This highly detailed and colourful sequence of images was published as a pictorial record of the hugely successful Great Exhibition of 1851, which ran in London’s Hyde Park between May and October of that year. Originally conceived by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (whose most famous patron was Prince Albert) the exhibition set out to display the staggering progress that had been achieved in all of the Society’s disciplines. The exhibition building itself was the source of worldwide acclaim: the famous ‘Crystal Palace’ designed by Joseph Paxton, and built in cast-iron and plate-glass, stretched symbolically 1,851 feet in length and rose to 128 feet in the air.
More than 100,000 objects were displayed by over 14,000 exhibiters from around the world, grouped into four principal themes: Machinery, Manufactures, Fine Arts and Raw Materials. Included in the exhibits were full scale hydraulic presses, steam engines, carriages, fire-arms, porcelain, enamels, carpets, textiles and even the 186 carat Koh-i-Noor diamond, among thousands upon thousands more artefacts (many of which are shown in this sequence). Over six million people visited the exhibition during its relatively short opening period, many of whom travelled to London from far-afield via the rapidly expanding railway network.