been studied extensively, the focus has been less on the Dutch Republic. This is somewhat surprising, as the United Provinces did function as a nucleus in shaping Western images of the Middle Kingdom.36 Studies are generally concerned with visual or intellectual culture, in which a focus on France, England, and Germany during the eighteenth-century fashion of Chinoiserie stands out. However, when intellectual and material culture are to be studied in an integrated manner, a fuller picture emerges. Early modern European images of China originated in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, where art and ideas interacted: this affected both low and high culture.

The VOC imported millions of pieces of Chinese porcelain, which not only stimulated Asiatic trade but also fed the intellectual impact of intercultural contact with the Middle Kingdom. Furthermore, Delftware increasingly began to imitate Chinese porcelain from the middle of the seventeenth century onwards. By producing a cheaper alternative for porcelain, potters not only fuelled the demand for material objects but the cheaper availability of Delftware that they enabled also encouraged a broader engagement with China. The ubiquity of Chinese material culture thus provided the background for intellectual interests in the Middle Kingdom.37 The Dutch also provided a unique infrastructure that, in addition to facilitating the transportation of products between China and Europe, also expedited the transmission of ideas. The VOC assisted Jesuit missionaries travelling to China who, in turn, provided Dutch publishers and scholars with first-hand information. Dutch colonial settlements in Batavia, for instance, also played important intermediary roles.

The Dutch Republic proved ideally suited to benefit from the exchange of knowledge with the Middle Kingdom. Consequently, a number of scholars were willing to explore a Sinophilia that moved beyond accepted European opinions. This more radical approach would become prevalent in eighteenth-century England, France, and Germany; yet, it first took root in the United Provinces during the seventeenth century. Moreover, societal developments and economic growth created an increasing number of potential buyers and readers. Improved economic conditions after 1600 led to the emergence of a disposable income: money that could be spend on books, porcelain, or Delftware. The sale of print was further stimulated by the relatively high rates of literacy among the Dutch.38 Indeed, around 60 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women could read.39

The history of European representations of China began in the seventeenth century in a period when the Dutch Republic became not only Europe’s hub for products from Asia, but also for the creation of images of the Middle Kingdom through the medium of print. A variety of circumstances made the printing presses of the Dutch Republic ideally suitable to present the Dutch and broader European public with ideas of China that were not so much obstructed or distorted by political, religious, or cultural influence or interference as elsewhere in Europe. A key example of this, explored extensively in the first chapter, were the many Jesuit writings that would find a reading audience through (predominantly Protestant) Dutch publishers.

As this study is not only concerned with the material production of books on China but also with the representation of its beliefs, we must engage with the contentious early modern European notions of ‘religion and philosophy’ itself. At the same time, a clear understanding of what these terms signified when printed works referred to the Middle Kingdom lies at the heart of what this research attempts to reconstruct. It may be obvious, but when Dutch works of print referenced China’s religion and philosophy, the terminology employed was never neutral. Authors, printers, and publishers made a decision, either deliberately or subconsciously, about the vocabulary to use: this decision in itself could be meaningful. For example, texts used terms like ‘religion’, ‘philosophy’, ‘idolatry’, and ‘superstition’ to convey an explicit or implicit message concerning the nature of the discussed subject matter.

Furthermore, these terms underwent considerable changes over time: our definitions today differ from those of the seventeenth century, while Chinese religion and philosophy is also distinct from European perceptions of the same. In various fields of study, a definition of religion has been a controversial subject, and most fields fail to arrive at a general consensus. The Oxford handbook of the study of religion devotes no less than 23 pages to the definition of religion alone, including four pages of references!40 Paradoxically, as definitions strive for universal applicability, their uses become progressively limited.41

If ‘religion’ is difficult to define, the concept of ‘philosophy’ is perhaps even more ambiguous. After all, should we consider the philosophical traditions of Asia along the same lines as we now understand them, or rather in terms of how early modern Europeans understood them? For instance, we might ask whether the seventeenth-century term philosophy was perhaps inextricable from religion, and does this mean that everything related to the Jesuit mission in China should therefore automatically be defined as ‘philosophy’ as well? Purely from a seventeenth-century European perspective, the answer to that question would be a resounding ‘yes’, since people of that day and age considered disciplines such as astronomy, cartography, and mathematics all part of philosophy.42 As such, a variety of definitions for the terms religion and philosophy abound, without an overall consensus for either.43

