When the Crystal Palace and Park opened in Sydenham in 1854, the Crystal Palace Company had ready a series of small guidebooks to help visitors explore the attractions of their theme park. The general Guide offered a synopsis for all the attractions: from highlights and general philosophies to practical information about food and conveniences. This general Guide was updated every season to take into account new features. Specialist guidebooks concentrated on single components, such as the Italian Court, the Alhambra Court, and the famous Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. These specialist guides extended the visitor’s experience, providing extra detail and explanation far beyond what could be provided on site. Many of the authors of these specialist guides were well-respected experts in their fields. Their authorships – think of these as celebrity intellectual endorsements – added to the pleasure park’s air of authenticity and respectability. They helped Crystal Palace seem a far more sophisticated experience than would come from simple amusement.
The 1854 Crystal Palace and Park was the second edition of that great Victorian attraction. The 1851 “Great Exhibition” in Hyde Park, London, England, United Kingdom, was an extraordinary success, After one season, the famous glasshouse – dubbed the “crystal palace” – was sold to a private company, disassembled, and moved to a new site near Sydenham, Anerley, and Norwood in South London. The “Crystal Palace Company” (CPC) shifted the building to South London and made it the centre piece of a 300-acre pleasure park. This featured the great glasshouse (expanded and filled with cultural galleries and exhibits), elaborate gardens, and the now famous sculptures of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.
The guides published by CPC provide a unique record of the galleries and visitor attractions in the glasshouse and park. Euston Grove Press is producing a complete set of facsimiles editions for this series of guidebooks, with completion expected in 2023.
How Many Guidebooks Were in the Collection?
The total number of original guidebooks planned was 18; the total number published was 17. Advertisements identify two other volumes in the guidebook series than those physically published. The Industrial Directory of the Crystal Palace (London: Crystal Palace Library and Bradbury and Evans) was published in 1854. A volume, “How to See the Sculpture in the Crystal Palace,” by Raffaele Monti , was advertised but never completed.
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