MASON, George Henry (1761-1837)
The Costume of China, illustrated with sixty engravings: with explanations in English and French
London: Printed for William Miller ... by William Bulmer, 1804 [plates watermarked 1819]. Quarto. (14 x 10 inches). Title and text in French and English. 60 elaborately hand-coloured stipple-engraved plates, each within a watercolour ruled frame and with the backgrounds entirely drawn in manuscript and and hand coloured, the plates by Dadley after Pu-Qùa of Canton, each with accompanying text leaf.
Contemporary straight grain green morocco, covers with a wide border in gilt and blind, expertly rebacked to style, period brown endpapers, gilt edges
An extraordinary example of Mason's famous illustrated survey of China, on thick paper with the plates elaborately hand coloured with full backgrounds painted in behind each figure: the rarest and most desirable issue.
First published in 1800, Mason's text is based on his own experiences in Canton in 1789-1790. At the time he was there, foreigners were not allowed access to the China beyond the borders of the visitor's compound. However, Mason, a Major in the 36th Regiment of Foot, travelled to Canton for several months while on leave from his station in Madras, and was able to gain some information from interacting with the Hong merchants. The work is given structure by the series of plates, based on original drawings by Pu-Qua, which Mason purchased in Canton. Each plate is accompanied by a commentary in which Mason draws on either his own experiences or the accounts of earlier writers such as Staunton and Nieuhoff. The present example is a rare deluxe issue, on thick paper, with much more detailed and beautiful hand colouring than the regular issue, and with added contemporary watercolour backgrounds behind the hand-coloured stipple-engraved figures, and with ink rules around each plate. The landscapes and interiors, not found on the regular issue, are all carefully executed with evident care taken to ensure that colouring, architecture and general ambiance is appropriate for the subject of each plate. The existence of this deluxe issue is unknown to bibliographers, including Lowndes, Allibone, Abbey, Colas, Lipperheide, Tooley, etc. We have previously encountered similar deluxe issues of Alexander's Costume of Turkey and Moleville's Costume of the Hereditary States of the House of Austria. Such deluxe editions are believed to have been done by the publisher for presentation; that we have been unable to locate contemporary advertisements for this issue being offered for sale would seem to support that theory.
Abbey Travel II, 533; Colas 2009; Lipperheide 1520; Tooley 320; China on Paper 12; Cordier III:1858.