Exhibition catalogue for the Chinese exhibition junk „Keying”, with autograph by Mandarin He Sing, 1848

A DESCRIPTION OF THE CHINESE JUNK, „KEYING.“ Frontispiece and 4 plates with wood engravings, 8 text illustrations. London: 1848.

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A DESCRIPTION OF THE CHINESE JUNK, „KEYING.“ Fourth edition. Printed for the proprietors of the junk and sold only on board. Frontispiece and 4 plates with wood engravings, of which one signed [Ebenezer] „Landells“, as well as 8 text illustrations. London: (J. Such, Printer, 25 Budge Row, Watling Street, City) 1848.

Foolscap 8vo. 31 [1] pages. Wood engraving and letterpress, thread-stitched in original pale orange wrappers with decorative title printing in red and green.

Exhibition catalogue for the Chinese trade junk „Keying“, at anchor for visitors against admission in the London Docklands in 1848, personalised copy of Swedish visitor Carl Peter Freidenfeldt, with autograph of and stamped by the Mandarin on board, He Sing (希生, Xi Cheng or Xi Sheng).

Contents: The „Keying“, an impressive 3-masted 800-ton sailing ship, was the first Chinese vessel to ever sail from Hong Kong to New York and further to London. The junk had been purchased in 1846 in secrecy by unknown British businessmen in Hong Kong, defying a Chinese law prohibiting the sale of Chinese ships to foreigners. Loaded with artefacts and oddities of Chinese culture and sailing with a mixed crew of Chinese and British sailors under command of Captain Charles Alfred Kellett the „Keying“ reached New York in July 1847 and fast became an attraction serving as a kind of floating ethnographic museum.

In late March 1848, the Keying arrived in London to great fanfare, anchoring in the London Docklands, at Blackwall. Several different medals were struck to commemorate its appearance, including one that had a bust of Mandarin Hesing. The ship was visited by the Queen Victoria, whose right to be the first European woman to visit it was reserved, The Duke of Wellington and Charles Dickens. It has been suggested that the Chinese Emperor was aware of the project from the start and secretly kept informed about it, and that the mandarin served as an informer to report back in detail. (Thanks to Richard M. Ford Ltd.) Visitors were „received by a Mandarin of Rank and a Chinese Artist of Celebrity“ (promotional text at rear cover). – Apart from the description of the ship as a whole, the cook-house and the decks, present catalogue also contains an annotated and partly illustrated list of Chinese objects (musical instruments, weapons, tableware etc.) exhibited in different parts of the ship.

Illustration: The wood engraved plates are captioned „The Keying“, „Portrait of Hesing“, „Stern of the Keying“, „After Deck“ and „Saloon“.

Provenance, Autograph: Owner's remark with ink pen reading „C.[arl] P.[eter] Freidenfelt, London den 15 Aug. 1848“ at the upper edge of front cover. Front fly-leaf (recto of 1st plate) with two red ink stamps depicting Chinese characters, one of them being the seal of Prince Hui Rui. Above and below the signature "Hesing" and the word "Keying" in Latin and Chinese letters written in bold ink, finally at top and bottom of the page the following tiny ink comment in Swedish by Freidenfelt: "Anm: Nedanstående är måladt med pensel af den Chinesiske mandarinen Hesing ombord på den Chinesiska Junken den 15 Aug. 1848 på Londons redd. - Då jag besökte Mandarinen, fann jag honom läsande Nya Test. på Chinesiska. Han sade på engelska 'a very good book; makes good for the heart.' (Note: The following is painted with a brush by the Chinese mandarin Hesing aboard the Chinese Junk on Aug. 15th 1848 at London's redd. - When I visited the Mandarin, I found him reading New Test. in Chinese. He said in English 'a very good book; makes good for the heart.'

Condition: 8 mm tear at rear cover professionally repaired with acid-free tape. Wrappers occasionally worn and with some minor stains, otherwise well preserved copy.