~~ Lives of the Dominican Missionaries in Japan ~~
Bertrand Wilberforce, ca 1870

Green Cloth, Blindstamp Decoration on Front Cover Only

Red Cloth, Blindstamp Decoration on Front & Back Cover

Wilberforce, Bertrand A.
Edward, Henry (preface):
A Sketch of the Lives of the Dominican Missionaries in Japan; Including Those of the Martyrs Beatified by Pius IX. By Fr. Bertrand A. Wilberforce, of the Order of the Friar-Preachers. With a Preface by His Grace the Archbishop of Westminster., London, John Philp, printed by Plackett and Moody, London, undated but ca 1870, green or red cloth with lettering and decoration on the spine and blindstamped rules and decoration on the front cover (green cloth) or front and back covers (red cloth), 16mo (4 1/2 x 6 1/4 in - 11.5 x 15.7 cm), publisher's ads (pages i-vii) at the rear, 234 pp.

Distinctions in Covers of Green and Red Cloth Versions:

  • Blindstamped Decoration in Center of Cover. The same image that is printed on the title page (a crest) is embossed on the front cover of the green cloth book. That image is embossed on the front and back cover of the red cloth version.
  • Lettering on Spine. Both versions have ""Lives of Dominican Missionaries in Japan"/"Wilberforce" embossed on the spine. In the green cloth version it is in gilt. In the red cloth book it is plain. The red cloth book has additional embossed lettering at the foot of the spine (see close-up pic here.
  • Gilt Blindstamped Decoration at Head and Foot of the Spine. Only the green cloth version has blindstamped decoration at head and foot of the spine and it is gilt.
  • Embossed Ruling. Both books have embossed ruling around the outer edges of the covers. On the green cloth version there are two raised bands of ruling. On the red cloth version there is one raised band of ruling.

Title Page:

Table of Contents Pages:

Wenckstern describes the book in these terms: ."Wilberforce, B. A. H. A sketch of the lives of the Dominican missionaries in Japan with a preface by the Archbishop of Westminster, 8vo, London, 1870 (2/)." I do not know if the book was actually published in the larger 8vo format as asserted by Wenckstern. While I have seen it listed that way, listings giving precise measurements generally give the smaller 16mo format (ca 16cm).

While this work is undated, it was reviewed in the Dublin review of January-April, 1870. The review follows:

A Sketch of the Lives of the Dominican Missionaries in Japan, including those of the Martyrs Beatified by Pius IX. By Fr. Bertband A. Wilberforce, of the Order of Friar Preachers ; with a Preface by His Grace the Archbishop of Westminster. London : Philp. 1869. THE Archbishop says in his preface, — "This beautiful little book gives a noble picture of the supernatural power, unity, and authority of the Church. In these sharp conflicts are to be seen side by side; the sons of S. Augustine, S. Francis, S. Dominic, and S. Ignatius labouring together and mingling their blood in one stream for the love of the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for the sheep. Truly Japan is the mother of martyrs ; and Father Francis Marales spoke with the spirit of his crucified Lord, when thirsting for martyrdom he cried out, 'Oh, my brethren, how beautiful is the land of Japan!' May God pour out upon us here in England the same spirit of love and sacrifice, of missionary zeal, fortitude, and self-oblation, for the sake of England and of the nations without God in the world."

