Ray Howgego’s “Book of Exploration”, warmly reviewed this week, is the story of over 7000 travellers who have contributed to our knowledge of this earth. It reveals how often Catholic and Jesuit missionaries were to the forefront of exploration. The travels of St Francis Xavier, to India, South East Asia, Japan and the coast of China, are an example. After him, in the 1570s, Portuguese Jesuits discovered the Blue Nile. Italian Matteo Ricci spent more than 30 years in China, and drew for the Emperor a famous map of the known world, with China placed at the centre.