Illustrations of China and its People.

THOMSON John (1874.)

£65000.00  [First Edition]

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A Series of two Hundred Photographs, with letterpress descriptive of the places and people represented. First edition. 4 vols. 96 autotype plates. Large folio (492 x 362mm). Original pictorial cloth, gilt, minor rubbing to edges, occasional light foxing, but overall a close to fine copy without any restoration. A.e.g. London, Sampson Low &c, 1873-

A very good 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. Only 600 copies were printed of volumes 1 & 2, a small print-run that was increased to 750 copies for volumes 3 & 4. 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: 234234

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