Catalogue of the papers of Alfred E. Hippisley, 1842-1940

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Margaret Czepiel


Department of Special Collections
Bodleian Library
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Table of Contents

A    Papers of William Frederick Hippisley, Alfred E. Hippisley's uncle, 1842-4
B    Papers of Alfred E. Hippisley, 1864-1940
    B.1  Diary and memoirs
    B.2  Correspondence with Sir Robert Hart, Inspector General of Customs in China, 1864-1908
    B.3  Special correspondence
    B.4  General correspondence
    B.5  Miscellaneous papers

Papers of Alfred E. Hippisley, 1842-1940

Correspondence, diary and memoirs, miscellaneous papers and photographs of Alfred E. Hippisley (1848-1939), British Customs Official in China. Predominantly in English, some Chinese material also present.

Shelfmarks: MSS. Eng. c. 7285-98, e. 3586-7, MSS. Photogr. c. 206-7

Extent: 18 shelfmarks

Biographical History

Alfred Edward Hippisley was born in Clifton, Bristol in 1848, where he attended the Bristol Grammar School. He was offered a scholarship at St. John's, Oxford, but for reasons beyond his control had to reject it. Instead, he went to Paris for a year. In 1885 he married Cornelia Howard, an American, whose grandfather George and great-grandfather John Eager were Governors of Maryland, U.S.A. Their only child, Edward, was born and died in 1889. Alfred E. Hippisley died in London in 1939.

Hippisley started his career in the Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs Service in 1867 and served in various capacities in Peking, Amoy, Canton, Shanghai and elsewhere. In 1875 he was appointed Assistant Statistical Secretary, which raised him to the rank of Deputy Commissioner. In April 1882 he became Commissioner. He also served as Chinese Secretary from May 1882 to May 1885, as Chief Secretary from April 1896 to October 1897, and as Postal Secretary from April 1907 to April 1908. By Imperial decree of 1st October 1901 he was appointed an Assistant Delegate to the Treaty and Tariff Commission. Although a leading candidate for the post of the Inspector General of Customs in China after Sir Robert Hart, he never succeeded him. He resigned from the Customs in 1910.

For his outstanding services, he was made Chevalier of the Order of Francis Joseph of Austria in 1874 and received the orders of Double Dragon and Rising Sun in 1904, Dragon of Annam in 1908 and other awards. Hippisley played an instrumental role in the development of America's "Open Door" policy in China.

Hippisley had many interests beyond his professional work. In June of 1900 he was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple. He was a member of the Hakluyt Society. He is the author of A Sketch of the History of Ceramic Art in China published in 1902. He also collected the material for Some Notes on the Hippisley Family which, edited and extended by Ivan Fitzroy Jones, were published in 1952. His interest in his family roots also demonstrated itself in restoring the Hippisley gravestones in the churchyard at Chewton Mendip.

Scope and Content

A great proportion of the collection encompasses business correspondence between A.E. Hippisley and Sir Robert Hart. Exchanges of letters with other Customs Officers are complemented by various official and semi-official documents. Some of Hippisley's publications figure in draft and printed versions. There are also many press cuttings. The collection includes Hippisley's diary and memoirs covering the years 1848-1902. Private papers also include several items connected with his uncle William Frederick. There are photographs of Hippisley's friends and British and Chinese officials, as well as pictures from his trips to Macao, Japan and India.

Separated Material

Chinese ink squeezes of the four most famous Song dynasty stelae in Suzhou: the map of China (Zhuilitu 墜理圖) Sinica 6013, the astronomical chart (Tianwentu 天文圖) Sinica 6014, the chronological table of emperors (Diwang shaoyun tu 帝王紹運圖) Sinica 6015, and the map of Suzhou (Pingjiangtu 平江圖) Sinica 6016.

