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MARTIN, R. Montgomery.

China; Political, Commercial, and Social;

in an Official Report to Her Majesty's Government.

London: James Madden, 1847 Stock Code: 129925
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First edition, published in the wake of the First Opium War (1839-42). A very attractive set of this important work by the Dublin-born writer and civil servant Robert Montgomery Martin (c.1802-1868), who served as treasurer of Hong Kong: "His tenure was brief and controversial. Concluding that Hong Kong was unsuitable as a base for British operations in the East, Martin left his post in 1845 to present his views to the government. This was considered an act of resignation, a view which Martin contested, unsuccessfully, for three years, while publishing his own views in his British Position and Prospects in China (1846) and China: Political, Commercial and Social (2 vols., 1847)" (ODNB). Martin was an early opponent of the opium trade and "spoke admiringly of the strict stance adopted by Qing officials, and compared their restrictive attitude to the laissez-faire spirit of Hong Kong. Martin used customs statistics showing a steady increase in the tonnage of imported opium as evidence that China was falling victim to a foreign threat... Martin was also the first to consider the slave trade 'merciful' in comparison with the opium trade, a view repeated by Karl Marx in 1858 and upheld by historians in the People's Republic of China to this day" (Dikötter, Laamann, Xun, Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China, 2004, pp. 96-97).

Martin wrote extensively on colonial matters, all of his work "influenced by his practical Christianity and by his association with leading intellectuals... He opposed duelling, suttee, and slavery, advocated the abolition of flogging, and was active in the work of the Aborigines Protection Society... At a time when some questioned the value of the empire, Martin was its spokesman" but "favoured a reformed colonial policy" (ODNB).

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2 vols., octavo ( 215 x 131 mm). Contemporary full calf by Bickers & Son, richly gilt spines, red and green morocco twin labels, two line gilt border on sides with corner rosettes, gilt edge roll, marbled edges and endpapers.


3 folding maps: China (hand-coloured in outline); Japan & Korea; Chusan (modern day Zhoushan); 4 statistical folding tables.


Eton leaving inscription (dated 1867) on preliminary blank in vol. I: "Francis Henry Hodgson from his friend & schoolfellow Charles S. Munay"; Hodgson (1848-1930) was an Anglican priest whose diary, kept as a boy while sailing to England from Australia in 1860, is at the National Library of Australia; with a sepia-toned albumen print portrait of he whom we assume to be Hodgson on the facing page. Joints and corners rubbed, vol. II chipped at head of spine, head of front joint split, light abrasions to sides, endpapers foxed. A very good, clean set handsomely bound.


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