1910. Large Oblong Folio album ca. 32,5x46 cm (12 ¾ x 18 ¼ in). 60 stiff card album leaves (17 blank). With 148 mounted gelatin silver photos of various size, including four large images from ca. 27x35,5 cm (10 ¾ x 14 in) to ca. 21x28 cm (8 ¼ x 11 in) and a dozen panoramas from ca. 8x28,5 cm (3 x 11 ¼ in) to ca. 5x17,5 cm (2 x 6 ¾ in); the other photos are from ca. 17,5x23 cm (6 ¾ x 9 in) to ca. 5,5x10 cm (2 ¼ x 3 ¾ in). One photo with a caption in negative (in German), five photos numbered in negative. With five loosely inserted period paper leaves with manuscript ink captions in French, identifying all photos (some captions relate to several images). Album leaves are numbered in pencil in the right upper corners. Period dark brown half morocco with black pebbled cloth boards; gilt-lettered titles on the front board and the spine; moiré endpapers. Spine neatly repaired on hinges, a few photos mildly faded or with mild silvering, but overall a very good album of interesting photographs.
Historically significant, well-annotated collection of early original photos, taken and collected by Belgian industrialist and politician Paul Lippens during his travel to the Galang Island (Riau Archipelago south of Singapore) in Dutch East Indies, modern-day Indonesia. Lippens went on a trip in 1910, most likely to manage operations of the newly-formed “Galang Besar Rubber Plantations Ltd.” A joined Dutch-British enterprise based in London, the company was created the same year (1910) on the basis of Dutch “Galang Exploitatie Maatschappij,” of which Lippens was an administrator. After the incorporation of “Galang Besar Rubber Plantations Ltd.,” he became one of its directors (Galang Besar Rubber Plantations// The Economist, June 11, 1910, p. v.). The trip was apparently undertaken to access the actives of the new company on the Galang Island and to supervise its main operations. “Galang Besar Rubber Plantations Ltd.” continued working on the island for over thirty years and was liquidated in May 1942, shortly after the Dutch East Indies were occupied by Japan in the course of WW2 (Rubber Co. to wind up// The Daily Telegraph, 30 May 1942, p. 2).
As follows from the album photos, Lippens and his wife Suzanne (née Orban, 1887-1971) took an ocean steamer from Europe to Penang and either drove a car or went by a train of the Malay State Railways on the route to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. From there, they travelled by sea to Galang Island, where they remained for some time, and then visited tea and rubber plantations on Java and Sumatra, possibly on the way back to Belgium. The album opens with eighteen photos documenting Lippens’ voyage from Europe to British Malaya, with portraits of his travel companions, scenes on board the ocean steamer and several views of ports visited on the way (including four streets scenes of Aden).
Over thirty photos were taken in the territories of the Federated Malay States and the Straits Settlements (the Malay Peninsula, Penang and Singapore). Among them are five photos of Penang, showing its port and waterfront, with the distinctive building of the terminus of the Malay State Railways. Two excellent panoramas show Kuala Lumpur (a general view taken from above and a closer view of British Government Offices, now Sultan Abdul Samad Building). There are also views of Kuala Lumpur’s botanical gardens and “omnibus automobiles,” the road from Kuala Lumpur leading south, with the travellers’ cars, Seremban (hotel and Malay State Railways station), and Singapore streets. Six photos, including a beautiful large image, depict tin mining operations, most likely near Perak, showing working dredges, an open-pit mine, a native tin panner, colonial supervisors, &c. Nine photos show Lippens and his wife visiting an hevea tree plantation and processing facility.
About twenty-five photos in the album (leaves numbered by the compiler from 15 to 20) show hevea tree plantations and facilities of the “Galang Besar Rubber Plantations Ltd.” According to the compiler’s manuscript captions provided on five separate paper leaves, three photos depict Galang Island from the sea and its landing pier. There are also numerous views of Galang plantations of hevea trees (including two excellent large images) - areas of cleared forest and newly-planted hevea, the main plantation mansion, hospital, “habitations of coolies,” “habitation of an assistant,” portraits of native workers, European planters and their families, scenes of harvesting rubber from hevea trees, &c.
About twenty-nine images (leaves numbered by the compiler from 21 to 31) illustrate the Lippens couple’s trip to Java. The photos include five large studio views of the Borobudur temple and a snapshot with the travellers posing on the temple grounds, two large photos of a volcano “in the east of Java” with the lake in the caldera, views of Bantam (Banten), Soerabaya (Surabaya), local villages, a tea plantation, portraits of the travellers and their car, native people, &c.
Over thirty images on the last ten leaves of the album illustrate Lippens’ visit to a rubber plantation in northern Sumatra. According to the captions, it was the “Bruxelles Estate” – a property of the “Sumatra Caoutchouc Maatschappij” in the Laboean Batoe district (modern-day Labuhanbatu Regency of North Sumatra), founded in 1907. The photos show newly-planted hevea trees on the site of burned forest and grown trees (with the telephone poles in the foreground), the village of Panek/Labouan Belik (Labuhanbilik) – “it is here that you leave the steamer to take the canoe which will take you to the plantation,” a prison for “coolies” in Panek, the Bruxelles Estate grounds (house of the managing director G.O. Krebs and a group portrait of the Lippens and the Krebs couples, hospital for “coolies”), Merbau River, native villages, dancers, a hunter with a killed crocodile, a ship’s cook, Dutch colonial residents on a tapioca plantation, &c. The album also contains four street views of Medan, then a major port and trade centre in northern Sumatra.
Overall an important collection of early photos of rubber plantations on the Indonesian Riau archipelago, Malay peninsula and in northern Sumatra, as well as interesting original images of Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian tin mining, Singapore, Seremban, &c.
Paul Lippens belonged to an influential family of Belgian liberal politicians from Ghent. His father, Hyppolite Lippens (1847-1906), was the mayor of Ghent (1882-95), a member of the local parliament and a senator for the liberal party. Paul’s elder brother Maurice Lippens (1875-1956) served as the governor of Belgian East Flanders province (1919-21), Governor-General of the Belgian Congo (1921-23) and President of the Belgian Senate (1934-36). Apart from his work in the Dutch East Indies rubber industry, Lippens was the leader of the liberal party in Ghent and became a shareholder of “Compagnie Commerciale et Agricole d’Alimentation du Bas-Congo” (Journal officiel de l’Afrique équatoriale française, 15 février 1912, p. 112). He died in 1915 after being wounded in a WW1 military engagement on the Yser River.