Printed by W. Bulmer & Co. for G. Nicol. London. 1797, 1797.
FIRST EDITION. Three volumes. Complete. - Two quarto text volumes (12 x 9.4 inches), and a folio atlas of plates (16.6 x 12.3 inches). ---- Both text volumes in contemporary full brown calf boards with decorative gilt borders. Re-spined in recent brown calf with raised bands, the compartments ruled in blind, two red morocco labels, lined and lettered in gilt. Gilt inner dentelles. Marbled endpapers. All edges marbled. The atlas volume bound in recent half brown calf. Spine with raised bands, each decorated in gilt. Compartments ruled in gilt. Red title label, gilt. Marbled paper on boards. Text volumes with engraved portrait frontispiece to each, 1 plate and 26 vignettes after William Alexander et al. in all, atlas with 44 engraved views, plans, plates and maps and charts, including large folding world map, 3 natural history subjects and 25 views. Some foxing and sporadic spotting to both text and atlas, a couple of the maps have professional repairs to splits to the folds and slight losses to the fore-edges, but overall a very good set with good strong impressions of the engravings. ------------- First edition of the official account of the first official British Embassy to China, headed by George, Earl Macartney. Macartney was dispatched to Peking in 1792, travelling via Madeira, Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro, the Cape of Good Hope and Indonesia. He was accompanied by Staunton, and a retinue of suitably impressive size, including Staunton's 11 year-old son George Thomas, who was nominally Macartney's page. It emerged on arrival that the boy was the only one in the party who had bothered to learn Chinese, and was therefore the only one able to converse with the Emperor during the Ambassador's two audiences. The Embassy "sought to improve commercial relations with China, through Canton (Guangzhou), and to establish regular diplomatic relations between the two countries. Though Macartney and Staunton had an audience with the emperor their proposals were rebuffed. In China [Staunton] closely observed and noted all that he saw, and during expeditions he was able to collect botanical specimens" (DNB) The party returned via Macao and St. Helena, arriving back in 1794. Young George Thomas Staunton became a writer at the HEIC's Canton factory in 1798, advancing to supercargo in 1804 and chief interpreter in 1808, and in 1816 he accompanied Amherst's ill-fated Embassy to Peking as chief of the Canton factory. Hill considers this a "remarkable account of Chinese manners and customs a the close of the eighteenth century," and draws attention to the descriptions of the places visited en route, which are "also of considerable interest," and the "important" atlas.