This research therefore takes a pragmatic approach to the problem of defining ‘religion’ and ‘philosophy’. This means that it will follow the recent trend, which proposes that a loose and common-sense conceptualisation of religion is sufficient ‘to get on with our primary purpose of exploring its sociologically interesting features’.44 In general, I take my lead from Nicolas Standaert’s definition; he has shown how the modern European viewpoint on religion differs from the early modern European understanding on three key points.45 First, understandings in recent European scholarship have often been are confined to ‘quintessentially religious’ aspects such as theology, liturgy, and catechetics. However, before the modern era, cultural elements like mathematics, geography, and astronomy were often also included into the concept of religion. Second, and closely related to the first point, before the Enlightenment, there was no strict institutional and conceptual separation between ‘science’, or rather ‘sciences’, and religion. The chief importance of this lack of separation is that early modern Europeans connected various subjects that we would consider secular to concepts of religion.46 As Standaert explains: ‘One needed to know mathematics well, in order to master astronomy well, in order to understand the whole cosmos and the God who was behind the different spheres of the universe’.47 The third key difference indicated by Standaert is that seventeenth-century Europe knew no academic or scientific discipline which concerned itself with the study of religions plural. In other words: there were no attempts to consider non-Christian beliefs or belief systems on the same plane as Christianity, let alone accord these a shared label like ‘religion’.48 No distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘non-religion’ was necessary, for the simple reason that theology held that all people had an inborn knowledge of God, that is, the god of Christianity.49

Of course, this changed once Europeans began to engage in continuous interactions with people of other belief systems, especially from the sixteenth century onwards. Over time, this process of interaction fundamentally altered the meaning of the term religion. As Standaert argues, the contemporary discussion about religion took off especially after missionaries began to encounter Chinese cultures and their traditions of Buddhism, Taoism and, most notably, Confucianism. All of a sudden, a differentiation between ‘true religion’ and ‘false religion’ was necessary.50 Various examples in Dutch print about China show how early modern Europeans struggled, both with the fundamental change in meaning of the term religion, and with the introduction of the concept of non-religion.51 Indeed, it would at least take another century and the interference of several high-profile thinkers, before European intellectuals would reach some sort of consensus about religious terminology.

This study adopts a rather broad and loose conceptualisation of religion, which includes many subjects reasonably relatable. After all, for all their complexities, the seventeenth-century discussions about ‘religion’ were quite clearly part of an ontological spectrum on which present-day conceptions of religion and philosophy existed side by side. So, ‘religion’ is here taken to refer to the variety of behaviours and practises which relate people to the transcendental and supernatural. At the same time, this study expressly attach religion to everything that can be understood as belonging to ‘philosophy’, which is to say: that which concerns universal notions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, and mind.52 In practice, when it comes to the discussion of Chinese religion and philosophy, the printed works examined brings these two subjects together.

This study is divided into five chapters, arranged along the lines of chronology and publication type. Due to a fruitful coincidence, the types of printed works studied: books; learned journals; and newspapers; and periodicals, emerged roughly in chronological order, which not only facilitates the analysis but the narrative as well.

Accordingly, the first and second chapters concern the beginning of a period of uninterrupted contacts between China and Europe at the end of the sixteenth century. During the First Global Age (c. 1500–1800), Europe’s relationship with China increasingly intensified. Travelogues and reports from Jesuit missionaries and merchants that documented these growing intercultural contacts were frequently published in the Dutch Republic from the end of the sixteenth century onwards. They were an attractive commodity for printers and publishers, finding an ever-growing public of readers due to the increasing rate of literacy and demand for exotic subjects. Books on China revealed many natural, geographical, and cultural phenomena, chief among them the religion and philosophy of the Chinese. These descriptions changed considerably over the course of the seventeenth century; while early travellers described the Chinese as idolaters and devil-worshippers, by the end of the century knowledge about China’s beliefs reached its early modern apogee with the publication of the first Latin translation of the writings of Confucius.

By the last quarter of the seventeenth century, Confucius had become the central figure in European interactions with China. Missionaries of the Society of Jesus translated the Confucian Books, which were published in Paris in 1687 as Confucius Sinarum philosophus. This book soon became the primary intermediary for European intercultural contacts with the Middle Kingdom. The third chapter, ‘the vernacular and Latin translations of Confucius’, discusses how Confucius was represented in print between 1675 and 1700 and to what extent the involvement of Dutch printers and publishers, authors and translators shaped the portrayal of Confucianism as a moral teaching that was essentially compatible with Christianity. The late seventeenth-century dissemination of Confucius was a varied and global project, demonstrated by the Dutch involvement. This chapter also considers transtextual processes related to translation and how these facilitated and influenced different readings and interpretations of Confucius’s teachings. Significantly, the first printed vernacular translation was published in Dutch in Batavia in 1675. Its writer, Pieter van Hoorn, turned to Confucius for instructions on how to live a virtuous life and, while the small booklet may have had little clout beyond Batavia, it nevertheless demonstrates how Dutch contacts with China may have changed the manner in which readers related to Chinese religion and philosophy. This chapter furthermore discusses the afterlife of Confucius Sinarum philosophus through two partial translations in French, published in Amsterdam and Paris in 1688. This discussion illuminates how Confucius, through the Jesuit translation of his works, became a subject employed, and sometimes exploited, in furthering the cultural and economic causes of author, printer, and publisher.

