Volume 1, Issue 1, Fall 2012
Shaping the Republic of Letters: Communication, Correspondence and Networks in Early Modern Europe
“Savant” correspondence from China with Europe in the 17th-18th centuries
In this survey I describe the practice of letter writing in the Jesuit society in the Early Modern times, especially focusing on its role in the diffusion of scholarly information on China and its role in the construction of knowledge on China in Europe. After a description of the general background, I analyse consecutively: (1) some distinctive characteristics of the correspondence from China compared to the common Jesuit practices; (2) the historical communication and transfer routes between China and Europe; (3) the identity of a series of correspondents; (4) the scholarly topics discussed in these letters; (5) the present location of the main collections. I will finish (6) with a presentation of some major individual collections and (7) the impact of this correspondence on the contemporary European reading public, with an overall assessment of these letters as a source for 17th–18th–century European and world history.