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Book cover for John Thomson, 1867, The Antiquites of Cambodia: Illustrated by Photographs taken on the Spot with letterpress description, (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas)
[The Antiquites of Cambodia]
Sotheby's - London
Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History, 30 April 2015, Lot: 224
FIRST EDITION, oblong folio (270 x 379mm.), photo-lithograph of a letter in English from the King of Siam to John Thomson, and 16 ALBUMEN PRINTS, including two 3-part panoramas, many of the photographs signed "J. Thomson" in the negative, all mounted on thick card, letterpress text, original black half roan over green cloth boards, upper cover stamped in gilt, gilt edges.
THESE ARE AMONG THE EARLIEST SURVIVING PHOTOGRAPHS OF ANGKOR WAT.
Thomson (1837-1921) originally went to the Far East in 1862 to join his brother in Singapore as a watch and scientific instrument maker, however having learnt the principles of photography he opened a photographic studio. Thomson was keen to travel and photograph more widely in Asia, and following a visit to Ceylon and India in 1864 he sold his Singapore studio and moved to Siam (modern day Thailand). He arrived in Bangkok in September 1865, where he took a series of photographs of the king, royal court, and government. Thomson had been inspired by the writings of Henri Mouhot to visit Cambodia, and in Bangkok met H.G. Kennedy, a British consular official, who offered to travel with him and who saved Thomsonís life when he contracted jungle fever en route. They arrived in Angkor in March 1866 and Thomson spent two weeks photographing the massive stone ruins, sculptures, galleries, and taking panoramas.
Thomson then travelled to the capital Phnom Penh where he took photographs of the king, and members of the Cambodian royal family, before travelling to Saigon. In May or June 1866 Thomson returned to Britain, where his illustrated lectures on his travels were well received. He was elected a Fellow of both the Ethnological Society of London, and the Royal Geographical Society, and his photographs were praised in the British Journal of Photography. Thomson was encouraged by the architectural historian James Fergusson, to publish an account of his visit to Cambodia, and the result was this publication, Thomsonís first book, illustrated with hand-mounted photographs.
VERY RARE. The last copy we have traced at auction was sold 40 years ago at Sotheby's New York (23 September, 1975, lot 27)