James Low In Thailand and Burma

Within the RAS Art Collections are a series of pictures created both by James Low and a Chinese or Thai artist, Boon Khan. They are pencil, pen-and-ink, and watercolour drawings depicting scenes from Thailand and Burma. Within the Head catalogue describing the RAS Collections, Raymond Head describes how these pictures were intended for James Low’s “History of Tennasserim” some sections of which were published within the Journal of the RAS between 1835 and 1838. However, Head suggests, few of the pictures were actually used. Here are a sample of them:

Low collection 027.002

          View on the Tavoy River, c.1825


Low collection 027.001

The monastery at Maendat on the south bank of the Taung Byaup river 1825

Low collection 027.003 & 004

Me Sa Taung on the Salween river and a View on the Salween river, both c.1830

Low collection 027.015

Two men from Thaumpe, Shan Province c.1830

Low collection 027.016

A man and woman from Tennasserim, c.1830

Low collection 027.018

The Nang Rang Temple, Laos, c.1830  

 As I opened the box of pictures to photograph them to illustrate this blog I discovered a manuscript. This was one I hadn’t previously listed or known of its existence. It is the “Journal of a Mission to some of the Lower Provinces of Siam by Lt. Col. James Low in 1824”, a handwritten document, with many changes, crossings-out and other annotations presumably written by Low himself as he went on this early journey to Siam. Here are some of the pages:

James Low 002

 James Low 004
James Low 005


His title page is a good example of how rough a draft is this version of his Journal:

James Low 001

James Low 002



His original title is crossed out and reworded and a further note has been appended to be inserted into the text. . Within the report we learn, among other things, about his commission, his travels by boat, the weather conditions, geological formations, towns and customs, all told through daily entries. It would be fascinating to have the whole document transcribed. (Any volunteers?) It appears from searching on the Internet that Anthony Farrington produced an edition of Low’s Mission to Southern Siam, 1824″ in 2007 but, as yet, I have been unable to determine whether this is taken from this document or from another one. I have now cleaned, repackaged and put this document with the other early RAS Archives.
It would appear from the Annual Report of the RAS for 1835 that this is not the only manuscript that Low donated to the Society. He also donated “a voluminous manuscript account of Tennasserim, drawn up by himself during his residence in that country”. This is the manuscript to which the pictures belong. Here’s hoping that as I continue to sort our Archives that this manuscript will also come to light.
Written by Nancy Charley