BENNETT, Lieut. William Pyt (d. in action, 1916). AN IMPORTANT AND APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED SERIES OF GELATIN SILVER PHOTOGRAPHS OF LHASA AND TIBET TAKEN DURING THE CELEBRATED YOUNGHUSBAND MISSION OF 1904.

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Oblong folio (9 1⁄2 x 13 1⁄2 in.; 24 x 34.3 cm.). 152 fine
gelatin silver photographs of Lhasa and Tibet, tipped-in
with corner mounts to a modern photograph album,
mostly 4 to a page (each approximately 3 x 4 in.),
numbered in the negative, and captioned in a modern
hand according to Bennett’s original annotations
written in ink on the versos. Binding: modern scarlet
leatherette.

PROVENANCE: John Bain, master to Bennett at
Marlborough, with photocopies of Bennett’s letter to
him dated 1904 enclosing these photographs, and subsequent correspondence between Bain and Bennett’s family dated 1916.

THESE APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOGRAPHS were taken by Bennett during his service with the RGA 7th Mountain Battery during the Younghusband mission of 1904. The first published photographic record of Younghusband s mission to Tibet in 1904 was White’s "Tibet and Lhasa" issued in Calcutta in 1908, although both editions of that book were quickly suppressed in order to protect British interests in the area. Bennett’s photographs, along with White’s which were taken at the same time are important because they are SOME OF THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE UNIQUE LANDSCAPE AND CULTURE OF TIBET. Bennett’s photographs, however, are more personal in nature than those of White, and include images not only of himself and his fellow troops, but also local people, animals and Tibet’s beautiful topography. Moreover, they also record some very sensitive material, revealing the military agenda of the mission: one photograph is captioned "Three Llama prisoners wearing Devil dancing masks that I found in Naini when we went to partially destroy it. May
28th"; another, of a ruin is captioned "What the monastery at Naini looked like when the R.E. had been there an hour or two". Several photographs include the work of the R.E. road-building, supply lines, and official residences.

Bennett sent these images to his old school-master John Bain at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, England, accompanied by personal letters outlining his adventures in Lhasa. A record of their publication has not been found. Bennett’s photographs include: group photograph with fellow officers, Bennett standing left (illustrated); 7th Mountain Battery ascending the Jelap Pass; great military wall across the valley at Yatung; view from hillside of the camp at New Chumbi; Tibetan women bringing in fodder; Wall at Gabong; frozen waterfall at Dotha; Phari (4); Chumolhari Range from Tuna (4-printpanorama); camp at Phari from the fort; camp at Tuna; action at Tuna (7 including guns Bubble and Squeak ready to open fire); Ram Tso Lake (4-print panorama); Gyantse (15 including graves of Lieut. Garstin and Capt. Bethune and lama prisoners returning from work"; Tsechen; Karo La; crossing the Brahmaputra at Chaksam; "The arrival of Yudok Shape & Ta Lama for a durbar at Nargartse"; Pele Jong; 7th Fusiliers entering the gate to Lhasa; Lhasa (20 including meeting of Younghusband and the Amban, street scenes, 2 views of the Tibetans assembed to sign the treaty, The Tongsa Penlop with a lama and Yugan Kazi "our agent with Bhutan"); Sera and Deburg monasteries.

The purported reasons for the 1904 Younghusband mission was to prevent Tibetan encroachment upon "British" territory in Sikkim, to compel the Tibetans to remove a customs post at Giao-gong, and to remove the boundary pillars they had set up along the undisputed watershed between the Tista and the
Ammno Chu. The Tibetans had also ostensibly insulted the treaty rights of the British by building a wall across the only road from Tibet to the market of Yatung, which had been thrown open to trade by the stipulations of the Convention of 1890-93. However, the real but unstated reason for the expedition was to prevent Russia from establishing a foothold in Tibet which might in time threaten India.

Early photographs of Tibet and Lhasa are rare and collections of original photographs taken by members of the Younghusband Expedition, even more so and are generally found only in institutional collections, such as London’s The Royal Geographical Society and The National Army Museum, as well as
Cambridge University Library and the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. # 72lib841