Saw this advert today on Ebay for a copy of Thomas Atkinson’s first travel book, Oriental and Western Siberia (1858). It contains a dedication from the author to William Foster White, who at the time was Treasurer of St Bart’s Hospital in London. The seller claims the book is unique in that it contains a signature of the author. In fact, there are at least two other copies of this book that contain a dedication from Atkinson. At £13,000, I can’t help but think that the seller is being a little optimistic on his price.
I am delighted to see that Rugby School has published a tribute to Alatau Atkinson, son of Thomas and Lucy, in the 2018 issue of their magazine, Floreat. Alatau attended the school from 1864-66, following the death of his father, after the Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and others raised more than £200 to pay his fees.
The article was written by Marianne Simpson, a descendant of Lucy Atkinson’s brother, William York Finley. She has previously written an extensive article for this blog on Alatau’s background, which you can find here. Other articles about Alatau on this blog include one about the rhyme sung about him at Rugby, which you can find here.
Asian Affairs, the Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, has just published my article on Thomas and Lucy Atkinson. In this 7,000-word article, Thomas and Lucy Atkinson: Pioneering Explorers of the Steppe, I have made the case for a reassessment of the importance of their travels and their writings.
I argue that their extensive travels over the course of seven years – around 40,000 miles by horse, carriage, raft and sometimes on foot – shone a light on many areas of Central Asia and Siberia that had never been seen by Westerners before. The fact that they travelled as a family group, including their son Alatau, is probably unique in the annals of Western exploration. Thomas’ paintings of the landscapes through which they travelled, together with the portraits he made of nomadic Kazakhs, are a remarkable legacy, rightly treasured in the many museums in which they are held. And Lucy’s wonderful book, Recollections of Tartar Steppes, is one of the earliest genuine travel books every written by a woman.
For those of you who have a subscription to Asian Affairs, you can access the article here. Otherwise, you can read my unedited manuscript as submitted here: Article for Asian Affairs Journal: I would be delighted to hear any comments.