The Middle Kingdom. A Survey of the Geography, Government, Literature, Social Life, Arts, and History of The Chinese Empire and Its Inhabitants - S. Wells Williams 1883 - Charles Scribner's Sons, New York - Revised Edition ‘William’s Middle Kingdom was to become probably the best known single work in English on China. Published over a century ago, it has the unusual distinction of still being a standard reference work. Study of the large number of general works which followed it reveals that the later authors not only invariably took a great deal of their material from Williams, but failed to present the subject as thoroughly, clearly, and objectively as he had done.

This, the new edition of
The Middle Kingdom was published a few months before William’s death, and was very far from being a mere polishing and correcting of errors; according to his son who had a share in the task, Dr. Williams was engaged intermittently on the revision for seven years, and “he spent probably twice as many hours as the preparation of the entire work had cost him in 1846.” ‘ [Thompson, American Sinology]

In two volumes, with about a third more content, additional plates and the large folding map of The Chinese Empire (64 x 49 cm housed in pocket at rear of volume II). Illustrations include an additional engraved title page, folding colour frontis, folding monochrome frontis, nineteen full page illustrations, one plate of Chinese Characters, two full page maps, and numerous illustrations throughout the text.
  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. The general topics listed in the title encompass many subtopics such as the structure of the Chinese language, dialects, the best ways of studying the language, ethics and philosophy, punishments and torture, censuses, agriculture, female education, natural history, and literature in the form of novels, poetry, drama and proverbs.

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 at Yale University. At this time he began his revision of
The Middle Kingdom assisted by his son Frederick who taught Oriental history at Yale.

Two octavo volumes (23 x 16 cm). pp. [2] [2 Engraved title page] [4] ix-xv [1] xiii-xxv [1] 836 [2]; [4] iii-xii 775 [3]. In publisher’s blue cloth, lettered in gilt to spine, gilt blocked vignette to front boards, pale blue fillets along upper edge of boards and spines, top edge tinted yellow.

Collated 02/06/2017: Vol.I - additional engraved title page, folding colour frontis, 11 full page illustrations (including p665), 1 plate of Chinese Characters (p596); Vol.II - folding frontispiece, 8 full page illustrations (including p77, 108, 110), 2 full page maps (p645, 667), folding map.
  Condition: Very good, wear to edges and corners of front and rear boards, some loss spine ends heavier to tails, hinges of both volumes starting. Small hole to front free endpaper of volume I.   Ref: 108816   Price: HK$ 2,500