J.M. Braga Collection Talk

J.M. Braga Collection Talk
The Portuguese in Macau
Talks / Lecture

Recording date: 
22 September 2016

Dr Stuart Braga, nephew of Jack Braga, and Professor Jorge Santos Alves, Catholic University of Portugal, reveal the fascinating story of the world’s most enduring European colony, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Library’s acquisition of the Braga Collection. The Braga collection contains significant, rare and beautiful works about Portugal, Macau, China and Japan, and is one of the Library’s most important historical collections.

The Braga Collection contains about 7400 books and pamphlets, nearly all of them written in English or Portuguese. The collection consists predominantly of historical works and in particular histories of Portugal, the Portuguese colonies, China and Japan. While the bulk of the collection dates from the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, there are about 50 pre-1800 titles, with the earliest dating from 1489.


Transcript of ‘J.M. Braga Collection Talk
Speakers: Anne-Marie Schwirtlich (AMS), Ambassador Paulo Cunha Alves (PC), Professor Jorge Santos Alves (JA), Dr Stuart Braga (SB)
Location: National Library of Australia
Date: 22/09/2016

AMS:   To distinguished guests and dear friends all, good afternoon. I’m Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, the Library’s Director General and it’s my enormous pleasure to welcome you to the National Library of Australia. As we begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, I thank their elders past and present for caring this land that we are now privileged to call home.

 The National Library stands on the shoulders of inspired, passionate individual collectors. Edward Augustus Petherick, Sir John Ferguson, Sir Rex Nan Kivell amongst them. And I would include Jose Maria Braga on that list and we are delighted to have here with us to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Library’s acquisition of the Braga Collection. Jose Maria Braga was a businessman, teacher and author based in Macau who wrote numerous books and articles about this Portuguese settlement. While his collection is interested in the international influence of the Portuguese its focus is on Macau, Hong Kong, China and Japan. The greater part of his library of books, of manuscripts, of pictures, newspapers and journals was acquired by the National Library in 1966.

Today’s event was inspired and it was made possible by the Embassy of Portugal. We are grateful to the Embassy and especially to His Excellency, Mr Paulo Cunha Alves, for his passionate and his practical support over quite a long time in the planning and the presentation of today. And so I would like you to please join me in welcoming the Ambassador to the podium.


PC:       Madam Director General, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be here today on the momentous occasion of the 50th anniversary of the purchase of the Braga Collection by the National Library of Australia.

Jose Maria Braga was a Portuguese businessman based in Macau in the first quarter of the 20th century. During his lifetime he showed a keen interest in multifarious fields, having at different periods been a journalist, a teacher and a writer. He wrote numerous articles and journals in Macau, Hong Kong and Shanghai on the history of Macau and on the role of the Portuguese in its development. He was also a prolific publisher of books, touching upon the lands of the far-east and it first interactions with the west.

Throughout this life, and as a result of his studies, experiences and voyages, Jose Maria Braga managed to build up a rich and varied library of books, manuscripts, maps, pictures and newspapers amounting to around 6,000 monographs and other materials that today belong to the National Library of Australia, a small but significant part of which we will be able to see later today.

The interests of Jose Maria Braga were wide, covering the presence of the Portuguese in Asia as well as the whole sphere of Portuguese influence in the world in the period of the maritime expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries. Particularly well documented are the accounts of Portuguese voyages that allowed the spread of the knowledge in shipbuilding and related sciences. These travels were the precursor to the following voyages of Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gama that made possible the subsequent discovery of the sea routes and the mapping of half of the world.

The legacy left behind by this extraordinary historian constitutes an invaluable contribution for the neutral knowledge between west and east and to the field of historical investigation of the Portuguese presence in the far east, lands united to Portugal from the past and we hope will continue united to us in the future.

Before concluding I would like to thank the members of the National Library of Australia, the administration, for the close cooperation they extended to the Embassy of Portugal in putting together this showing and this conference. This event would also not have been possible without the precious support of Camões Institute in Lisbon and last but not least a special token of appreciation to both lecturers, Jorge Santos Alves and Stuart Braga for being with us today and enlighten the audience on the subject matter.

Allow me now to introduce Professor Jorge Santos Alves, currently Associate Professor at the Faculty of Human Sciences, Catholic University of Portugal in Lisbon and Coordinator of the Consortium of Asian Studies. He’s a senior researcher at the Centre of the Study of Communication and Culture since 2006, Visiting Fellow at the University of Macau. Professor Santos Alves is also Vice President of the Portuguese Indonesian Association for Friendship and Co-operation. His interests as far as teaching and research are concerned are mainly focused on Asian Studies, namely the history of the Southeast Asia in the precolonial period, the history of China and Macau as well as Portuguese-Chinese relations. More recently his academic endeavours have taken him towards the study of Islamic networks in the Indian Ocean in the 17th century. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attention and please welcome Professor Jorge Santos Alves.


JA:       Well good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. First of all let me start by saying how grateful I am for this invitation to be here at the National ... Australian National Library. I would like to thank of course Madam Director General, I would like to thank also the Portuguese Embassy and His Excellency, the Ambassador Paulo Cunha Alves and also the Camouge Institute for its support to this initiative and to this event and let me also make the personal thank to Catherine Favell from National Library of Australia for all the huge amount of arrangements she has done and those arrangements made it possible for me to be here with you this evening.

So for this afternoon’s lecture I was ... I thought of presenting you the Braga Collection in relation to what I consider to be Macau as one of the most fascinating examples of an international port at work and I should say an international port but a different international port because in Asia from 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries we see a lot of ports everywhere in southeast Asia, in the South China Sea, everywhere but in fact Macau had some identities and some uniqueness that needs to be stressed and that’s something that I would like you to follow me for the next 45 minutes in order to see how intelligence gathering was absolutely decisive and it is by the way still also today absolutely decisive for the survival of Macau as, I used to say, an Eurasian project of international port and it is very clearly shown in the Braga Collection that we have here in the National Library of Australia.

