A fascinating album of early images of China, taken by the pioneering Scottish photographer John Thomson, took £16,000 at Forum Auctions in London on September 30.
Illustrations of China And Its People, in four volumes, contains 96 photographic plates of Thomson’s travels.
It was published in 1873-74 and this was a first edition set.
A pioneering photographer
John Thomson (1837-1921) was one of the first known photographers to travel to the Far East and document the people, landscapes and artefacts of the emerging Chinese culture.
The son of an Edinburgh merchant, he was apprenticed to a local scientific instrument maker before learning the principles of photography.
In 1862 he joined his brother William, a watchmaker, in Singapore, opening a studio and taking portraits of European merchants.
Exploring the Far East
He moved to Siam (Thailand) and photographed the king and royal court.
He then moved on to Phnom Penh and took photographs of the king of Cambodia.
He settled in Hong Kong in 1868 and established a studio in the Commercial Bank building, spending the next four years photographing the people of China.
In remote territory
He visited various remote and almost unpopulated regions, where many had never seen a Westerner before, let alone a camera.
Illustrations of China and Its People is a remarkable record and, today, many of Thomson’s glass negatives are with the Wellcome Library in London, while his work is shown at the Royal Geographical Society’s headquarters and in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries.
With Forum Auctions celebrating its fifth year in business, the hammer fell at £16,000.