AN IMPORTANT AND APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED SERIES OF GELATIN SILVER PHOTOGRAPHS OF LHASA AND TIBET TAKEN DURING THE CELEBRATED YOUNGHUSBAND MISSION OF 1904
BENNETT, Lieut William Pyt (died 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 AN IMPORTANT AND APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED SERIES OF GELATIN SILVER PHOTOGRAPHS OF LHASA AND TIBET TAKEN DURING THE CELEBRATED YOUNGHUSBAND MISSION OF 1904.
Oblong folio (9 4/8 x 13 4/8 inches). 152 fine APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED gelatin silver photographs of Lhasa and Tibet, taken by Bennett during his service with the RGA 7th Mountain Battery during the Younghusband mission of 1904, tipped-in with corner mounts to a modern photograph album, mostly 4 to a page (each ca 3 x 4), numbered in the negative, and captioned in a modern hand according to Bennett’s original annotations written in ink on the versos. 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.
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, TAKEN AT THE SAME TIME AS WHITE’S, AND WHICH RECORD HIS SERVICE IN LHASA AND TIBET, AS PART OF THE SAME MISSION, ARE AS IMPORTANT IN BEING SOME OF THE FIRST IMAGES OF THAT HITHERTO UNKNOWN LANDSCAPE AND CULTURE. Bennett’s photographs, are more personal in nature than White’s photographs, and include images of himself and his fellow troops, but also local people, animals and some staggeringly beautiful topography.
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. WE CANNOT FIND A RECORD OF THEIR PUBLICATION.
The ostensible reason for Younghusband’s 1904 mission was to prevent Tibetan encroachment upon "British" territory in Sikkim, to compel the Tibetans to remove a customs post at Giao-gong, and remove 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. The real but unstated reason for the expedition was to prevent Russia from establishing a foothold in Tibet which might in time threaten India. 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-print panorama); 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); "What the monastery at Naini looked like when the the R.E. had been there for an hour or two"; 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. Early photographs of Tibet and Lhasa are rare and collections of original photographs taken by members of Younghusband's expedition even more so. Virtually all such collections are now found in institutional collections. The Royal Geographical Society in London possesses only one volume of original photographs of the Younghusband Tibet expedition, as above; The National Army Museum in London holds one album of photographs of The Tibet expedition, also by Major Ray. No other photographs by Major Ray have been traced in any other institution. Cambridge University Library holds the photograph album of E.C. Cooper Walsh and Sir Francis Younghusband's own photographs of the expedition are held by the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. The only comparable album of photographs to have appeared in recent years was the album of Lt. Col. Prendergast Manson, sold at Sotheby's, 10 May 2001, lot 315, for £30,550.