London: T.Cadell and W. Davies, 1804.
First Edition. Hardcover. Very good. Quarto. pp. ix, , 632, with 8 plates (including frontispiece), five of which are hand-colored. Recent full calf with new endpapers, original red spine label preserved, three armorial ink stamps on the top edge of the text block. Tissue repair to first page of table of contents, ocasional foxing and minor soiling in the margins; overall quite clean and sound. "Barrow accompanied Lord Macartney's mission to the court of China in 1792 as his private secretary, and the present account...is one of the best illustrated English travels on China. The eight plates are from drawings by William Alexander, who also accompanied the embassy and later published his own work. The strict exclusion of Europeans by the Chinese emperors had left China very much terra incognita to the western world well into the nineteenth century. Barrow was an excellent observer, and the text contains a number of descriptions and illustrations of C hinese artifacts and novelties. Among these are a plate depicting musical instruments, extensive renditions of Chinese melodies in western western notation, and a long description, with illustration, of an abacus" (Hill 62). Historian Michael Adas notes that Barrow "interspersed descriptions of his travels and personal experiences with lengthy discussions of varying aspects of Chinese culture....His judgments on the quality of Chinese life and material culture tended to be favorable at the beginning of his residence in China but grew more and more disparaging as time passed." Unlike Jesuit writers who praised the sophistication of Chinese science and culture, Barrow argued that a once-great civilization had been on the decline since the fifteenth century, providing "an implicit contrast between static, past-minded, backward China and the continually improving, foreward-looking, industrializing states of Europe (Adas, Machines as the Measure of Man pp 179-180). Cox I:346; Cordier 2388.