[Unique Chinese Photography Album]
Item ID 72280
China and Japan, 1867. Elephant folio (60.9 x 47.8 cm). 23 albumen prints (each ca. 38 x 32 cm), from dry plate collodion negatives, showing scenes in China (20) and Japan (3), mounted on cards, each captioned with printed text, mounted, and (save two exceptions) with additional text, neatly handwritten by Champion himself in ink in French. Original quarter morocco over pebbled, blind-stamped cloth. Author's name in gilt on lower front board; corners with Chinese characters. A unique collection, mainly of Chinese photographs made by the traveler, photographer, chemist and dynamite manufacturer Paul Champion (1838-1884), with handwritten captions, and a long, signed dedication by the author, to a friend, the French politician Armand Leygue, dated 25 July 1867. Paul Champion’s large-plate views (up to 27 x 33 cm) are exceptionally rare. He was one of the most gifted photographers working in nineteenth-century China (1865-1866) and his work was of a very high standard” (Bennett). He was a member of the prestigious Société française de Photographie and went to China and Japan on a mission supported by the French Societé Zoologique d'Acclimatation, founded in Paris on 10 May 1854 by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (for his itinerary see Bennett). The use of dry plate collodion instead of wet plate collodion may have been due to the fact that the former lasted much longer, and therefore was more suitable when travelling over long distances. Later, Champion pioneered the production of dynamite and set up an industrial process for large-scale production of dynamite during the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Paris (1870-1871). Most photos in this atlas are oblong views - principally of Pékin (Beijing); the first, however, is a self-portrait of Champion in Chinese costume. Three photos are of Nagasaki (Japan), and several photos are portraits of Chinese people. The additional legends, neatly handwritten on the mounts by Champion himself, are much more extensive than the printed legends. The printing suggests publication of more copies, but in 2014 an other album by Champion was sold at Viviane Esders, however with only 18, different, smaller photos. In the accompanying description it is stated that Champion "...réalise photographies de très belle qualité dont une série ‘“Vue de Chine’”. Certaines seront publiées dans un livre sur l’Exposition universelle de 1867, 'Etudes sur l’Exposition Universelle de 1867'." A "Vue de Chine" apparently was never published, and - indeed - no other copies are known. Only "Champion’s stereoviews were published as series by Charles Gaudin; B.K. Editeur. Paris [A. Block]. The series were Chine & Japon ; Asiatic Views . China; and Vue De Chine which was a numbered set of around 100 views.' (luminous-lint.com). Some fading, a few plates with small spots, perhaps from storing the undeveloped plates too long; skilful repair to the front free endpaper, a few mounts with marginal spotting. Otherwise in very good condition. T. Bennett, Photography in Japan 1853-1912 (2003).