Leeds. 59 pp. of Autographs, 100 blank leaves. 7-1/2" x 4-3/4". Black leather album, gilt-stamped design to front, rear and spine. Yellow endpapers. Multicolored pastel leaves within. AEG. Wear to leather edges and spine. Dark purple cloth repair to bottom of spine. Gilt & leaves still bright. Previous tape repair to front and rear hinges. Binding - Good to About VG. Item #37232
Rare album containing the autographs of visitors to the Leeds Town Hall. The album was owned by a J. (or F.) N. Dickinson who has signed the ffep and added the date Oct 9th 1861. Each of the 59 pages (beginning on the verso of the ffep) contain numerous autographs, primarily of musicians who we assume were performing there on the dates noted.
Leeds Town Hall was built between 1853 and 1858 on Park Lane (now The Headrow), Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It was designed by architect Cuthbert Brodrick, who is one of the signatories in the album. Following a rapid growth in the first half of the 19th Century, the Leeds Borough chose Cuthbert Brodrick, an unknown architect from Kingston upon Hull, who had trained in Paris. Construction began in 1853 and was completed in 1858. The Hall provided accomodation for municipal departments, a courtroom, police station and a venue for concerts and civic events. The principal performance space was the richly appointed Victoria Hall, and is where we presume the artists who signed this album performed. The Leeds Town Hall is one of the largest town halls in the United Kingdom and until 1966, was the tallest building in Leeds. The distinctive tower was not part of the initial design, but was added to the design in 1856 as civic lenders wanted to make an even grander statement. The Leeds Town Hall has been used as a model for buildings across Britain and the British Empire.
As mentioned above, the majority of the signatures in this album are those of musicians who performed at the Hall, many of whom were making their English debut there. We find the signatures of opera singers, violinists, and cellists - Charlotte H. Saniton-Dolby, Therese Tietjens, Henry Blagrove, Cesare Bossi, Marietta Albani Pepoli, Mathilde Bauermeister, and so many more. The Brousil family, a sextet of siblings from Prague, performed at Leeds in 1861 following their European tour. At the time they ranged in age from six to seventeen. In addition to the many musicians, we find the signatures of other dignitaries - the Archbishop of Westminster; William Spark, an organist, correspondent of Charles Dickens and the man who designed the organ for the Hall; Elihu Burritt, American diplomat, philanthropist and social activist; Georgina A. Weiss, vocalist, friend of Catherine Hogarth Dickens; Survivors of the Steamer "London" which foundered on its way to Melbourne in the Bay of Biscay during which 220 persons died, including the captain; Charles Stratton, better known as Tom Thumb and his wife Lavinia Warren Stratton; Samuel Plimsoll, British politician and social reformer; T. De Wit Talmage, American preacher; Herbert J. Gladstone, youngest son of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, together with his mother Catherine Gladstone; composer Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame; midget performer Commodore Foote (Charles W. Nestel); John MacGregor (Rob Roy), Scottish explorer, travel writer and philanthropist; Robert S. Ball, Royal Astronomer of Ireland; Charles Dickens; Pierre Kropotkine, Russian zoologist and philosopher; Just McCarthy, Irish nationalist; Lady Isabella Somerset, British philanthropist and former president of the British Women's Temperance Association; Caroline Heath Barrett, reader to the Queen; and more.
In the earlier years of the Town Hall we find mostly musical artists, with the scientists, philanthropists, preachers and politicians in the later years. Research could be done to determine if they were speaking at the Town Hall, or were merely attending a performance. All in all, a most remarkable artifact - names documenting the initial three decades of a magnificent town hall.