No-one was surprised when Punch magazine celebrated the grand opening of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, with opening ceremonies on 10 June 1854. Illustrated London News, its competitor on the weekly magazine market, did the same. Newspapers did the same. Sometimes this was referred to as a “re-opening”; sometimes a “new Crystal Palace”; and sometimes simply as the “Crystal Palace in Sydenham”. Queen Victoria’s attendance was captured on photograph and the scene was later painted by Joseph Nash.
Punch‘s lead article on the opening ceremonies left no doubt about the editor’s enthusiasm, though certainly in the magazine’s tongue-in-cheek style. The day “is destined to become a red-letter day in forthcoming almanacks…” (Punch 1854 page 245)
Issues of Punch typically included a full-page separable poster that highlighted some topical subject of the week. Frequently, these promoted some political characterisation or criticism. In 1854, posters frequently related to events in Crimea, unqualified support for British soldiers and sailors in service abroad, or satire on British political follies.
“A Reverie at the Crystal Palace” was the separable poster celebrating events in Sydenham around the opening of the Crystal Palace and Park. Unusually, it is a double-page poster, approximately A3. It appeared in Punch magazine, 1854, volume 26, pages 250-251. It was published 17 June 1854.
Reverie includes Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
“A Reverie at the Crystal Palace” includes reference to the sculptures created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins as part of the geological illustrations. These are located in the upper right corner of the poster. The animals drawn are Plesiosaurus (central on the glass house), Ichthyosaurus (to the right and partially obscured by a small rise), Mosasaurus (just below and showing only head and snout), and Labyrinthodon (shown chasing small children). Several visitors are drawn admiring the statues.
The Egyptian motif dominates “A Reverie” just as Egyptian themes dominated the central space of the glasshouse, with its giant statues of Rameses II, and the garden spaces nearest the glasshouse, with its sphinxes. Punch adapted Egyptian themes for the cover page to volume 26, covering January to June 1854. The presence of a Pharaonic Egyptian man in the dreamscape of “The Effects of a Hearty Dinner…” is a clear later Punch reference to the Egyptian motif.
The poster also references many of the other attractions in the palace and park. Along the bottom row of the poster, for instance, are references to the Medieval Court, Roman Court, Egyptian Court, and the Nineveh Court. Note Mr Punch in the extreme lower right corner of the poster.
Full poster of the Reverie