The Great Exhibition of 1851

Title page

The Victorian era is often defined by the industrial revolution, Britain’s expansion and evolution of its manufacturing processes in the production of textiles, coal mining and iron works as well as the mass building of canals and rail roads. Although the industrial revolution first began in the mid to late Georgian period, it wasn’t until Queen Victoria ascended to the throne that the impact of the industrial age began to drastically effect people’s way of life. In celebration of what was a major increase in Britain’s influence over industrial exploits, Prince Albert husband of Queen Victoria organised a grand display of new inventions, extravagant decorations, textiles and furniture to be held in a custom-built structure in Hyde Park.  

General View of Interior

The iron and glass structure known as the Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton an experienced architect who well known for constructing green houses. It took just nine months from finalising its design to the grand opening on the 1st of May 1851. At 563 metres long and 183 meters wide the Crystal Palace was a massive structure, emphasised by the fact that many of the elm trees which ordinarily would have been removed to make way for the building were left standing inside the building with the addition of several statues and fountains that were made specifically for the exhibition. Its cast iron frame and thick glass windows where made exclusively in Birmingham and Smethwick. The structure itself was built to show of British engineering and design. In 1854 the Crystal Palace was dismantled and re-built in Sydenham Hill, in an area which has now been renamed Crystal Palace. The structure was completely destroyed in a devastating fire in November 1936. 

Over six million people visited, with a daily estimate of over 42,000 during the exhibition. The ticket prices were often changed due to the volume of people attending. In the beginning tickets costed from £1 to £2 until it was later reduced to one shilling. This enabled many of the working classes to attend as well as raise a considerable amount of money. This profit surplus was used to help fund the building of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum and the Science Museum in an area of south Kensington nicknamed Albertropolis after Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert 

South Gallery

The official title for the exhibition was ‘The Great Exhibition of Works of Industry of all Nationsas its primary objective was to celebrate modern technology from around the world, however the major motive in its creation was to showcase how British design and technology was superior to that of other countries as well as show how British design would shape the future. An official list of all of the counties represented in the exhibit were included in the official illustrated exhibition catalogue which included detailed descriptions of each of the exhibits as well as a few illustrations of the more interesting pieces. 

Some of the most popular exhibits were the Koh-i-Noor diamond, Ross’s Trophy Telescope, Minton’s Ceramics as well as the first public toilets which costed a penny to use, hence the phrase ‘to spend a penny’! Several inventors, physicists and photographers used the exhibition to show off their inventions including American photographer Mathew Brady, Firearms manufacturer Samuel Colt and Locksmith Alfred Charles Hobbs. A large quantity of the exhibited items formed part of the first V&A collection when the exhibition closed on October 15th, 1851 

An image taken from the furniture court in ‘Recollections of the great exhibition’ (please see below) is on display on our Photowall, which celebrates some of our treasures. 

Furniture Gallery

By Lindsey Keeling,

Customer Services Apprentice

 

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts

Front Page 1825

This image is of the front page of one of the volumes dated 1825.

The Repository of Arts was an illustrated periodical which focused on art, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics. It was published by Rudolph Ackermann from 1809-1828. The Repository influenced fashion, architecture and literature during the Regency and late Georgian period.  The last issue of The Repository of Arts was published in 1828 before it was taken over by The Repository of Fashion. This new periodical did not last long as in 1829 it merged with La Belle Assemblée, a women’s fashion magazine.

Black Prominade Dress 1828.jpg

This is an image of a black promenade dress from a 1828 edition. 

Each edition of The Repository of Arts contains various images of architectural structures around Britain as well as beautiful illustrations of popular women’s fashions. In several of the editions small squares of fabric which have been attached to the page to display the popular new styles of fabric patterns in some of the illustrations. Some of these are colourfully patterned fabrics which are still in excellent condition despite some pieces being over 200 years old!

Fabric Patterns 1809

This is one of the many examples of fabric squares which have been advertised in The Repository.

The description which accompanies the above fabric samples is as follows:

‘No. 1 is a yellow printed Book muslin, ell-wide, admirably adapted for ladies’ evening dresses, and furnished by Messrs. Smith and Co. 43 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden.

