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Crystal Palace guidebooks and descriptions

Guidebooks to the 1851 Exhibition

Guide-book to the Industrial exhibition, with facts, figures and observations on the manufactures and produce exhibited (Partridge & Oakey, 1851), also on Google books. A general guidebook with particular emphasis on the manfacturing processes and machiery on show, and arranged according to these rather than national stands.

Hunt’s hand-book to the official catalogues: an explanatory guide to the natural productions and manufactures of the Great Exhibition of the industry of all nations, 1851, vol 1 by Robert Hunt (Spicer Brothers, 1851). A somewhat mixed arrangement, as part of it follows the layout of the the building, and the rest is done by categories of goods. Perhaps the most unusual exhibit to come to light so far has been George Merriweather’s Tempest Prognosticator (p.355), a sort of leech-powered barometer.

London In All Its Glory: Or, how to Enjoy London During the Great Exhibition, by Henry Green Clark (1851). Essentially straightforward guidebook to London that aimed to cash in on the Great Exhibition by opening with a couple of pages devoted to it. It is however quite comprehensive, covering not just the average tourist sites but also various different types of institution and even some unexpected landmarks, such as the Rotherhithe-Wapping tunnel (p. 107) – now on the East London Line and much used by your truly as it goes from Crystal Palace. Unfortunately marred by some dodgy scanning.

Tallis’s illustrated London: in commemoration of the Great Exhibition of All Nations in 1851. Forming a complete guide to the British metropolis and its environs. Illustrated by upwards of two hundred steel engravings from original drawings and daguerreotypes, by William Gaspey (1851) has a similar aim, but overall superior execution, with some very interesting-looking descriptive essays about different parts of London, a good place index, and the excellent illustrations one would expect from Tallis’s.

Fireside facts from the Great Exhibition: being an amusing series of object lessons on the food and clothing of all nations in the year 1851 (Houlston & Stoneman, 1851?). The story of the Crystal Palace and the exhibition. The focus on the foodstuffs exhibited seems rather curious, but for those people interested, it is very detailed on the subject.

The Crystal Palace, its architectural history and constructive marvels, Peter Berlyn, Charles Fowler Jr (James Gilbert, 1851). A very detailed book on the design and construction of the palace, with some interesting illustrations and plans.

Dickinsons’ comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851, by Joseph Nash, Louis Haghe, David Roberts (Dickinson Brothers, 1852). A coffee-table retrospective with amazing, vividly coloured and very detailed illustrations that give a very good impression of what an amazing spectacle the Great Exhibition must have been. This is the Russian exhibit:

A warning: if you want to download the book, the file is enormous and the pdf snarls everything up. The jpeg-2000 zip file has all the images on separate pages and is somewhat easier to handle. I’m intending to post a gallery of the pictures and accompanying text soon.

The Crystal Palace in Sydenham

The Crystal palace and park in 1853: what has been done, what will be done. Addressed to intending exhibitors, by The Crystal Palace Company. A pamphlet rather than a guidebook, but it doesn’t really fit into another category.

Guide to the Crystal Palace and Park, by Samuel Phillips, 2nd edn (Crystal Palace Library and Bradbury & Evans, 1854). Also on Google books. The official guide, illustrated by P. H. Delamotte, and covering the building and contents of all the different courts. See also Guide to the Crystal Palace and its Park and Gardens, by Samuel Phillips. A newly arranged and entirely revised edition by F. K. J. Shenton (Crystal Palace Library and Bradbury & Evans, 1858)

Also by the Crystal Palace Company:

The Crystal Palace Penny Guide (1863)

The ten chief courts of the Sydenham Palace (1854)

And the Company’s guides to the individual courts:

The Pompeian Court in the Crystal Palace, described by George Scharf (1854)

The Nineveh Court in the Crystal Palace, described by Austen Henry Layard (1854). Also on Google books.

The Greek Court erected at the Crystal Palace by Owen Jones, described by George Scharf (1854)

The Mediaeval Court at the Crystal Palace, described by Matthew Digby Wyatt and John Burley Waring (1854)

The Byzantine and Romanesque court in the Crystal Palace, described by M.D. Wyatt and J.B. Waring (1854). Also on Google books.