So let us start by making a short summary of what is expecting you for the next 45 minutes. First of all I will present you a very briefly, very general presentation of the Portuguese in Asia, the Portuguese presence in Asia by stressing the two patterns that in fact divide this presence. The first one is what I call the empire. Let’s use other words, the official presence in Asia. And the second one I copy the expression that is authored by my colleague, my American colleague, George Winius is the shadow empire. That means the private, the nonofficial initiative of the Portuguese presence in Asia. This ranges between the 16th and the 19th century by the way, let me remind you this.

The second point will be on Macau, an international port at work. The third one will be on Macau and intelligence gathering. The fourth one will be on finally the Braga Collection in the National Library of Australia and then back to Macau at work and some final remarks just to leave you with four or five main topics of my lecture.

I would like you also to ... and I give you 10 seconds, not more than that ... just to remind you the geography of Asia because I mean it’s something incredibly difficult for us everywhere ... anywhere we are in the world to rem ... to have the whole map of Asia in our minds, in our mindset and in fact as you can see basically the Portuguese presence in Asia ranged, as the Ambassador was saying a few minutes ago, from the whole of the Indian Ocean to the S ... the China Sea and Japan archipelago but in fact it started a little bit further west and it started in the west ... east coast of Africa, what we usually call the Swahili Coast because in fact it’s so much ... it has so much of Asian element in this region and so many cultural, religious, political, economical context that when we go to the east coast of Africa somehow we feel that we are already ... there is a kind of an Asian taste, of Asian flavour everywhere in this part of the world. So the Portuguese presence that we are going to listen in the next 45 minutes, it’s absolutely overwhelming in terms of geographical context. Ten seconds are over.

Now let’s ... to try to simplify it and I hope that I will not oversimplify but in any case let’s start by analysing very briefly the two patterns of the Portuguese expansion that I mentioned to you minutes ago. So when we look at the Portuguese presence in Asia in between the 16th and the 19th century, what we do have in fact, it’s on one hand the empire or the official enterprise and on the other hand we have the shadow empire and I mean by shadow empire the private, mainly and I would say growingly Eurasian enterprise. And I see Eurasian from the point of view that in fact up ‘til the mid-16th century, what we have, it’s basically Portuguese people coming from Portugal but after the middle of the 16th century you see a growing number of people that claim themselves to be Portuguese but in fact they are sons of Portuguese men and of their marriages or unions with Asian women, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Indian, Japanese ... Japanese everywhere in Asia and so in fact this group, that by the way will be extremely present in Macau, it’s absolutely decisive for the survival of this shadow empire.

And there is also, to make things a little bit more clear, a kind of geographical frontier between these two patterns of the Portuguese presence in Asia and once again you have the mapping there. The ... this frontier is more or less the Cape Comorin tip covering which is the further south tip of the Indian subcontinent more or less in between the Maldives and Sri Lanka and in fact when we look west we see the Portuguese crown, the Portuguese fleets, we see the Portuguese fortresses, we see the Portuguese factories but all of them belonging to the King of Portugal or for that short period in which there were two crowns and one king, the King of Spain, 1580 to 1640. In fact this is the ... if you see this, this is the set, this is the scenario for the Portuguese official presence in Asia. When we looked east of the Cape Comorin, in fact this is truly the scenario, the geographical scenario for this shadow empire of private, of Eurasian enterprises.

Let’s see a little bit with more detail the first pattern, the imperial pattern of the Portuguese presence in Asia. Of course the representation of the Portuguese King in Asia is Estado da India, in free translation the state of India. We have a Governor or a Viceroy depending on the King’s choice that is settled in Goa and he is in fact the head, the representative of the King of Portugal. And Goa was settled as a capital in 1510 and then we have several other important positions from the King of Portugal ranging in between the Persian Gulf or Hormuz in 1508, Malacca, 1511, Anpuchine 1503. I would like to stress Malacca because Malacca is extremely important for several reasons. Malacca, it’s not only the tip of the Malacca Straits which is by the way even in our days an extremely important highway for the maritime connections between the Asian world and Asia and the rest of the world but in this period of early 16th century Malacca was truly ... I was going to say the window but in fact it’s not the window, it’s not the door, it’s the gate to the Chinese market. And so everyone who wants to trade with China ... of course afterwards with Japan ... will have to go through Malacca and so that means that when the Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511 in fact they got immediately access to the Chinese market and China was, no doubt about it, the major market that went with hope to heaven to find ... in already in these days ... in the Asian context.

And if you want me ... if you ask me to choose a book that would somehow represent this official vision of the Portuguese expansion, of this empire of Estado da India, of the King of Portugal of course, that would have to be the most famous Lusiadas, the Lusiad written as you all know for sure by the immortal Portuguese poet, Luis Vaz de Camoes. On the other hand if you look at the settled part of the Portuguese expansion, this so-called shadow empire ... once again I remind you his name, George Winius, amazing American historian of the Portuguese presence in Asia ... we several in that area ... well the map isn’t on here, let me go back to the map once again ... all that area of the Bay of Bengal, of the Malay and Indonesian archipelago, the South China Sea, we see a lot of Portuguese settlements. In Odily, in Nagapattinam, in Matrasa in Sulawesi you know there’s Indonesia. In Nagasaki in Japan although Nagasaki with a twist because this shadow empire has different features and the case of Nagasaki is extremely interesting because for the first time in history Japanese daimyo, a Japanese warlord, gave Nagasaki the ... let’s say the leasing of the port of Nagasaki to the Society of Jesus.

