Letterbook, Vol I

Archive Unit

Scope and Content

"A Correspondence between the Revd Robert Morrison of Canton in China and Mr Thomas Fisher of no 6 Gloster Terrace, Hoxton, Middlesex, commencing while Doctor Morrison was in England in the year 1824 and continued till 1832. Vol I". Largely comprising copy letters from Fisher to Morrison in Canton, and Morrison's replies. Also includes correspondence between Fisher and John Robert Morrison. Fisher was appointed as one of Morrison's attornies, but also appears to have been a friend who represented Morrison's personal interests in his absence overseas. Their correspondence relates both to current affairs in England and Morrison's work and life in China. In addition to personal and family news, subjects addressed (not exclusively) include lithography and Morrison's lithographic press, Morrison's Language Institution and his Chinese Library, the Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca and the operations of the East India Company in Canton.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Fisher (1772-1836) was given employment by the East India Company at East India House, Leadenhall Street, in the City of London, at the age of fourteen. In 1789 he was appointed as an extra clerk. In 1814 he was appointed to arrange, preserve and produce the records arriving from India and those prepared in the Examiner's Department, and in 1816 he was placed in the newly created post of Searcher of the Records. The post was abolished in 1834 and he retired from service. Fisher was also an artist, best known for his scale drawings, which recorded interior church monuments. He was one of the first to advocate the use of lithography, or 'polyautography' as it was then called in Britain; he wrote articles for the Gentleman's Magazine in 1808 and 1815 on its advantages and development. He was possibly the first to reproduce a non-Latin script by this means, when he published in June 1807 a drawing of the Babylonian characters found on the Hillah stone in the East India Company's museum. Fisher assembled an important collection of early examples of lithography and continued to experiment with the process, occasionally supplying prints to illustrate books and publishing his own. Fisher's religious beliefs were nonconformist. He was an editor for the Congregational Magazine and a director of the London Missionary Society. He was a strong supporter of the campaign to abolish slavery in the British colonies, writing a publishing a pamphlet for children, 'The Negro's Memorial', or, Abolitionist's Catechism, 1825 (copies in the Council for World Mission Library at SOAS, refs: CWML G449 and CWML O279). Fisher never married and lived for most of his life with his sister in the Hoxton district of Shoreditch, London, at 163 Hoxton Street from at least 1804 until about 1820, and then at 6 Gloucester Terrace. [Source: DNB]

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