The Egyptians in the time of the Pharaohs. Being a companion to the Crystal Palace Egyptian collections, by Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson (1857)

The Natural History Department of the Crystal Palace Described. Ethnology by R. G. Latham. Zoology and Botany by Edward Forbes (1854)

The Portrait Gallery of the Crystal Palace, by Samuel Phillips (1854). Also on Google books.

And two others:

Routledge’s guide to the Crystal Palace and Park at Sydenham (1854). Also on Google books.

Crystal Palace. Myers’ Grand Hippodrome. Account of the stables, great course for chariot races, steeple-chases, hurdle races, etc., all other arrangements at the Crystal Palace, with plan. Anecdotes of John Cooper’s feats of lion taming & elephant training, description of elephant swimming and bathing, great equestrian pantomime, little red riding Hood, scenes in the circle, and parades and processions of gorgeous chariot. A curious little pamphlet, but it contains one of the best plans I’ve seen of the palace at Sydenham. There’s no date but the plan gives us clues, as it features both High Level Station (opened on 1 August 1865) and the North Wing, which burnt down on 30 December 1866.


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  1. You’ve got an amazing Crystal Palace collection. Perhaps you can help. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10987606 reports that the UK’s first fatal car accident happened at “Dolphin Terrace” at the Crystal Palace in 1896. We’re trying to find out where this Terrace was. Do any of your guides mention it? Many thanks

  2. Afraid I don’t know, but if I come across anything, I’ll let you know.

  3. Sarah, I am looking for a floor plan or the upper level of the Sydenham Crystal Palace as it was int he 1870s. Can you direct me to any even if it is earlier than the 70s. I am researching the camera obscura that was located on the upper level according to two advertising cards I own it was described as “South East Corridor, Up Stairs, Opposite the Crystal Fountain”, and “In the South Corridor Opposite the Crystal Fountain.”

    Thanks for any suggestions.


  4. How interesting! I don’t know of anything off-hand, but leave it with me and I’ll let you know if anything turns up. Do please let me know if you find out anything more.

  5. I have an original vintage copy of both Volume I and Volume III of the Official Descriptive And Illustrated Catalogue Of The Great Exhibition Of The Works Of Industry Of All Nations: 1851 from an estate sale. The drawings included are wonderful, sure, but I really don’t have an interest in these volumes. There is one very nice coloured map in the front which serves as a depiction of countries represented at the Exhibition. They are in very bad condition outside, but all the pages are intact and illustrations clear and clean. Given your interest in the subject, and work with this website, do you think you could help find someone who’d be interested in owning them?

  6. Lynne Fellowes

     /  July 25, 2014

    Jeff, I may be interested in the volumes you mentioned if you are wishing to find a home for them. I am not a collector, but have been researching the Crystal Palace after finding some old photographs from that era and have been intrigued by the history of the building and the Great Exhibition.

  7. I should also be interested in anything that can be found about the Crystal Palace camera obscura. Meanwhile, for those interested in researching the Crystal Palace, do check out the website and join the Foundation for a quarterly magazine and an occasional newsletter.

  8. Ken Lewington, If you do find any information on the Crystal Palace camera obscura I would be very interested in hearing from you. You may know this page from our site on the camera obscura where we have posted two trade cards including one with a sketch of the camera obscura at Sydenham. I have not been able to find much other information and have put that research on the back burner to work on other projects. http://www.brightbytes.com/cosite/otherlost_uk.html

  9. Brian

     /  September 2, 2016

    The crystal palace hippodrome pamphlet has a reference (p. 8) to a Paris exhibition in 1875, so clearly postdates that.

    The circopedia website claims a show at Sydenham in 1876.

    I think the North Wing was rebuilt after the damage.

  10. Thanks – I hadn’t noticed that. Everything I’ve read says the North Transept was never rebuilt after the 1866 fire, and certainly some of the later pictures I’ve seen show that the palace is clearly asymmetrical. If you have a source that suggests otherwise I’d love to know about it.

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