The Punishments of China. Illustrated with Twenty-two Engravings: with explanations in English and French - Major George Henry Mason 1823 - Printed for William Miller by W. Bulmer and Co., London - Early Printing A fine copy in magnificent contemporary binding, containing a series of twenty two hand-coloured stipple engravings by Dadley based on paintings attributed to the artist George Henry Mason who, with William Alexander, travelled to China at the end of the eighteenth century. Each plate is accompanied by a descriptive text leaf.

The best western record of these peculiar and often gruesome practices, describing in graphic detail the forms of punishment from less severe penalties like
Torturing the Fingers and Twisting a Man’s Ears, to the most serious The Manner of Beheading. The accompanying text, in both French and English, explains the method by which the punishment is delivered and examples of the crimes that would merit such a punishment. For example the fitting punishment for merchants that had committed frauds, impositions, or any other unwarrantable tricks of the trade was the Punishment of the Swing, in which a man is suspended by his shoulders and ankles, in a very painful situation. [Wittockiana 49]

While the methods are clearly barbaric by today's standards, Mason's book, along with the translation of the Qing penal code in 1810, created growing concern in Britain and other Western countries over the perceived severity and unnecessary cruelty of the sentences described. [Abbey]
  Plates:- 1. A culprit before the magistrate. 2. A culprit conveyed to prison. 3. A culprit conducted to trial. 4. An offender undergoing the bastinade. 4. Twisting a man's ears. 6. Punishment of the swing. 7. Punishing a boatman 8. Punishing an interpreter. 9. The rack. 10. Torturing the fingers. 11. Burning a man's eyes with lime. 12. A malefactor chained to an iron bar. 13. Punishment of the wooden collar. 14 A man fastened to a block of wood. 15. A malefactor in a cage. 16. Punishment of a wooden tube. 17. Hamstringing a malefactor. 18. Close confinement. 19. Conducting an offender into banishment. 20. A malefactor conducted to execution. 21. The capital punishment of the cord. 22. The manner of beheading.

Provenance: Winnifred of Carrickfergus, Ireland, with their name dated May 1909.

References: Witokiana 49. Lust
Western Books on China 712. Löwendahl, China Illustrata Nova 715. Abbey Travel 532. Cordier Bibliotheca Sinica 549. Colas 2010. New York Public Library, blog (

Folio (36.1 x 26 cm). pp. [2] [4] [plate showing illustrated title page for ‘The Costume of China’ by Alexander to be published Nov 1st 1804] [6] [22 plates each with a page of English text and a page of French text]. New endpapers. Sheets trimmed (35.3 x 25.8 cm).

The publishing history of this work, and the multiple dates of paper stock is quite complex. Punishments continued it’s life in print until 1830. This story is also complicated by the fact that most resources report that William Miller sold his publishing house to John Murray II in 1812 . There also appears to be at least two different settings of the text, we note one layout printed by William Bulmer, and another by W. Wilson.

This copy with the title page (2) and watermarks (Bii).

There were at least five title pages:-
1. 1801 – Printed for William Miller, Old-Bond Street; by W. Bulmer and Co. The French title page states ‘Par G. Bulmer’, the G is for Guillaume. Last text page colophon reads: Printed by W. Bulmer and Co. Russel-court, Cleveland-row St. James’s.
2. 1801 – Printed for William Miller, Old-Bond Street; by W. Bulmer and Co. The French title page states ‘G. Bulmer’, the G is for Guillaume. Last text page colophon reads: Printed by Howlett and Brimmer, 10, Frith-Street, Soho.’
3. 1804 – Printed for William Miller, Old-Bond Street; by William Bulmer and Co. Last text page colophon reads: Printed by W. Wilson, 4, Greville-Street, London.
4. 1808 – Printed for William Miller, Albermarle Street; By S. Gosnell.
5. 1830 – Printed for William Miller. Title page reads: Printed by W. Bulmer, last text page colophon reads: Printed by W. Wilson, 4, Greville-Street, London.

With regard to the watermarks, this is what we have noted from copies we have handled, bibliographies, and those in libraries or private collections.

A. With the 1801 Title Page (colophon on last page ‘Printed by W. Bulmer and Co.)
i. Text pages watermarked 1796 or E & P, plates watermarked 1801 J. Whatman (Lok Man Rare Books 108335)
ii. Watermarks: 1796; E & P (Edmeads & Pine, Ivy Mill?); also Magnay & Pickering 1800 watermarks on the tissue between the plates and the text pages. – NYPL Art and Architecture Collection (First copy)
iii. watermarked 1796 – Lowendahl.
iv. some paper watermarked 1818 (Lok Man Rare Books 101827 and 101642)

B. With the 1801 Title Page (colophon on last page ‘Printed by Howlett and Brimmer’)
i. watermarks for plates: J.Whatman 1822 - NYPL Art and Architecture Collection (Second copy).
ii. watermarks for plates: J.Whatman 1823 - (Lok Man Rare Books 108870).
The colophon at the bottom of the last text page states ‘Printed by Howlett & Brimmer, 10, Firth Street, Soho’. Howlett and Brimmer began operating in 1821. The text font is different from the 1801 William Miller/W. Bulmer and Co. edition. Based on this evidence these are clearly later printings from 1822-3 with type that had been reset.

C. With the 1804 Title Page
i. watermarks dated 1816, 1818, J Whatman dated 1819 – NYPL Art and Architecture Collection
ii. watermarks for text: J. Whatman 1818, and plates: J.Whatman Turkey Mills 1819, J. Whatman 1819, J. Whatman 1820 –Abbey
iii. watermarks for text dated 1818 (including title page), and plates dated 1818 and 1819. (Lok Man Rare Books 105542)

D. With the 1808 Title Page
i. watermarks from Edmeads & Pine 1804, E & P 1807 and Turkey Mills J Whatman 1817 – NYPL Rare Book Division.
  Contemporary black straight grained morocco, boards with patterned borders in blind and gilt, covers bordered in gilt and blind, spine lettered and intricately decorated in gilt, board edges decorated in gilt, charcoal grey coated endpapers, all edges gilt, twin silk bookmarks.   Condition: Fine, the usual offsetting from plates to text leaves, in fine binding with just a hint of rubbing to corners.   Ref: 108870   Price: HK$ 22,000