RAFFLES, Thomas Stamford.

The History of Java.

London: Printed for Black, Parbury, and Allen, Booksellers to the Hon. East-India Company and John Murray, 1817 Stock Code: 136364
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"A masterpiece"

First edition of Raffles's masterful account of Java. Raffles was appointed lieutenant governor of Java in 1811 when the island and its dependencies were occupied by Lord Minto following the annexation of the Netherlands by Napoleon. During the next four years he extended the area of European control and reorganized the Dutch colonial system in the island, as well as making an extensive study of the history, customs and languages of the region. "A man of vision, with great ambitions for himself and his country, he saw Britain's mission to raise the people of the eastern archipelago from ignorance and poverty, not by means of territorial expansion but a combination of commercial and moral pre-eminence: reviving old cultures and spreading European enlightenment through economic progress, liberal education, and the rule of law" (ODNB).

The History of Java is a remarkable work of synthesis, combining natural history - Raffles enlisted the help of the American botanist Thomas Horsfield, who sent specimens to Banks at Kew - history, anthropology, philology and topography. The superb plates with their images of costume, architecture, native implements and weapons, Buddhist iconography, and alphabets; the extensive tabulation of population and cultivation province by province; and the comparative vocabulary, reflect the breadth of intention of the work. It is unsurprising that it caused a stir and quickly sold through its print-run of 900 copies. "The marriage of a scientifically original text with beautiful illustrations by an accomplished aquatint engraver resulted in a book about Indonesia of outstanding quality; indeed a masterpiece" (Bastin & Brommer). In his introduction to the OUP facsimile edition, Bastin wrote "in the development of Indonesian studies... it would seem impossible to exaggerate its importance... even those Dutch critics who have found little to praise in his administrations of Java have recognised its merits... today it stands as one of the classics of South-East Asian historiography" (T. S. Raffles The History of Java, 1965, p. 9).


i) Contemporary bookseller's label of Richard Reeds of Perey Street, London, to front pastedown of vol. I.

ii) Ownership signature to title pages dated 1825 of Charles Baring Young (1801-1882).

iii) Bookplate to front pastedowns of the politician and writer Hilton Young, first Baron Kennet (1879-1960). In a varied political career, Young, a friend of E. M. Forster, served as Chief Whip for the Lloyd George Liberals (1922-3), delegate to the League of Nations (1926-7), MP for Sevenoaks (1929-35), and Minister of Health (1931-5), afterwards retiring from politics.

iv) Late 20th-century bookplate to front pastedowns of the collector Adrian Bullock.

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2 volumes, quarto (264 x 208 mm). 20th-century half calf over earlier marbled boards to style, spines lettered in gilt.


10 hand-coloured aquatint costume plates after William Daniell, and 56 uncoloured aquatint plates (one folding) 8 engraved vignettes, large folding map hand-coloured in outline, numerous letterpress tables (2 folding). With recent tissue guards.


A few minor pencilled annotations. Bound without half-titles and without one of the two advertisement leaves at the end of vol. II. Endpapers lightly creased, toning and residue from a sometime inserted slip of paper to front endpapers of vol. I, chip to vol. II pp. xxxix-lx of appendix without loss to text, sporadic light foxing but generally clean internally. Map washed with a few expert repairs to closed tears, panels dissected and laid on Japanese tissue backing, blue coastal outline diminished. Overall a very nice, well-restored and clean copy.


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