In 1936, Hippisley presented the Bodleian Library with a 20-volume manuscript of Wuli tongkao 五禮通考 (A comprehensive examination of the Five Rituals), copied from its published version of 1763. The manuscript is described in the Bodleian's Chinese allegro catalogue, MS.Chin.d.67.


The papers were given to the Bodleian Library in 1988 by Miss Doris Wright, a friend of Evelyn Hippisley, Alfred E. Hippisley's niece.

Preferred Form of Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Library [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. e. 3586, fols. 1-2].

Related Material

For further information about the Chinese Customs see the Chinese Maritime Customs Project of the University of Bristol.

See also Papers relating to the Chinese Maritime Customs 1860-1943 in the Library of the School of Oriental & African Studies, London : SOAS, 1973. Bodleian shelfmark 258774 e.14.

Personal names (NCA Rules)

Hart | Sir | Robert | 1835-1911 | 1st Baronet | Inspector General of Customs in China
Hippisley | Alfred Edward | 1848-1939 | Chinese Customs Official
Hippisley | William Frederick | fl 1820-1844
Rockhill | William Woodville | 1854-1914

Corporate names (NCA Rules)

Chinese Maritime Customs

Place names (NCA Rules)


Subjects (LCSH)

China--Hai guan zong shui wu si shu
China--History--Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901
Customs administration--China
Eastern question (Far East)
International trade--China

A   Papers of William Frederick Hippisley, Alfred E. Hippisley's uncle, 1842-4

Shelfmarks: MSS. Eng. e. 3586-7

Journal and letters of William Frederick Hippisley on voyage to, and after arrival in Nelson, New Zealand1842-4
Shelfmark: MSS. Eng. e. 3586-7

Extent: 2 volumes, 80 and 38 leaves respectively
Binding: 1st volume, red goatskin with blind border, single brass clasp and marbled edges. 2nd volume, soft, red roan with marbled edges.

Scope and Content:
  • (MS. Eng. e. 3586) 'Journal kept by Wm. F. Hippisley on the voyage to Nelson, New Zealand 1842', 30 Apr. 1842-14 Sep. 1844
  • (MS. Eng. e. 3587) 'Letters written by Wm. F. Hippisley to his friends [really relatives] in England on voyage to, and after arrival in Nelson, New Zealand 1842', 1 May 1842-18 Dec. 1842
Separated Material: 'Inventory of writings [etc.] belonging to the Estate of William Frederick Hippisley' is in a guard-book, MS. Eng c. 7065, fol. 139.

B   Papers of Alfred E. Hippisley, 1864-1940

B.1   Diary and memoirs

Shelfmarks: MS. Eng. c. 7285-7

Diary, 1898-1905
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7285

Extent: 156 leaves

Memoirs for the years 1848-95
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7286

Extent: 370 leaves

Memoirs for the years 1896-1902
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7287

Extent: 356 leaves

B.2   Correspondence with Sir Robert Hart, Inspector General of Customs in China, 1864-1908

Shelfmarks: MS. Eng. c. 7288-90

Related Material:

Further Hart papers can be found in MSS Eng. lett. c. 304, d. 319-27, e. 124-7 and MSS. Eng. misc. b. 108-9 and c. 530-1, described in Mary Clapinson and T. D. Rogers, Summary catalogue of post-medieval western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford: acquisitions 1916-1975 (Oxford, 1991), vol. I, p. 338-9.

Correspondence, 1864-89
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7288

Extent: 230 leaves

Scope and Content:

References provided for Hippisley by his school teachers followed by business correspondence relating mainly to Hippisley's duties and career progress.

Correspondence, 1890-6
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7289

Extent: 268 leaves

Scope and Content:

Business correspondence between A. Hippisley and Sir R. Hart or his private secretaries. Points of interest: smuggling of opium and opening of inland waters to steam navigation.

Correspondence, 1897-1908
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7290

Extent: 215 leaves

Scope and Content:

Business correspondence between A. Hippisley and Sir R. Hart. Includes copious notes on topics discussed, mainly concerning tariff revision. The "Open Door" and " rebellion" material (below) is extracted from this sequence.