No. 2, a striped muslin, or nainsook, 6-4ths wide, is an extremely elegant article for morning dresses, and was supplied by Messrs. Brisco and Powley, 103 New Bond Street.

No. 3 is a printed cambric-muslin, 9-8ths wide. It is a highly fashionable article, and uncommonly elegant, from the delicacy of its design and print, which have authority to assure the public to be a permanent colour. It was furnished by the same house as the preceding pattern.

No. 4. This chintz, or shawl pattern marcella, ¾ wide, is a truly elegant and fashionable article for gentlemen’s waistcoats. It was furnished by Messrs. Richard Smith and Co. 2 Prince’s Street, Leicester Square.’

Some editions also contain various fashionable furniture pieces as well as intricate interior designs. Several designs from The Repository focus on Gothic styled pieces which include chairs, beds, bookcases and fireplaces amongst other elaborate pieces. Each piece is highly detailed, beautifully illustrated and coloured in with brief descriptions on the design and function of each piece.

We hold a complete set of Ackermann’s Repository of Arts which have been bound into 40 Volumes. They are free for the public to view as long as you bring some form of ID with you. You can view our catalogue entry for The Repository of Arts here.

Red Prominade dress 1825

This is a red promenade dress from 1825. 

The above image taken from the Repository of Arts is part of our ‘Treasures of Guildhall Library’ Photowall, located in our John Stow Room, which celebrates some of our most iconic and interesting items.

By Lindsey Keeling, Customer Services Apprentice

Guildhall Library Collections: Photowall Exhibition

IMG_2491

On Thursday 3rd of October we unveiled our newest Photowall which celebrates some of the iconic items in our collections. Unlike previous editions of photo walls, this version is not attached to one of our current exhibitions. Instead this Photowall will become a semi-permanent feature in the library to showcase some of our most stunning and beautiful items.

With a wide variety of items which show the varied range of our collections, from the Nuremburg Chronicle to Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales, this Photowall will be a must see feature in the library’s John Stow Room.

Among the 26 photographs are two items which are not readily available for public consultation and are therefore rarely seen by the public, these are Shakespeare’s First Folio and Edward Curtis’s The North American Indian.

Lindsey Keeling, Customer Services Apprentice.

 

New Library Exhibition: Sir Thomas Gresham: Tudor, Trader, Shipper, Spy.

Gresham scan 1

Portrait Illustration of Sir Thomas Gresham Taken from The Lives of the Professors of Gresham College

Find out about Sir Thomas Gresham and some of the treasures from Gresham College library on display at Guildhall Library from Monday 3rd of June to mid-September.

Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79) is possibly the best known of all sixteenth century English merchants and financiers. Gresham served four Tudor monarchs, managed to keep his head, and all the while made money. Sir Thomas helped to make London a great international financial centre by importing from Antwerp the idea of a ‘bourse’ or ‘exchange’ for items such as shipping and insurance. He installed the first English shopping mall or bazaar as the first floor in the Royal Exchange. His Will challenged the domination of Oxbridge in higher education at the time.

Gresham scan 2

Illustration of the original Gresham College taken from The Lives of the Professors of Gresham College

Part of the Library of Gresham College (founded in 1596 under the provisions of the will of Sir Thomas Gresham) the collections were deposited in Guildhall Library 17th December 1958 by the Joint Grand Gresham Committee, a joint committee of the City of London Corporation and the Mercers’ Company, and are held under an agreement of 6th January 1959.

The collections consist of two parts; one of miscellaneous works, mainly travel (circa 381 printed items); and one of music, mainly scores, parts, etc., based on a collection formed at the College by Edward Taylor (1784-1863), Gresham Professor of Music from 1837, and covering principally English and other European music, 16th-18th centuries (circa 324 printed books, plus 123 manuscripts). No new items have been added in recent years.

