Our shops are open and we are processing online, telephone and email orders as normal

LEPPER, Charles H.

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
Reserve Ask us a question

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.

Confused? Read our glossary


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.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book