B.3   Special correspondence

Shelfmarks: MS. Eng. c. 7291-3

Foreign matters, 1873-99
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7291

Extent: 71 leaves

Scope and Content:

Material relating to international exhibitions, foreign policy and customs.

"Open Door" policy, 1899-1900
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7292

Extent: 139 leaves

Scope and Content:

Correspondence with William W. Rockhill and John Hay. Includes printed 'Correspondence concerning American commercial rights in China' addressed to the governments of France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia (via their respective ambassadors) with translations where appropriate.

'Peking siege. How it affected A.E.H. 1900', 1900-2
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7293

Extent: 301 leaves

Scope and Content:

Material relating to the "Boxer rebellion".

B.4   General correspondence

Shelfmarks: MS. Eng. c. 7294-5

Correspondence, 1903-9
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7294

Extent: 212 leaves

Scope and Content:

Mainly relates to the German treaty of 1905.

Correspondence, 1910-40
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7295

Extent: 185 leaves

Scope and Content:

Includes extensive notes on historical and current events in China; also correspondence with Prof. A. Whitney Griswold, author of "The Far Eastern policy of the United States", 1938.

B.5   Miscellaneous papers

Shelfmarks: MS. Eng. c. 7296-9

Separated Material: 'Sketch map of Manchuria and Chihli [...]' is now in a guard-book, MS. Eng c. 7065, fol. 138.

Publications, 1890-1915
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7296

Extent: 178 leaves

Scope and Content:


  • National education in China, n.d.
  • A catalogue of the Hippisley collection of Chinese porcelains, with a sketch of the history of ceramic art in China, 1890 (2 copies, both annotated)
  • Proposal to develop trade and improve commercial relations ..., 1901
  • The revenue system of China, 1901 (proof sheets and abstract from 'Johns Hopkins University Circulars')
  • Treaty of commerce and navigation, 1903
  • The Chinese revolution: present conditions and future outlook, 1912
  • 'Obituary notice. William Woodville Rockhill. By Alfred E. Hippisley'. JRAS, 1915

Notes, 1884-1920
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7297

Extent: 247 leaves

Scope and Content:

Historical material, including notes on

  • (fols. 1-24) China from 1522 to 1875, with emphasis on foreign relations
  • (fols. 28-45) Macao between 1868-1917
  • (fols. 46-54) diplomacy of Sir (Samuel) Halliday Macartney
  • (fols. 55-8) Burma issue, 1886 and Sino-Burman Convention of 1894
  • (fols. 70-83) Sino-Japanese war (1894-5)
  • (fols. 100-12) Cassini Convention of 1896
  • (fols. 130-3) Dismissal of Yuan Shih-kai in 1909
  • (fols. 135-9) Outbreak of the First World War

Notes relating to Chinese Customs, including

  • (fols. 146-85) 'Mr. Hippisley's interviews with Yamên [ Tsungli Yamen, China's office for foreign affairs. Peking], July-August 1884'
  • (fols. 196-200) reports on A.E. Hippisley's meetings with Li Hung-chang in 1896
  • (fols. 220-30) Customs Inspector General's reform proposals

with (fols. 231-47) miscellaneous drafts and notes complementing Hippisley's memoirs

Typescripts, 1899-1925
Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7298

Extent: 219 leaves

Scope and Content:


  • (fols. 1-30) typed transcript of the correspondence between A.E. Hippisley and W.W. Rockhill concerning the "Open door" policy
  • (fols. 31-219) lectures, articles and letters to editors

Shelfmark: MSS. Photogr. c. 206-7

Extent: 35 and 44 leaves respectively

Scope and Content:


  • (item 1) photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Hippisley, their friends and various Chinese officials
  • (item 2) photographs (grouped geographically) covering places visited by Hippisley in China, Macao, Japan and India.

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
20 February 2013