AN ACCOUNT OF AN EMBASSY TO THE KINGDOM OF AVA, Sent by the Governor-General of India in the Year 1795.

First edition. Quarto. Contemporary full mottled calf, the boards with triple ruled gilt borders, the spine with five gilt ruled compartments containing decorative devices and with titles in gilt to spine label. Gilt dentelles. Attractive blue endpapers repeating the same scattered rice grain pattern used on the boards. Lozenge decoration to the edges of the textblock. Illustrated with 26 engraved plates (several folding) by T. Medland, Vincent and MacKenzie after Singey Bey and others and two engraved folding maps by J. Walker after Dalrymple and Thomas Woods. A very good copy, the binding square and tight with some bumping and tenderness to the corners. Expertly rebacked, with the original spine neatly relaid. The contents, with the contemporary engraved armorial bookplate of William Markham to the front pastedown, a small neatly repaired tear to the foot of the largest folding map and the occasional minor mark to the odd page margin are otherwise clean and bright throughout. The largest folding map and a few of the folding plates have been linen backed. Beyond a little finger marking to the margin of one plate, the plates remain wonderfully fresh. An attractive, wide-margined copy.

The first edition of Irish soldier, diplomat, and politician Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Symes' (1761-1809) important account of his time spent living in Burma during the late eighteenth century, forming "one of the first detailed accounts of the country written in English. In just over 500 pages, it addressed the history, geography, culture, and economics of Burma" (ODNB). Symes produced the work following his 1795 diplomatic mission to the country, having been sent to the court of King Bodawpaya "to try to improve political and commercial relations" and to ascertain whether the French had begun to make political inroads there. "The embassy was counted a success", with his account seen as painting "a generally favourable impression of Burma, emphasising its civility, culture, and stability, while also hinting at the Burmese court's suspicions of the British". The finely engraved plates, many by the Company-trained Bengali artist Singey Bey, include depictions of native costume, architecture, statuary and boats, as well as a suite of eight botanical plates of plants which had been selected by the President of the Royal Society "as the most rare and curious among the copious and valuable collection made by Doctor Buchanan". The work is also notable for its survey of the lower River Irrawaddy, the first reliable chart of it, carried out by Symes's colleague Thomas Woods, being illustrated in the second folding map. [Brunet V:611; Cordier BI 445; Howgego S200; Lowndes III, p. 2564].

Stock code: 19489


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SYMES, Michael


Natural History
Travel / Exploration
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