And the Jesuits who of course grabbed the opportunity without any hesitation with political knowledge and the political sensitivity that they have ... had, a lot of difficulties to explain to the King of Portugal and to explaining to Rome how come that Japanese daimyo offered them, up to the Society of Jesus, the exploration of a port and in fact the management of a port. That is for more or less 20 years but once again it’s a very interesting case but one way or the other Odily, Nagapattinam, Makassar, Nagasaki lasted for 20, 30, 50, 100 years at the most but the taste of Macau was absolutely different from all the others. And so the Portuguese settled more or less around 1555, 1557, the dates are not completely clear up until now and if you want me to ... if you ask me to look for a book that would somehow show all this, how the shadow empire worked, how this Portuguese presence, growing the Eurasian presence in Asia to be described, to be analysed, to be in a way as a kind of ... an eastern picture of what was going on with the Portuguese and with this shadow empire by the mid-16th century, of course that book would have to be the travels of Fromanchbeent.

And nowadays we know fortunately because until let’s say 10 years ago we always thought and it was always said that the book by Fromanchbeent was an amount of lies and fantasies and so on but nowadays we know that the travels of Fromanchbeent after all, it’s not only extremely important to study, to analyse, to understand the shadow empire but it’s most significant importance to understand Asian history by the mid-16th century. The insight that Fromanchbeent presented to us, and I’m telling you with this ... with the ... absolutely certainty that group of say 40 international scholars have run through the whole facts and have nowadays discovered that more or less between 80 and 85% of what’s in the book is absolutely sure and direct from the historical, the geographical, the economical, the political, the religious point of view. So this Travels in free translation of Fromanchbeent is of course an amazing book that is perhaps the best one that we could show as an example for kind of an x-ray of this shadow empire by the mid-16th century.

So let’s take the example of Macau. That’s in fact what we’re going to see this afternoon. And let’s move onto the set and topic of my lecture, Macau, an international port at work and the Portuguese ... let me remind you that the Portuguese settled around 1555, 1557. One of the things that has changed in the last years in Portuguese historiography allow me this footnote, is the fact that until let’s say the late 1990s Portuguese historians used to work all by themselves. And all of a sudden by the end of the 1990s the Portuguese historians do in fact together with for instance Chinese historians, Japanese historians, Asian historians and that allowed us to give ... to have access to local sources and that changes a lot in the perspective, in the way that we analyse it, we study the Portuguese presence in Asia and namely in the case of Macau. And so up until a couple of years ago everyone said that Macau was founded by the Portuguese in 1555, 1557 as if nothing existed there and all of a sudden the Portuguese arrived and create an international port.

Now we know not only by the archaeologists that it existed, that it dates back to the Neolithic but more recently that by the beginning of the Ming dynasty in the 14th century it was a fisherman’s port and that by the early 15th century it was already a kind of a port of call on transit to the international port of Canton or Guangzhou in order to access to the Imperial Court in Beijing. So in fact what the Portuguese did was to follow the steps of Asian traders that was going to do trade in China and in fact they followed specifically ... and now we know their names thanks to the Chinese colleagues. The overseas Chinese that were trading, that were settled in southeast Asia and all of a sudden were interested in trading with the Portuguese and so they bring them to Macau. And so since the very beginning Macau is in let’s say a Sino-Portuguese project, broadly speaking, an Eurasian project because it deals with Indians, with Japanese, with Malays, with Arabs, with Chinese and basically Chinese and Portuguese and basically overseas.

One of the interesting things of Macau is that up 1846, and I will explain later on this ... why this year appears in the PowerPoint, Macau enjoyed an enormous amount of political and administrative autonomy. In fact although the Portuguese Crown nominated a ... for the first time a Governor and a Captain General, in 1615 in fact that didn’t work as the Portuguese Crown thought and the ... a major political institution in Macau was what we call in Portuguese the sonata de camera, in English the Municipal Council or afterwards. But there are other institutions in Macau that guaranteed this autonomy. On one hand we had the Holy House of Mercy, Misericordia, in si ... 1569. The Holy House of Mercy as ... of course this worked as a hospital ... worked in order of social assistance but also as a kind of a bank in which the money would be invested and then borrowed to the merchant and so it has this triple function that was extremely important for the development of Macau. We had the diocese in 1576 and here it comes, the municipal; council, sonata de camera, in 1582 and in fact it was the sonata de camera who manages everything. And especially manages the relation with the Chinese authorities.

The sonata de camera had one of his members, was a mandarin in the official rankings of China. And it was him dressed like a mandarin who approached and would negotiate daily with the Chinese authorities both from Guangzhou, from Canton and from Beijing. Then we had the Chinese merchants and investments and this was absolutely decisive for the growing of Macau and for the translation of Macau as a Sino-Portuguese project and as a private ... as an Eurasian port throughout the times. And then we have the Society of Jesus which had an amazing role and a similarly important role in Macau. The Jesuits acted not only as priests, I would say basically not as priests, they acted as political counsellors, as translators, as diplomats and as scientists and so they acted not only in China, nearby in the province of Guangdong but mainly they acted starting at the end of the 16th century in the Central Court in Beijing and so in fact all the contacts, all the ... let’s say the Macau affairs that had to be dealt with ... with the Emperor were dealt by the Jesuits and in fact it was them who acted as diplomats for the Macau affairs in the Imperial Court in Beijing.

