In the Introduction to our scholarly translation of Raquez’s Pages Laotiennes (available here), we bring up a mystery regarding the illustrations. An image in Pages Laotiennes appears to have been taken moments apart from a similar image in another book.
The second image comes from Empire Colonial de la France: L’Indo-Chine: Cochinchine, Cambodge, Laos, Annam, Tonkin, published in Paris in 1901. The author of L’Indo-Chine was Jules Gervais-Courtellemont (1863–1931), a well-known explorer and photographer. He converted to Islam and in 1894 was one of the first Western men to openly visit and photograph Mecca. He would later pioneer the use of color photography using a technique known as Autochrome as early as 1908, an endeavor for which he is now mostly remembered. L’Indo-Chine unambiguously states that “Illustrations, direct from nature, were taken by Mr. Gervais Courtellemont.”
In our Introduction we speculate that the publisher of Pages Laotiennes, F. H. Schneider, got his hands on Gervais-Courtellemont’s pictures and printed them with or without the photographer’s permission. This possibility is strengthened by the fact that several other pictures appear in Pages Laotiennes that were later printed as postcards without attribution to Raquez. For instance, the image of the Lue women that appears in Pages Laotiennes that mirrors the image from L’Indo-Chine was later printed as a postcard by the Saigon-based Mottet et Cie but not credited to Raquez (his other postcards and photographs carry the imprint of either “Collection Raquez” or “Cliché Raquez”).
So far so good…but what we don’t discuss in our Introduction are the other parallel images in Pages Laotiennes and L’Indo-Chine. The situation may be more complex than it appears.
Here is the image from page 391 of Pages Laotiennes:
Raquez claims to have met this group in Xieng Khouang and he describes them in detail on the same page on which the image appears, including details that closely match the clothing. “A group of ladies includes a Phuan woman as full of spirit as a schoolgirl on leave, a Phu Thang in a wide turban falling back over one ear, Laotian ladies from Luang Prabang, even a Lue woman, her waist held tight in a smart jacket of apple green velvet and embroidered armbands around her biceps. Being the good little mothers that they are, they pamper big chubby babies, smothering them in caresses.” The caption reads “Young Lue, Phuan, Phu Thang Women and Girls.”
And here is the same group of women and children in a slightly different arrangement from page 101 of L’Indo-Chine:
The caption on the page reads “Femmes de Luang-Prabang,” but in the table of illustrations, the caption reads “Phou Tai and Lue Women – Luang-Prabang.”
Given Raquez’s description, either he was writing from the photograph or his photograph was used without credit in L’Indo-Chine. Without access to the records of the individual publishing houses, we are left only with conjecture, but there are other parallel images between the two books, and the sheer number of instances is provocative. Here are some more:
The market at Luang Prabang in Pages Laotiennes…
Are these the same men in this image of the same market from L’Indo-Chine?
And here is the same Lue girl in both books. From Pages Laotiennes…
And from L’Indo-Chine…
Any and all comments on this conundrum are welcome!
Check out this excerpt from In the Land of Pagodas published in NeeHao magazine. It features a great section from our translation of Alfred Raquez’s first book: his description of a sumptuous dinner on a flower boat in Canton in 1898.
Then buy the book here: http://www.niaspress.dk/books/land-pagodas
My pal and fellow Monsoon Books author Rosie Milne runs a nifty blog called Asian Books and she was kind enough to post this puff piece about my scholarly translation with Paul Bruthiaux of Alfred Raquez’s travelogue In the Land of Pagodas which was recently published by NIAS Press.
Check it out and support Rosie’s blog…then buy a copy and support me!
After a brief delay, NIAS Press is now pressing print on our translation of Alfred Raquez’s first book, In the Land of Pagodas, his travel account through China in 1898/99.
NIAS did a beautiful job putting this book together. It looks gorgeous! It will be available from 29 February.
You can learn more and pre-order your copy here: http://www.niaspress.dk/books/land-pagodas
Paul and I are already well into our translation of Raquez’s second book, Pages Laotiennes, an account of his trip through Laos in 1899/1900. That should be in print in about a year.
So our manuscript of our scholarly translation of Alfred Raquez’s first book, Au Pays des Pagodes, has been sent to NIAS Press and we’re moving into the later stages of production: copyediting, proofing, indexing, etc.
The cover is also coming together. Local comic book artist and our good friend Sheila designed two layouts for the cover image, and we are happy to announce that the Press has chosen the red image for the book cover!
Here is the alternate cover…
I like them both and I’m happy that I didn’t have to make the final decision (ignore the text, it’s placeholder for design).
I’m pleased that NIAS has agreed that we should also translate Raquez’s second travel book, Pages Laotiennes (Laotian Pages), and hopefully Shelia will also design the cover for that book as well. That translation is due out toward the end of 2017.
Stay tuned for more info as In the Land of Pagodas takes final shape…it should be available by December this year!