Naval battle print after a drawing by a Royal Navy lieutenant who served in China, showing the British bombardment of coastal forts protecting the Chinese port of Amoy (known today as Xiamen) during the First Opium War (also known as the First Anglo-Chinese War) in August 1841. Small captions beneath the image, from left to right, identify the ships with the number of guns on each: the Queen, a steamer; the battleships Wellesley, Blenheim and Pylades. Also identified are a “Large Rock, with inscription” and, to the right of the center, “Attacking heavy granite batteries.” This is Plate 2 of three plates depicting this event. By early August 1842, the First Opium War was essentially over and a treaty was signed on August 29, a few days before this print was published.
The Opium Wars of 1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860 were precipitated by British economic interests in opening China to foreign trade, including unrestricted trade in opium, which by 1839 had become extremely profitable. The Qing Dynasty that ruled China prohibited opium, but British clippers persisted, aided by a network of smugglers who offloaded and distributed the drug. Though some in Britain opposed the trade on moral grounds, the economic interests won out; meanwhile, addiction became a growing problem for the Chinese, along with the destabilization of the currency caused by money flowing out of the country to buy opium. Chinese officials decided to take strong measures to stop the drug trade. In mid 1839, they seized and destroyed three million pounds of opium from British traders, setting off an escalation of tensions that led to the dispatch of British warships to the region and a declaration of war. At the time of the event illustrated in Crawford’s print, the British fleet’s strategy was to occupy a series of ports, working their way north towards the seat of the Qing government to force them to negotiate, beginning with Amoy, which was taken easily, with little opposition. A detailed account of the First Opium War can be found in an online article by Peter C. Perdue (see References below).
Richard Borough Crawford was a career officer with the British Royal Navy, but also drew the originals for aquatints published in the 1840s of events he witnessed while serving abroad with the navy, including the British capture of Amoy, China, during the First China War and actions taken against slave traders in Mozambique. Crawford entered the navy in 1814 and attained the ranks of lieutenant in 1826 and commander in 1842. In 1849, he was listed in a Royal Navy biographical dictionary as having retired in 1846.
Henry A. Papprill was a British aquatint engraver, based in London, known for his views and sporting and maritime scenes. He began his career as an engraver in 1840 with a series of sporting prints after James Pollard, published by Ackermann & Co. These were followed by a number of military plates for Ackermann and racing prints after George Henry Laporte. Papprill moved to New York in 1846, residing there until at least 1851, when he returned to London. In New York, he engraved two notable views of the city for American publishers: New York Taken from the North West Angle of Fort Columbus, Governor’s Island after Frederick Catherwood (1846) and New York from the Steeple of St. Paul’s Church (c. 1849). In 1867, he began engraving coaching and hunting scenes for Fores, including re-engraving the original five scenes of Fores’s Coaching Recollections (1874) and engraving Fores’s Hunting Incidents after William Hopkins (1878). His output also includes numerous prints of British ships at sea.
Ackermann & Co. was a prominent British publisher and printseller. The firm was founded by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834), publishing as R. Ackermann from 1795 to 1829. Ackermann was born in Germany and came to England in the 1780s. He pioneered lithography in Britain (though frequently working with color-printed etchings and aquatints), and became a leading publisher of fine colorplate books, decorative prints and magazines, as well as sheet music of the Regency period. In 1797, Ackermann relocated the business premises to 101 Strand, which were known by 1798 as “The Repository of Arts,” also the title of a periodical with a large number of prints that he published from 1809 to 1828. As suggested by the full title of the publication, Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, the subject matter of the Repository was wide ranging. Among the most influential and popular images in the series were studies of Regency decorative arts, interior design and fashion, as well as various city and country views. Ackermann was a major patron of British artists and designers, notably the famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), whose works were featured in the famous set of London interiors and exteriors entitled Microcosm of London (R. Ackermann, London, 1808-10). Ackermann also manufactured and sold art supplies. In 1829, Rudolph transferred the business to three of his sons, who traded as Ackermann & Co. from 1829 to 1859. During the 20th century the company had offices in London, Paris, New York and Chicago. The business continued until the end of the century, last operating as Arthur Ackermann and Son.
Full title, lower margin: This View of the Capture of Amoy, on the Coast of China, on the 26th August, 1841; by Her Majesty’s Combined Forces, under Vice Admiral Sir William Parker K.C.B. and Lieut. General Sir Hugh Gough, K.C.B. Is with permission humbly dedicated to His Royal Highness Prince Albert, &c. &c. by His Royal Highnesses most faithful & devoted Servant R.B. Crawford, Lieut. R.N. Plate No. 2.
Full publication information: Lieut. R.B. Crawford, Del’t. H. Papprill, Sculp’t. London, Published Sept’r 1st 1842, by Ackermann & Co. 96, Strand.
Condition: Generally very good with warm original coloring. Recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with some light remaining toning wear, soft creases. Margins with slightly more scattered discoloration and toning from former matting, unobtrusive and can be largely re-matted out.
Deák, Gloria Gilda. Picturing America. Princeton University Press: 1989. 531 and 578 (Papprill).
Lane, Charles. Sporting Aquatints and Their Engravers, Vol. 2 (1820-1900). Leigh-on-Sea, England: F. Lewis, 1979. pp. 68-69 (Papprill).
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 24 January 2005. http://www.devon.gov.uk/etched?_IXP_=1&_IXR=111144 (4 May 2007).
O’Byrne, William R. A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty’s Navy, from the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet to that of Lieutenant, inclusive. London: John Murray, Publisher to the Admiralty, 1849. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=Qm5KAAAAYAAJ (6 April 2012).
Perdue, Peter C. “The First Opium War: The Anglo-Chinese War of 1839-1842.” MIT Visualizing Cultures. 2011. http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/opium_wars_01/ow1_essay01.html (6 April 2012).
“Rudolph Ackermann.” National Portrait Gallery. May 2007. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp06540 (4 May 2007).
Wilson, Arnold. A Dictionary of British Marine Painters. Leigh-on-Sea, England: F. Lewis, 1967. p. 97 (Crawford).