Henry Smith Evans was a member of the Royal Geographical Society and a noted mapmaker; he is best known for his ‘Map of the World on Mercator’s Projection shewing the British Possessions, with the date of their accession, population, &c., all the existing Steam Navigation, the Overland Route to India, with the proposed extension to Australia, also the route to Australia via Panama…’, which was published under a variety of slightly different titles between 1847 and 1852 and possibly later.
The knowledge he acquired in creating this made him ideally placed to produce this map game, lithographed by the highly skilled John Anthony L’Enfant (1825?–1880) and based on a voyage round the world. ‘The Crystal Palace Game’ was almost certainly produced to coincide with the removal to Sydenham of the great ‘Crystal Palace’ originally built for the Great Exhibition. The exhibition is properly called ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’. The brainchild of Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, the exhibition was held in Hyde Park, in London, between May and October 1851. Ostensibly designed to showcase the innovations of all countries, the exhibition was really intended to highlight the United Kingdom’s pre-eminence as world leader in arts, science and technology and her global dominance. As the motto at bottom centre attests – ‘Britain upon whose empire the sun never sets’.
Built to a revolutionary pre-fabricated design involving over 293,000 panes of plate-glass, the main exhibition building in Hyde Park immediately became known as the Crystal Palace. It was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton and constructed in rather less than nine months. The building was relocated from Hyde Park to Sydenham, south-east London (the area is now called Crystal Palace) in 1854, but destroyed by fire in 1936. The large vignette on the right side of the sheet is the opening ceremony of the Palace in its new home, performed by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Around the border of the map are 14 further vignettes depicting scenes from around the world – including slavers, tiger-hunting in India and Australian aborigines. There are smaller vignettes within the map proper, including the famous scene of the death of James Cook in Hawaii, Columbus making his first landfall in the West Indies and Alexander Selkirk on the Island of Juan Fernandez, the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. Also noticeable is the track of a voyage by a genuine Captain Flint in the Alfred, perhaps a latent source of inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson, who would have been just the right age to have enjoyed this kind of game as a boy.
The track of the players round the game is marked with numbered steps, starting from the Azores (number 1) and continuing round the world, coasting Africa, through Arabia, round India, through the East Indies, along the Pacific rim, back to Australia then round the coast of South America, past Cape Horn and then up round Brazil through the West Indies, along the eastern seaboard of the United States to Newfoundland and from there making the transatlantic crossing to the British Isles.
The index booklet, which would explain the various images, is not present. The large images are all numbered, but the numbers do not tally with the numeration of the map. Without the rules it is impossible to gain a complete understanding of the intricacies of the game, although it may well be that squares 11, a ship threatened by a large sea-monster, and 46 and 58, mariners being killed by hostile natives (58 being Cook) are ‘death’ or at least penalty squares.