Maurice Collis Collection

We will be offering a private collection of more than 200 Lots from the estate of Maurice Collis, who started collecting when he was in Burma during the 1920s and '30s. He worked as an administrator in the Indian Civil Service for over two decades. This will precede our Oriental sale on April 26th in Fernhurst.


Maurice Collis (1889-1973)

The author and scholar Maurice Collis spent over two decades in the 1920s and ’30s in the Indian Civil Service, working as an administrator in Burma (Myanmar) when it was part of the British Empire.

Collis retired from the Civil Service in 1936 and began his career as a writer. He wrote on south east Asia, China and various historical subjects, including the history of Siam and China, and about the struggle in the late Middle Ages between western countries for sea-power and trade in the east.

He had become very involved with historical research while still in Burma, and in 1941 he published ‘The Great Within’, about Chinese life in the era of the Ming dynasty through to the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty early in the 20th century. Another book, ‘Foreign Mud’, was about the opium trade and the Anglo-Chinese war. In ‘The First Holy One’, Collis wrote about Confucius and the significance of his doctrines to the Chinese people.

While living in Burma, Collis began to collect Chinese ceramics. This began when a gold miner brought him objects discovered near the old city of Tenasserim, not far from where Collis was based in Mergui, in a part of Burma bounded on two sides by Siam. This began his fascination with and research into collecting early Chinese ceramics, an interest that he maintained after returning to Britain. He became an active member of the Oriental Ceramic Society, contributing articles and documenting his research and discoveries.

Collis wrote several noted biographies, including a book about Stamford Raffles, a biography of Lady Astor, and a major biography of the painter, Stanley Spencer. He was also an author of plays, poems, and an extensive writer on art and artists for publications and catalogues. ‘The Journey Up’, a volume of his memoirs, was published in 1970.

Image caption:

A fine large Chinese Ming style Guangxu mark & period porcelain bottle vase, painted in a ‘heaped & piled’ manner with bands of scrolling flower-heads between formal borders, the base with a six-character Guangxu mark, 15.25in high.
Est. £5,000 - £8,000.