And now let me show you a few images that I think and I hope that somehow represent the true essence of Macau and how this ... Macau as a Sino-Portuguese project was absolutely working up until 1846. I remember ... no, I have to explain you the date, 1846. 1846 ... well two dates then, sorry about that. First one, 1842, it’s the date of the foundation ... this is the foundation of Hong Kong as you know. On the aftermath of the first opium war as you know the Chinese were forced to give Hong Kong to the British and in fact the foundation of Hong Kong in 1842 was a terrible blow for the economical life of Macau. And so what the Portuguese Crown in Lisbon decided was to transform for the first time in fact Macau in a colony which Macau never was and so they sent a Governor called Ferreira do Amaral who would have to who’d have to ... with special powers in order to set apart the Lily Alcinado, just ... the municipal council and all the powers that the municipal council had especially the relation with the Chinese would best to the hands of the Governor. And so that was by the way totally missed opportunity because Ferreira do Amaral ended up there, killed three years ago ... three years later on in 1849. He was beheaded by some chap because there was a lot of conflict in the frontier and so on and so things did not work. And when Ferreira do Amaral died in fact Macau returned to the whole way of dealing with the Chinese and once again all the powers were held to the municipal council’s hands.

So I will now close this footnote just to explain you the date of 1846. But generally speaking the idea, these three images, is to show you this one is from the view of Macau from the late 17th century, something that was in a ... it’s an image that it’s a piece that it’s in a private collection in Lisbon. No-one has ever seen it until a couple of years ago and all of a sudden ... I was discussing this yesterday with the Ambassador ... this is some of the treasures we can find still in Portuguese private collections. And this view of Macau that I used in an exhibition that I commissioned a couple of years ago in Lisbon shows something of a city that has that special atmosphere of half Chinese in architecture, half European.

The second image that I would like to show, it’s a Sino-Portuguese map of the Macau Peninsula made in 1678 and this image, this map of Macau was to be shown, was to be offered to a Kangxi Emperor for ... by a diplomatic mission sent from Macau and the general idea was to say okay, Your Highness, don’t worry because Macau, it’s such a small thing, a few houses and nothing less ... nothing more than that so don’t worry about Macau because it can be managed, no problem. And it’s ... by the way we have a Chinese fortress very near to the borders and so don’t worry so this is a construction if you say ... if you want to use the word but I mean it’s an amazing construction and in fact this diplomatic mission of Macau had two other important features. The first one was that it brought a fake letter by the King of Portugal to the Chinese Emperor, together with the Jesuits they faked the letter ... they forged the letter so it was a fake letter.

And the second thing is that due to the intelligence gathering of the Jesuits the Municipal Council of Macau knew that the Emperor and the young Empress would love to see an African lion. And so they ordered to buy a lion in Mozambique and they shipped it from Mozambique to Goa, from Goa to Macau and then the lion was, together with the diplomatic mission of Macau, up until Beijing. And the lion arrived still alive, in bad shape, I think but it was still alive and the Emperor was absolutely smashed and overwhelming when he saw the lion and so with a fake letter, with a ... well let’s say a fake map ... and the lion, the major topics that this diplomatic mission of Macau had in mind, the agenda was tremendous success for Macau.

And finally the building of the sonata de camera in the mid-18th century so when one looked at it it would be like a kind of a mandarin’s house or something like that so we are in fact truly in a Sino-Portuguese, an Eurasian city at least up until the mid or the end of the 18th century.

Now just for you to have an idea of what was ... how difficult it was to work of the survival of this Eurasian international port of Macau, in fact everything was related to the maritime trade of Macau and all of a sudden Macau had to do diplomacy ... nowadays they use the word economic diplomacy but in fact that’s what Macau had done for some centuries with lots of success, by the way, in southeast Asia, with Portugal, with China, with Japan and the four cycles of ... well roughly speaking of the Macanese economy which in fact one was the southeast Asian cycle up until the mid16th century, the second one the Japanese cycle basically on raw silk, Chinese raw silk to the Japanese market then bringing silver into China up until the mid-17th century then again back to basic the second southeast Asian cycle up until the late 18th century and finally the opium cycle. So as you can see to manage all this, to play in several, it’s like to play chess in a ... several ... how do you say? Plain set? Yeah. So in fact it’s absolutely amazing and puzzling how the sonata de camera to do such a political and economical diplomacy in so many political and geographical scenarios.

And for this ... that’s the third topic of my lecture ... of course intelligence gathering was absolutely essential for the survival of Macau. And once again it was the Municipal Council who ran the show and who was responsible for managing the political and economic diplomacy of Macau first of all with China, Guangzhou, and ... on the provincial level and Beijing on the imperial level, Lisbon ... of course Portugal, Lisbon, Madrid in between 1580 and 1640 and Goa also because the Viceroy or the Governor in Goa was the representative of the King of Portugal so it has to be dealt with also again. And I forgot to put here ... I could also put because you know in 1808 due to the Neapolitan wars the Court of Portugal had to move to Brazil and so Macau in fact for a dozen years or more did have ... transact with the Portuguese King that was living in the quarter, it was by that time settled in Brazil.

They also had to move to have contacts with Spanish Manila, of course, with Japanese daimyo and shogunate, with southeast Asian kingdoms and sultanates so we are talking about the old Hindu, Buddhist-based kingdoms of southeast Asia especially in mainland southeast Asia but we are talking wide range of Islamic states in southeast Asia and so this means that even from the religious point of view there was a lot of let’s say sensitive issues that had to be considered, that to be in the agenda of the Macanese diplomats. And finally I would say last but not least with Dutch Batavia.

