With 17 Engravings of the Torture & Martyrdom of Japanese Christians

Trigault, Nicolas (1577-1628)

De Christianis apud Iaponios triumphis sive De gravissima ibidem contra Christi fidem persecutione exorta anno M DC XII usq. ad annum M DC XX. libri quinq… Auctore P. Nicolao Trigautio ... Cum Raderi auctario et iconibus Sadelerianis

Munich: Apud R. Sadeler, 1623


Quarto: 18.7 x 14.7 cm. [14], 518, [2] p. With an engraved title page and 17 engravings in the text.


Bound in contemporary German pigskin over wooden boards in the style of Hans Welcker the Younger, rebacked, with one of two metal clasps. A fine copy with discreet marginal repairs to title and a few leaves, not affecting the text. Inscription dated 1623 on title: Fulda, Benedictine Monastery of St. Peter.

A scarce, illustrated account of the persecution of Christians in Japan from 1612 to 1620, written by the Jesuit Nicolas Trigault, Procurator of the Chinese mission. The text is illustrated with 17 large engravings (by Raphael Sadeler?) showing gruesome scenes of Jesuits and other Christians being tortured and executed by the Japanese.

Trigault wrote the first four books, recounting the brutalities endured by Christians beginning in 1612, while back in Europe recruiting new Jesuit missionaries. While at Goa on his return journey to Asia, he wrote a fifth book that brought the narrative up to 1616. When the book was published in 1623, it included an addition covering the years 1617-1620, “and a list of Japanese martyrs, to the number of two hundred sixty eight. There was also added a list of thirty-eight houses and residences (including two colleges, one at Arima, the other at Nagasaki), which the Jesuits had been obliged to abandon; and of five Franciscan, four Dominican, and two Augustinian convents, from which the inmates had been driven.”(Hildreth, “Japan as it Was and Is”, p. 179)

From the earliest days of the Jesuit mission in Japan, the position of Christians was often dangerous and always precarious. In 1587, the daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued an edict ordering the expulsion of the Jesuits from Japan. But despite the martyrdom of several Jesuits and Franciscans, the Order was largely allowed to function under the protection of feudal lords. Then in 1597 Hideyoshi ordered the crucifixion of 26 Christians, including three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese laymen, as a warning against converting to or practicing the faith.

Hideyoshi was succeeded in 1598 by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who pursued his own campaign of suppression. On 21 March 1612, Ieyasu ordered the prohibition of Christianity and the destruction of all churches within those territories under his control or loyal to him. The following year, he had all Christians arrested. And in January 1614 he issued his infamous edict ordering the closure of all churches, the deportation of all missionaries; and prohibiting any Japanese from practicing Christianity.

This new wave of persecution forced many Japanese Christians, risking torture and death for their refusal to renounce their faith, into hiding. A number of the Jesuits, zealous in their mission and loath to abandon the faithful, remained in Japan and ministered to their congregations in secret. In the years that followed hundreds of Japanese crypto-Christians and numerous missionaries were tortured and killed.

Trigault’s “Christian Triumphs among the Japanese, or The Terrible Persecution of the Christian Faith in Japan” is an account of those persecutions as they unfolded and the fates of those Jesuit missionaries who remained in Japan clandestinely, ministering to those Japanese who would risk torture and death rather than abjure their faith.

De Backer - Sommervogel, VIII, Col. 242; Cordier, Bib. Japon. 295; Streit V, 1305; VD17 23:238254E