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Van Braam Houckgeest, Andreas Everardus (01 November 1739–08 July 1801), diplomat, art collector, and author of the first book about China by an American, was born in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands, the son of François Thomas van Braam and Evardina Catherina van Nijmegen. After a brief term in the Dutch navy, he entered the service of the Dutch East India Company in December 1758 on a voyage to China. In 1763 he married Catharina C. G. van Reede van Oudtshoorn, a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, adding at that time Houckgeest to his name in honor of a line of artists on his mother’s side. Apart from two short voyages to Europe, he remained in Canton and Macao until 1773, when he returned to the Netherlands and established himself as a gentleman farmer in the province of Gelderland....

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Vincent, Frank (02 April 1848–19 June 1916), world traveler, author, and collector, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Frank Vincent, a wealthy dry goods merchant, and Harriet Barns. Vincent grew up on the family estate at Tarrytown-on-the-Hudson and attended Peekskill Military Academy. In 1866 he entered Yale College and completed two terms before having to leave because of health problems. He returned the following year, but ill health again forced him to discontinue his studies. While at Yale, he vowed to see the world and to write about its more obscure regions. He subsequently spent more than forty years fulfilling that vow....