"ONE OF THE BEST ILLUSTRATED ENGLISH TRAVELS ON CHINA," FIRST EDITION OF BARROW'S TRAVEL'S IN CHINA, 1804, WITH HAND-COLORED PLATES OF CHINA AND ITS PEOPLE
(CHINA) BARROW, John. Travels in China. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1804. Quarto, contemporary full marbled calf, raised bands, red and black morocco spine labels. $4500.
First edition of this early attempt to "show the extraordinary Chinese people as they really are," with five full-page hand-colored aquatints (including frontispiece) and three engraved plates (two double-page) by William Alexander.
"Barrow accompanied Lord Macartney's mission to the court of China in 1792 as his private secretary, and the present account of the country, accompanied by a number of fine plates, is one of the best illustrated English travels on China… The strict exclusion of Europeans by the Chinese Emperors had left China very much terra incognita to the western world well into the 19th century. Barrow was an excellent observer, and the text contains a number of descriptions of Chinese artifacts and novelties" (Hill, 16). Barrow's stated purpose was to treat subjects that were not covered by George Staunton in his 1797 Account of the same mission and "to draw such a sketch of the manners, the state of society, the language, literature and fine arts, the sciences and civil institutions, the religious worship and opinions, the population and progress of agriculture, the civil and moral character of the people, as may enable the reader to settle the point of rank which China may be considered to hold in the scale of civilized nations." The plates were drawn by William Alexander, who accompanied the embassy as junior draughtsman and later became the first keeper of prints and drawings in the British Museum. In 1798 Alexander himself published Views of the Headlands, Islands, &c., Taken during the Voyage to China, and he also illustrated Staunton's Account. Tooley 84. Abbey, Travel 531. Cox I:346. Lowndes, 123. Bookplate; occasional pencil marginalia.
Interior generally clean, restoration to calf joints and corners. An excellent wide-margined copy in contemporary calf.