Primary Sources: Victorian Popular Culture

During the last year The Library acquired the digital archive Victorian Popular Culture, which consists of four thematic collections.

Frederick Bancroft, Prince of Magicians

Spiritualism, Sensation, and Magic “explores the relationship between the popularity of Victorian magic shows and conjuring tricks and the emergence of séances and psychic phenomena in Britain and America. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw an explosion of interest in the occult, and the foundation of a new religious movement, Spiritualism.”1

Circus animals

Circuses, Sideshows, and Freaks includes rare books, children’s literature, and celebrity memoirs and “focuses on the world of travelling entertainment, which brought spectacle to vast audiences across Britain, America and Europe in the 19th and early 20th century. From big tops to carnivals, fairgrounds and dime museums, it covers the history of popular shows and exhibitions from both audience and professional perspectives.”2

Music hall photo

Music Hall, Theatre, and Popular Entertainment covers pantomime, exhibitions, pleasure gardens, and a wide range of other types of public entertainment and spectacles.

Scene from Buster Keaton film

Moving Pictures, Optical Entertainments, and the Advent of Cinema covers optical entertainments from the 18th to early 20th century. The collection includes digital clips of original archival footage dating back to 1894.

The documents are categorized as printed material and visual material. All print materials are full-text searchable and visual material and manuscripts are keyword indexed. Search results are sorted by relevance by default, but can be sorted by author, date, and document type, and can be filtered to limit to visual or printed material.

The materials included were sources from multiple archives, including:

  • Senate House Library, University of London: The Harry Price Library of Magical Literature 
  • Senate House Library, University of London: The Malcolm Morley Collection
  • Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin 
  • National Fairground Archive, University of Sheffield 
  • Vauxhall Gardens Collection, Lambeth Archives 
  • The May Moore Duprez Archive 
  • The British Library 
  • The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum 
  • British Film Institute National Archive


Primary Sources: The Carlyle Letters Online

The collected letters of the eminent Victorian scholar, Thomas Carlyle, and his wife, are available in electronic form in an archive called The Carlyle Letters Online. This resource provides access to more than 10,000 letters of the Carlyles and is based on the print volumes that make up The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, published by Duke University Press. The collection is searchable, and browsable by correspondent, subject, and date. An excellent list of works about Thomas Carlyle can be found in the resource Oxford Bibliographies.