Album and scrapbook relating to Chinkiang (Zhenjiang).

SAUNDERS William.; GRIFFITH David Knox and other photographers (1880s.)


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Album containing 95 albumen prints (incl. 2 panoramas) of China as well as 55 of Aden, Egypt, Somalia, Japan and Channel Islands. Oblong folio, measuring 38x29cm. Red half-calf bindingre-backed, some wear to boards. Occasional foxing and light staining, a few small tears and surface damage to prints, light creasing, a few prints faded, but mostly good, dark-toned images. Label on front endpaper “Tien Shing, book binder, stationer and printer. Honan Road No. 277, Shanghai”. Together with a folio scrapbook in half-calf over boards, measuring 31x37cm. Label on back endpaper: “Sing Kwa, photographer and portrait painter, paintings on ivory. Shanghai”. Slightly warped with edge-wear, overall still a good copy. Chinkiang and other places,

This album was compiled by John George Whitford Gearing (dates unknown), who was operating as a shipping agent in Chinkiang (Zhenjiang) and was the owner of the merchant firm Gearing & Co. Chinkiang is located on the south bank of the Yangtze River, next to 'Golden Island' (Jinshan), a famous Buddhist monastery. During the Qing dynasty it had strategic importance as the crossing point of the Grand Canal and the Yangtze. In 1853 it was sacked by Taiping rebels, but recaptured five years later and became a British treaty port in 1861. The concession consisted of a relatively small strip of land (named the Bund) that was divided into 19 lots. In the 1870s and 80s Chinkiang was also an important regional distribution centre for Opium. During a riot in February 1889, the British Consulate was burned and looted, but rebuilt in the following year.

The album contains a number of important images of the Chinkiang area, showing the consulate, Customs House with employees, as well as large office buildings with residents and staff, including Gearing himself. Of particular interest are the images of the ruins of the British Consulate after the riot of 1889, including a two piece panorama with local residents looking on. Gearing & Co. were chiefly operating as agents for a number of insurance companies incl. Imperial Fire Office, the Yangtze Insurance Association, and the Imperial Marine Insurance Company. E. Starkey, who is listed as a merchant, was the chief assistant and permanent representative for the company. He died in Chinkiang in 1916. Gearing himself was appointed vice-consul for the Netherlands in 1882.

It includes views of Silver Island, Golden Island, Soochow, Nanking and Peking, including two important plates showing the interior of the Nanking Arsenal Workshop, an ammunitions and weapons factory built in Nanking under the auspices of Li Hungchang. One photograph is signed "Griffith" in the negative. David Knox Griffith (dates unknown) was a British commercial photographer, who is listed as working with William Saunders (1832-1892) in Shanghai from 1871. A further image is labelled "H. C. Cammidge" (1839-1874), another photographer working in Shanghai from 1866-1874.

It is the scrapbook that brings the album to life: It opens with an original drawing and plans of Gearing’s Hill House c.1883 followed by numerous newspaper cuttings with correspondence between Gearing & Co. and commissioners relating to shipping and customs matters. The port was administered by the Municipal Council and the highlight of the year appears to have been the Land Renters Meeting, where important decisions were taken concerning the use of funds for the maintenance and improvement of the concession. Includes printed as well as ms minutes of the meetings between 1873 and 1889. Other cuttings discuss the treaty rights of British subjects, local opposition to those rights, especially the ownership of land. It also includes an extensive report of the riots at Chinkiang as reported in the North China Herald on 8th February, 1889.

Stock Code: 252471

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