So Macau ... well the Municipal Council of Macau in fact to manage all this parallel diplomacy relied first of all on the interpreters and the ... let me ... in Portuguese the word that was used in Macau was judu basa which means ... judu bahasa, in fact it’s a Malay ... it’s a Bas Indonesian name, it means the expert in language. And after 1620 the Municipal Council was ... felt the need to create a kind of a school of translators and interpreters and so in fact there was some kind of technical formation in languages done by these translators and most of them were Chinese, Macau-born or born or Cantonese and they were considered by the Municipal Council our eyes and ears in Asia. And so in fact everything that they have seen, what they have heard about, they would immediately relay it to the Municipal Council and everything was also completed with the private archives and libraries that several of the Macanese traders were building up on their own to their businesses to ... but to ... also to the interest of the city in order to provide with intelligence the Municipal Council, that’s how we are approaching the constitution of the Braga Collection because in a way there are ... this is a tradition that Jose Maria Braga is continuing.

So the Municipal Council had an archive in a library and there was also of course the Jesuit ... let’s say University of St Paul created in 1595 so as you see there is a whole system, there is a whole organisation that was created, that was maintained by the Municipal Council in order to keep his political and economic diplomacy running in all those scenarios that I have shown to you in the previous topic.

So let’s a little ... step a little bit further, closer to the Braga Collection and just to rest your souls we only have three slides yet and so don’t be too worried because I have four or five minutes and Maria, don’t be worried because I will stick to my 45 to 50 minutes. And let’s take a look of two examples and one of them is a very important example as you will see in a minute of what was going on in the two cases ... let’s say two case studies of private and archives and libraries from Macau traders that in fact in one moment or the other of their lives belonged to the Municipal Council. And so in fact there was a kind of an endogenic system, the families, more or less the same families were running the sonata de camera, the Municipal Council and let me give you two examples. One is Gambour, the other one is the Vicentosa. Gambour is a Portuguese-born trader, he went to Macau in the 1770s or something like that but Antony Vicentosa is important not only because he’s a Macanese. Actually he’s a third generation of Macau traders and he has in fact family ties with the Braga family so this is important because there is a Braga family connection. Antony Vicentosa is an amazing character, he’s someone I would say absolutely amazing from several point of views because he managed to be nominated, chosen ... I don’t know what words should I use ... by several kings of Asia from mainland southeast Asia up until insulate southeast Asia to be nominated as Minister, as high-ranking official and so on. And when there was Christmas mass or something in Macau you wear the suits, the official apparel of Siam or Vietnam so he is an amazing ... an absolutely amazing character. Both of them, Antonio Jay Gambour and Vicentosa had their own private archives and libraries, I will show you a few examples from the Vicentosa private ... now it’s public but before it was private ... archive. And so they ... in fact both of them were operating in southeast Asia in China, in Europe, not only in Lisbon but in Seville, in Amsterdam and London and so on and even in the Indian market. So in fact they were running a system that involved diplomacy, family network and business.

Let me show three examples of how important for the ... for them, for the business, for their business, for the family network but also for the city, for the international port of Macau and for the international and for the Municipal Council, these private archives were important. These three examples are letters from Asian kings, two of them directly to Antony Vicentosa, the other one to the King of Portugal. They were kept in the archive of ... the private archive of Vicentosa but due to several historical accidents now they are in public collections in Portuguese archives. The first one, it’s a letter from the King of Vietnam dated 1786. Now it’s in the overseas archive in Lisbon but it’s an original, it’s a letter written both to the King of Portugal and to Antony Vicentosa who managed to be self-nominated ambassador and King of Portugal to Vietnam and he kept that letter. That was by the way, that had a copy, that translation in the archives of the Lousada.

The second one, it’s a letter from the Sultan of Terengganu ... nowadays Malaysia ... in 1805 and it’s written in ... as you can see in Arabic and in fact it’s written to the King of Portugal but it mentions in several occasions the role of Vicentosa as a diplomat. The third one, it’s from where I stand from my point of view, the most amazing one. It’s a Thai official document that a colleague of mine found totally unpredictably in the Municipal Library of Visi, one of the northern part of Portugal and it’s ... it was written in 1786 and basically it’s something starting that okay, Mr Vicentosa’s coming next year to do trade in Siam, he will pay a little bit less of the customs duty due to his service to the King of Siam. But he manages to do a Portuguese translate ... when it says no, no, no, no, Mr Vicentosa was nominated second Prime Minister by the King of Siam and so presented himself in the eyes of the King of Portugal as someone extremely important so you can see that the problem with translation is also something that ... well lecture. Well, let’s move on. So fortunately we do have these three documents because Vicentosa was able, was willing to do for his own service, for his ... the s ... the business sake and for the interests of the City of Macau, his own private archive.

And so now finally for your relief we go to the fourth, final topic of this lecture in which I ... in fact what I ... that’s basically a simple point so back to Macau at work, it’s to show that Jack Jack ... Jose Maria Braga ... Jack Braga in fact followed along a multi settler tradition in order to constitute not only a library but also a private archive and we now all can benefit from it. But in fact in the period that Jose Maria Braga built this collection due to the inspiration of course of his father who started definitely the collection, what we have is someone that was following a long tradition of let’s say the Macanese, the Macanese elite of constituting a library and a private archive and that archive just to remind you was private, of course, was from the family but it was at the service of the community of the sonata de camera and in fact was at work for the survival of Macau.

At ... more or less at the same period two other extremely important names, Pierro Lash de Silva and Javy St George, these two also two important Macanese, both of them responsible for the translation office that was dealing closely with the sonata de camera, especially for the translation of the Chinese documents and the relation with China. And in a way the most important point of it all is once again intelligence gathering so in fact the private collection and the private archive was in fact also if you say ... if you want to was in fact intelligence gathering at the service of a family, of the business of someone but in fact at the service of the community and of an international port. And let’s see the different patterns of documents we can find this to of course show us all the details afterwards so we have cartography that is of course absolutely decisive for this intelligence gathering, we have cartography of Macau, Hong Kong and South China.

