Post Magazine

Copy of rare book Decades of the Newe Worlde goes on sale in Hong Kong for US$225,000

"Next unto this, is found the great China, whose kyng is thought to bee the greatest prince in the worlde, and is named Santoa Raia." And thus the word "China" entered the English language.

Readers of Richard Eden's The Decades of the Newe Worlde would further learn, through information that had come from "a Moore that was in the Islande of Timor" that "the sayde kynge hathe threescore and tenne crowned kynges under his empyre, and hathe a porte in the sea named Canthan; and two principal cities named Nauchin and Connulaha where he remayneth hym selfe, and hath ever foure of his chiefe princes lying abowt his pallaice on every syde, towards the Easte, Weste, Northe, and South givinge dylygente attendaunce what is doone in everye of theyr quarters."

Not quite as helpful as a Lonely Planet guide, granted, but this was published in 1555, and was a translation of works written in Latin by Italian historian Peter Martyr d'Anghiera (1457-1526), who in turn based his writings, on Spain and its explorers, on primary source documents, including letters sent by Christopher Columbus.

A copy of The Decades of the Newe Worlde is on display at Hong Kong's Maritime Museum.>Michael Palin, albeit without the first-hand experiences.

His translations capture the excitement of the age, as new horizons opened to Europeans. But Decades - which introduced readers to the Southern Cross constellation as well as China - also tells us much about how explorers and colonisers treated the people they encountered, describing tribes folk as empty vessels waiting to be civilised by the newcomers. The Chinese, though, were held in higher regard: "These people of China are whytte menne, appareled as we are, and eate they meate on tables as wee doo."

Described as "a great rarity, and one of the high points of sixteenth-century travel literature", a copy of the book - five have come up at auction over the past 30 years - will be displayed (and can be yours for about US$225,000) by Douglas Stewart Fine Books at China in Print, Asia's leading international fair and exhibition for rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs and ephemera, which runs for three days from November 30, at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, in Central. Admission is free of charge. Visit for more information.

And who exactly was that Ming-dynasty "kyng" Santoa Raia?

Sorrye, he remayneth a mysterye.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

More from Post Magazine

Post Magazine3 min readPolitics
New Round Of US-China Trade Talks Begin In Washington With Eye Toward Reaching Framework For Final Deal
China and the United States began a fresh round of high-level talks in Washington on Thursday, amid reports of progress in their bid to nail down a meaningful deal ahead of the deadline for an agreement to end their trade war. Time is running short t
Post Magazine3 min readPolitics
China Eyes Bigger Role In Growing Middle East Arms Trade
China is seeking a bigger role in the Middle East arms trade, with a major state-owned shipbuilder opening an office there and exporters showing hi-tech weapons " including an advanced killer robot ship " at a regional defence expo last week. Militar
Post Magazine5 min readPolitics
Chongqing Battles Rising Unemployment As China's Traditional Industrial Base Follows Nationwide Slump
With the Chinese economy slowing, concern has increased among Chinese policymakers about the outlook for employment, since ensuring sufficient employment is seen as a necessary ingredient in maintaining social stability in the country. Employment was