I have recently obtained a copy of Gothic Ornaments, the book Thomas Atkinson published in 1829 when he was working as an architect in London. This book contains no text, just very well executed lithographs of drawings of stonework from churches and Cathedrals across England. (In July 2016 I wrote about another copy of the book I had found that contained about half the original illustrations. You can find that article here).
Many of the lithographs were published in collaboration with another architect, Charles Atkinson (no relation) and both their names were on the original title page. However, Thomas and Charles appear to have parted company, as this version of the book, dated 1829, has a different title page and only bears the name of Thomas Atkinson, as the sole author. It contains 45 of the 48 plates that made up the original. The plates were issued on a monthly basis, two at a time, so that buyers could stagger the cost of purchase.
What is also interesting is that this edition of the book contains a dedication written in Atkinson’s clearly identifiable handwriting. It says “To Mr John Wallis with the author’s sincere respects, 2nd May 1834.”
I am not yet certain about the identify of John Wallis, but there is a possible candidate. There was a London publisher, bookseller and printmaker of this name, whose Royal Marine Library and reading room in Sidmouth, Devon, is commemmorated with a blue plaque. He was an associate of R Ackerman of The Strand and very active in the 1820s. He was also famous for publishing views of Sidmouth and the buildings in the area, some of which were in the neo-Gothic style championed by Atkinson. Any further information would be gratefully received.
If you would like to listen to a recording of the talk I gave recently at the Royal Geographical Society in London about the diaries of Thomas Atkinson, you can do so here.
My purpose in this talk was to highlight some of the findings I have made in the last few years as I have transcribed Atkinson’s diaries. These diaries cover the years 1847 until 1853. Unlike either of Atkinson’s two books, the diaries make extensive reference to both Lucy Atkinson and also to his son Alatau, born in what is now south-eastern Kazakhstan in November 1848.
They also contain descriptions of many incidents not mentioned in the books, including one occasion when Lucy was almost swept away in a fast torrent in the Altai Mountains. I have not been able to add the slides I used to illustrate the talk, but you should be able to understand most of the narrative. I hope to be able to publish the diary transcripts before long.
Many thanks to RGS Librarian Eugene Rae for organising this talk and also for taking the pictures of the diaries used to illustrate it. The pictures are under the copyright of the RGS.
Amongst the many less well-known explorers of the Central Asian steppelands, few were quite so intrepid as William Bateson, a Cambridge scientist who spent months alone in the late 1880s searching for fossilised snails in the many large lakes that can be found scattered across what is today northern Kazakhstan.
I recently took the opportunity to read through Bateson’s diaries, held by Cambridge University Library, and was delighted to find that Bateson was an inveterate note-taker – and photographer. The University Library has now published a short article I have written about Bateson and his importance to the history of Central Asian exploration. You can find the article here.
On Monday 13th May I will be giving a talk at the Royal Geographical Society in London on my work transcribing Thomas Atkinson’s diaries. “Be Inspired – Transcribing the Atkinson Diaries” will take place at RGS headquarters at 1 Kensington Gore, SW7 2AR and starts at 14.30. Having spent the last couple of years travelling regularly to the RGS to work on these remarkable diaries, I will have a lot of fascinating information to share. Atkinson’s diaries cast new light on his relationship with his wife Lucy and provide details of their travels that cannot be found in their books. Click on the link above to book a ticket.