# 15408

DAVIS, John Francis (1795-1890) and MORRISON, Robert (1782-1834)

San-Yu-Low: or the Three Dedicated Rooms. A tale, translated from the Chinese. [bound following] Translations from the Original Chinese, with notes.

$8,500.00 AUD

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Canton [but Macau], China : Printed by order of the Select Committee; at the Honourable East India Company’s Press, by P. P. Thoms, 1815. Two volumes in one, octavo; stitched together, contemporary plain yellow rear wrapper (upper wrapper lacking); [Translations:] pp [2],42 [numbered without pages 9-10, as issued]; [San-Yu-Low:] pp [2], 56; signature B in the second work inverted; title page of the first work a little darkened and chipped at bottom corner, else clean throughout.

The first two works published at the East India Company press at Macau, bound together. Löwendahl comments on the significance of San-Yu-Low: “This work marks an important step in the history of Western printing in China, being the first to employ movable type since the two or three works printed by the Jesuits at the end of the sixteenth century.” (Löwendahl, Sino-Western relations, II, 779)

San-Yu-Low is a story contained in an anthology by Lu Yu. Its translator, John Francis Davis, was employed as writer at the East India Company’s factory in Canton between 1813 and 1815. The following year he accompanied Amherst in his Embassy to Peking. Later in his career Davis held the office of Governor of Hong Kong (1844-48).

The other work, Translations from the Original Chinese, is by Protestant missionary and sinologist Robert Morrison. Published prior to his famed dictionary (which was also printed by Thoms at the East India Company Press, in 1819), it is a compilation of “translations of edicts and memorials from the Peking Gazette (Ching pao), including items dealing with sect outbreaks” (Lust). This copy of the Morrison work is almost certainly the first issue, without the subsequently published pages 43-50 (found in the Löwendahl copy, amongst others).

The East India Company press omitted the name Macau from their earliest imprints there, instead adding a false Canton (Guangzhou) imprint, as on these two works. The reasons for this are explained succinctly by Braga:

“The Chinese authorities at Canton were strict to the point of fanaticism in all that represented the introduction of new thought into China. They might not have opposed the introduction of Christianity, as a religion, but what they feared was the introduction of the new ideas which were part of this religion – ideas that would have conflicted with all the age-old traditions, the classical system of learning and their customs and usages, so closely associated with their system of government. Thus, they would never, at that time, have permitted a printing press run by foreigners at Canton or elsewhere in Chinese territory, and it was kept therefore at [the Portuguese outpost at] Macao. Owing to the friendly relations subsisting between the senior members of the East India Company’s staff and the Portuguese officials at Macao, the latter decided to behave generously and to close an eye, since they could not give their formal consent, all printing in the Portuguese overseas territories being, as has been shown, absolutely prohibited.” (Braga, The Beginnings of Printing at Macau, in Studia (Revista Semestral), No. 12 (July 1963), pp 56-61)

Both works are rare, with no copies appearing at auction since 1988 (Sotheby’s, The Library of Philip Robinson Part II : The Chinese Collection).

Cordier, 1769-1770 and 538; Lust, 1099 and 477; Löwendahl, 779 and 783.