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Category: Arts & Humanities, Exploration

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John Thomson’s Illustrations of China and Its People, 1873-1874 John Thomson (1837-1921), a pioneering Scottish geographer and traveler, was the first known photographer to document the people and landscape of China for publication and dissemination to the Western world. Between 1868 and 1872, he traveled over 6,500 kilometers with his cumbersome camera and equipment, darkroom and chemicals capturing all aspects of Chinese life. The photographs in these four volumes show the many sides of China: sweeping landscapes, royalty and ruling classes, merchants and economic activity, everyday life, and the faces of men, women, and children. Thomson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of a tobacco spinner and seller.

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The Illustrated Voyage Artists aboard voyages of discovery and exploration were given the task of making an objective record of the landscapes, people, flora and fauna of the lands they visited.  One would not expect, given the focus on creating an accurate visual record for these expeditions, that there would have been room for the expression of artistic vision.

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The Kirk Papers is a collection of photographs and papers belonging to East Africa pioneer Sir John Kirk. It was acquired for the National Library of Scotland in 1998/1999 with the help of a grant of £55,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Though not as well-known as his friend and fellow-explorer David Livingstone, Kirk was a trail-blazer of empire in East Africa and a man of eminence in his day. Born in Barry, Angus, in 1832, Kirk qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University and then volunteered for medical service in the Crimea. An accomplished botanist, zoologist and diplomat, he was also a talented photographer. This is evident from the collection of over 250 photographs, many of them stunning.

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262 reads