The Question of an Overland Route to China from India via Assam,
with some Remarks on the Source of the Irrawaddi River. A paper prepared for the Geographical Society of the British Association, August, 1882.Richmond : Hiscocke and Son, Printers for private circulation, 1882 Stock Code: 125448
First edition. Scarce, only 2 copies on WorldCat - Stanford and NYPL.This short paper was the culmination of almost 10 years of obsessive work by Lepper trying to identify the best overland route from Indian to China. From the early 1870s he had been writing letters home to England and to Indian newspapers urging the necessity - for the success of the tea plantations and for trade more generally - of creating a passable route through Assam to China. So insistent were his pleas that his friends in England soon "wrote to ask him if he had gone completely mad" and his friend in India thought him a "monomaniac" (p. 7). By the early 1880s his proposals were gaining more traction and his arguments about the necessity of both labour and goods travelling between China and India had convinced many. From 1882 to 1883 he gave versions of this paper to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta, the Journal of the Society of the Arts in London and the British Association in Southampton. This is the text of the paper that he delivered at the last of these presentations.
Lepper offers a window into the curious world of the geographers, missionaries and explorers of Assam, Tibet and Burma. He mentions the "long battle" (p. 13) between himself and Mr S.E. Peal, a tea planter, prolific writer and prodigious lepidopterist after whom Peal's Beetle (Diapromorpha melanopus) is named, over the best route to take and his eventual acceptance of Peal's route over his own more direct one. In his appendix of remarks on the source of the Irrawaddi River, he also mentions the conversations he had with his friend and some-time travel partner, the French missionary in Tibet, Abbé DeGodins.
His restrained, sometimes drily witty text reveals the troubles that the British encountered in their topographical explorations. One mission, in which as Buddhist priest is sent with a party through Assam in order to facilitate their arrival into Tibet, ended in failure when the priest died before they even reached Tibet and the others are beset by disease. After losing most of their supplies when their canoe upturned, they were eventually rescued by a detachment of elephants sent by Major William Beresford (p. 10-11). On another occasion an unsuccessful scout claimed that "his part had been attacked and he had only saved himself by getting up a tree" (p. 12).
The overland route from Assam to China remained an unsolved problem until the construction of the Stilwell Road during the Second World War.
Octavo (176 x 118 mm). [ii] 34pp. Contemporary red diced skiver over flexible card wrappers, linen hinges, marbled endpapers, original front wrap bound in.
Bookseller's ticket of Whitehead and Morris to the front pastedown. A little rubbed particularly at the extremities, spine scuffed and with a few small splits, title page slightly soiled and with vertical split following the line of an old crease, neat professional repair, marks from previous tape remaining visible, text-block lightly browned, overall very good.
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