"the scenes in Bangkok were almost incredible"
The kingdom and people of Siam;
with a narrative of the mission to that country in 1855. London John W. Parker and Son 1857
First edition. Two volumes, 8vo (22 x 15 cm), pp.x, , [1, blank], 482; vi, , [1, blank], 446. With 18 plates, 8 in colour, 3 folding facsimiles, and large folding map. Titles printed in red and black. Tightly rebound in 20th-century half calf, marbled boards. Half title of second volume repaired; contents fresh and clean. A very good set.
Cordier BI 736
An account of the 1855 British embassy to the court of King Mongkut (1804-1858) which opened Siam to free trade, with a detailed description of the country, royal family, people, customs, and the city of Bangkok, prepared by Sir John Bowring (1792-1872). The first volume comprises Bowring's survey of the country, supplemented by reference to Pallegoix's Description du Royaume Siam ou Thai (1854). Bowring includes chapters on geography, history, legislation, "manners, customs, superstitions, amusements", religion, language and literature, commerce and natural resources, manufacturing and tax revenue, and Christian missions. An entire chapter is devoted to Bangkok, whose splendour impressed even Bowring, accustomed to the pomp of imperial Chinese ceremonial: "the scenes in Bangkok were almost incredible." The second volume contains descriptions of Laos and Cambodia, Western diplomatic relations with Siam, including the French embassies of the 17th century and Crawfurd's disastrous 1822 mission, and Bowring's journal of his own embassy, which culminated in the signature of a treaty between Siam and Britain in April, 1855. The appendices include translations of Siamese histories, one describing an 1854 expedition into Burma, court edicts, and letters from King Mongkut. The treaty attracted criticism from Bowring's radical friends in Britain, for while it opened up trade with Siam, it forced the kingdom to allow the import of opium, which had previously been banned. Bowring's view of the opium trade had changed dramatically since his appointment as British consul at Canton in 1849, a post he held until 1859. His son was a partner of Jardine Mattheson & Co., who dominated the opium trade, and were also Bowring's bankers. The majority of the plates are done after photographs taken in Siam during Bowring's mission. The long folding map depicts Siam and Malaysia, from Chiang Mai in the north to Singapore in the south.