FORTUNE, Robert (1812-1880)
Two Visits to the Tea Countries of China and the British Tea Plantations in the Himalaya ... Third Edition
London: John Murray, 1853. 2 volumes, 8vo. (7 3/4 x 4 3/4 inches). Vol. I: 315 pp. Vol II: 298 pp. Pictorial additional titles printed in red and black, folding map (partially hand coloured), 6 wood-engraved plates and several wood-engraved illustrations within the text.
Contemporary patterned cloth, bound by Remnant & Edmonds, upper covers with a central block in gilt, spines pictorial gilt
Third and best edition of this noted mid-19th century work on China and the development of the cultivation of tea: this set in a lovely decorative binding.
Robert Fortune (1812-1880) was a Scottish botanist who first visited China in 1842, as a collector for the Royal Horticultural Society. "Fortune's instructions were to gather information on Chinese gardening, as well as to collect new plants and seed ... [On his return to London after an adventurous three years including a shipwreck, a secret visit to forbidden city of Soochow, attacks by pirates, etc], he brought with him many rare and beautiful species now familiar in domestic gardens, as well as introducing the art of bonsai to Europeans" (Howgego). In 1848, he returned to China on behalf of the East India Company to collect plants and seeds of the tea-shrub. "He successfully collected tea plants from the Hwuy-Chow district and the Chekiang province, and gathered specimens from the Ningpo district, Chusan, and the Woo-e Mountains. He then supervised the transfer of 23,892 young plants and around 17,000 seedlings, along with eight Chinese tea growers and their equipment, to the foothills of the Himalayas" (Howgego). His work provides excellent descriptions of Hong Kong and China, of Chinese customs, industry, language and flora, missionary activity, opium consumption, and the cultivation and processing of tea. "My adventures amongst the most remarkable and least-known people in the world, their manners and customs, the natural productions of the country in so far as they are of importance to man, and, above all, the mode of cultivating and making our favourite beverage, tea, have all been left as originally written in the country itself" (Preface).