Calcutta: C.B. Lewis at the Baptist Mission Press, 1865. Vol. XXXIV, part I, No. 2. First Edition. Small Octavo (ca. 23x14,5 cm). 51-113, 4 pp. With ten original albumen photos, each ca. 6,5x6 cm (2 ¾ x 2 ½ in) mounted on five paper leaves and bound in, and a folding lithographed plate at rear. Original publisher’s wrappers. Photos mildly faded, wrappers with minor chipping on the lower edges and with matching paper repair on spine, but overall a very good copy of the periodical in very original condition.
Historically significant issue of the authoritative British Indian periodical on the Oriental studies, with the first original photos of Himalayan Buddhist monks dressed for the Cham dance ceremony. The photos illustrate the article by renowned British surveyor, mountaineer and supposedly one of the first British converts into Buddhism, Henry Harversham Godwin-Austen. An energetic officer in service of the Trigonometrical Survey of India, Godwin-Austen became widely known as the explorer and surveyor of the Karakorams, and as the first person to ascertain the position and height of K2 which is also known and Mount Godwin-Austen. In the article titled “Description of a Mystic Play as performed in Ladakh, Saskar &c.” and indented for the “Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal” (pp. 71-79) the British surveyor described the Chum ceremony as he witnessed it in the Hemis Monastery near Leh (Ladakh), during the annual festival dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Riponche) – a venerated master in Tibetan Buddhism. The ten original photographs used as illustrations were taken by Godwin-Austen’s subordinate, Captain of the British Indian Topographical Survey Alexander Brodie Melville.
“… the uppermost reaches of the Indus River in the neighbouring region of Ladakh <…> It was a predominantly Tibetan Buddhist area with many monasteries, of which the most substantial and wealthy was the main seat of the Drukpa (or “Red Hat” lineage of Tibetan Buddhism) at Hemis. Founded in the seventeenth century, Hemis monastery was evidently renowned in the nineteenth for its cham (monastic masked dance), since it inspired those two members of the British Indian government’s Topographical Survey unit to deviate from their usual activities, such as measuring distances and marking locations on maps, to record it in text and photographs. The photographer, Captain Alexander Melville, had been surveying in Ladakh between 1857 and 1864. His colleague, Captain Henry Godwin-Austen, joined the same department in 1856 but had only been stationed in Ladakh since 1862. Two years later Godwin-Austen published “Description of a Mystic Play as performed in Ladak, Zascar &c.” in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. This account of the monastic building, the monks’ attire and their performance at Hemis was clearly based on his own observations supplemented by Tibetological information derived from the work of Moravian missionary Heinrich August Jäschke. <…> [the text] was augmented by ten illustrations by Melville, which pictured the monks and the various costumes they wore for a cham in celebration of the life of a major figure in Tibetan Buddhism: Padmasambhava. Also, sine the prints were half-stereos (that is, one of two images created by a stereoscopic camera) they raise the intriguing possibility that the monks’ dances had stimulated another kind of performance back in the plans of India and at the heart of the colonial administration. Since Godwin-Austen’s paper was read before an audience of scholars and leading figures in the civil service at the Asiatic Society in Calcutta (now Kolkata), it may well have bee illustrated with stereoscopic images” (Harris, C. Photography and Tibet. London: Reaktion Books, 2016, pp. 22-25).
“Alexander Melville, Amateur, India Bengal Infantry, serving with the Kashmir Survey, 1857-63. He took up photography in about 1861 and his views of Kashmir and Ladakh were shown to the Bengal Photographic Society in that year, which praised them as ‘very creditable to an amateur photographer, who never touched a chemical before that year, and whose collodion had been subjected to such rough travelling on high mountain ranges’. Prints (stereo halves) by Melville are pasted down into an article by Captain H.H. Godwin-Austen, Description of a mystic play, as performed in Ladakh, Zascar, etc. Instituted use of photozincography in the Calcutta office of the Survey of India, 1867” (Falconer, J. A Biographical Dictionary of 19th century photographers in South and South-East Asia// http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/photographer/Alexander_Brodie__Melville/A/).
The other articles in the issue are:
Thomas, E. Ancient Indian Weights (pp. 51-70); Sherring, M.A., Rev. & Horne, S. Some Account of Ancient Remains at Saidpur and Bhitari (pp. 80-90); Jaeschke, H.A., Rev. Note on the Pronunciation of the Tibetan Language (pp. 91-100); Impey, H.B., Maj. Notes of the Gurjat State of Patna (pp. 101-110); Literary Intelligence (pp. 111-113). The issue is illustrated with a lithographed plate showing the Buddhist temple at Bakariya Kund near Varanasi (to the article in No. 2), after the original photo by H.L. Fraser.
Price: $1,750.00 USD