This exhibition tells the story of Henrietta Liston's travels in the Ottoman Empire. Henrietta and her husband, the Scottish diplomat Robert Liston, lived at the British Embassy in Constantinople (Istanbul) between the years 1812 and 1820.
The exhibition will run from 10 July to 6 November 2021.
During her time in the Ottoman Empire, Henrietta Liston kept travel journals full of opinion, curiosity and wonderment.
These journals will be displayed with letters from the Middle East, maps, Ottoman documents, a diplomat's cipher and other traveller's tales from the period. Together they tell the story of how Henrietta discovered the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Her earlier travelogues from North America will be on show alongside them.
The Listons' lives are richly documented through personal correspondence, official dispatches, financial papers, contracts, invitations and travel journals, held in the Liston Papers archive at the National Library.
Who was Henrietta Liston?
Henrietta Marchant Liston (1751–1828), was a diarist, botanist and world traveller.
In 1796, aged 44, she married the Scottish diplomat Robert Liston (1742-1836) in Glasgow.
After they were married, Robert's diplomatic posting sent them to the United States. You can see some of Henrietta's journals from this time in the exhibition and read the journals on the 'Travels of Henrietta Liston' website.
At 60 years of age, Henrietta embarked on a remarkable journey. She sailed to Turkey with Robert, who had been appointed British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte.
Alongside younger aristocratic European ambassadresses, Henrietta appeared an unusual, even unfashionable diplomat's wife. Her family background, nationality, class, age and late marriage were stacked against her.
But Henrietta found her place in Constantinople and made many friends there. When the Listons left in 1820, a member of their British Embassy staff wrote: 'not only all the inhabitants but even the very pavements on both sides of the city' felt sorry at their leaving.
Opening times for 'The Eye of a Stranger' in our George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh are:
- Monday to Saturday, from 10.00 to 16.00.
Admission is free.