Illustrations of China and its People.

THOMSON John (1874.)


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A Series of two Hundred Photographs, with letterpress descriptions of the places and people represented. Vol. 1 marked 2nd edition, the rest 1st editions. 4 vols. 96 autotype plates. Large folio. Original pictorial cloth, gilt, rebacked, occasional foxing (not affecting the plates), overall still a very good set. a.e.g. London, Sampson Low, 1873-

A clean copy of this rare work, showing superb images of Imperial China including rare portraits of high government officials as well as a large number of architectural and scenic views. This item ranks amongst the most spectacular photographically illustrated books on China published during the 19th century. John Thomson (1837-1921) moved to Hong Kong in 1868 where he opened a studio but spent much of the following four years travelling through China before returning to England in 1872. Sampson Low used a patented process called autotype to reproduce Thomson's photographs with the highest possible accuracy. Autotype is a form of collotype which comes very close to the high resolution of the original albumen-prints and due to the cost very few books were published using this technique. Apparently only 600 copies were printed of vol. 1&2, a small print-run that was later increased to 750 copies for volumes 3&4. This means that 150 copies were additionally printed of vol. 1&2 in 1874 with the addendum '2nd edition' on the titlepage (presumably in order to suggest that it was selling well). However, it is in all other aspects part of, and identical to the first edition. They were sold for £3/3s per volume, a very substantial amount at the time. C.f. R. Ovenden: John Thomson (1837-1921), p.32-33. Cordier I, 94; Roosens/Salu: History of Photography - Bibliography of Books, 10391; Colnaghi: Photography; The first eighty years, 325.

Stock Code: 222592

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