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STENT, George Carter.

A Chinese and English Vocabulary in the Pekinese Dialect.

Published: Shanghai: The Customs Press, 1871

Stock code: 109218

Price: £2,000

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First edition. Presentation copy from the author to his father, inscribed on the front free endpaper: “First fruits of seven years labour and study presented to Mr James Stent, by his affectionate son, The Author” and inscribed on an albumen print portrait (bound in as frontispiece): “Your affectionate son G. C. Stent”. Scarce: Copac locates just four copies in British and Irish institutional libraries (BL, Cambridge, London Library, SOAS); OCLC records only four copies worldwide (two in Danish libraries, Staatsbibliothek Berlin, BNdF). The son of a Kent fruiterer and market gardener, George Carter Stent (1833-1884) served in the 14th (King’s Light) Dragoons (seeing action in the Indian Mutiny), and by the mid 1860s was a member of the British legation guard in Peking. He would seem to have had a natural aptitude for the Chinese language and this brought him to the attention of Sir Thomas Wade, himself a distinguished Sinologist. In March 1869 Stent joined the Chinese imperial maritime customs service and it was through the auspices of the service’s inspector general, Sir Robert Hart (the book’s dedicatee), that his vocabulary was published. It became a standard work of its kind, reprinted by the American Presbyterian Mission Press at Shanghai in 1877 and 1898. In his Preface Stent describes his book as being laid out “on an entirely new principle, and in a different style from any hitherto published, being an attempt to bring Chinese characters into words and syllables, or words of syllables, assimilating it as near as possible to an English dictionary”.

Octavo (205 x 127 mm). Contemporary dark red half roan rebacked to style, marbled sides. Spine rolled, scattered foxing and signs of handling. A very good copy.

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