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HUNTER, William C.

The "Fan Kwae" At Canton.

Before Treaty Days 1825-1844. By An Old Resident.

London: Kegan Paul, Trench, & Co., 1882 Stock Code: 142416
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Uncommon and detailed

First edition of this lively, detailed autobiographical account recounting the social and business life of the "fan kwae", Foreign Devils, at Canton in the last days in the Old China Trade. The American author was an experienced agent with extensive experience in the region. Several times reprinted, this first is decidedly uncommon in commerce, just a single copy traced at auction.

William Charles Hunter (1812-1891) was a Virginian who travelled out to China at the age of just 13, spending two years studying Chinese at the Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca before joining Thomas H. Smith & Sons, America's largest tea importer, as an apprentice. He subsequently worked for both Augustine Heard & Co., and Russell & Co., leading American opium dealers and accumulated a considerable personal fortune. "As a self -appointed 'Chronicler of early Canton', Hunter recorded events that took place among the foreign residents in Canton as well as what he had witnessed from the epicentre, events that had led to the First Opium War and the taking of Hong Kong. Hunter was well-liked and popular among foreign residents" (Hong Kong's First blog, "Philadelphia Quaker, Soldier of Fortune", retrieved 11/08/2020). The artist George Chinnery was a particular friend, and twice painted Hunter.

The choice of frontispiece is interesting, being a portrait of Howqua - Wu Bingjian (1769-1843) - the most important of the hong merchants in the Thirteen Factories, leader of the Canton Cohong "who had acquired an extraordinary reputation for honesty and business acumen Over the years, he had amassed the largest trading fortune in the world, estimated at 26 million dollars, or the equivalent of several billions of today's US dollars" (Le Pichon, "Howqua and the Howqua: How a Chinese Monopolist saved American Free-traders from Financial Ruin", in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, 2010, Vol. 50). The portrait was taken by the renowned Chinese artist Lam Qua, who was rumoured to have studied with Chinnery, and working in Western style developed a considerable following in the international community.

An well-preserved copy of an important source for this critical period in the development of Chinese foreign relations, particularly desirable in the cloth.

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Octavo. Original black cloth with binder's ticket of Burn & Co. to rear pastedown, titles in gilt to spine and front board, pictorial motifs in yellow to front board, black coated endpapers, untrimmed.


Monochrome photogravure mounted portrait frontispiece, captioned "Houqua", after a painting by Lam Qua (1801-1860), a Cantonese artist specialized in Western-style portraits, with tissue guard, one plan of the Factories.


Corners gently bumped, extremities rubbed, spotting to frontispiece (not affecting portrait) and title; loosely inserted slip of paper with later notes, numerous page references largely relating to use of money, foreign currency and barter, a very good copy.


Bibliotheca Sinica 2284.


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