Among the astonishing finds are lost letters revealing the passionate rivalry between Antarctic explorers Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, a missive from Florence Nightingale sent during the Crimean War and a card despatched to the shop by General Charles Gordon while he was fighting in Khartoum. Copies of items on loan from the British Library, the philanthropic livery institution the Mercers’ Company and the Royal Geographical Society also feature alongside letters and bills relating to purchases from John Ruskin and Sir Winston Churchill. For travellers of all ages, Stanfords chief executive Vivien Godfrey explains: “Visitors can explore the history of travel and be astonished by the wealth of stories of intrepid adventure. Many of the exhibits and activities are also suitable for a younger audience to fuel the next generation of explorers.”
The exhibition takes the form of a journey, crossing continents, oceans and centuries.
The first part depicts Stanfords’ own story and its history in Covent Garden.
Then there are milestones in cartology charted through maps, globes and catalogues from the 19th century documenting both the real and perceived worlds.
One section is devoted to polar exploration and its perils and a photo booth with intriguing backdrops ensures stunning mementos.
Younger visitors can hone their navigation skills by completing the Stanfords Exhibition Trial revealing historical areas of Covent Garden.
The show runs until January 3, at No 10 Langley Street, London, WC2 H9JG.