Purcell Close up

Close up of Henry Purcell’s book of solo songs which is on display at Guildhall Library

The Fletcher’s Company Library at Guildhall Library

Archery

An illustration of an archer from Archery its Theory and Practice by Horace A. Ford

First established by the Worshipful Company of Fletchers in 1973, this unique collection of items relating to archery is one of our lesser known collections. It comprises of a variety of items on the history and practice of archery. While most of the items focus on the history of British archery, books on Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Native American archery can also be found in the collection.

Royal Company of Archers David Earl of Wemyss

A copy of a painting of David, 4th Earl of Wemyss from The History of the Royal Company of Archers by James Balfour Paul

The word fletcher comes from the French word ‘fleche’ meaning arrow. Therefore, a Fletcher is a person who makes arrows, in particular the feathers attached to the end of the arrow which help keep it aerodynamic. A number of books in the collection contain illustrations of various arrow types in particular the different types of arrow heads.

Archery Its Theory and Parctice arrow heads

Illustrations of the various types of arrow heads from Archery its Theory and Practice by Horace A. Ford

The Fletchers and Longbowstringmakers of London by James E. Oxley is an account of the history of the Fletchers’ Company. There is no mention of the company until 7th March 1371 when the Fletchers petitioned to the Lord Mayor to separate the trades of Fletchers (arrow makers) and Bowyers (bow makers). With their petition granted, the Worshipful Company of Fletchers was founded. As far as we know the Company has never received a charter and is therefore a Company by prescription. A Grant of Arms was awarded to the company on the 12th of October 1467.

Fletchers Coat of Arms

The Fletchers Company Coat of Arms (MS 21116)

The military importance of the bow is a key theme running throughout the collection, in particular British battles in which archery played an important role. A good book to look at is The British Archer or, Tracts on British Archery by Thomas Hastings which lists some of the important battles which were won by British archers. It also lists some of the Monarchs killed by an arrow, such as William II who was accidentally killed whilst hunting in the New Forest and Richard I who was mortally wounded whilst besieging a castle in France, as well as a brief description of some of the monarchs who were noted to have had great skill in archery.

Book of Archery Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

Illustrations of Henry VIII and Elisabeth I from The Book of Archery by George Agar Hansard

Another theme which runs through the collection is the story of Robert Fitzooth. More commonly known as Robin Hood, his story mentioned in several different books in the collection. Anecdotes of Archery by E. Hargrove, for example, includes a family tree of Robin Hood and explains why his name changed from Fitzooth to Hood. In the Ballads of Archery by James William Dodd a number of songs about Robin Hood, Marian and Little John.

 

Robin Hood Family Tree

The family tree of Robin Hood from Anecdotes of Archery by E. Hargrove

 

By Lindsey Keeling

Customer Services Apprentice

Guildhall Library

The Twelve Days of Christmas

To celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, this year we are bringing you some of the most intriguing Christmas items from our collection. We hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

On the first day of Christmas – we wish you a happy Christmas! A more traditional offering from a French published book of hours, 1509. These were devotional books containing prayers and psalms, popular in the Middle Ages.

Book of hours

On the second day of Christmas – enjoy Boxing Day! The tradition of the Christmas box either derived from the opening of alms boxes placed in churches so donations could be collected for the poor, or the practice of giving boxes of gifts to employees on the day after Christmas, which became known as Boxing day.

Mrs Brown's Christmas Box

On the third day of Christmas…have a smashing time! This is the Fortnum & Mason Christmas Catalogue, 1934. ‘Dishes Ready to Serve’ included boar’s head at 5 shillings a pound. If that isn’t to your taste you could try Christmas cakes with the ‘the fattest and richest fruits’ raised pies, special hams, fruits in brandy, paradise cake and chocolate bacchanalia!

Fortnum and Mason catalogue

On the fourth day of Christmas…fun and games. Gamages Xmas Bazaar (1938) showcased a selection of Christmas toys available to buy that year. Hobby horses, pushchairs, typewriters and train sets were all the rage at Gamages.

Gamages Xmas Bazaar

On the fifth day of Christmas…nostalgia. Here are some Christmas specialities from 1936. This graceful representation of King George VI’s Coronation Coach provides a novelty of topical interest. Filled with iced animal and kindergarten biscuits. Each model packed in an attractive carton. All for 1/6.

