The Chater Collection. Pictures Relating to China, HongKong, Macao, 1655-1860; with Historical and Descriptive Letterpress. - James Orange 1924 - Thornton Butterworth Limited, London - Limited Edition, number 300 of 750 copies First edition, comprehensively documenting this unsurpassed collection of 430 China trade paintings and engravings, including the historical context relating to each work. Written and compiled by James Orange, curator of the collection prior to it’s tragic destruction and dispersal during the Japanese occupation (1941-5), the remaining 94 pieces are now housed in Hong Kong’s City Hall Museum and Art Gallery (formerly the Hong Kong Museum of Art).

Illustrated with eighteen colour plates, 242 monochrome images, three folding colour maps, six monochrome maps, and a photogravure portrait frontispiece of Sir C. P. Chater.

Sir Catchick Paul Chater amassed a large collection of historical pictures and engravings relating to China which he gifted to the people of Hong Kong. Its backbone was the collection of Wyndham Law of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, and included oil paintings, water colours, sketches, prints and photographs, most of which are based on landscape scenes of the South China trading ports in the 18th and 19th centuries, and of British activities in China.
  Sir Paul Chater (1846-1926) was an Indian-born Armenian who came to Hong Kong in 1864. He became a successful merchant and was appointed ex officio member of both the Legislative Council and the Executive Council. He amassed a considerable fortune as well as an important collection of paintings and ceramics. Quite a few places in Hong Kong are named after him. These include the well known Chater Road, Chater Garden, Chater Building and Catchick Street. In 1926 his private collection of paintings and ceramics was bequeathed to the people of Hong Kong.

Shortly before the Japanese occupation in 1941, the Governor Sir Mark Aitchison Young ordered valuable works of Chater collection be hidden in the wine cellar and strong room in the basement of Government House. However the basement was considerably altered during the Japanese Occupation, the paintings were most probably discovered and removed by the Japanese troops. Legend has it that there was another secret store beside the basement. On December 8, 1941, Captain Batty-Smith, Aide-de-Camp to the Governor, had a secret meeting with von Kobza-nagy, a Hungarian expert and restorer, and Thomas Harmon of the Public Works Department. Later, documents reveal that valuable paintings of Chater Collection had their frames removed and then placed in sealed tins. They were buried in the garden of Government House. Only Batty-Smith, von Kobza-nagy and Thomas Harmon knew the exact location, but the mystery of the hidden paintings was buried after all three men died during the Japanese Occupation. After the war, several attempts were made to uncover these treasures in 1945 and 1976. In 1979, Government House underwent a major renovation project. The grounds were thoroughly searched, inside out and from the basement to nearby underground tunnels and air raid shelters, yet nothing was found.

There were still a number of paintings from the collection hanging on the walls of Government House when the Japanese captured Hong Kong. In 1942, it was renovated by the Japanese, and a local contractor Sinn Chi Lam, who took part in the project, found more twenty three in the rubbish dump. At considerable risk he smuggled them to his home village in Bao An, Guangdong, returning all to the Hong Kong Government after the war.

Another hero who saved the Chater Collection was F. A. Xavier, an ethnic Portuguese living in Hong Kong. Xavier discovered some pieces of the collection in an antique shop in Central. Later he searched all over Central and Western district for other pieces and managed to acquire 30 works. All these were handed to the Hong Kong Government. Alongside Government House, the Government Secretariat was also a store for some Chater paintings. On December 27, 1941, Japanese troops occupied the Government Secretariat for three days. After their retreat, hooligans looted the place. It remains a mystery whether these works were looted or taken away by the Japanese. The Chater ceramic collection of was moved to the Government Stores in North Point, but on discovery by the Japanese more than 980 pieces were shipped to Japan in 1942, however it is believed that the vessel carrying this special cargo sank somewhere in the northern waters of Hong Kong.

The Chater Collection, having sailed through long years of turmoil, has been reduced from more than 400 to a mere 94 pieces, and is currently housed in Hong Kong’s City Hall Museum and Art Gallery [2016].

Reference: The Chater Legacy - A Selection of the Chater Collection, 2008.

Quarto (31.5 x 26.7 cm) pp. [6] [errata slip [2] 9-528. Publisher’s dark green cloth, spine lettered in gilt, front panel with gilt lettering and five gilt Chinese characters, publishers blank embossed logo to front and rear panels.

This is the preferred binding with gilt to both spine and front panel, it is also encountered in a variant binding with the gilt lettering on the front panel replaced by black. A reprint edition was published in Taiwan in 1973.

Collation (16/11/2016)
1 Frontispiece
3 folding colour maps: 25, 145, 323.
From illustration list vs. contants:-
6 monochrome maps: 2;0;0;2(256,257);2(314,315).
18 colour plates: 1;3;3;2;1;6;2;0.
242 monochrome images: 20;34;25;37;37 (including 2 on page 313 not listed);31;28;30.
  Condition: Near fine, light spotting to foredge and toning to endpapers in very good plus binding, gilt bright, some wear to boards.   Ref: 108450   Price: HK$ 16,000