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ItemID: #107645
Cost: $27,000.00

Authentic Account of an Embassy... to China

George Leonard Staunton


STAUNTON, George Leonard. An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China… Taken Chiefly from the Papers of His Excellency the Earl of Macartney. London: W. Bulmer for C. Nicol, 1797. Three volumes altogether. Quarto, contemporary full polished brown calf gilt neatly rebacked and recornered, raised bands, black morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers and edges; Elephant folio atlas (17-1/2 by 23-1/2 inches), period-style half polished brown calf, raised bands, black morocco spine labels. $27,000.

First edition of this splendidly detailed description of 18th-century China, with engraved frontispiece portraits of the Emperor Tchien Lung and Lord Macartney, a wonderful full-page engraving of the Camellia and 25 additional in-text engravings, together with the Atlas plate volume containing nine large folding charts—among the earliest accurate charts of the interior of China—and 35 folio engravings by William Alexander. A beautiful copy in splendid calf-gilt.

The exceptional two quarto volumes and elephant folio Atlas of George Staunton's Account of the British Embassy to China offer a rich "account of the first British embassy to China, under Lord Macartney. Great Britain was anxious to establish formal diplomatic relations with China and thus opened the way for unimpeded trade relations, but centuries of Chinese reserve and self-sufficiency presented a formidable obstacle to the embassy, and the Chinese emperor effectually resisted Lord Macartney's arguments and gifts. The visit of the British embassy nonetheless resulted in this remarkable account of Chinese manners and customs at the close of the 18th century, which was prepared at government expense… Staunton, a friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke, was a medical doctor who had lived for many years in Grenada. He was the secretary to Lord Macartney in both India and China, and undertood diplomatic missions to Warren Hastings and to Tipu Sahib at Seringapatem" (Hill 1628). "Apart from its Chinese importance, [Staunton's Account] is of considerable interest owing to the descriptions of the various places en route which were visited, including Madeira, Teneriff, Rio de Janeiro, St. Helena, Tristan d'Acunha, Amsterdam Island, Java, Sumatra, [and] Cochin-China" (Cox I, 344).

This important work contains some of the earliest accurate charts of the interior of China and provides many invaluable geographical and cultural observations. The full-page folio engravings, including two of the Great Wall of China, were made after drawings by William Alexander, who accompanied the embassy as junior draughtsman. "This work was remarkably successful. About 15 editions issued in seven European countries and the U.S. from 1797 to 1832" (Lust, 545). This copy is complete, with order of in-text engravings in Volume I occasionally differing from that in "List of Engravings," as issued. Hill 1628. Cordier, 2381-83. Lust, 545. Early owner signatures. Light penciled marginalia to one leaf (Vol. II:23).

Text and plates fresh, light expert reinforcement, minor restoration to corners of several Atlas leaves without affecting images. A splendid copy in near-fine condition.

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