Stanfords to unveil treasure trove of travel history with new exhibition

Stanfords to unveil treasure trove of travel history with new exhibition

Historical letters from Florence Nightingale and Captain Scott will go on display alongside antique travel books, maps and globes at Stanfords after a treasure trove of artefacts were found in the bookshop's former premises. 

The travel book specialist moved from its Long Acre, Covent Garden site - where Stanfords had traded since 1901 - to nearby Mercer Walk in January. During the move staff found items at Long Acre including letters and cards from well-known historical figures revealing the unique relationship between Stanfords and some of its most famous customers. 

Various letters and bills can be seen relating to purchases from well-known historical figures including John Ruskin, Winston Churchill and H M Stanley. Letters on display will include Florence Nightingale thanking Stanfords for a mounted map, a card from General Gordon in Khartoum, and Captain Scott complaining about a Stanfords map of the Antarctic. These pieces. alongside letters from Winston Churchill and Ernest Shackleton, will go on display alongside items of significant historical interest from Stanfords’ archives, together with copies of items on loan from the British Library, The Mercers’ Company, and the Royal Geographical Society.

Stanfords c.e.o. Vivien Godfrey said her favourite exhibits are a number of old letterbooks once used by Stanfords founder, Edward Stanford. "We found all these old letterbooks that were used by Stanfords in the 1800s and 1900s to have carbon copies of letters that were sent to customers. There are some marvellous examples of letters written by Edward Stanford to customers and he has quite a short, brusque manner with many of the customers. He would often have people writing asking him to consider their work and he would often write back thanking them but saying he had 'no interest, thank you and goodbye.' We will also be displaying conversations between Edward Stanford and Captain Scott, and Florence Nightingale as well as Shackleton and Winston Churchill."

The exhibition will take visitors on a journey - crossing continents, over oceans and spanning time. The first part of the showcase depicts Stanfords’ story and the store’s history in Covent Garden. The exhibition, including a section devoted to the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, includes a wealth of maps, antique globes and chart catalogues from the 19th Century so visitors can witness the milestones in cartology. A photo booth with selectable backdrops will ensure visitors are put in the picture and will have a memento of their experience.  Children can step into the boots of intrepid adventurers by dressing up in explorers’ gear for a jungle or arctic adventure. 

Young visitors can also complete the Stanfords Exhibition Trail which will lead them to discover areas of historical interest in Covent Garden and give them challenges to complete along the way, with a more complex diversion for older children, requiring some work with a compass and elements required to complete the Scouts navigation badge. Those who successfully complete the trail will be rewarded for their efforts with a special prize. 

Godfrey added: “We’re so excited to be sharing with the public the overflowing chest of artefacts that are so special to us here at Stanfords. As we were starting to pack things up from Long Acre we started to come across all sorts of interestings books and historical maps and we wanted to find a space to display them. Our new landlords the Mercer Company happily found us a space. As well as the letters and artefacts we also have a very large number of travel books and atlases which were published by Stanfords in 1853 and they will be on display for people to actually touch, and read and enjoy. It's going to be a really interactive experience. We really hope to encourage a lot of young people to attend and hope many will take away a renewed interest in what maps are all about and an interest in the concept of exploration." 

The exhibition opens on Friday 18th October until 3rd January 2020 at 10 Langley Street, Covent Garden.