The nachleben of Confucius and Confucius Sinarum philosophus is further examined in the fourth chapter, ‘Confucius in Dutch-made learned journals’. The impact of the Jesuit translation came primarily about through its discussion in erudite periodicals, rather than through any dissemination of the work itself, which was neither reprinted nor translated. Yet the publication of numerous reviews suggests that the book nevertheless had a considerable impact on the learned European world. Indeed, it was the only book published in 1687 that was discussed in every major learned journal. The Republic of Letters became increasingly preoccupied with China during the last quarter of the seventeenth century, and the broadly disseminated journals brought the Middle Kingdom truly to the fore as a learned phenomenon as they focused heavily on the religious and philosophical consequences of the intercultural interactions between Europe and China.

This chapter investigates how China and Confucius were represented in Dutch-made erudite periodicals and to what extent the involvement of Dutch editors and translators, printers and publishers influenced the discussion of the Middle Kingdom and its religion and philosophy as an intellectual phenomenon. This examination highlights how the country became a complex and transnational subject of debate, in which the periodic press facilitated access to Confucius’s teachings by means of its Jesuit translation beyond national, cultural, societal, and linguistic borders. Now for the first time, knowledge that had traditionally been the privilege of a small group of intellectuals was made public, whereby the editor and publisher acted as the mediator of information.

The fifth chapter, ‘China in Dutch newspapers’, examines the discussion of China and its religion and philosophy in newspapers printed in the Dutch Republic. The chapter focuses on the reports and discussions of Confucius and the Chinese Rites Controversy at the end of the seventeenth century in newspapers and news digests. It sheds light on the representations of a mostly Catholic debate to a European readership through newspapers in French and Dutch produced by Dutch printers and publishers. Reports on China often went beyond informing readers about events proper, instead offering up their own interpretation of occurrences in both Asia and Europe. News was influenced by a variety of considerations, including the source of information, the strategy of the publisher and editor, and the presumed interests of the potential readership. Especially Catholic polemics on Chinese rites in Rome and Paris had a major influence on the missionary efforts of the Jesuits and on representation of China. This chapter, however, reveals that Dutch-made papers in French and Dutch often gave very different accounts of the same event. Whereas reports in Dutch were mainly concerned with those events that could have an economic, political or military impact on Dutch activities in Asia, French reports increasingly focused on the presumed Catholic interests of their readers and (as such) were rather outspoken in their anti-Jesuit sentiments.

The period of intercultural contacts between China and the Dutch discussed was one of great mutual rapprochement and cultural, economic and intellectual development, leading to perhaps even bigger debates. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Dutch merchants and Jesuit missionaries were still grappling with the only recently discovered religion and philosophy of the Middle Kingdom. Trying to make sense of them and to justify their own goals of trade and mission, VOC and Jesuit travels to China sought to fit the customs and beliefs of China into their own frame of reference. When, over the course of the century, more knowledge reached Europe, representations and interpretations of both China proper and the consequences of the developing intercultural Sino-European contact began to evolve.

In this process, print made information more easily available to an ever- increasing readership clamouring for books, newspapers, journals, and pamphlets discussing China, the Jesuit missionaries, and the Chinese Rites Controversy. Developments in both China and Europe increasingly led to an alienation between the Chinese Emperor and missionaries in his circle on the one hand, and Catholic powers in Rome and Paris on the other. The polemics eventually intensified to such a degree that the attitude towards Confucius and the Jesuit China missionaries at the beginning of the eighteenth century may be succinctly summed up by the title of Johannes Mauritius’s, Afgoden-dienst der Jesuiten in China (‘Heathendom of the Jesuits in China’), published in 1711 by Jacobus Borstius of Amsterdam.53 Mauritius, a lapsed Dominican who turned into a Reformed merchant, did not mince words when it came to expressing his feelings towards the Jesuit mission in China. He generally condemned them for their idolatry and false pretences: an attitude not uncommon at the turn of the eighteenth century.

The adage ‘the first bringer of unwelcome news hath but a losing office’, certainly applies here. Over the course of the seventeenth century, any critique of China and Confucius was inevitably firmly directed towards the Jesuits and their representations of the Middle Kingdom and its foremost sage. This research hopes to shed light on those developments in print that turned representations of China’s religion and philosophy from quiet appreciation into open hostility.

