[CHINA] Album of 58 single images, and two three-panel panoramas, of Hunan and Hubei Provinces, China.
[American China Development Company?]: [before 1904, most likely late 1890s]. Period 3/4 roan, cloth sides. Apparently gelatinized (i.e. glossy) carbon transfer prints, 58 of which measure 8 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches (21 x 26.5 cm); affixed to both sides of linen-guarded card mounts, these exceptionally neatly lettered in ink with identifications of the locales. The two folding three-print panoramas (the joints hinged with linen) are laid-in (unidentified and unmounted, but clearly from the album; there are two empty guards for mounts to which these were presumably affixed). Boards detached, a few images with relatively minor defects, one corner a bit bumped (not generally affecting the images) and some foxing to mounts.
Locations include the Lei and Kwei rivers, the Che Ling Pass and Valley, Chenchow [Chenchou], Yichang (home of the Three Gorges, now dammed) etc. Also noted on the labels are stations, traverses etc. These images appear to be part of the route (initially surveyed by William Barclay Parsons, see his book An American Engineer in China, 1900) for the single-track railway that was proposed to run from Canton [Guangzhou] to Hangkow [Hankou], and may well have been prepared by a photographer on his team. There is an interesting account of this railway and American involvement in Chinese railways in general in The Engineering Magazine, Volume 26, December 1903 (pp. 321-332). Though construction was begun, it appears that only a branch line was completed before the loss of the concession in 1904. The lettering on the mounts is in an exceptionally neat hand of a style usually reserved for mapmaking or engineering drawings, lending credence to the likelihood that this album was put together by the survey team. The images are composed with great skill, and comprise an exceptionally beautiful series of images of pre-industrial China, made at a time when Hunan was still largely closed to Westerners.
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