Book Series De Diversis Artibus, vol. 107 (N.S. 70)

Johann Schreck Terrentius, SJ

His European Network and the Origins of the Jesuit Library in Peking

Noël Golvers

  • Pages: 648 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:8 b/w, 30 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58143-9
  • Hardback
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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58144-6
  • E-book
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The scholarly network and background of a Jesuit polymath, Johann Terrentius (1576-1630), in Europe (1600-1618) and his work as a China missionary (1619-1630), in alchemy, medicine, mathematics, botany, etc.; founder of Jesuit libraries in China and Jesuit scholarship, aiming at the transmission of knowledge to China.


“In all, Johann Schreck Terrentius, SJ: His European Network and the Origins of the Jesuit Library in Peking is an impressive work of scholarship which will be of great value to a range of specialists interested in early modern science, book culture, and Jesuit history.” (Kyle Roberts, in Library & Information History, 37/3, p. 244)

“All in all, Golvers succeeds splendidly in depicting the multi-faceted intellectual personality of Terrentius, resolves several standing issues regarding the provenance of certain holdings in the former Jesuit-Lazarist libraries in Peking, and establishes a new monument in the historical study of the Jesuit mission in China, early modern European science, technology, and medicine, and the broader state of the Republic of Letters in the early seventeenth century.” (Qiong Zhang, in Journal of Jesuit Studies, 11/01/2022)

“The result is a magisterial study – not only of the specific nature of this library and its surviving artifacts but also of an extensive network of people and institutions that assisted Schreck and Trigault in the formation of this library. Golvers’ extensive use of correspondence, album amicorum (autograph book of friends), the Jesuit archives, and other institutional records is among the many strengths of his book. Analyzing how Schreck became the point person for the creation of this important Jesuit library, he reconstructs a rich and fascinating world of Catholic knowledge, patronage, books, and heterodoxy.” (Paula Findlen, in East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, 7/04/2022)

“The book is recommended to all those who are interested in the history of science in Europe and of the so-called scientific mission of the Jesuits in China, and, of course, in the personality of Johann  chreck Terrentius.” (Michela Cigola, in Monumenta Serica 71.1 , 2023, p. 257)




Noël Golvers, Classicist, studies European sources on the Jesuit mission in China, especially in the last decades of the 17th century, focusing on its scholarly aspect, in astronomy and medicine, and searching the sources of the activities and the Chinese writings of these Jesuit scholars (3 vols Libraries of Western Learning for China); all this brought him now to Johann Terrentius, one of the founders of Western scholarship in China.


A thorough analysis of the sinuous ‘peregrinatio academica’ of Johann Terrentius Schreck (1576-1630) between 1600-1618 through (South-, Central- and NW-) European universities, academies and courts (at Freiburg /Br.; Paris; Rome; Basel; Padua; Strasbourg, Prague, Kassel, etc.) and his rich correspondence displays a widespread network of contacts, covering a broad range of domains, from medicine to alchemy, pharmacy, botany, and through engineering to (pure and applied) mathematics, and calendar making. In all these domains of the contemporary ‘Republic of Letters’, this former student of François Viète (Paris), Galileo (Padua) and ex-Lincean, adept of Copernicus and Paracelsus showed himself to be a passionate scholar with multi-faceted and versatile talents. After 1611, with this very rich experience he entered the Society of Jesus, and shortly afterward he was appointed as companion of Nicolas Trigault, who was touring through

Europe (1615-1618) as procurator on behalf of the fledgling Jesuit Mission in China, seeking funds, men, books and scientific instruments. This second phase of intensive travelling through European centers of scholarship, patronage, and printing (including Rome; Venice; Basel; Frankfurt; Cologne, Antwerp, etc.) resulted in an enormous collection of books and instruments, which were dispatched to Lisbon from various points in 1617/1618. Shipped to China, these materials arrived in Macau in 1619, and in Peking in 1625, becoming the core of the Jesuit libraries, mainly in Peking, and the basis for the scholarly activities of the Jesuits over the following decades in the domains of mathematics, calendar making, medicine, etc.



Chapter 1. The European 'Tour'

1.1 The prelude: Terrentius's academic Wanderjahre (c. 1590-1610): From Freiburg to Rome
1.2 Rome (1610-15)
1.3 From Rome to Lisbon: Terrentius's tour as Trigault's companion for China (1616-18)

Chapter 2. The People

2.1 Personal acquaintances: the 'active' network
2.2 Other names

Chapter 3. The Books and Instruments Collected

3.1 Terrentius's personal reading and the Fondo Faber
3.2 The 331 books bought (or received) at the Officina Plantiniana in Antwerp (December, 1616)
3.3 The 75 books, with the inscription: "Missionis Sinensis"
3.4 The instruments
3.5 The arrival in Macau and Peking

Chapter 4. The Multiple Competences of the Polymath Terrentius

4.1 Medicine: Terrentius's double profile
4.2 Mineralogy: minerals, mining and mineral sources
4.3 Botany
4.4 Mathematics
4.5 Terrentius astronomer
4.6 Calendar
4.7 Terrentius and magnetism
4.8 Cryptography
4.9 Linguistics
4.10 Encyclopedism

Chapter 5. A Final Assessment of Terrentius


1. Bibliotheca Pontificia in the actual Beitang collection
2. Documents in the archives of the Officina Plantiniana
3. List of the 75 books in the Beitang catalogue with the inscription: "Missionis Sinensis"
4. Short title catalogue of Plantin-Moretus editions among the books Terrentius-Trigault acquired in Europe
5. Necrology of Terrentius (1630)
6. List of  36 letters from / the 35 letters to Terrentius