The National Art Library in the Victoria and Albert Museum is home to a plethora of printed sources related to the 1862 International Exhibition. This material embraces a whole range of publications including the exhibition’s official catalogue, official programmes for State events held in the exhibition, articles published in the journals, newspapers and magazines at the time, and small guidebooks sold to visitors overwhelmed by the range of objects on display. Published for so many different audiences and with such different purposes, these publications provide a range of different insights into the intentions of the exhibition’s organisers, reactions to the exhibition and ways that visitors developed to navigate this overwhelming display of material objects.
As part of the field trip that the editors of the visit1862.com are running at the International Conference of Historical Geographers, delegates will get a chance to have a look at the following publications.
Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper Exhibitor; Containing About Three Hundred Illustrations with Letter-press Descriptions of all the principal objects in the international exhibition of 1862
A souvenir from the 186 International Exhibition. Too big to have been carried around the exhibition, this volumes main selling point was the large number of images it contains. It also provides some basic information about the design of the exhibition and how the things on display could be navigated.
George Frederick Pardon, editor, A Guide to the International Exhibition; With plans of the building, an account of its rise, progress and completion and notices of its principal contents
A small handbook intended to help visitors navigate the 1862 International Exhibition. Using reviews of objects on display published in the press, the guide identifies the exhibition’s highlights with the intention of preventing visitors from spending time looking at ‘less interesting’ objects.
Robert Hunt (Keeper of Mining Records) Handbook to the Industrial Department of the International Exhibition 1862, Volume 1 and II
Presents specific information about the 1862 International Exhibition’s industrial displays. Published in two volumes it is unlikely that this carried around and read at the exhibition. However, it provides illustrations that help to explain the new machines on display, with the underlying purpose of emphasising the technical progress and intellectual superiority of the British nation.
Handy-Book to the International Exhibition 1862; Its History, Structure and Statistics: A Guide to the Objects Most Worthy of Note. With Plans of the Building
A small and portable book that includes a simple ground plan of the exhibition. Largely focusing on the historical development and construction of the exhibition, it provides some information about objects that might have been of particular interest to visitors.
‘How a Blind Man Saw the International Exhibition’, Temple Bar
A short article that uses the trope of a blind visitor to allow copious descriptions of the sounds and smells of the 1862 International Exhibition.
Illustrated London News
The world’s first weekly, illustrated newspaper. By the 1860s the newspaper sold more that 300,000 copies every week and during the course of the 1862 International Exhibition published copious articles and illustrations about the event that were circulated throughout the country.
‘International Exhibition of 1862: Official Programme of the State Ceremonial of the Declaration of prizes to Exhibitors’
Printed specifically for attendants to the State Ceremonial for the declaration of prizes for exhibitors, this document provides some interesting insights into the officially organised events at the Exhibition and how the space was used to facilitate the requirements of state etiquette.
International Exhibition of 1862: Official Illustrated Catalogue, Volumes I & II
Provides a general overview of the way in which objects were organised in the exhibition and what sort of manufactures displayed objects at the event.
The Record of the 1862 International Exhibition
Published to posthumously celebrate the 1862 International Exhibition, the volume situates the 1862 exhibition within the broader context of contemporary International Exhibitions (France 1855, Dublin 1853 and London 1851). Includes a variety of images of the building and objects on display, records historical information about the development of the exhibition and discussion of the artefacts visitors would have seen.
Bound Volume including:
- Robert Kempt, What do you think of the Exhibition?
Pulling together comments that had been made about the 1862 International Exhibition in the press while it was open, this volume provides an overview on the opinions expressed by [well educated and influential] contemporaries. It also includes portraits of several of the individual men who played influential roles in the development of the exhibition.
- J,Campbell, Campbell’s Visitor’s Guide to the International Exhibition, and handy-book of London
This book was potentially intended for foreign tourists and is definitely aimed at visitors to the exhibition who were new to London. The book provides a helpful overview of the exhibition and services provided in the building (some of which are written in English, French and German), before moving onto descriptions of well-known buildings in London and how to get there by public transport.
Bound Volume including:
- Francis Turner Palgrave, Handbook to the Fine Art Collections in the International Exhibition of 1862
Split into sections to reflect the organisation of the art on display at the Exhibition, this small pamphlet intended to provide instruction and discussion about the art of display at the exhibition.
- Edward McDermott Esq., The Popular Guide to the International Exhibition of 1862
Intended for regular visitors to the exhibition it provides good information about regulations imposed on visitors and explicitly describes itself as an aid for the visitor as they try to navigate through the exhibition’s confusing spaces.
- A Plain Guide to the International Exhibition: The Wonders of the Exhibition Shewing [sic] How they may be seen at one visit
Taking each geographical section of the exhibition bit-by-bit this guide, with its simple ground plans, provides essential information about the exhibition to the visitor.
- The Penny Guide to the International Exhibition
A very small, thin and attractive publication that would have been easy for visitors to use as they went round the exhibition. In addition to telling a brief historical of the exhibition, suggesting particular objects worth seeing and information about the amenities in the exhibition building, the guide also provides a description of the International Bazaar that happened right outside the Exhibition.
- Calurs, International Exhibition 1862: Three Penny Guide to the Pictures, English and Foreign, or A companion to the Official Catalogue with Memoirs, Anecdotes, criticisms and legends. Calculated to save time and give pleasure
Focusing specifically on the paintings displayed in the exhibition, it provides simple descriptions of the things on display and an easy to use ground plan.
- The Compendium Catalogue of the International Exhibition 1862
An abbreviated version of the official catalogue, this volume provides a simple list of the different classes that objects were arranged into.
- Isabella, The Great Exhibition in Fairyland
A poem inspired by the 1862 International Exhibition.
- The World’s Palace, Old and New: An Ode
A poem inspired by the 1862 International Exhibition.
Anyone can register to use the National Art Library’s resources. All the information you need can be found on their website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/n/national-art-library/
© Ruth Mason, 2015