Album Chinois. No place, no name, [Shanghai ?, around 1860]. Album in-4° (279 x 210 mm). A lithographed introductory leaf, 41 albumin photographs, cardboard indexed. Editor’s black bookbinder’s cloth, gilt title on the front cover, gilt slices.
Rare original edition of this “very curious album of 41 photographs thumb-indexed” (Chadenat), one of the first on China. Among the 41 photos (most measuring 110 x 80 mm), 22 are original portraits; others reproduce old documents (« Empereur Cam-Hy », mandarins, Jesuit missionaries, Opium dening, but also engravings illustrating the conquests of the emperors Kangxi and Qianlong). The text sheet, bond in the beginning, contains the following notice: “This little album is intended to make known the real costumes of the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire. A specimen was chosen from all classes of the Society, from the Emperor to the simple worker […] The various costumes and portraits found in this album have been photographed on old models, or recently sent from China by the Missionaries themselves”. In fact, it is a magnificent propaganda work to the glory of the Jesuits, back in China since 1841, after an absence for nearly seventy years. The emphasis is on the protection enjoyed by the order in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, especially during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, whose engraved portrait “Cam-Hi” begins the album and whose military victories are represented. The permanence of the congregation in China is recalled by the series of portraits of the Jesuits of past centuries followed by the photographs of contemporary Jesuits highlighting the civilizing action (catechumen, professor, students, bachelor) and cultural (musician, juggler) of the order, in a country where the sinful continues to plague (thieves), addressing all social strata, from the poorest(domestic, workers) to Mandarins. In an extremely troubled period of persecution of Christians and armed rebellion, and in the historical context of the Second Opium War (see the reproduction of an opium-den), all missions in the region are destroyed, except those in Shanghai. Twenty-four missionaries are murdered between 1856 and 1864 in the area, whose father Auguste Chapdelaine, (his death was one of the pretexts for the entry into the war of France, and England, against the celestial empire). The Beijing Convention 1860 recognized the civil rights of Chinese Christians and strengthened The diplomatic protection of missionaries by France. Perhaps this album was made on this occasion?
Indeed, bishop André Borgniet’s photograph, bishop of Shanghai (2 Octobre 1859 to his death in 1862), leading the Jesuit Fathers, allows us to date the album around 1860 and to locate it in Shanghai, precisely at the end of the Zi-ka-wei ( 徐家汇 ), first Jesuit mission to China in 1841 since they were evicted. Since 1847, in this district, China’s first Catholic college, St. Ignatius College for boys, welcomes the sons of better Chinese literate families into boarding school. Joseph Ma Xiangbo (1840-1939), who was at the beginning of the University l’Aurore, and his brothers, studied there (the “Philosophy Student” or the “Bachelier” of our album?). There are twelve students in the first year, and eighty-two, ten years later in 1857 ; “Zi-ka-ve Student” is a perfect example, and the “Catechumenes” [sic], the “Professor”, the “Philosophy Student” and the “Bachelier” are the result of a quality diploma education provided by the congregation.
The album is true to the copy of the National Library of France, plates and photography department, 4-OE-294 ; Catalogue notice: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb40358432p (our copy in editor bookbinder’s cloth, that of the BnF simply clothbound).
On the other hand,, the copy of the Getty Foundation, in an identical binder, differs : photographs of the “Bachelier”, “Domestic” and “R. P. Leboucq” are replaced by 3 photos of paintings and sculptures, in a binding identical to ours.
Ch. Chadenat, Bibliographie de géographie, de voyages, d’atlas et d’ouvrages sur la marine, Asia, Afrique, Amérique et Océanie, n° 1789.
Very rare copy in good condition despite the inevitable foxing and a discreet restoration to the binding.
6 000 €