Uncommon and detailed
HUNTER, William C.
The "Fan Kwae" At Canton. Before Treaty Days 1825-1844. By An Old Resident.
London: Kegan Paul, Trench, & Co., 1882
Octavo. Original black cloth with binder’s ticket of Burn & Co. to rear pastedown, titles in gilt to spine and front board, pictorial motifs in yellow to front board, black coated endpapers, untrimmed. Monochrome photogravure mounted portrait frontispiece, captioned “Houqua”, after a painting by Lam Qua (1801-1860), a Cantonese artist specialized in Western-style portraits, with tissue guard, one plan of the Factories. Corners gently bumped, extremities rubbed, spotting to frontispiece (not affecting portrait) and title; loosely inserted slip of paper with later notes, numerous page references largely relating to use of money, foreign currency and barter, a very good copy.
First edition of this lively, detailed autobiographical account recounting the social and business life of the “fan kwae”, Foreign Devils, at Canton in the last days in the Old China Trade. The American author was an experienced agent with extensive experience in the region. Several times reprinted, this first is decidedly uncommon in commerce, just a single copy traced at auction.
William Charles Hunter (1812-1891) was a Virginian who travelled out to China at the age of just 13, spending two years studying Chinese at the Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca before joining Thomas H. Smith & Sons, America’s largest tea importer, as an apprentice. He subsequently worked for both Augustine Heard & Co., and Russell & Co., leading American opium dealers and accumulated a considerable personal fortune. “As a self -appointed ‘Chronicler of early Canton’, Hunter recorded events that took place among the foreign residents in Canton as well as what he had witnessed from the epicentre, events that had led to the First Opium War and the taking of Hong Kong.