We recently wrote about the China in Print fair which took place this month in Hong Kong. A variety of leading international dealers exhibited at the fair showcasing some of their most interesting items.
Avid collector, Gautam H has kindly shared a recap of the fair and has highlighted some of the more interesting items he came across when visiting China in Print.
10 Jewels from China in Print by Gautam H.
November 18-20, 2016 in Hong Kong, saw the 5th edition of China in Print. It is the foremost fair of rare books, maps, prints, photo albums and manuscripts on China and Asia one will come across.
In museums you can find priceless objects you can look at. In the occasional auction on Asian print, you will find great stuff as well. But it is very difficult to come across a collection like this from exhibitors all over the world. You can hold, look and caress them to your hearts content. It is a priceless combination of museum quality books & objects that you can buy and take home immediately!
Here are 10 jewels from it. The descriptions are adapted from the catalogues of the exhibitors.
1. A watercolour album on the Opium Wars
This amazing collection made by an unknown Chinese artist has 36 water colours depicting aspects of the Opium Wars. The figures are clearly made from the Chinese viewpoint. For example most British soldiers have orange-red hair (sounds familiar?!), and merchants wearing top hats. It is mainly propaganda, depicting fictitious Chinese victories. For those interested in Canton, 35 of the 36 depict scenes from there. They are quite large (1 foot by 2 feet) and are of astonishing beauty.
From Asia Bookroom in Macquarie Australia.
2. Sun Yat Sen and Mao
This is the first English edition of the famous “Little Red Book”, one of the handful signed by him.
A letter handwritten by Sun Yat Sen on 24 June, 1897 to the Russian revolutionary, journalist & writer, Felix Volkhovsky. Beautiful, clear handwriting, something alas we see little of today.
Written in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, after the end of the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5 that China lost, it presages the upheaval that would be the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
From Antiquariat Inlibris in Vienna
3. A map of the famous Spice Islands – what started Western exploration and expansion in Asia.
There no such place called the Spice Islands. It was term coined by Western explorers who came in search of the islands where nutmeg, mace and cloves were first reported. Today, they a part of Indonesia. The map however, made from the Western viewpoint, is of great interest as it sparked colonial expansion into Asia. It is also a beautiful sight to behold.
From Daniel Crouch Rare Books in London
4. Horsfield’s Zoological Researches in Java, and the Neighbouring Islands
Sounds a bit boring, right? It has stunning illustrations, including species unknown to the Western world in the 19th century. Many are by the famous William Daniell.
Thomas Horsfield was an American, who, attracted by the richness and natural beauty of Java, came back to serve with the Dutch East India Company. When the British took over Java in 1811, an enduring friendship started with Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. He published this beautiful book in 1824 during his long stint there.
From www.lokmanbooks.com in Hong Kong
5. A Travel Journal
This is set of journal of travels over 30 years in China, Japan, Java, Sumatra, Sri Lanka and Egypt. It’s type-written, full of pasted pictures and beautifully bound in a set of 7 volumes.
From Peter Harrington in London
6. Kublai Khan Printing Block for paper money
This is from about 1287, a century before the first known Western printing. It was during the reign of the great Kublai Khan, for circulation in China, Burma, Siam (Thailand) and Annam (Vietnam).
This was in use when Marco Polo visited and is probably the block for the paper currency he said was in use. The text on the block includes a warning that counterfeiters would be decapitated, and the denouncer would get all their property and 5 ingots of silver. Firm deterrents and clear compensation in those times!
7. Prints depicting the battles of K’ien-Lung, Manchu Emperor of China 1735-95
The greatest of expansion of Chinese territory occurred in Emperor K-ien-Lung’s reign. He added huge tracts of Central Asian to the west of what was then China. The Emperor asked his commanders to make drawings of the campaign. These were later painted on silk, and based on these, Jesuits in his service made fresh drawings. Blocks of these Jesuit drawings were made in Paris under the supervision of Charles-Nicholas Cochin. This is one of the 200 sets of prints made from these blocks for the Emperor’s personal use. Given that the burning of Summer Palace in 1860 ordered by Lord Elgin destroyed many, this is a very rare set.
From Shapero Rare Books in London
8. Watercolours presented by Joachim Bouvet, to Louis XIVs grandson, the Duke of Burgundy on his marriage to Marie Adelaide of Savoy
Louis XIV, the famous “Sun King” sent Jesuit priests to China in 1685. One of them, Joachim Bouvet, returned with this amazing set of watercolours depicting the court, including Emperor Kangxi shown here. The book is superbly bound with the arms of Louis XIV.
From Librairie Camille Sourget in Paris
9. Souvenir of Albert Smith’s China. Something very different.
What is this you ask? Strange looking thing, but it is very intricate. It is a set of 30 panorama’s folding into a single triangular sheet with the rose on top. Has views of Canton, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Egypt.
Albert Smith was one of London’s greatest showmen. He climbed Mont Blanc and travelled to China, entertaining crowds in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. This set was produced for him to depict his travels titled “Mont Blanc to China”.
10. My Treasure Box
This is a marketing catalogue from the 1930’s that can teach us a thing or two. It is from a female Chinese arts dealer in objects. The introduction guarantees that the objects will be from the dynasty stated! And also refers to good foreign exchange rates. Another unique piece I have not come across in my 10 years of trawling the world’s antiquarian stores.
After my 3rd visit to China in Print and I intend to keep returning. It has an amazing collection and one meets old friends from the trade. And makes new ones.
It is set in the Hong Kong Maritime Museum on the waterfront, with superb views of Kowloon ahead, and Hong Kong island behind. One sees many of these views a hundred or two hundred years ago, leaving us wondering at the progress of modern Hong Kong.