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The Telegraph Comes to China

VIGUIER, S. A.. Table for Transmitting Chinese Despatches by Telegraph, containing all characters employed in official, commercial, or private correspondence of Chinese, and their translation in numbers

Shanghai: Printed at the American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1871

Folio (28.5 x 43 cm). 16 pp, mounted on linen. Contemporary half black roan, marbled boards, worn, separated at spine. Dampstaining. Very rare.

FIRST EDITION. The Great Northern Telegraph Company introduced the telegraph in China in 1871. This rare volume enabled its use in Chinese, marking an epoch in the history of commerce.

The first two pages provide instructions in Chinese, English, and French, and the other fourteen pages comprise a table assigning a four-digit number to each of thousands of Chinese characters. Viguier writes in small part, “In view of the early arrival in Shanghai of the submarine cable … connecting this great centre of trade with the colony of Hongkong, and the southern provinces of the Empire, it becomes very important, in order to increase the native trade, by facilitating communications between the different markets, to enable the Chinese traders to employ this telegraph.”

The Chinese Recorder observed that the telegraph, “bringing into contact the most distant nations, marks an epoch in the progress of civilization” and reported in 1874 that Viguier’s system is now ‘extensively used” by the Chinese.

 

$6,500