The little volume well merits the Archbishop's commendation. It is remarkable for the perfect simplicity with which it relates events as glorious, and acts of heroism as truly admirable, as any in the records of the Church of Christ. It is invested with a peculiar interest from the discoveries of last year. An Anglican writer, many of whose little books recording events in the history of the Church are singularly beautiful, writing only a very few years back, said that Japan was the only instance in the history of the world in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having once taken root in any country, had been wholly uprooted from it by persecution, and then added, that there were indeed some who hoped that there might still be in that land remnants of the Christianity of the seventeenth century; but that whether it was so or not was known only to God. And he spoke truly. But the truth which was then known only to Himself, God has now for his own greater glory made manifest to the world; and that truth is, that the history of Japan differs from that of all other nations in the world, not as that of a land from which the Church of God has been successfully eradicated, but as that of a land in which it has been preserved and kept alive under difficulties and disadvantages of the conquest of which the world affords no other example. In no other land does the history of the Church record that the converts from heathenism, deprived of all their natural chiefs by persecution, have been able to maintain their faith in its purity for almost two hundred and fifty years without bishops, without priests, without sacraments (except Holy Baptism), without Christian books, or Christian schools or teachers. The Archbishop most truly says, — "Though overwhelmed and cut down, the Faith lived on in secret; and in our day thousands have been found who, without pastors or sacraments, have handed on their belief inviolate with its three sure tests—the authority of Rome, the celibacy of the Priesthood, the living veneration of the Mother of God."

And this wonderful phenomena is very closely connected with the history recorded in this beautiful little volume; for it seems that devotion to the Rosary was one of the principal means by which the faith of these glorious confessors was kept up ; and it was by the early Dominican missionaries that devotion was specially introduced among their forefathers. We may add that F. Wilberforce's narrative is admirably told, and that the little book, which only runs to 234 pages, is a wonderful monument of the power of the grace of God. We extract a few words from his account of what was called ' the great martyrdom," when fifty-two, chiefly natives, among whom were included women and children, and a small handful of European missionaries offered their lives in lingering tortures to Him Whom they loved because He had first loved them.

"Before the arrival of the prisoners, bodies of soldiers had been posted at different places to preserve order and prevent a rescue being attempted. Sixty thousand spectators clustered on the hill, and of these it was computed that thirty thousand were Christians. As the prisoners from Omura first came in sight, a sound of many voices ran through the mixed multitude— exclamations of pity and of contempt, recognitions of friends, prayers, and aspirations that fortitude might be given to the martyrs. Then a deep silence followed. The multitude contemplated the condemned ; the missionaries preached to the dense throng. For a whole hour the martyrs stood on the hill near the twenty-two stakes there planted, waiting for their companions. The priests took this last opportunity of preaching to the people, and encouraging the Christians. Among the rest, Father Francis Morales, after declaring that he was about to die for the true faith, begged the faithful not to be scandalized if he manifested any signs of weakness amidst the torturing flames, but to attribute them to the natural shrinking of the flesh, which is weak even when the spirit is willing. Suddenly sounds were heard from the city ; every eye was turned in that direction ; while cries of ' They come ! they come !' were heard among the people. Then again followed a general silence, for the strains of voices singing in harmony filled the air, and a procession of Christian martyrs issued from the city gate, and began slowly to ascend the hill. This martyrdom, even in the early days of the Church, could not have presented a scene more touchingly beautiful. It was a solemn procession of the Rosary, to end at the feet of Mary—a triumphal progress through the portal of death into the kingdom of light. First came Mary of Fingo, clad in the white habit of the Tertiaries of S. Dominic, bearing a cross, the standard of these Christian warriors. Mary, the wife of Andrew Tocuan, followed, clad also as a Tertiary, and although only twenty-three years old, her infirmities making her unable to walk, she was carried to martyrdom. Agnes, the wife of the martyr, Cosmo Taquea, and Catherine of Fingo, were both Tertiaries, and the latter, says Father Maynard, Prioress of the Confraternities of the Rosary and the Holy Name. There were also several members of the Rosary Confraternities, and some children, one of these, named Peter, only three years old, and carried in his mother's arms. Another boy of five, also named Peter, walked alone to martyrdom."

But we must break off, as we might easily copy several pages more equally interesting. One thought forces itself upon us. Naturally the faith of the Christians of Japan could never have been maintained during the last two centuries and a half. Who can doubt that the wonderful grace by which it was kept alive was gained for the Church of their country by the prayers of the glorious martyrs ?

In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the little volume before us is a beautiful specimen of printing and getting up, such as we hardly know where to look for except in the works published by Mr. Philp.

[Dublin Review, Volume XIV, New Series, January - April 1870, London, Burns Gates & Co. at pages 277-9.]


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