On a final note, this research uses a variety of printed sources dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Quotations of the original sources have been translated into English in the main text, with the original citation in the footnote. Spelling, punctuation, and typography have generally been kept as close as possible to the originals, with the exception of u, v, w, i, j, s, and t which have been modernised. I have tried to keep the intrusive use of ‘sic’ to a minimum.


I.H. van Eeghen, ‘Arnoldus Montanus’s book on Japan’, Quaerendo, 2.4 (1972), pp. 150–272; John Fletcher, ‘Athanasius Kircher and the distribution of his books’, The Library, 13.2 (1968), pp. 108–117.


‘Konfutius, gansch Sina door bekent […] plante goude zeden, voor twintigh eeuwen op het lant, en in de steden’, Joost van den Vondel, Zungchin of ondergang der Sineesche Heerschappye. Treurspel (Amsterdam: Widow Abraham de Wees, 1667), p. 21.


‘Dat oock deselve Coenraet Decker, soo lange hij eenige teeckeningen ofte ontwerp van de voorsz. Waesberge … tot het voorsz. werck ofte boecken, behorende, sal onder hem hebben, niet en sal vermogen eenige platen ofte diergelijcken voor andere personen ende ’t zij boeck-vercopers, plaetsnijder, printdruckers ofte anderen wie het oock soude mogen wesen ende veel min nochte geensints voor Jacob van Meurs te etsen ofte snijden noch te eenige raedt, hulpe ende adsistentie ofte instructie daertoe aen denselven van Meurs ofte aen anderen te verlenen’, in M.M. Kleerkooper and W.P. van Stockum, De boekhandel te Amsterdam. Voornamelijk in de 17e eeuw (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1914–1916), p. 1341.


David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery, An introduction to book history (New York and London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 1–5.


D.F. McKenzie, ‘Typography and meaning. The case of William Congreve’, rep. in Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez (eds.), Making the meaning. ‘Printers of the mind’ and other essays (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), pp. 198–236; D.F. McKenzie, ‘The sociology of texts. Orality, literacy and print in early New Zealand’, The Library, 6.4 (1984), pp. 333–365; Jerome J. McGann, The textual condition (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1991); Adrian Johns, The nature of the book. Print and knowledge in the making (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998).


For a brief overview of interactions between the Middle Kingdom and Europe from the perspective of the Chinese see Lennert Gesterkamp, ‘Red-haired barbarians. The Dongxi Yangkao (1617) and its portrayal of the Dutch in China’, in Thijs Weststeijn (ed.), Foreign devils and philosophers. Cultural encounters between the Chinese, the Dutch, and other Europeans, 1590–1800 (Leiden: Brill, 2020), pp. 57–81; Michael Yahuda, ‘The Sino-European encounter. Historical influences on contemporary relations’, in David Shambaugh etc. (eds.), China-Europe relations. Perceptions, policies, and prospects (New York and London: Routledge, 2008), pp. 11–31. For the study of Europe in Asia, see Georg Wiessala, European studies in Asia. Contours of a discipline (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2014).


Finkelstein, Introduction to book history, p. 7.


Michael F. Suarez and H.R. Woudhuysen, The Oxford companion to the book (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); G. Thomas Tanselle, The history of the book as a field of study (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981); Paul Hoftijzer and O.S. Lankhorst, Drukkers, boekverkopers en lezers in de Republiek. Een historiografische en bibliografische handleiding (The Hague: Sdu Uitgevers, 2000).


Many of the books, journals, newspapers, and pamphlets perused for this research are available through the comprehensive collection of the Allard Pierson Amsterdam. They have been supplemented by works present in the collections of Leiden University, The Royal Library in The Hague, the Radboud University of Nijmegen, Utrecht University, the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, and the British Library in London. In addition, various digital tools and databases have tremendously facilitated this research. In fact, the emergence of the new electronic revolution may prove the latest frontier for the study of the history of the book, perhaps rivalling the print revolution of old in its scope. Research tools have been made available through such illustrious institutions as the Royal Library in The Hague, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0, and the Catholic University of Leuven, to name but a few: Delpher Newspapers via; Royal Library, The Hague via; Gallica Bibliothèque National de France via; Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0 via; Chinese Christian Texts Cathalic University of Leuven via; Le Gazetier Universel via; ePistolarium Huygens Institute via:; Encyclopedie Nederlandstalige Tijdschriften via:; La bibliothèque numérique sur la Chine ancienne via:


James Belich etc. (eds.), The prospects of global history (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Charles R. Boxer, South China in the sixteenth century. Being the narratives of Galeote Pereira, Fr. Gaspar da ruz, O.P. [and] Martín de Rada, O.E.S.A. (1550–1575) (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1953).


