The official launch of my new book, Travellers in the Great Steppe: from the Papal Envoys to the Russian Revolution (Signal Books, Oxford), originally scheduled for 1st July, is now due to take place on Wednesday 23rd September at the RGS in London. It is likely to be what is now referred to as a ‘hybrid’ event ie myself and a few guests will gather together – socially distanced, of course – and broadcast the event to anyone who cares to watch. Please watch this space for further details. Copies of the book should be available from bookstores and Amazon before that date.
An interesting first edition copy of Lucy Atkinson’s book, Recollections of Tartar Steppes and their Inhabitants, is presently on sale on Ebay. Priced at an eye-watering £1,320 – only 700 copies were printed, so this is not so outrageous for a copy in good condition – it was once owned by Elisabeth Wellesley, the Duchess of Wellington (1820-1904). On the front endpaper it is inscribed ‘To her Grace the Duchess of Wellington’ and dated March 15 1863 – shortly after the book was published. The likelihood is that Lucy gave the book to the Duchess directly, although I have not been able to see the inscription and compare it with known examples of her handwriting.
Elisabeth, Duchess of Wellington, was the wife of the second Duke, Lord Douro, who succeeded his father in 1852, although the arranged marriage was not a happy one and there were no children. She served as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria from 1861 to 1868, and again from 1874 to 1880.
At some point, the book was passed on to Hersham Village Hall Company Limited and the library of Hersham Working Mens Club, close to her home at Burhill Park near Walton on Thames, Surrey. A rare book, it remains a classic of nineteenth century women’s travel literature and is almost certainly the first serious travel book written by an Englishwoman.