Evanion Collection

Engraved illustration on a printed advertisement from 1870 showing acts by Evanion. British Library sheflmark Evan.2805
Engraved illustration on a printed advertisement from 1870 showing acts by Evanion. British Library sheflmark Evan.2805

Material relating to Victorian entertainment and everyday life collected by the conjuror, ventriloquist and humourist Henry Evans Evanion (1832-1905) during the course of his long career.

About the collection

Purchased by the British Museum in 1895, the Evanion Collection contains around 6,000 items of ephemera, most printed in England during the second half of the 19th century; London is particularly well represented. Highlights of the collection include:

  • Posters, that record the character of Victorian entertainment staged in Music Halls, Palaces of Variety, Theatres, and Circuses. Artistes including Marie Lloyd and Dan Leno are represented, with conjuring acts and illusions staged by Maskelyne and Cooke at the Egyptian Hall, and promotional posters for Evanion’s own magic shows.
  • Tickets and programmes for popular performances, lectures and exhibitions.
  • Advertisements and price lists for food, clothes and a wide range of domestic goods.
  • Trade catalogues and trade cards describing the variety of products, trades and services that made up the commercial life of Victorian England from the late 1860s to 1895.

What is available online?

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Access to original items in the collection is restricted. Please contact rare-books@bl.uk for more information.

What is available in other organisations?

Related collections of ephemera are held at:

  • The John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. Holding around 1.6 million items, this is one of the most important collections of printed ephemera in the world and the most significant single collection of ephemera in the UK. Particular strengths are in the wide array of rare and unusual materials from the 18th to early 20th centuries 
  • Maurice Rickards Collection of Ephemera, Centre for Ephemera Studies, Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading. This collection of around 20,000 items was formed in order to demonstrate the diversity of ephemera and their potential for study. Numerous collections of ephemera are also held in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication and other parts of the University including material relating to the biscuit manufacturer Huntley & Palmers and the agricultural engineering firm of Ransome; proofs and original artwork of the security printers De La Rue; a set of trade material from exhibitors at the Great Exhibition of 1851; two of the largest surviving collections of work by nineteenth-century jobbing printers (John Soulby and the firm of Kitchin, both of Ulverston); the John Lewis collection of ephemera; the Dorothy and Sydney Spellman collection of Victorian sheet music covers. The University also has several smaller, well-focused collections of ephemera, and its substantial collection of publishers' archives includes ephemera (preserved with other documents)

  • University of Bristol Theatre Collection is one of the world’s largest archives of British theatre history. It covers the period from 1572 to the 21st century and focuses on British theatre history, with particular strengths in theatre in the South West, nineteenth-century theatre, Post-Second World War theatre, live art and performance art, scenery and costume design and related artwork

Further information

Further information about Evanion and his Collection can be found in