Lot 38 (19th & 20th Century Photography, John Thomson, China & Hong Kong, Photobooks, Cameras & Accessories, 3rd October 2019)
Sold for £48,000
Thomson (John). Views on the North River, 1st edition, Hongkong: Noronha & Sons, Printers, 1870, printed title and two leaves of Introduction, printed to rectos only, 14 mounted albumen prints, each with printed red rule border and caption beneath, accompanying leaf of descriptive letterpress to each plate, some fading to images and one spotted, mounts with old damp staining to inner and outer margins, ownership name inscriptions of G. Dods, 1875, and W.K. Dods and C.M. Normand to front free endpaper, stitching now largely broken and contents generally loose in original cloth-backed printed boards with decorative design to upper and lower covers, rubbed and soiled, a little paper surface loss, oblong folio (32.5 x 43 cm)
The photographs are captioned and measure as follows:
1) Road to the Village of Wong Tong, 173 x 232mm; 2) The Ts'ing Yune Pagoda, 154 x 232mm; 3) The Fi-Lai-Sz Monastery, 179 x 237mm; 4) The Fi-Lai-Sz Monastery, 152 x 236mm; 5) In the Ts'ing Yune Pass, 159 x 236mm; 6) View from the 'Lien Chow Kwong' Villages, 140 x 238mm; 7) An Up-Country Bridge, 178 x 232mm; 8) The Mang-Tsz Pass, 158 x 237mm; 9) Rapids, 161 x 232mm; 10) Looking North from the Pau-Lo-Hang Temple, 168 x 240mm; 11) Kwan Yin Cave, 160 x 219mm; 12) Fishing Boats, 158 x 228mm; 13) View from the Kwan Yin Cave, 143 x 226mm; 14) An Up-Country Farm, 138 x 238mm.
Provenance: George Dods (1836-1909) MD LRCS Ed. 1859, was born and died in Edinburgh. He worked as Acting Colonial Surgeon in Hong Kong. He wrote at least one medical paper, ‘Tropical Malaria and Its Sequelae’, published in Transactions of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh, 1888, 7: 186-198. His only son, William Kane Dods, was born in Hong Kong Kong in 1866, shortly after his marriage to Margaret Crabbe. William Kane Dods (1866-1948) worked as an agent for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and served as treasurer and honorary secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and on the Committee of the Zoological Gardens, Calcutta. The co-owner of the book was Charles M. Normand (?1834-1912), a direct contemporary of Dods senior, who also served in the Far East as an assistant surgeon. By family descent. See also following lots 39-43.
A very good copy of this notorious rarity, here in the original printed covers and with family provenance dating back to within five years of publication. It was the first of Thomson’s photographically illustrated books on China, and describes a trip two hundred miles up the North, though the photographs focus on only a few places, for which Thomson gives Chinese characters and English spellings. Like his earlier work, Visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh … to Hong Kong in 1869, the first photographically-illustrated book published in China, it was published in Hong Kong by the Portuguese printers Noronha and Sons (The Government Printers).
’Mr. Thomson has just published a volume of admirable photographs of scenes on the North River, entered about 40 miles above Canton through the Fatshan creek. The views, which are beautifully executed, are accompanied by a short description of the places which they respectively represent, and will thus form a most pleasing illustration of a part of China little known to the generality of Europeans. In the details of foliage and other foreground these photographs will compare favourably with the best works at home, though they fail somewhat in a distant effects by being too dark in tone, a circumstance to which Mr. Thomson alludes in the introduction, where he states that, with a few exceptions, his efforts to obtain bright photographs of distant objects were baffled by a continuance of bad weather, casting a veil of mist over the distance. Bearing this in mind, the results must be considered wonderfully successful, and the views will be no less acceptable as an interesting memento for residents in China to take home with them, or as a pleasing gift to send to their friends’, Hong Kong Daily Press, 31 October 1870.
‘Views on the North River would have been expensive to produce and the print run was probably small. It is the rarest of Thomson’s books on China. There is a copy in the National Library of Scotland, another in Hong Kong University Library; a third is in the Wason Collection at Cornell University (NUC, vol. 592, p. 256). In 1980 one was recorded in the collection of Mr and Mrs Lewis Lehr, New York (Lucien Goldschmidt and Weston J. Naef, The Truthful Lens, 1980, p. 167, fig. 157 and pp. 224-5)’, Terry Bennett, History of Photography in China: Western Photographers 1861-1879, Quaritch, 2010, p. 227.
‘Views on the North River… can be seen as the first attempt to present Thomson’s experience of China as a visual document. The book form is being used to recreate the experience of seeing his images in a sequence predetermined by the photographer, and to that extent he was able to retain control over the order and arrangement in which his own photographs were presented ... Yet despite the success of Views on the North River as a photographically illustrated book, its circulation among the western, English-speaking communities of Hong Kong and the Treaty ports was somewhat limited, and its impact in Britain, if it had any at all, has left no trace in the contemporary reviewing journals’, Richard Ovenden, John Thomson 1837-1921 (Photographer), National Library of Scotland, 1997, pp. 178-9.
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Auction: 19th & 20th Century Photography, John Thomson, China & Hong Kong, Photobooks, Cameras & Accessories, 3rd October 2019
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Tuesday 1 October 2019 from 9.00am to 6.00pm, Wednesday 2 October 2019 from 9.00am to 6.00pm and on the day of the sale from 9.00am onward.
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Royalty For the portion of the Hammer Price (in Euro)
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1.00% between 200,000.01 and 350,000
0.50% between 350,000.01 and 500,000
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