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18th Century hot air balloon tickets I Curator’s Corner +

[Obnoxiously loud clap followed by cheery music] So one of the oddities of the British
Museum’s prints and drawings collection is it’s really not all about Dürer and
Michelangelo. It has lots of material that is sort of really much more about
social history. And at the heart of that is this amazing collection of over
19,000 bits of paper collected by Sarah Sophia Banks. Sarah Sophia Banks was sister of Joseph Banks. Who was best known for going with cook on his first
voyage around the Pacific. And Sarah Sophia lived with her brother in Soho
Square, kept house for him and then rather unusually of the 18th century,
when he married she still stayed in the house and I think come Lady Banks must
have been a rather forgiving type as the house filled up with more and more bits
of paper. Because basically what Sarah Sophia did was she collected every single bit of paper that she came across. So it’s this extraordinary idea of
Georgian England. So, trade cards, visiting cards, playbills, tickets for operas. To my right here is a very typical folder that she does. She’s a sort of born curator, she loves to arrange her collection. And so these are all tickets for this exciting new sight at the end of 18th century of the ascent of balloons. So this one here is just round the corner from the BM in Tottenham
Court Road and then often she writes in her rather neat handwriting comments
about it. It’s called the British balloon so possibly rather appropriately for the
day we live it didn’t actually get off the ground. What’s interesting, I think, about Sarah’s Sophia is that there are often that she didn’t collect
herself, people sent to her. So there are things set to here from the Congress Vienna, there are things sent to her from Washington because she’s the sister of a
very important man she has this sort of rather strange fixation with printed
ephemera and so people say ‘oh yes going to keep this and send it off to to
Sarah Sophia in Soho Square.’ It’s not only at this idea you get of the
kind of this growing world of London and all these entertainments and all these
wonderful fancy Goods flowing in from the Empire but it’s also this network
that Sarah Sophia has that are sending things back to her. Right from the foreign secretary at the Congress of Vienna and all these British diplomats. I
mean it would be rather odd today if you’re the the foreign secretary spend
all their time in Washington collecting visiting cards and sending
them back, but they did for the very obviously very persuasive Sarah Sophia.
So that’s one aspect of our collection she also collected Satire prints,
which is another great strength of our collection. She’s a sort of wonderfully quirky and odd character and this, as I say, it gives you such an
insight into Georgian England. And you won’t be surprised the moment she died
her sister-in-law gave the entire collection of the British Museum
probably delighted to be rid of it out of the house, but it’s all online and
accessible so if you have a kind of rainy afternoon please spend your time
looking at Sarah Sophia’s printed ephemera, you won’t be disappointed.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. I suppose if it had been a man who collected all this he would have been described as a pillar of the community. But Miss Banks is laughed off as a nutty spinster. And like the balloon not getting off the ground the BM has neglected to put a link to the collection on the website.

  2. I occasionally attend a variety of flea markets in the New England area, and as a ephemeral collector myself, I've had to stop, because there's just too much of it. Such lovely portraits, which would've taken humorously more prep than today, old albums full of cards, valentines, newspaper clippings, moments. I'm 23 and it seems like such a shame we don't have as much consideration for these little things anymore.

  3. If the entire collection is available to view online, a link to said collection in the video description probably wouldn't be too out of place.

  4. I was convinced to trim my personal collection of ephemera – storage and all that – being labeled a hoarder was the worst part, since I view it as an archival endeavor.
    I should have been born rich. Someone would have appreciated my collection of stuffs….

  5. A GUINEA !!! £1 1/- to see a ballon. That would be about a weeks wages for a skilled man. There is an old expression , well I still use it, to describe a bizzare normally funny situation 'I'd give a Guinea a minute to see that'. The Guinea was , sometime still is used, for POSH purchases, the 1/- (One Shilling) was the customary commision for Auctionners, hence the reason you will still hear it's use at place likes Bonham's or Christies. For those below a certain maturaty One pound Sterling symbol £ consisted of 20 Shillings- symbol /- which was 12 pennies symbol d

  6. You could have bought about 90 pounds (41 kilos) weight of bread for half a guinea in the late 18th century. I assume that ticket was for the posh seats.

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