Donald F. Lach, China in the eyes of Europe. The sixteenth century (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1965); Jonathan Spence, The Chan’s great continent. China in Western minds (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998).


Craig Clunas, Pictures and visuality in early modern China (London: Reaktion Books, 1997); Christiaan J.A. Jörg, Porcelain and the Dutch China trade (The Hague: Springer, 1982); T. Volker, Porcelain and the Dutch East India Company as recorded in the Dagh-Registers of Batavia Castle, those of Hirado and Deshima and other contemporary papers, 1602–1682 (Leiden: Brill 1954); Jan van Campen and Titus Eliën (eds.), Chinese and Japanese porcelain for the Dutch Golden Age (Zwolle: Waanders, 2014); William Bernstein, A splendid exchange. How trade shaped the world (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008); J. Bruijn etc. (ed.) Dutch-Asiatic shipping in the 17th and 18th centuries (3 vols., Houten: Springer Media, 1979).


Charles R. Boxer, The Dutch seaborne empire, 1600–1800 (New York: Knopf, 1965); Charles R. Boxer, The Portuguese seaborne empire, 1415–1825 (London: Hutchinson, 1969); Donald F. Lach and Edwin van Kley, Asia in the making of Europe (4 vols., Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1965–1993).


Leonard Blussé and Floris-Jan van Luyn, China en de Nederlanders (Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 2008); John E. Wills, Pepper, guns and parleys. The Dutch East India Company and China, 1622–1681 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1974).


In recent years, the scope has been widened to include studies of Formosa (present day Taiwan) as a Dutch trading outpost, and the Dutch embassies to the Chinese emperor in the second half of the seventeenth century: Charles R. Boxer, ‘The siege of Fort Zeelandia and the capture of Formosa from the Dutch, 1661–1662’, Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, 2.7 (1930), pp. 15–48; Tonio Andrade, Lost colony. The untold story of China’s first great victory over the West (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013); Tonio Andrade, The gunpowder age. China, military innovation, and the rise of the West in world history (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016); Jing Sun, ‘The illusion of verisimilitude. Johan Nieuhof’s images of China’, PhD thesis, Leiden University, 2013; Michael Keevak, Embassies to China. Diplomacy and cultural encounters before the Opium Wars (Singapore: Palgrave McMillan, 2016). For a bibliography on the subject of the Dutch East India Trading Company see John Landwehr, Voc. A bibliography of publications relating to the Dutch East India Company, 1602–1800 (Leiden and Utrecht: Brill and Hes Publishing, 1991); Gerrit Knaap, Grote atlas van de Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Voorburg: Asia Maior, 2007); Kees Zandvliet (ed.), De Nederlandse ontmoeting met Azië, 1600–1950 (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2002); Tristan Mostert, ‘Economisch onmisbaar maar politiek kop van jut. Chinezen in Batavia’, Geschiedenis Magazine (2018), pp. 17–22.


Liam Matthew Brockey, Journey to the East. The Jesuit mission in China, 1579–1724 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Michela Fontana, Matteo Ricci. A Jesuit at the Ming court (New York and Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011), Frasie Hertroijs, ‘Hoe kennis van China naar Europe kwam. De rol van Jezuïten en VOC-dienaren, circa 1680–1795, PhD thesis, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2014; Paul Rule, ‘K’ung-tzu or Confucius? The Jesuit interpretation of Confucius’, PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1972; Jonathan Spence, The memory palace of Matteo Ricci (New York: Elisabeth Sifton Books, 1984); Qiong Zhang, Making the new world their own. Chinese encounters with Jesuit science in the age of discovery (Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2015).


The Boston College Jesuit bibliography. The new Sommervogel Online, Brill Online Bibliographies,, last accessed 16 August 2021; Benoît Vermander, ‘Jesuits and China’, Oxford handbook online; Francisco Leão, Jesuítas na Asia. Catálogo e guida (Macao: Instituto Cultural de Macau, 1998); R.G. Tiedemann, Reference guide to Christian missionary societies in China. From the sixteenth to the twentieth century (London and Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2009); P. Louis Pfister, Notices biographique et bibliographique sur les jésuits de l’ancienne mission de China, 1552–1773 (Shanghai: Imprimerie de la Mision catalogue, 1932); Joseph Dehergne, Répertoire des Jésuites de Chine de 1552 à 1800 (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 1973).


Nicolas Standaert (ed.), Handbook of Christianity in China (2 vols., Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2001–2010); Ad Dudink and Nicolas Standaert, Chinese Christian texts database,, last accessed 16 August 2021; David E. Mungello, Curious land. Jesuit accommodation and the origins of sinology (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985); David E. Mungello, Leibniz and Confucianism. The search for accord (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1977); David E. Mungello, ‘Confucianism and the Enlightenment. Antagonism and collaboration between the Jesuits and the philosophes’, in Thomas H.C. Lee (ed.), China and Europe. Images and influences in sixteenth to eighteenth centuries (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 1991), pp. 99–128; Thierry Meynard (ed.), Confucius Sinarum philosophus (1687). The first translation of the Confucian Classics (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2011); Thierry Meynard, The Jesuit reading of Confucius. The first translation of the Lunyu published in the West (Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2015).


Simon Schaffer etc., The brokered world. Go-betweens and global intelligence, 1770–1820 (Sagamore Beach: Sagamore Publishing, 2009); Kapil Raj, Relocating modern science. Circulation and the construction of knowledge in South Asia and Europe, 1650–1990 (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).


M.J. Bok, ‘European artists in the service of the Dutch East India Company’, in Thomas Da Costa Kaufmann and Michael North (eds.), Mediating Netherlandish art and material culture in Asia (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014); Ann Bermingham, ‘The consumption of culture. Image, object, text’, in Ann Bermingham and John Brewer (eds.), The consumption of culture, 1600–1800. Image, object, and text (London: Routledge, 1995); Maxine Berg, ‘In pursuit of luxury. Global history and British consumer goods in the eighteenth century’, Past and Present, 182 (2004), pp. 85–142; Siegfried Huigen, Jan L. de Jong, and Elmer Kolfin, The Dutch trading companies as knowledge networks (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010); Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s hat. The seventeenth century and the dawn of the global world (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2009); Timothy Brook, Mr. Selden’s map of China. Decoding the secrets of a vanished cartographer (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2013); Michael Keevak, Becoming yellow. A short history of racial thinking (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011); Michael Keevak, The story of a stele. China’s Nestorian monument and its reception in the West, 1625–1916 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008).


Simon Shapin and Stephen Schaffer, Leviathan and the air-pump. Hobbes, Boyle, and the experimental Life (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1985); Peter Burke, A social history of knowledge. From Gutenberg to Diderot (Cambridge, Polity Press, 2000); Joseph Needham, Science and civilisation in China (7 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954–[2019]); Benjamin A. Elman, On their own terms. Science in China, 1550–1900 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005); Joanna Waley-Cohen, Sextants of Beijing. Global currents in Chinese history (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000).


Jonathan Israel, Enlightenment contested. Philosophy, modernity, and the emancipation of man, 1670–1752 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); T.L. Mazurk, ‘Buddhism and idolatry’, in R. Sachdev and Q. Li (eds.), Encountering China. Early modern European responses (Lanham: Bucknell University Press, 2012), pp. 161–196; Nicolas Standaert, The interweaving of rituals. Funerals in the cultural exchange between China and Europe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008); T.H. Barrett, ‘Chinese religion in English guise. The history of an illusion’, Modern Asian Studies, 39.3 (2005), pp. 509–533.


Virgile Pinot, La Chine et la formation de l’esprit philosophique en France (1640–1740) (Paris: Geuthner, 1932); Jonathan Israel, ‘The battle over Confucius and classical Chinese philosophy in European early Enlightenment thought (1670–1730)’, Frontiers of philosophy in China, 8.2 (2013), pp. 183–198; Thijs Weststeijn, ‘Spinoza Sinicus. An Asian paragraph in the history of the Radical Enlightenment’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 68.4 (2007), pp. 537–561; Thijs Weststeijn, ‘From hieroglyphs to universal characters. Pictography in the early modern Netherlands’, in Eric Jorkink and Bert Ramakers (eds.) Art and science in the early modern Netherlands. Yearbook for History of Art (2011), pp. 238–281; Thijs Weststeijn, ‘Vossius’s Chinese utopia’, in Eric Jorink and Dirk van Miert (eds.), Isaac Vossius (1618–1689). Between science and scholarship (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012), pp. 207–242; David E. Mungello, ‘European philosophical responses to non-European culture’, in Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers, The Cambridge history of seventeenth-century philosophy (2 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 87–100; Walter W. Davis, ‘China, the Confucian ideal, and the European Enlightenment’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 44.4 (1983), pp. 521–548; Joan-Pau Rubiés and Manel Ollé, ‘The comparative history of a genre. The production and circulation of books on travel and ethnographies in early modern Europe and China’, Modern Asian Studies 50.1 (2016), pp. 259–369; Joan-Pau Rubiés, ‘From Christian apologetics to deism. Libertine readings of Hinduism, 1650–1730’, in William J. Bulman and Robert G. Ingram (eds.), God in the Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 107–135.


Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, The bookshop of the world. Making and trading books in the Dutch Golden Age (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), pp. 11–28.


Benjamin Schmidt, Inventing exoticism. Geography, globalism, and Europe’s early modern world (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).


Schmidt, Inventing exoticism, pp. 227–324.


Chi-ming Yang, Performing China. Virtue, commerce, and orientalism in eighteenth-century England, 1660–1760 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), pp. 142–152.


A list of books on China printed in the Dutch Republic between 1595 and 1700 was compiled using The Short Title Catalogue Netherlands, the Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0, Gallica of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, The Universal Short Title Catalogue, The Short Title Catalogue Flanders, and The Christian Texts Database of the Sinology Research Unit at the Catholic University Leuven.


Edwin van Kley, ‘Qing dynasty China in seventeenth-century Dutch literature’, in Willy vande Walle and Noël Golvers (eds.), The history of the relations between the Low Countries and China in the Qing era (1644–1911) (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2003), pp. 217–234; Edwin van Kley, ‘News from China. Seventeenth century European notices of the Manchu conquest’, The Journal of Modern History, 45.4 (1973), pp. 561–582; Michiel van Groesen, The representations of the overseas world in the De Bry collection of voyages (1590–1634) (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012).


There are three stages to the survival of print: creation and initial reception, resting without intensive use, and works that are later discovered to be desirable for collecting or research. Chances of survival beyond the first stage is dependent on physical form, size, and popularity. Large books in sturdy bindings last longer while small books will be used more and thus disappear: this may be offset by larger print runs. Some books are, from the outset, prized and thus not read, making their chances of survival higher. And while popularity is good for the text, it is bad for the books. Furthermore, print survives if it finds its way to a library or private collection. Some works may also survive because they are forgotten in a cupboard or back room. At the second stage, works may survive if they get to a library or a second-hand buyer, yet their general chances of survival drop. At the third stage, archival or rare book preservation is dependent on fashion and the rise and fall of intellectual interests. A new bibliography could spur interest, while an innovative collector could also spark others to collect similar materials: see Thomas R. Adams and Nigel Barker, ‘A new model for the study of the book’, in Nigel Barker, A potency of life. Books in society. The Clark lectures, 1986–1987 (London: British Library, 1993), pp. 5–43; Jan Bos, ‘Overlevingskansen van het boek’, in Marieke van Delft and Clemens de Wolf (eds.), Bibliopolis. Geschiedenis van het gedrukte boek in Nederland (The Hague: Koninklijke Bibliotheek), pp. 153–154; Pettegree and Der Weduwen, The bookshop of the world.


Stephen Dobranski, ‘Authorship in the seventeenth century’, in Oxford Handbooks Online.


Robert Darnton, ‘What is the history of books?’, Daedalus (1982), pp. 65–83.


Paul Dijstelberge, Wat is een boek? Een kleine geschiedenis (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018); Pettegree and Der Weduwen, The bookshop of the world, pp. 7–11.


Elmer Kolfin and Jaap van der Veen (eds.), ‘Gedrukt tot Amsterdam’. Amsterdamse prentmakers en -uitgevers in de Gouden Eeuw (Zwolle: Waanders, 2018); Joseph Blumenthal, Art of the printed book 1455–1955 (London: David Godine Publishing, 1979); Phillipe Gaskell, A new introduction to bibliography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985); W.G. Hellinga, Copy and print in the Netherlands. An atlas of historical bibliography (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing, 1962).


Darnton, ‘What is the history of books?’, pp. 65–83.


Schmidt, Inventing exoticism, pp. 1–25; Vande Walle and Golvers (eds.), The history of the relations between the Low Countries and China; Thijs Weststeijn ‘The Middle Kingdom in the Low Countries. Sinology in the seventeenth-century Netherlands, in J. Maat, Rens Bod, and Thijs Weststeijn (eds.), The making of the humanities. From early modern to modern disciplines (vol. 2, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012), pp. 209–241; John E. Wills, Embassies and illusions. Dutch and Portuguese envoys to K’ang-hsi, 1666–1687 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1984); Leonard Blussé, Strange company. Chinese settlers, Mestizo women and the Dutch in VOC Batavia (Dordrecht, Foris, 1986); J.J. Duyvendak, ‘Early Chinese studies in Holland’, T-oung Pao, 32.5 (1936), pp. 293–344.


Willemijn van Noord, ‘Nicolas Witsen’s Chinese mirror and the logistics of translating Han dynasty seal-script at the turn of the 18th century’, in Tjeerd de Graaf etc., The fascination of inner Eurasian languages in the 17th century (Amsterdam: Pegasus, 2018), pp. 579–602; Willemijn van Noord, ‘Verbeeldingen van Chinezen op zeventiende-eeuwse wandtegels’, in Thijs Weststeijn and Menno Jonker (eds.), Barbaren & wijsgeren. Het beeld van China in de Gouden Eeuw (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2017), pp. 83–89; Willemijn van Noord, ‘Between script and ornament. Delftware decorated with pseudo-Chinese characters, 1680–1720’, Journal of design history, 34.1 (2021), pp. 1–20.


