Unpublished account of a journey to Constantinople and back in the 1740s

De Matteis, Sertorius, Neapolitan Jesuit (1688-1768). Viaggio del P. Sert[ori]o de Matteis d[ell]a Comp[agni]a di Gesù per Costantinopoli.

Constantinople, ca. 1742.

4to (140 x 200 mm). Italian manuscript, ink on paper, mostly quite closely written in a small but regular, well-legible hand (ca. 48 lines). Title, two blank ff., 132 [misnumbered: 142], (2) pp., 2 blank ff.

(Bound with) II: Pallavicino, Francesco Antonio, SJ. Ristretto della vita e virtù di P. Vincenzo De Matteis missionario. Italian manuscript on paper. No place; likely 1743 or soon after. Title; 68 [misnumbered: 67], (2) pp. Contemporary unsophisticated boards with handwritten title to upper cover.


Unpublished, highly interesting account of the journey of the Italian Jesuit de Matteis from Naples via Sicily, the Aeolian and Greek islands to Constantinople and back in the early 1740s, likely in the author's own hand. Divided into 21 chapters, or "letters", the author gives an account of his sojourn in the East. All but the first and last three letters are written from Constantinople, providing descriptions of the view of the city, of the port, the Palace, Hagia Sophia ("Il celeberimo Tempio di S. Sofia, giù profanato in Moschea"), the Tombs of the Sultans, and Seraglio. De Matteis elaborates on the city's population and the various ethnicities that dwell there ("Notizie de' Franchi, Greci, Armeni, Ebrei, Zingari"), on Turkish costume, law, politics, civil and ecclesiastic government, and describes the religious practice of Islam, the "ippocrisia de' Turchi, e loro crudeltá". Uncommonly, in spite of the diaristic and epistolary form of his account, the author does not provide any dates; yet intrinsic textual evidence (such as the mention of Maria Theresa's war against Prussia and the Bavarian Elector, p. 15) places de Matteis's journey around 1742, and paleographical evidence indicates that the manuscript is contemporary with the trip or not much later.

Sertorio de Matteis, a native of Sulmona, had joined the Jesuit Order at the age of 17. A talented linguist, he became a preacher and missionary; Sommervogel lists three of his works, published in the 1750s (cf. de Backer/S. V, 737). Appended to his travelogue is another manuscript, written in a larger script, but apparently by the same hand: a life of the Jesuit priest Vicenzo de Matteis (1648-1731), an elder relative of Sertorio. The title-page identifies this as a posthumous copy after a manuscript by the Neapolitan Jesuit Francesco Antonio Pallavicino, who had died in 1743; this work would eventually be published in 1883 (cf. de Backer/S. VI, 115).

Boards rather rubbed and waterstained; interior very well preserved with minor browning as common and an unobtrusive wormhole to the blank margin of the first few leaves.