High Victorian Design: A Study of the Exhibits of 1851

High Victorian Design: A Study of the Exhibits of 1851

High Victorian Design: A Study of the Exhibits of 1851

High Victorian Design: A Study of the Exhibits of 1851

Excerpt

Until less than a year ago the only book on the Great Exhibition had been Christopher Hobhouse 1851 and the Crystal Palace, 1937. This had for some time been out of print and has now re-appeared with an introduction by Mr Osbert Lancaster (John Murray). It is still the most rewarding book on its subject, although it should be read in conjunction with Miss Yvonne ffrench The Great Exhibition, Harvill Press (1951) and Mr C. H. Gibbs-Smith's Commemorative Album The Great Exhibition of 1851, H.M.S.O., 1950. All three books are good on the building, but as for the exhibits, Christopher Hobhouse is too brief and tends to be facetious, Miss ffrench frankly dislikes the taste they display, and limits himself entirely to contemporary comments. In this lies the justification for my book. It is meant as a first and preliminary attempt to explain why High Victorian design looks as if does. Objects made for exhibitions tend to be in a high key; therefore the material on which I had to my judgements was one-sided, over- emphasizing certain aspects and neglecting others. That could not be helped, as of the homelier productions, reproduction and originals are hard to come by. So the reader must correct his visual impressions of the mid-nineteenth century style by somewhat lowering the pitch of what he is going to see.

NIKOLAUS PEVSNER

March, 1951.

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