Maggs Bros Ltd

A glance at the Interior of China obtained during a journey through the Silk and Green Tea districts. The Chinese Miscellany No. 1.

MEDHURST Walter Henry (1849.)

£7500.00  [First Edition]

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First edition. 7 plates (mostly folding), 2 folding maps and several illustrations in the text. 8vo. Original yellow boards, some restoration to cover and bookblock, minor fraying to edges of the first 10pp. Benjamin Lincoln Ball's copy with copious diary entries in pencil on verso of plates. [ii], 192pp. Shanghai, Mission Press,

A rare account by the famous sinologist of his travels in Zhejiang province. "In the spring of 1845, in defiance of existing regulations, Medhurst journeyed from Shanghai into the interior of China for seven weeks, visiting the 'silk and green tea countries'." Medhurst made considerable efforts to adopt local customs to the point of shaving his hair and having a Chinese-style cue fitted. The illustrations and maps are reproductions from Chinese originals. Prefixed to the narrative is a note by the editor, apologising for the poor paper-quality "owing to non-arrival of supplies from Canton". The main narrative is written in the form of a diary detailing the author's adventures together with a lengthy description on silk production. 

The present copy belonged to Benjamin Lincoln Ball (1820-1860) an American doctor who travelled to Shanghai in 1849 where he in fact met Medhurst. He published an account of his travels under the title "Rambles in Eastern Asia, including China and Manilla, during several years residence" (Boston 1855) and curiously enough he goes into some detail about this very book in some detail, without mentioning the title (p.263-264): "To reach the first temple from the space in front, an ascent of twenty stone steps is necessary; advancing thirty feet, there is an ascent of four steps more, when the entrance is attained. In the middle of the room a large god, some twenty or thirty feet in height, is the first object that meets the eye. While sitting here I made a few notes on the blank leaves of a yellow-covered book which I had brought to read. Yellow is the imperial color, and as soon as the monks observed it they collected around me with the greatest curiosity, evidently thinking that it emanated from the emperor. One commenced pulling up the leaves, little by little, stooping, with his head lower than the book, to see what was inside ; another caught sight of a map, and was trying to feel it with his fingers, looking at it as if it were some large hieroglyphic ; one was making remarks on the curious English letters ; another saw two or three Chinese characters interspersed among the printings, and began trying to pronounce them aloud, and others, hearing him, gathered around, and, not agreeing in the view he took of them, joined in with their voices, pronouncing for themselves, till finally numbers of them were pronouncing on their own account, and others were arguing and discussing. It was a confusion of Hoe-hee-ehing-larr, fow-lee-yung-tze, chow-ts-de-shing-kwo, or some other indescribable sounds, as if one was in the midst of a flock of geese. While this was going on, one of the monks was examining my coat, and another my handkerchief, pulling it partly from my pocket ; one, whose curiosity urged him a little further, feeling something outside the coat-pocket, thrust his hand inside, exploring the recesses, pulling out articles, and examining them, with many expressions of wonder at his discovery. One handled my whiskers, running his fingers through them with evident pleasure ; and another gently pulled off and examined my cap, turning it over and over, with a face full of astonishment. One stooped down and felt of my shoes, as if he thought them made of polished iron, and then pulled up the pantaloons to look at my stockings ; and another took hold of a button, looking at it as we would examine a diamond. In many other things they were equally curious, and it seemed as if they would pick me to pieces ; yet I did not interfere much with them, in order the better to observe their operations. They asked me many questions, which I could only answer by shaking my head ; and they continued until my head was dizzy." Lust 380; Cordier 2117-18.

Stock Code: 214945

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