Important acquisitions

Glimpses of China: a series of Vandyck photogravures illustrating Chinese life and surroundings.

Author Mennie, Donald.
Title Glimpses of China: a series of Vandyck photogravures illustrating Chinese life and surroundings.
Imprint Shanghai: A.S. Watson & Co.,
Date of Publication [c. 1920]
Language English
Notes This is a welcome addition to the Library's holdings of photographically illustrated books on the Far East. Not much is known about the early years of Donald Mennie (d. 1941), the photographer who produced this book. He appears to have been of Scottish origin, later becoming an American citizen. He arrived in China in 1899 and worked initially for the firm Mactavish & Lehman & Co., one of the first producers of picture post-cards of Shanghai, before moving to the Shanghai-based company of A.S. Watson & Co. Watson's had been founded by a Scot in 1828, as a chemists and druggists, and had branched out into wine and spirits and photographic services (the firm still exists to this day as the largest health and beauty retailer in the world). Mennie became a managing director of the firm and a leading entrepreneur in China in 1920s and 30s, but he also had a passion for photography. He was able to use his position in Watson's to get his photographs published, being best known for his books "The pageant of Peking" (1920) and "The grandeur of the Gorges" (1926). Both of them were expensively produced, with handsome bindings, and with hand-coloured photogravures in the pictorialist style. Mennie specialised in depicting the faded grandeur of imperial China and the eye-catching landscapes of China's gardens, rivers and mountains. "Glimpses of China", while still using the same photogravure process, is a more modest affair. Produced in oblong quarto format, with plain cloth covers, it is possibly an early work by Mennie or a spin-off from "The pageant of Peking". Of particular interest are the street scenes of ordinary Chinese people which are reminiscent of the street-photography of the early Scottish photographic pioneer in the Far East, John Thomson.
Shelfmark Phot.sm.145
Reference Sources Worswick & Spence, "Imperial China: photographs 1850-1912" (London: Scolar Press, 1979)
Acquired on 29/05/10
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