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The world seen from China

· The Vatican Apostolic Library in Macao ·

On 29 July there was an exhibit in Macau which even included reproductions of maps from the Vatican Apostolic Library. The initiative was included as part of “The 2nd International Symposium: Global Mapping of Macau”, which was held on 29 and 30 July.

The first announcement of the existence of Chinese materials in the Vatican Apostolic Library was made in the period of 1576-1577, when Nicolas Audebert, a traveller and humanist from Orléans, France, copied several documents that had been shown to him in the Vatican. Among them was a type of Chinese alphabet, or Alphabetum idiomatis, as he described in his travel journal, now in the British Library. In the preface to the catalogue of the exhibit, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, writes that Audebert had stated in his record that the Vatican Library also holds many other Chinese books. Several years later, in 1581, still prior to Matteo Ricci’s arrival in Macau and the start of his mission in the territories of the Chinese empire, Michel de Montaigne, an already well-known French writer, philosopher and politician, visited the Vatican Library, and was able to study a book containing the “strangest characters”. It had come from China and was written “on a strange and soft absorbent paper” which was used in those remote places. Over the course of the centuries since then, there have been many other Chinese documents to arrive in the Vatican Apostolic Library.

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