Lot 128
  • 128

Thomson, John

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Illustrations of China and its People. A series of two hundred photographs, with letterpress descriptions of the places and people represented. London: Sampson Low, Marston Low, and Searle, 1873-1874
  • Paper
FIRST EDITION, folio (475 x 348mm.), 96 plates of photographic illustrations, interleaved with text and guards (some captioned), publisher’s maroon morocco-grain cloth, covers with large pictorial designs and lettered in gilt, bevelled edges, small tears, minor scattered staining and browning, some hinges starting, bindings worn and repaired


Western Travellers in China 91

Catalogue Note

One of the most extensive photographic depictions of China in the nineteenth century. Many of the key Treaty Ports, towns and cities are illustrated, including Hong Kong, Hainan, Macao, Taiwan, Swatow, Amoy, Foochow, Ninpo, Shanghai, Nanking, Kiu-kiang, Hanchow, Chefu and Peking, as well as dignitaries and ordinary people.

"John Thomson (1837-1921) was the first known photographer to document the people and landscape of China for publication and dissemination to the Western world. Between 1868 and 1872 he travelled over 6,500 kilometres with his cumbersome camera and equipment, darkroom and chemicals capturing all aspects of Chinese life. The photographs in these four volumes show the many sides of China: sweeping landscapes, royalty and ruling classes, merchants and economic activity, everyday life, and the faces of men, women and children. In a time when knowledge was derived from observation and classification it should not seem odd that Thomson desired a recognition not from the quality of his photographs, but from his contributions to general knowledge" (Western Travellers in China). 

"My design in the accompanying work is to present a series of pictures of China and its people, such as shall convey an accurate impression of the country I traversed as well as the arts, usages, and manners which prevail in different provinces of the Empire. With this intention I made the camera the constant companion of my wanderings, and to it I am indebted for the faithful representation of the scenes I visited and the types of races I came into contact" (Introduction).