1864 Korn View of Hong Kong Harbor (one of the earliest)

Hong Kong. - Main View

1864 Korn View of Hong Kong Harbor (one of the earliest)


One of the earliest views of Hong Kong.


Hong Kong.
  1864 (undated)     9.75 x 20 in (24.765 x 50.8 cm)


This rare c. 1864 lithograph of Hong Kong Harbor, printed by Wilhelm Korn in Berlin, represents one of the earliest printed views of Hong Kong. The image was drawn during the Eulenburg Expedition, a Prussian attempt to establish trading relations with Siam, China, and Japan. It is also one of the earliest examples of photolithography.
A Closer Look
Oriented roughly towards the southwest, this view looks over Hong Kong Harbor from the shores of Kowloon. Victoria Peak and other large hills dominate the background, while the developed part of the British colony on Hong Kong Island is visible at the center. In the foreground, ships of several types and sizes are illustrated. At right, a group of buildings is depicted on a rocky shoreline, most likely meant to be Lantau Island.

Aside from its content, the view is significant for being an early demonstration of the use of photolithography, which had only been developed five years earlier by John Walter Osborne (1828 - 1902). The drawings made during the Eulenburg Expedition, most of which were by Albert Berg, were lithographed by Korn with the assistance of photography. This process significantly reduced the time and effort required to produce lithographs.
The Eulenburg Expedition
The Eulenburg Expedition of 1859 - 1862, led by Prussian diplomat and statesman Friedrich Albrecht zu Eulenburg (1815 - 1881), was a mission sent by Prussia and the German Customs Union to establish trade ties with Siam, Qing China, and Tokugawa Japan. All three states had recently signed 'Unequal Treaties' with Western powers, usually under threat of or as a result of military action (also known as gunboat diplomacy), and these treaties usually entailed most favored nation clauses, which required any trading rights granted to another country to be granted to the signing nation. Though generally seen as benefitting the (Western) country demanding trading rights, these clauses could be useful in a way to Asian countries since they prevented any single foreign power from becoming too dominant in commercial relations. With Britain unquestionably being the predominant commercial power in the world at the time, additional treaties with other foreign powers could help diminish the risk of a British trading monopoly. Therefore, while such treaties were generally entered into reluctantly by Asian countries, Eulenburg was received somewhat warmly by the host countries and secured treaties with each of them.

It was not all smooth sailing. First, the Prussian fleet was caught in a typhoon off Yokohama, losing one of its three ships. Then, the Dutch-American interpreter who Eulenburg relied on, Henry Heusken, was assassinated by anti-foreign shishi samurai during the negotiations. After leaving Japan, the remainder of the Eulenburg Expedition traveled to Beijing, which had just been seized (and looted) by Britain and France in the Second Opium War (1856 - 1860). The hapless Xianfeng Emperor was in exile and died during treaty negotiations, leaving an uncertain regency to rule over a country devastated by uprisings and foreign invasion. Nevertheless, Eulenburg was able to successfully conclude treaties with Japan, China, and Siam. His expedition was celebrated in Prussia and helped to spur greater interest in East Asia throughout German-speaking lands.
Publication History and Census
This view, most likely drawn by Albert Berg, was lithographed by the Photolithographic Institute of Wilhelm Korn and Co. in Berlin for inclusion in the work Die Preussische Expedition nach Ost-Asian Ansichten aus Japan, China und Siam, published in a small run of 500 in Berlin in 1864. The view is unrecorded in institutional collections and has no known history on the market.


Carl Gotthilf Wilhelm Korn (fl. c. 1850 - 1871), signed simply as 'W. Korn' or later as 'Photolith. Inst. v. W. Korn and Co.', was a lithographer based in Berlin. Little information on his life is available. His firm was seemingly unrelated to the contemporary publisher Ernst and Korn, co-founded by Heinrich Korn (1829 - 1907). More by this mapmaker...


Berg, A. (ed.), Die Preussische Expedition nach Ost-Asian Ansichten aus Japan, China und Siam, (Berlin: K√∂niglichen) 1864.    


Very good. Uneven toning and light foxing in margin.