A Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language. Arranged according to the Wu-Fang Yuen Yin, with the Pronunciation of the Characters as heard in Peking, Canton, Amoy, and Shanghai - S. Wells Williams 1874 - American Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai - First Edition ‘Williams (1812-1884) began work on this dictionary in 1863, taking almost 10 years to organize his 53.000 examples and phrases and 12.527 characters. Joseph Edkins contributed a section on 'Ancient sounds' in the introduction and was responsible for lists of 'Old sounds* inserted at the head of each syllable. ‘ - Lowendahl.

Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language was an attempt to combine and synthesise the achievements of Western lexicography in China, in particular the method of dialect comparison (a field in which 'the natives have done nothing'), while making extensive use of Chinese reference works and traditional lexicographic sources. Thus Williams describes the Wufang Yuanyin or 'Original Sounds of the Five Regions' (1700) as 'the groundwork of the present dictionary'. The Syllabic Dictionary represents an ambitious attempt to compress into one work as far as possible all the information 'to satisfy all the needs of a foreigner', including information about 'general and vernacular' readings of characters, aspects of the etymology and history of characters and variant 'authorised and colloquial' meanings.’

British consular officer, sinologist and linguist, Sir Herbert Giles was highly critical of WIlliams’ work, publishing in 1879, a small work entitled ‘
On Some Translations and Mistranslations’ in Dr. Williams’ Syllabic Dictionary…’. in which he states that ‘though in many ways an improvement upon its predecessors, is still unlikely to hold the fort for any indefinitely long period’ ingeniously though correctly ho goes on to say ‘It is indeed already felt by many that something more systematic in arrangement and more accurate in detail is wanted to meet the present extension of Chinese studies,’ it took Giles a further twenty years to compile his own dictionary.

A finely bound copy with two hand written sheets of Chinese characters and one small map torn out of a magazine with annotations and markings of a route. There is also a letter tipped into the front from the Chicago Imperial Academy of Sciences, sent to L. Wilkinson, offering three Chinese dictionaries, listing by importance ‘
the big one by Giles’ ‘at the price of £4.12.6’ ‘next to this in importance are the two following dictionaries’ ‘Wells Williams Syllabic dict- of the Chinese Lang.’ ‘Shanghai 1874’ £2.18.0’ and ‘Wells Williams Tonic dict. of Canton dialect’ ‘Canton 1856’ which was ‘out of print the price would be about 30/-’.
  Subsequent to the publication of Williams’ dictionary in 1874, ‘additional indices were produced such as John C. Gibson's A Swatow Index to the Syllabic Dictionary of Chinese by S. Wells Williams and to the Dictionary of the Vernacular of Amoy by Carstairs Douglas (1886) and James Acheson's An Index to Dr. Williams' 'Syllabic Dictionary of the Chinese Language', Arranged According to Sir Thomas Wade's System of Orthography (1879).’

Samuel Wells Williams [1812-84] went to China in 1833. First going to Canton for several months to Study Chinese and Portuguese and at the same time managing a printing press and contributing to the Chinese Repository, edited by Elijah Coleman Bridgeman. In 1835 he and the press moved to Macao. During the next decade he aided Bridgeman in preparing several reference works on Chinese language, geography and commerce.

When Williams returned to the United States in 1845 he found an “unexpected degree of interest” in China as well as the common belief that the Chinese were an “uncivilized people.” Williams went out on the lecture circuit, addressing those topics about which he was most frequently asked; the notes from more than a hundred lectures became the basis for the first release of
The Middle Kingdom, a book which was “intended to correct or enlarge the views” of his fellow Westerners.

In 1853 Williams was attached to Commodore Perry's expedition to Japan as an official interpreter, and in 1855, he was appointed Secretary of the United States Legation to China and was instrumental in the negotiation of the Treaty of Tientsin, which provided for the toleration of both Chinese and foreign Christians. Williams returned to the United States in 1877 and became the first Professor of Chinese language and Chinese literature in the United States at Yale University.

Provenance: Lancelot Craven Wilkinson
Western Linguists and The Languages of China, Ganesha Publishing. Löwendahl, China illustrata nova. Supplement, 1829.

Large quarto. pp. [2] lxxxiv 1254 [2].
  Bound by A. Tomes of Leamington in smooth green calf, titled and tooled in gilt, marbled edges.   Condition: Very good, some light rubbing to boards, fading to spine and board edges, internally clean with one or two contemporary notations in ink and pencil.   Ref: 106480   Price: HK$ 18,000