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Printing Technology and the Role of Illustration

America's Introduction to Aesthetics


Architectural Pattern Books

Architectural Advice Books: The A.J.s

Architectural Advice Books: Other Writers

Art Instruction and Leisure Pursuit Manuals

Exposition Catalogs


Further Information

New-York Crystal Palace.—Interior View No. II
New-York Crystal Palace.—Interior View No. II, wood engraving, The World of Science, Art, and Industry Illustrated From Examples in the New-York Exhibition, 1853-54, 1854.
Exposition Catalogs

Organizers of international expositions opened a whole new world of goods to consumers and art lovers and illustrated publications were an essential part of their success. Chief among these important showcases of design were “The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations” at London’s Crystal Palace in 1851, the imitative “The Works of Industry of all Nations” at New York’s Crystal Palace in 1853, and Philadelphia’s “Centennial International Exposition” in 1876. Manufacturers who displayed at these world’s fairs featured tour de force showpieces, as well as more conventional product lines, in order to dazzle customers and to mark the progress made by humankind. Non-industrialized nations exhibited examples of traditional crafts, wares that excited an audience primed to appreciate exoticism in design.

Illustrated exposition publications, ranged from official multiple-volume sets highlighting the masterpieces of the collection to tourist-friendly handbooks. The value of some lay in their giving permanence to temporary installations; others offered pointed commentary while directing visitors through the exhibitions. Still others were pieces of art criticism. The legacy of such publications lived on long after the popularity of world’s fairs faded. London’s 1851 Crystal Palace exposition established a formula for exhibition catalogs and related publications, one first adopted by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and eventually by museums across the United States.