China, Southeast Asia, and Japan. 1936. Oblong quarto. Measuring 15" x 11". Full decorative embossed leather album bound with steel rivets. 102 pages interleaved with tissue containing 846 mostly black and white gelatin silver photographs; measuring between 1.25" x 1.5" to 7.75" x 9.75", with most measuring between 2.5" x 3.75" to 3.75" x 5". Approximately three-quarters of the photos are captioned and a few items of ephemera tipped in. Approximately 25-30 are commercial images or real photo postcards, but the vast majority are well-composed snapshots. Album is very good or better with some scuffing and loss to the lower corner of rear cover and lacking the clasp; contents are generally fine.This massive album was compiled by Lt. Commander Toson O. Summers, the medical officer of the USS Augusta which was the flagship of the Asiatic fleet. The path of the Augusta in 1936 is well-documented. Summers went to great lengths to map his tour of duty and this album reflects that concern. It is artfully designed (the album itself handmade by an artist in Chefoo (now Yantai), very well-captioned, and filled with an extraordinary amount of interesting images. Summers visited many cities in China including Shanghai, Amoy, Nanking, Soochow, Tsingtao, Peiping, and Chingwantao. Additionally Summers compiled many images from Japan, Bali, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia.Summers was an inveterate photographer with a keen eye for street imagery as well as native peoples and their cultures. Though an amateur, he artfully captured dozens of street scenes and markets; businesses such as a hemp factory, farming, restaurants, smugglers, and brothels; and many great birds-eye views of local towns. In addition to all the views of daily life there are more than one series of funerals; others show native dances, a lama service, a Eucharist Congress, acrobats, healers, and more. His landscape pictures are equally well-composed and some images include Mount Fuji, the Cloud Tower, Borabudur, The Great Wall, and various beaches.Additionally there are a couple of dozen images showing life on the ship, including a couple where the men are dressed in drag and one or two of a softball game. One particularly interesting shot shows a man standing between the wings of a seaplane flying over the water; another shows a man with a chicken; others show a line of camels at The Great Wall, a roadside restaurant, and a funeral pyre in Bali. Additionally there are 25 beautifully affected hand-colored images. A few of these are very nice panoramas measuring 3.75" x 11". In all a massive, unique, and comprehensive immersion into the people, lifestyle, culture and scenery of Asia in the years leading up to World War II, much more detailed than virtually all similar albums of the period that we've handled. . (Inventory #: 409551)
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