Christmas Specialities

On the sixth day of Christmas…still cracking on. Film merchandising is nothing new. Walt Disney’s ‘Snow White’ of 1937 may have influenced the toy selection in this brochure from Gamages Xmas Bazaar (1938). On offer inside these pages was a set of all eight characters (for 8 shillings and eleven pence) as well as Snow White jigsaws, games, crackers and books.

Gamages Xmas Bazaar

On the seventh day of Christmas… ‘a stellar Christmas’? The image is from Punch magazine 1954. We particularly like Father Christmas’ space helmet, which accommodates his beard!

Punch magazine

On the eighth day of Christmas, we wish you a Happy New Year! This passage is taken from Charles Dickens’ Christmas story The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In (1844): ‘So may the New Year be a happy one to you, happy to many more whose happiness depends on you! So may each year be happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren or sisterhood debarred their rightful share, in what our Great Creator formed them to enjoy.’ This image is of Trotty Veck, a character from the story.

The Chimes

On the ninth day of Christmas…continue with the festivities. This is ‘Bringing in the Boar’s Head’ by J. Gilbert, Illustrated London News, 22 December 1855, page 733. In past centuries, a boar’s head was the meat dish chiefly associated with the festive season. John Aubrey, writing in the 17th century, describes how in gentlemen’s houses at Christmas ‘the first diet that was brought to table was a boar’s head with a lemon in his mouth.’ The Boar’s Head ceremonies held at Queen’s College, Oxford and in London by the Butchers’ Company still preserve this custom.

Boar's Head

On the tenth day of Christmas…still merry.  This image is ‘The Wassail Bowl’, drawn by John Gilbert (Illustrated London News, 22 December 1860, page 579). The beverage of choice for the wassail bowl was lambswool – hot spiced ale with toasted apples bobbing on the surface. Carol singers often went door to door with an empty wassail bowl, in the hope of cadging a drink off wealthier neighbours, but this does not seem to be the case in this particular illustration!

Wassail Bowl

On the eleventh day of Christmas…last dance. Published by the Moore Brothers in the 1800s. The Moore Brothers were tea merchants based in King William Street, City of London, as indicated by the logo in the top right-hand corner.

12 day of xmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas…Christmas goes out in fine style! A festive party two hundred years ago with Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Wordsworth and Keats.

Keats 1815

Murther, Murther! Murder?

murther

If you sometimes wonder about present day newspaper coverage of crimes before they go to trial, things could be worse.

This account (1641) of a supposed poisoning of a man by his wife and their landlady offers evidence, persuasion of guilt and straight to the judgement on the first page and all apparently before the woman had gone to trial!

The account reads like a ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon lamenting that ‘a daughter of Jerusalem hath committed an abomination’. We are told that one Anne Hamton of the Parish of Saint Margaret’s, Westminster spent all of her husband’s money in riotous living and when her good (and a little dull) husband begs her to leave off drinking and spending, she plots to poison him on the advice of the wicked landlady Margaret Harwood. He begs her ‘oh wife, wife, take counsell by me thy hitherto loving husband, forsake that company which hate not thy body, but soule, do not drink healths to thine own confusion, nor with so greedy an appetite swallow thine own destruction’ (p3). The poor man comes to a painful end but the evil deed of the women is soon discovered.

This may be a cautionary tale rather than a factual account. Court proceedings were not written down until the 1670s and it wasn’t until the 1750s that (nearly) every case was recorded.

Guildhall Library holds many of these short accounts of criminal activity which were printed and sold as a private enterprise and had nothing to do with the formal legal system. Some offer confessions or speeches purported to come from criminals about to be executed, sometimes ‘from the ladder’ just before they were hung.

One of my colleagues has suggested that this woodcut illustration is far older than the 1641 publication. The clothing depicted suggests an earlier date. Perhaps the workshop which did the printing owned the woodcut illustration and as it was to hand made use of it.

‘Murther, Murther!’ can be ordered at the library using reference A 1.2 no1 in 12.
This and other ‘accounts’ can be found on the library catalogue and you are welcome to visit to read them – just bring along proof of your name and address.

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian