An Embassy From the East-India Company of the…
Johannes Nieuhof (1618-1672)
London: Printed by J. Macock for the author, 1669
First printing in English translation
Johann Nieuhof was delegation secretary under ambassadors Pieter de Goyer and Jocab de Keyser for Holland’s mission to China, arriving there in 1656. His book describing his travels in China quickly became a best seller of its day. First published in Leyden in 1665, it was reprinted in Dutch in 1670 and again in 1693. It was translated into French (1665), German (1666) Latin (1668) and English (1669). The English translation was reprinted in 1673.
Nieuhof’s book was richly illustrated with 150 maps and engravings of cities, flora and fauna, and costumes, all based on drawings by Chinese artists. The illustrations provided western Europeans with one of its earliest and most accurate depictions of the exotic Far East. John Ogilby, the English translator, included only about a third of the illustrations for the English edition.
The English artists, including Wenceslaus Hollar, who copied the original engravings, replaced the original artist’s signatures with their own, a standard practice at the time. Ogilby added nearly twenty-five illustrations that were not in the Dutch editions, some of which were copied from the works of Athanasius Kircher, an early Jesuit visitor to China.
Nieuhof included a history of China in the second half of his book, the first full history using Chinese sources to reach European readers. Among Nieuhof’s detailed discussions about what he saw in China, he included printing. He was impressed with the speed of the Chinese printers and compared their technique and the quality of their printing favorably with that of European printers. He wrote “…they print…with so much ease and quickness that one man is able to print 5000 sheets in a day…”