Art & Architecture, #66


  66.  Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. From the Originals Painted for H. R. M. Prince Albert, by Messrs. Nash, Haghe, and Roberts. London: Dickinson Brothers, 1854. 2 volumes. -- Avery Library, Classics Collection (See fuller description below.)
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This deluxe edition was created to commemorate the 1851 exhibition in the Crystal Palace. Great Britain's Prince Albert had proposed a trade exhibition like no other before it, truly international, with the work of nearly 14,000 exhibitors from twenty-six nations on view. To house such an event, Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) designed a new type of building, using the latest in cast-iron and glass technology. Sited in London's Hyde Park, the landmark structure, 1848 feet long by 408 feet wide, was visited by more than six million people in the exhibition's five months. Public feeling for the temporary building was so strong that it was re-erected in South London, in enlarged form, the year that these volumes appeared. Fire destroyed the Crystal Palace in 1936.

Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures document the pomp and ritual in this resplendent space, and the exhibits' from European bourgeois furnishings and modern machinery to an Arab tent from Tunis, draped with leopard and lion skins. Avery's set of these spectacular large-format color plate books from the genre's heyday in the nineteenth century is a unique one. The fifty-five chromolithographs, with some details colored by hand, are in proof impressions, many signed in pencil by the artists.