DE ANIMADigital Edition & Analysis of a Newly Discovered Jesuit Manuscript

The Herzog August Bibliothek manuscript of the Jesuit Compendia of Philosophy, Theology and Cosmology in Japanese Translation (ca. 1595)

The DFG-funded project DE ANIMA (project no. 525286644) deals with the dissemination of knowledge in the context of the Jesuit mission in Japan, paired with digital scholarly editing. Its aim is to create a state-of-the-art online edition of an early Jesuit manuscript from Japan, now kept at Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. To this end, Sven Osterkamp and Sophie Takahashi of the Chair for Japanese Language and Literature are working in close cooperation with the holding library in Wolfenbüttel.

The so-called Compendia, originally compiled in Latin in 1593, consist of three parts: De Anima on the Aristotelian theory of the soul, De Theologia on Tridentine theology, and De Sphaera on Ptolemaic cosmology. Intended for use in the Jesuit colleges in Japan, and later Macau, they meticulously document lectures on science and religion. The Wolfenbüttel manuscript Cod. Guelf. 7.5 Aug. 4°, identified only in late 2019 (see Osterkamp 2020b, 2023b), is the first known witness of the entire tripartite Compendia in a Japanese translation (ca. 1595).

Another text witness had been known since 1995, when it was discovered at Magdalen College, Oxford, lacking however the third part. It is this cosmological part that is especially significant, as it attests to the earliest instance of scientific knowledge transfer from Europe to Japan (see Hiraoka 2023). At the same time, the discovery of a substantial early Jesuit text from Japan in a German collection is a notable event in itself. Only two other texts from this context are currently kept in Germany, both prints that have also been preserved elsewhere.

The extensive Wolfenbüttel manuscript with its close to 800 pages exhibits several remarkable features, the interplay of which leads to a peculiar mise-en-page. An abundance of Latin, Portuguese and at times Spanish loanwords — written in a variety of scripts: Roman script, Japanese katakana and Chinese characters, and at times even Greek script —, extensive Latin quotes, nomina sacra, rich illustrations of astronomical devices, and diagrams transporting a geocentric view on cosmology are all incorporated into the Japanese main text.

The digital edition to be hosted by Wolfenbüttel Digital Library will not only grant scholars worldwide ready access to this key source in intellectual history. It will also serve research objectives in a Bochum-based dissertation project. The dissertation takes a novel approach by applying methods in computational linguistics and Digital Humanities by finetuning AI-powered tools to historical Japanese, training AI models for text recognition, and conducting computational quantitative analysis (topic modeling, stylometry, distribution patterns of linguistic features) based on a comparative text corpus to identify Jesuit authors and translators and ultimately enable a more precise dating of the Wolfenbüttel manuscript.

Publications on the Wolfenbüttel manuscript of the Compendia
  • Hiraoka Ryūji 平岡隆二 (2022): »Tōzai kosumorojī-no deai-to kirishitan bunken« 東西コスモロジーの出会いとキリシタン文献. In: Kishimoto Emi 岸本恵実 / Shirai Jun 白井純 (eds.): Kirishitan gogaku nyūmon キリシタン語学入門. Tōkyō: Yagi shoten, pp. 39–40.
  • Hiraoka, Ryuji (2023): »The Discovery and Significance of Sufera no nukigaki (Selection on the Sphere), a Jesuit Cosmology Textbook in Japanese Translation«. In: Historia Scientiarum [ISSN 0285-4821 (online: 2436-9020)] 32.2: 88–116. []
  • Osterkamp, Sven (2020b): »Eine Wiederentdeckung in der Herzog August Bibliothek: Zum Wolfenbütteler Manuskript der jesuitischen Compendia der Philosophie, Theologie und Kosmologie in japanischer Übersetzung«. In: HABlog. [HAB; pdf version with footnotes and references]
  • Osterkamp, Sven (2023b): »The textual history of the Jesuit Compendia in Latin and Japanese as seen from the newly identified manuscript at Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel«. In: Historia Scientiarum [ISSN 0285-4821 (online: 2436-9020)] 32.2: 63–87. []
  • Takahashi, Sophie (2023a): [review] »The Samurai and the Cross. The Jesuit enterprise in early modern Japan, by M. Antoni J. Ucerler, S. J. New York, Oxford University Press, 2022, 445 pp., £29.99 (hardback), ISBN 9780195335439«. In: Contemporary Japan. []