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Very rare manuscript of captain João Ribeiro's first-hand account of the last years of Portuguese domination in India and Ceylon (1640-1658) and the epic siege of Colombo (1655-1656)

RIBEIRO, João.
Tratado da guerra de Ceilã emtrada [sic] dos Ollamdesses na Ilha, perda da mesma Ilha.
[Lisbon?], [ca. 1690, after 1685]. Small 4to. Manuscript on paper, written in one column in a neat late 17th-century cursive hand in black ink, with a lighter, brown ink used for the title-page and the index. With an illustrated title-page with the title written in a finely drawn rich floral border. Also the opening letter of the text was executed with some floral decoration. Contemporary sheepskin vellum with one leather tie and with remnants of the other three leather ties. [1], [3 blank], "228" [=229], [1 blank], [4] pp.
€ 12,500
Contemporary manuscript of João Ribeiro's famous Fatalidade Historica da Ilha de Ceilão, being a first-hand account of the last years of Portuguese domination in India and Ceylon from 1640 to 1658 and the continuous fights of the Portuguese with the Dutch and with Rajasingha II of the Sinhalese Kandyan Kingdom, the latter being helped by the Dutch powers. Together the Dutch and Sinhalese totally dispossessed the Portuguese by expulsing them from Sri Lanka, whose rooms were occupied by the Dutch. The highlight of this manuscript is Ribeiro's account of the great siege of Colombo, lasting from October 1655 to May 1656. Colombo, then under Portuguese control, was besieged by the Dutch, supported by the Kandyan Kingdom. Although the Portuguese resisted the Dutch attacks (among others due to Ribeiro), they surrendered the city to the Dutch in May 1656. The Portuguese tried to defend the last Portuguese stronghold in Ceylon, but the Dutch attacks continued and Jaffna was taken by the Dutch in June 1658, replacing the Portuguese as master of coastal Sri Lanka.
Besides Ribeiro's account of the Dutch-Portuguese war in India and Ceylon, the work also contains more general information on Ceylon and its provinces, fortresses, products, rites, ceremonies and of the customs of the inhabitants. As yet, and especially till the Portuguese edition was published, Ribeiro's account of his years in Ceylon circulated in manuscript copies, of which less survived and which all seem to differ among each other. In his article, Boxer lists 3 known autograph copies (the one in the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, a copy in the National Library of Lisbon and a copy in his own private possession) and 3 later unsigned copies, of which two of them are 18th-century copies of which one is incomplete. Research upon the watermark in the paper used for the present manuscript strongly suggest a date of ca. 1690. Therefore it is one of the scarce surviving complete contemporary manuscript example, written during the 17th-century while the author was still alive.Besides the rarity of our copy, it accounts for a highly important episode in the Sinhalese history, being a first hand account by captain João Ribeiro who vividly describes the last years of Portuguese dominian in Ceylon and India and their defeat by the Dutch.
With the bookplate of A. Chaves de Almeyda on the front paste-down. Binding somewhat stained and dust-soiled, front hinge almost detached from the book block. Some worm damaged along the gutter fold, occassionaly detaching the leaves of the bifolia, but never affecting the text. Lacking the last leaf, likely containing the index for the last ten chapters. Some minor staining and foxing, sometimes very minor off-setting of the ink on the facing page, but overall in good condition. Cf. C.R. Boxer, 'Captain João Ribeiro and his history of Ceylon, 1622-1693', in: The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1/2 (1955), pp. 1-12.
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Related Subjects:

Asia  >  India & Sri Lanka
Autographs, documents & manuscripts  >  Manuscripts & Documents
Europe  >  Spain & Portugal
Military history  >  Military History up to 1700