A Description of the Empire of China and Chinese-Tartary, together with the kingdoms of Korea, and Tibet: containing the geography and history (natural as well as civil) of those countries - Jean-Baptiste Du Halde 1738-1741 - Printed by T. Gardner...for Edward Cave, London - First folio edition in English. Two large folio volumes in contemporary bindings. One of the most celebrated of all 18th century works on China, illustrated with 65 engraved plates, including D’Anville’s exceptional maps (42 large folding maps most engraved by Bowen), nine town-plans, and 13 full-page plates depicting dress, customs and ceremonies. With exquisitely engraved headpieces and initial letters.   French geographer and Jesuit Jean Du Halde is credited with compiling the first definitive book on the Chinese Empire. At one time a confessor to the Duke of Orleans, the regent of France, he was commissioned to collect and publish letters written by Jesuit missionaries from far-flung places, particularly China. [Hill] Du Halde ‘was never in China himself, [but rather] has drawn his materials from a variety of sources, especially from the printed and manuscript account of the missionaries’. [Lowndes]

As a prime source of the new fashion of ‘Chinoiserie’, Du Halde’s work found its way into many of the great libraries of the time. This, the folio edition was published two years after the small four volume English Translation by Richard Brooks, which contained just four maps and 15 plates.

‘[Many] have regarded it as the completest [sic] and most valuable history of the Chinese Empire which had appeared up to the time of its publication.’ [Cox]

The maps by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville are based on the extensive Jesuit surveys carried out for the Emperor Kangxi between 1708 and 1718. These maps ‘remained the principal cartographical authority on China during the rest of the 18th century’. [Tooley]

In Volume II is an account of Vitus Bering’s voyage of 1725-28 off the coast of Siberia, with a map showing the earliest English-printed configuration of any part of Alaska, St. Lawrence Island. This makes Du Halde’s work the ‘first book describing any part of Alaska’. [Howes]

Provenance: With the bookplate of Thomas Anson Esquire [1695-1773] ’Nil Desperandum’

References: Cordier,
Bibliotheca Sinica 50. Hill 498, Lowendahl China Illustrata Nova 409. Lust Western Books on China 15

Two volumes. Folio (44 x 28 x 13 cm) pp. [1] 678; [2] ff. 388 [5] ff.
  In contemporary bindings of smooth calf, green and burgundy labels to spine. Both housed in individual cloth slipcases.   Condition: A very good plus set, internally near fine, occasionally two or three sheets with light foxing, some rubbing to boards and spine.   Ref: 104447   Price: HK$ 245,000