Between May 1 and Oct. 15, 1851, more than 6 million people wound their way through London’s Crystal Palace to experience the first World’s Fair.
“The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” celebrated modern industrial technology and design from around the globe. Attendees saw an array of international inventions, such as Frederick Bakewell’s precursor to the contemporary fax machine, Samuel Colt’s prototype for the .36 caliber Colt Navy Revolver and Joseph Marie Jacquard’s mechanical loom.
Other items on display included modern globes, electric telegraphs, microscopes, air pumps, surgical instruments, gold and silver jewelry, as well as the Koh-i-Noor, the supposedly cursed jewel from India, then the world’s largest known diamond at just over 186 carats.
Among the many works printed to commemorate the historic exhibition was a tunnel book – better known as a “peepshow” book in the 19th century.
Shaped like a concertina and designed by T. J. Rawlings, Lane’s Telescopic View of the Interior of the Great Industrial Exhibition is a 10-panel lithographic book with a lens mounted in the front section. When fully extended, it offers a three-dimensional perspective of the pageantry encountered at the Great Exhibition. The book depicts the Crystal Palace interior, the central aisle of the fair, the numerous exhibitors and guests, fountains and trees.
The USC Libraries’ Special Collections owns a rare copy of Lane’s Telescopic View, which complements an extensive collection of intricately designed artists’ books. To view any of the items in Special Collections, call (213) 740-5900 or email email@example.com.
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