Ephemera that shine a light on everyday public life from the seventeenth through to the nineteenth century.
About the collection
Daniel Lysons (1762-1834) was an English antiquarian, curate and author. He collaborated on some works with his brother, Samuel Lysons (1763-1819) and inherited the estates of the physician Daniel Lysons (1727-1800), his uncle. Elizabeth, his sister, married John Marshall Collard (d.1788) and went on to jointly own the slave-worked estate Stoney Gutt in Jamaica.
Daniel Lysons collected albums of ephemera including advertisements, notices, trade cards, newspaper cuttings, prints and more. He focused on three particular subjects:
- Trades, Professions and Medical Cures (shelfmark: C.191.c.16)
- Public Exhibitions and Places of Amusement (shelfmark: C.103.k.11)
- John Henley (1692-1756), English clergyman and preacher known for showmanship (C.103.k.12)
The ephemera about public exhibitions and places of amusement is the most extensive collection. It cover all manner of amusements, performances and attractions, from exhibitions of exotic animals and so-called sea-monsters to displays of horsemanship, museums of curiosities and competitions to establish who had the largest ox.
Freak shows, where people were abducted, abused and forced to perform, were also a shamefully popular form of entertainment in this period. The victims were often African, Asian, American and Oceanic indigenous people abducted by white Europeans. For example, Lysons collected ephemera relating to Saartjie Baartman (1789-1815), a young South African Khoikhoi woman who was taken from her home in 1810, abused and exhibited as a freak show attraction.
What is available online?
Two themed volumes of Lysons’ collections of ephemera have been digitised and are freely available to view on Explore the British Library
- Trades, Professions and Medical Cures: parts one, two, three, and four
- Public Exhibitions and Places of Amusement, in 9 parts
You can also download a dataset of the Lysons collections. The datasets comprise the digitised volumes of ephemera with OCR-derived text.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
The physical albums of ephemera are restricted from access owing to fragility. Access is primarily provided via the online digitised copies, outlined above. There are also microfilm copies of some parts of the collection available to consult in the reading room. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.