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Accepted Paper:

Sufera-no nukigaki (ca. 1595): A Missing Link in the Transmission of Aristotelian-Ptolemaic Cosmology to Japan Rediscovered  


Sven Osterkamp (Ruhr University Bochum)

Paper short abstract:

A newly discovered manuscript of the Jesuits' Compendia in Japanese (ca. 1595) is introduced, the first to comprise besides the parts on philosophy and theology also that on Aristotelian-Ptolemaic cosmology. To be discussed are the transmission and adaptation of the text as well as its authorship.

Paper long abstract:

The so-called Compendia (1593) attributed to Pedro Gómez (1533/35-1600) - i.e. the texts laying the foundation of Jesuit education in the colleges in Japan and Macao for more than two decades - are valued as "the first substantial work that directly introduced Western science, philosophy and theology into Japan" (Hiraoka 2015: 126). The original Latin version has been preserved almost in full in a single manuscript. Its translation into Japanese (ca. 1595), however, has hitherto only been known in an incomplete copy. Crucially for this key text in the intellectual history of 16c to 17c Japan as well as the study of the circulation of knowledge, the Magdalen College manuscript covers the parts on philosophy (following Aristotle's De Anima) and theology, but it lacks the entire cosmological part. "De Sphaera", as the latter in its Latin version is commonly referred to, introduces the geocentric model and the theory of four elements in the tradition of Aristotle and Ptolemy, but also discusses meterological phenomena for instance.

The aim of the present paper is first to introduce a newly discovered manuscript of the Compendia's Japanese translation, comprising all three parts. Whereas scholarship up to now had to rely on the later Nigi ryakusetsu (A Brief Discussion on the Celestial and Terrestrial Worlds) and related writings to catch a glimpse of "De Sphaera" in its Japanese version, even if heavily revised and as it were de-christianized, it is possible for the first time now to study and contrast the original Latin version, Nigi ryakusetsu and the Jesuits' Japanese translation "Sufera-no nukigaki" (Selections on the Sphere) as the hitherto missing link in between the other two. Doing so will shed light on the process of how "De Sphaera", whose cosmology is inextricably interwoven with Christian thought, was first translated in a Jesuit context, and eventually de-christianized in its later transmission via Nigi ryakusetsu.

Finally we will address the question of authorship. While "De Sphaera" has been almost universally been treated as the work of Gómez without substantial evidence to that effect, the newly discovered manuscript calls for a revision of that view.

Panel Phil11
Individual papers in Intellectual History and Philosophy III