Carlo M. Cipolla, Literacy and development in the West (London: Penguin Books, 1969).


Willem Frijhoff and Marijke Spies, Dutch culture in a European perspective. 1650, hard-won unity (Assen: Royal Van Gorcum, 2004), pp. 236–237.


Michael Stausberg and Mark Q. Gardine, ‘Definition’, in The Oxford handbook of the study of religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 9–32.


Jan Platvoet, ‘To define or not to define. The problem of the definition of religion’, in Jan Platvoet and A. Molendijk, The pragmatics of defining religion. Contexts, concepts and contests (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 1999), pp. 41–72; W. Hanegraaff, ‘Defining religion in spite of history’, in Platvoet and Molendijk, The pragmatics of defining religion, pp. 337–378.


James A. Harris, ‘Introduction’, in The Oxford handbook of British philosophy in the eighteenth century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Nicolas Standaert, ‘Christianity as a religion in China. Insights from the Handbook of Christianity in China. Volume (1635–1800)Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie, 12 (2011), pp. 1–21.


As example see James Leuba’s list of more than fifty definitions of religion: A psychological study of religion. Its origin, function, and future (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1912); Doug Oman, ‘Defining religion and spirituality’, in Handbook of psychology of religion and spirituality (New York: The Guilford Press, 2013).


Steve Bruce, ‘Defining religion. A practical response’, International Review of Sociology, 21.1 (2011), pp. 107–120; Jan Platvoet, ‘Contexts, concepts & contests. Towards a pragmatics of defining “religion”’, in Platvoet and Molendijk, The Pragmatics of Defining Religion, pp. 463–516.


Nicolas Standaert, ‘Early Sino-European contacts and the birth of the modern concept of religion’, in Dirk Kuhlmann, Barbara Hoster and Zbigniew Wesolowski, Rooted in hope: China – religion – Christianity. Festschrift in honor of Roman Malek S.V.D. (New York: Routledge, 2017), pp. 3–27; Ernst Feil, ‘From the classical religio to the modern religion. Elements of a transformation between 1550 and 1650’, in Michel Despland and Gérard Vallée, Religion in history. The word, the idea, the reality (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1992), pp. 32–56; Wilfred Cantwell Smith, The meaning and end of religion (New York: Macmillan, 1963); Carmen Bernard and Serge Gruzinski, De l’idolâtrie. Une archéologie des sciences religieuses (Paris, Seuil, 1988); Henri Krop, ‘From religion in the singular to religions in the plural. 1700, a faultline in the conceptual history of religion’, in Jo Spaans and Jetze Touber (eds.), Enlightened religion. From confessional churches to polite piety in the Dutch Republic (Leiden: Brill, 2019), pp. 21–59.


John Hedley Brooke, Science and religion. Some historical perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).


Standaert, ‘Early Sino-European contacts’, p. 3.


Walter H. Capps, Religious studies. The making of a discipline (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995).


Colin Campbell, Towards a sociology of irreligion (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1971 (reprint 2013)); Standaert, ‘Early Sino-European contacts’, p. 5.


Standaert, ‘Early Sino-European contacts’, p. 6; Daniel Barbu, ‘Idolatry and the history of religions’, Studi e materiali di storia delle religioni, 82.2 (2016), pp. 537–570.


In 1596 Jan Huygen van Linschoten refers to the Chinese system of beliefs as ‘religion and ceremonies’, Jan Huygen van Linschoten, Itinerario, voyage ofte schipvaert naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien 1579–1592 (Amsterdam: Cornelis Claesz, 1596), p. 30 (USTC 423615). Juan Gonzáles de Mendoza makes use of the term ‘Chinese gods’, while 70 years later, Johan Nieuhof uses both ‘religions’ plural as well as ‘philosophy’. Juan González de Mendoza, Historia de las cosas más notables, ritos y costumbres del gran reyno de la China (Rome: Batholomeus Grassi, 1585) (USTC 342999); Johan Nieuhof, Het gezantschap der Neêrlandtsche Oost-Indische Compagnie, aan den grooten Tartarischen Cham (Amsterdam: Jacob van Meurs, 1665).


It is also of importance that some scholars, chief among them Jonathan Israel, have argued that reason and morality became increasingly separate from religion during the later seventeenth century.


Joannes Mauritius, Afgoden-dienst der Jesuiten in China. Waar over sy nog heden beschuldigt worden aan het hof van Romen (Amsterdam: Jacobus Borstius, 1711).

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