We have newspapers from Macau and Hong Kong. We have family papers, of course, these are relevant for the history of the family but also in a way for the history of a city. We have periodicals and most of this periodicals are what would ... to say the state of the art in sinology and oriental studies of the period. We have ... and this is something with a purpose. Of course let me remind you the close connection of the Society of Jesus always with Macau and I would like to know why ... maybe Stuart can explain to us ... why Jose Maria Braga chose to make transcriptions and summaries of all the extremely vast corpus of documents we can find in Portuguese archives, why he chose the Jesuits in Asia. This and only this. And this Jesuits in Asia which are in the Judo Library in Lisbon, it’s a documental corpus, an absolutely amazing document. Fortunately nowadays from the Orient in Lisbon. Do have them in microfilm and so we can ... we are able to see it in a more ... in a more comfortable way but in fact up until the transcriptions done by Jose Maria Braga no one has ever done that ... that job again. And finally photographs of Macau and Hong Kong.

So just to sum up with four or five final remarks, first of all remind you that the Portuguese presence in Asia had two main patterns, the official and the private slash shadow empire. Macau was the best and the longest-living example of the private pattern in close cooperation with private Chinese patterns. Third, intelligence gathering was essential for the survival of Macau between mid-16th and mid-19th century and I wonder is it not essential nowadays? And let me just to close with a short story, back in 1998 when I was living in Macau, as you know the transition of administration from Portugal to China happened on 20 ... December 20, 1999 so one in a something year before that very important date for Macau. I was having lunch in ... with a member of the Macanese and now no problem ... with a member of the Macanese government.

By the way the only Macanese was in the Portuguese Government of Macau back at that time and in the same rest ... there was ... perhaps this was the most famous restaurant in Macau by that period and all the Chinese official visiting Macau always had lunch in that restaurant. And I was having lunch with this gentleman who’s a Macanese gentleman and I noticed that in one table close to our table there was some Chinese official from Macau and some Chinese official come from mainland. And I said are you ... as we say in Portuguese ... would you like to be a fly and to listen what they are saying? And I say no, no, no, Jorge, there’s no need, if I know who they are I know what they are saying. And so in fact the ... intelligence gathering at work at its best then. So Jose Maria Braga followed a multi settler tradition of Macau’s political and business elite ... I hope Stuart will agree with me ... to gather information and knowledge was absolutely essential for the survival of Macau still today.

And finally the Braga Collection in the NLA. I was telling someone a ... before this lecture that makes me somehow jealous that you have this collection here. It’s an extraordinary, perhaps the last one done by the Macanese member of the elite of Macau, case study of intelligence gathering in Macau and it’s an international port and a global city. Thank you to you all, thank you so much.


SB:       Well your Excellency, Paulo Cunha Alves, Ambassador of the Portuguese Republic, Mrs Philomena Cunha Alves, Anne-Marie, Schwirtlich, the Director General of the National Library, Professor Jorge Santos Alves, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Anne-Marie, for your kind words of introduction. The most important thing you said is that I’m a keen and loyal supporter of the National Library and very proud to be so. Where would we be without the National Library of Australia? What a vast and boundless treasure this is, not just to the nation and to the world but to each and every individual user.

Will it work? Yes. Jack Braga was certainly of this view. He was thrilled that his collection came here and he was proud not just to his own collection but also of the great library of which it has become a part. Jack, Uncle Jack, was 39 when this picture was drawn in 1936. Thirty-nine is a good age for a book collector. You have a certain view of what you want to achieve in your field and you have many years collecting ahead of you. I have been 39 for several decades and I plan to continue to be 39.


Jack retained that youthful enthusiasm for many more years despite the crisis of the Pacific war that overwhelmed east Asia a few years later. It stopped his acquisition of books completely for at least five years but it opened a new and important field, the acquisition of everything he could lay his hands on that documented the refugee crisis in Macau whose population had grown from about 150,000 to 500,000. Think of that overwhelming figure. And as far as he could he also collected material relating to Hong Kong under Japanese occupation.

He faced other great challenges during the war, how to care for his aged parents and eight siblings who arrived in Macau from Hong Kong in several stages from 1942 to 1943, destitute and ill. How could he assist the war effort as a British agent? I don’t know because his files were closed for 15 years until 2017. They are available in exactly 100 days’ time. The 1st of January 2017 but the Library is closed that day.

How could he educate his seven children at a time when opportunities ceased altogether and in a culture that discouraged girls’ education beyond elementary level. His eldest daughter, Carol, who lives now in San Francisco had this to say about her father. I have him to thank for his encouragement as I grew up. I was liberated and I didn’t know it. It was at his lap that I learned the qualities of love, generosity and care that cannot be measured. Now they were qualities that Carol Braga then gave to her colleagues and patients throughout her dedicated service in women’s health as professor of gynaecology at University of California as a respected specialist in ovarian cancer who has received much recognition for her work.

Jack himself would be given two awards by the President of Portugal. His growing reputation late in 1949 was the Award of Cavaleiro in the Ancient Order of St James of the Sword. In 1988 he was posthumously awarded the high rank of Grand Officer of the Order of Prince Henry, the Navigator.

