Heritage Open Days – What’s In The Box?

Part 2: Theatrical script book and autograph book

In our second ‘What’s In The Box?’ blog for this year’s Heritage Open Days Festival, we are continuing the theme of ‘Creativity Unwrapped’ and looking at some of items that belonged to actor James H. Atkinson. James was the father of Madge Atkinson, whose costumes we looked at in Part 1 of this blog series.

James H. Atkinson was a comedian and actor known for his performances in many Shakespearian roles. Madge sometimes starred alongside her father and in the scrapbook of newspaper cuttings we hold there are many reviews of their performances (Ref: NM/M/1). We also have a wonderful selection of family photographs which include photographs of Madge and James dressed as some of the characters they played (Ref: NM/F/4/1).

However, for these two ‘What’s in the box?’ videos we are going to take a peek at James Atkinson’s script book (Ref: NM/N/3) which dates from 1876 and his autograph book and index (Ref: NM/N/4) dated 1888-1914.

James Atkinson’s script book contains snippets of scripts, speeches, and poetry. There are annotations throughout and J. H. Atkinson’s stamp appears on several pages. Some of the writings are stuck into the book and others handwritten on to the pages. The original label for the book, which has become detached, reads ‘Mr Atkinson Note books and news cuttings no.7‘. The original suede cover is also no longer attached and is stored in a separate folder. The text block of the book has been covered with a bespoke unbleached linen covering to help protect it. The box has also been padded with rolls of acid-free tissue paper to help the prevent the book moving in the box when it is retrieved.

This time lapse video shows all the component parts, so the sense of the how the original item looked and felt has not been lost.

James Atkinson’s autograph book and index contains signatures, messages and drawings collected from people he worked with as an actor. The index which is stored with the book, is ordered alphabetically by surname and has numbers which correspond to the entry in the autograph book. The book contains some beautiful illustrations some of which you can catch sight of in this time lapse video:

If this glimpse has inspired you to find out more about our collections or if you are interested in coming to see any of the items we have featured in person do get in touch as we would be delighted to book you in to visit our research room, just email archives@surrey.ac.uk or check out the information on our website https://www.surrey.ac.uk/library/archives-and-special-collections or on https://www.instagram.com/uniofsurreyarchives/

Remember to check back for Part 3 of the blog series to find out more about Mr Elf!