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Richard D. Altick was Regents' Professor of English at Ohio State University. Among his numerous previously published works are The Scholar Adventurers, The English Common Reader, and Victorian People and Ideas.
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Altick, one of the greatest authors on Victorian Great Britain, outdoes himself in this comprehensive, illustrated history of "shows" in London from the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth into the reign of Queen Victoria (1600-1862.)
This is square brick of a book: cloth over boards with a sewn binding in dustjacket. 553 pp. 4.5 pounds. B&w illustrations throughout. Index. 28 pp of bibliographic information.
Here is a wide swath of entertainment: cabinets, museums, freak shows, waxworks, clockworks, dioramas, optical scenes, "spectral scenes," biological exhibitions (animal and human "native"), fine art, panoramas, The Crystal Palace, exhibit halls, artifacts of war, relics of history, water shows, magicians, dancers, pleasure gardens, and more.
The excerpt from the dustjacket blurb explains things fairly well:
"A berserk elephant gunned down in the heart of London, a machine for composing Latin hexameters, and the original rock band (1841)--these are but three of the sights that London curiosity-seekers from every walk of life paid to see from the Elizabethan era to the mid-Victorian period. Examining hundreds of the wonderfully varied exhibitions that culminated in the Crystal Palace of 1851, this generously illustrated book sheds light on a vast and colorful expanse of English social history that has thus far remained wholly unsurveyed.
Drawing on a wealth of never-before-used information, Mr. Altick traces London exhibitions as they evolved from the display of relics in pre-Reformation churches, through the collections of eighteenth-century virtuosi, to the first science museums and public art galleries. He also narrates for the first time the history of the panorama and diorama as an influential genre of nineteenth-century popular art.Read more ›
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