I’ve been asked to give an introduction to the J M Braga Collection. Let me briefly discuss several themes of the collection which will be represented by a small collection of a large treasure. Jack’s collection is a gift that keeps on giving as you find out more about it. The cliché certainly applies here. And I shall outline here several items that are fundamental to the collection both in their importance and their antiquity. The display at the Nan Kivell Room upstairs showcases a few examples of his collecting. Portuguese exploration, obviously, in books and maps. We see his willingness to collect pamphlets concerning unpalatable truths. There are instances of the way Jack built up his research materials and how he used his collection for public purposes. There is the product of the very fruitful collaboration between Jack Braga and Charles Boxer. There are a few of his varied pictures and maps which he saw as important facets of a wide-reaching collection. If you look closely at one of them, John Speed’s 1676 Map of Tartary you’ll find that just north of the Great Wall of China they had discovered what they called asbestus ... they used the Latin, not the Greek form that we do ... asbestos which they wove into clothes that did not burn in the fire. Several centuries ago they didn’t know that this wonderful mineral would kill you. There it is on the map.

Naturally printing fascinated him because the craft of printing was a large part of his family history. Three books represented the intersection between the two objects of his fascination. There are three paintings recording Macau in the late 1930s. Presciently Jack saw that Macau would soon change beyond recognition and he commissioned several artists to record it. I hope to use a number of them to illustrate my next book, A History of Macau, which is being published in November. There are two pictures that might best be called propaganda posters, drawn to accompany talks that Jack gave to schools and community groups in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. They were drawn by a German aristocrat, Baron von Reichenau, described by Jack simply as a German refugee and possibly related to a field marshal in the Reichswehr. The last two items are also from World War 2 though newspapers published in Hong Kong and Macau in 1945, examples of a rich but little known part of the Collection. In the Nan Kivell Room there’ll be notes accompanying the exhibits which will explain their significance including the major and important pictures and books as well as the easily overlooked smallest item, a little lapel badge with a circular union jack on it and also the drawings by the intriguing Baron von Reichenau who seems to have chosen Macau as the ideal place to hide in bad times.

Now in this introduction I cannot cover all of it however I shall discuss four items that are fundamental both in their antiquity and in their importance. The first is the Ordinal of the Divine Office of the Order of Nasturtiums, the Monastery of Santa Maria to Albecasa. This is the bedrock of the J M Braga Collection. It comes from the Alcobaca Monastery, one of the great buildings of medieval Europe. Begun in the 12th century it remains I’m told the largest church in Portugal, vast, simple to the point of austerity in its architecture and breathtakingly beautiful. It is on the World Heritage Register. If you’re ever in Portugal do not fail to visit it. It was built by the Cistercian Order, very strict in its discipline, first adhering steadfastly to the Rule of St Benedict. Later the Monastery grew slack over the centuries. Next to the church is a huge kitchen, the monks did rather well. By the late 18th century the monks had come to live too well and the early simplicity and austerity were compromised and the monks were finally swept away in anticlerical reaction.

Why did Jack collect this priceless manuscript from the early 15th century? The Monastery was founded by Afonso, the first King of Portugal in 1153 and it was closely linked to the monarchy from then on. The library at Alcobaca was one of the largest Portuguese Medieval libraries, probably included this book which contains the Ordinal, the daily services observed by the monks when the Monastery was at the height of its influence. More directly the great thrust of Portuguese exploration of the 15th century had as one of its main springs. Not only royal patronage, the patroardour, but also a strong missionary zeal, the direct product of several centuries of the Reconquista, the reconquest, when the King and the Church strove together against the Moors.

How did Jack acquire it? Unfortunately he did not keep acquisition files. He didn’t want his wife to know how much money he spent on books. But his correspondence files make it clear that following a visit to Lisbon in 1952 he maintained close and cordial relations with several leading Lisbon booksellers. In selecting a small selection of his 7,000 plus books, hundreds of maps and scores of pictures I was struck by the careful way in which he’d laid the foundations of his library in a small but significant group of early printed books which I shall now discuss.

Jack chose these books with great care as foundation books. I have tried to follow his thinking in these foundation stones. Last year at an APSIG meeting, we saw an incunabulum. That is a book printed before the year 1500. It was St Augustine’s De civitate Dei, 1489. Jack had only one incunabulum, only one. That’s one more than I have, one more than anybody else here has, I would think.

The three important early printed books we will be looking at today upstairs are firstly The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises written by St Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, with the intention of helping the earnest Christian disciple in a personal commitment to follow Jesus. The quest for personal holiness has always been fundamental to sincere Christian belief and this book has for centuries been the cornerstone of Jesuit training. Why did Jack collect it? Because the Jesuits as we have heard were present in Macau almost from the beginning. Macau was the base for their work throughout East Asia. This book in a 1606 printing is contemporary with the high point of their work in China and Japan.

Second is Aldis Montano’s, Atlas Japanesis and this is the title. Being remarkable addressers by a way of embassy from the East India Company of the United Provinces to the Emperor of Japan Englished and adorned without above several sculptures by John Ogleby. That of course is the English translation, 1670. Loyola was Italian. Arnold Berg ... that’s Montanos in Latin ... was Dutch. This is a compilation of descriptions by emissaries of the Dutch East India Company, their encounters with Japanese and Portuguese, dealing with Japan, its land and its people. The plates in this book represent a high point in book illustration in the 17th century. Why did Jack collect it? The Dutch gave the Japanese military assistance in excluding the Portuguese from Japan in the 1630s. Any knowledge of Japan for more than two centuries reached the rest of the world through Dutch eyes only.

The third is an Italian book, a classical text printed in 1574. The leading publisher and printer of the Venetian high renaissance, Aldus Manutius, set up a definite scheme of book design. He produced the first italic type, he introduced small and handy pocket editions of the classics and he developed several innovations in book design. Why did Jack collect it? The Aldine Press raised the bar for printers everywhere. Its standard was normative for perhaps two centuries. Jack had a keen interest in the history of printing and he wrote an important paper on western printing and the Far East from 1565 to 1836. It is now online through the Library’s catalogue. Notes on the rest of the display await you in the Nankivell Room.

