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Granite Crags (1884) by Constance Gordon-Cumming

[Additional illustrations not published in Granite Crags]

About the Author

Lady Gordon-Cumming, 1893, by Herbert Rose Barrund 1845-1896 (NPG)
Lady Gordon-Cumming, 1893
by Herbert Rose Barrund
(National Portrait Gallery)
Lady Constance Frederica “Eka” Gordon-Cumming was born May 26, 1837 at Altyre, Scotland, the 12th child of a wealthy family. Her parents were Sir William Gordon Cumming and Elizabeth Maria (Campbell) Cumming. She grew up in Northumberland and was educated at Fulham in London. She taught herself how to paint, and had help from artists visiting her home, including one of Queen Victoria’s favorite painters, Sir Edwin Landseer. She was a prolific travel writer and landscape painter who often traveled alone, mostly in Asia and the Pacific. Places she visited include Australia, New Zealand, America, Hawaii, China, and Japan. Her best known books are At Home in Fiji (1881) and A Lady’s Cruise on a French Man-of-War (1882).

Lady Gordon-Cumming visited Yosemite in April 1878, after visiting Tahiti. She intended to visit for three days, but ended up staying three months. She says “I for one have wandered far enough over the wide world to know a unique glory when I am blessed by the sight of one . . .” She published her letters back home as Granite Crags in 1884.

While in Yosemite Miss Gordon-Cumming drew watercolor sketches, which she displayed in Yosemite Valley—making it first art exhibition in Yosemite. Her surviving sketches are in Oakland Museum of California and Yosemite Museum (the latter is closed to the public).

In the late 1890s Miss Gordon-Cumming became interested in the education of blind Chinese. She invented a system where all 408 Chinese Mandarin sounds (not characters) were assigned a number, which was encoded in Braille. This allowed both blind and illiterate Chinese to read phonetically.

In old age Lady Gordon-Cumming returned home in Scotland. She died September 4, 1924.

Bibliographical Information

Gordon Cumming, Constance Frederica (Lady Gordon-Cumming) (1837-1924), Granite Crags (Edinburg & London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1884). Illustrated. viii + 384 pp. + ads (24 pp.). 8 photogravure illustrated plates by T & R Annan, including frontispiece. Folded map. 21 cm. Pictorial blue cloth cover stamped in white and black; spine gilt lettered. LCCN rc 01000849. Library of Congress call number F866.G66. Bibliographies: Cowan (II), p. 152, Currey & Kruska 128, Farquhar 17b, Rocq. 5191.

Granite Crags generally uses British pounds, at the exchange rate of £1 (1 sovereign) = $5 U.S. The term Anglo-Indian generally refers to people of British descent born in India, and sometimes their parents.

Granite Crags was reprinted as Granite Crags of California in 1886 and 1888. The first edition, Granite Crags (1884), is used here. The American Memory Project of the Library of Congress has the first and second editions of this book available. The text in both editions appear to be the same. The first (1884) edition has two additional illustrations (opp. pp. 168 & 176), minor differences in front matter, and change of title. The first edition is also rare.

Digitized by Dan Anderson, July 2005, from a copy in American Memory, Library of Congress. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice is left intact.
    —Dan Anderson, www.yosemite.ca.us

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