I am delighted to say that the first edition copy of Lucy Atkinson’s book, Recollections of Tartar Steppes and their Inhabitants, that was for sale on Ebay for £1,320, has now been sold to one of her descendants.
The book contains a fascinating inscription. It says “To her Grace, the Duchess of Wellington, from Rod. I. Murchison, 15 March 1863”. This is clearly Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, who was President of the Royal Geographical Society for many years, including from 1862 until his death in 1871. He was the most important geographer of his generation and many natural features around the world – and one on the moon – are named after him.
Murchison was a great supporter of the Atkinsons and after Thomas died in August 1860 he organised a public subscription fund to raise money for their child Alatau’s education. The fund raised around £300, which enabled Alatau to attend Rugby School. Murchison pointedly supported Lucy even after Thomas’ bigamy became public knowledge. He clearly obtained this copy of her book very soon after it was published at the beginning of 1863 and presented it to one of the grandest ladies in the land.
I have recently identified a previously unrecorded American edition of Thomas Atkinson’s first book of travel, Oriental and Western Siberia. This is a subject I have written about several times before. In October 2018 I wrote about the early editions published in America by Harper Brothers, J W Bradley of Philadelphia and John E Potter, also of Philadelphia. Then in December last year I came across a deluxe edition, also published by Potter, possibly in about 1870 – WorldCat says 1885. The Potter company bought the assets of J W Bradley in 1867.
The newly-discovered edition was published by The Keystone Publishing Company, also of Philadelphia, but published later, possibly in 1890. It is not listed on WorldCat. Just as John E Potter had bought out J W Bradley, so in 1889 Keystone bought out John E Potter.
The cover gives little clue to the book; the spine says Oriental and Western Siberia, but does not mention Atkinson’s name. And the front cover has Explorations of Siberia embossed in gold lettering. There is no publication date on the title page. Inside, it resembles the Potter edition in terms of paper quality, with the same poor quality woodcuts of Atkinson’s original illustrations, but none of the colour plates.
The continuing publication of various editions of Atkinson’s books in America throughout the second half of the nineteenth century suggests that his publishers in the UK sold unrestricted foreign rights for its future publication. Either that, or as was often the case at the time, the books were published without a royalty being paid. Are there more copies out there? I daren’t guess, but WorldCat lists another US edition published in the early 1900s. Anyone seen one?