Now I’ve been asked to answer this question, why did the J M Braga Collection come to Australia? As this is the 50th anniversary of the acquisition of the Library it seems appropriate to answer that question if I can. From some years it seemed that it would always be in Hong Kong. As a small boy I was allowed just once to enter Jack’s library. It occupied more than a dozen large bookcases in a book room. It was equipped with one of the very few domestic dehumidifiers then in Hong Kong. The room felt cold, I’d never been in an air-conditioned room. I remember the huge bookcases towering over my head and I realised from this picture that they weren’t so tall after all because I was then only about four feet high.

Jack’s best years were the two decades after world war 2. Although he and his family had experienced severe privations in Macau like most others Jack never lost his vigour and strong community spirit. These continued to flourish in post war Hong Kong where he moved in 1946. For the next 20 years he lived and worked there running Braga and Company, an import export business though is friend, Geoffrey Bonsall, Deputy Librarian of Hong Kong University, whimsically suggested that his book collection was really his business, absorbing most of his time and interest, while the business was his hobby to which he gave whatever little time was left. So of course he never became rich.

His passion for book collecting and historical research dominated his life. Residence in Hong Kong from 1946 gave a new dimension to his collection which now extended to the history of British activity in the Far East from the late 18th to the mid-20th century. In addition his determination to record the history of Portuguese expansion took a new turn and he now added many transcriptions of papers documenting the activities of early navigators and missionaries. In 1952 he visited Lisbon and embarked on a project of securing transcriptions of the Jesuits in Asia manuscripts in the Judo Library, Lisbon. As we have heard he was the first to do so. He regarded these manuscripts as the most important part of his collection. Jack was active in the affairs of a body founded after World War 2 to promote the cultural interests of the Macanese community in Hong Kong. It was called the Portuguese Institute of Hong Kong. It was a small group of people who met to hear papers on Portuguese history. It published an occasional bulletin with articles in Portuguese and English including several by Jack. They published his significant book, The Western Pioneers and their Discovery of Macau, also online through the Library’s catalogue.

By the late 1940s the continuing collaboration with Charles Boxer brought about a substantial improvement in his scholarship. Boxer sent Jack several of his publications for comment. Jack produced several scholarly papers, notably the beginnings of printing in Macau. For several years he prepared an extensive bibliography for the official Hong Kong annual report. He was regarded by the Portuguese community as the unofficial history of Macau. He was determined to secure for his children the opportunity to study medicine which he had not had himself. Hoping for quick profits from his business he thought of sending them to Edinburgh to study medicine but this dream soon vanished, his business didn’t do well enough. An application for scholarships from Hong Kong University was turned down on the mistaken grounds that the Braga family was well to-do, quite wrong, because he’d spent too much money on books. A remarkable Hong Kong philanthropist, Sir Robert Hotung, stepped in. He had seen Jack’s work in Macau at firsthand during the war, the intelligence gathering that we’ve heard about, and he valued his work for British intelligence.

Sir Robert paid for three of Jack’s daughters to go to Hong Kong University, two studying medicine and the third arts. It was one of the best investments Sir Robert ever made. A fourth daughter became a trained nurse. In 1952 Jack sent his three sons to Australia where one became a doctor, another an electrical engineer, the third had a long career in the Commonwealth Public Service. All seven of his children did well in life. It was an amazing achievement for a man who undertook this large task in his early 50s with no accumulated wealth and a passion for collecting. All the while he continued to add to his impressive library carefully housed and cared for.

Now we come to the Australian bit. By the 1960s six of his seven children were in Australia and he planned to follow them as soon as suitable arrangements could be made. He hoped to obtain a position that would enable him to work fulltime in his beloved library. Political troubles in Hong Kong and Macau associated first with the Korean War in the 1950s and then the cultural revolution in China in the 1960s hastened his decision. In 1966 Jack sold his library to the National Library of Australia for £10,000 Sterling, quite a good price at that time. You will see in the display upstairs one book that is presently in a Sydney bookseller’s catalogue for $25,000. I think it’s still for sale; you can get it tomorrow morning.

He came to Canberra where he worked at the Library from December 1968 until January 1972 but his health was already failing. He set himself the task of translating into English Bishop Guevarra’s Asia Estima, the most important of the Jesuits in Asia, manuscripts, hoping that it might be published by the Library but he was able to finish only three of the six books. The twilight years were sad and prolonged. Afflicted by Parkinson’s disease Jack went with his wife, Augusta, to San Francisco where they lived with Carol. She gave her parents devoted care until their deaths 16 and 19 years later. Jack died on the 27th of April 1988 aged 90.

Jack Braga was a remarkable man. He lived in Hong Kong until 1924, Macau then became his home for the next 22 years. Jack worked there diligently as a teacher and as a manager of The Water Company which under his direction completed a new water supply without which the vast influx of refugees of World War 2 could not have been received. He never had I think sufficient means to support his growing passion for books, pictures and maps yet he persisted. Despite all the setbacks caused by economic depression, war and business difficulties he left a fine legacy, a collection of abiding value not only to Australia where most of his family had made their home but also to a steadily growing body of international users. Moreover he left behind him in the little Portuguese territory whose history he’d done so much to promote a name that continues to be held in honour and respect.

Now there is one last important thing that I need to say to everybody here. Keep on being 39, keep on buying books. Book collecting is a civic duty and you’ll be very pleased to hear that Philomena has a new book being published next week after eight years of research. It’s going to be worth buying.


[End of Recording]

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