CRYSTAL PALACE-1851 Photograph of the Original Crystal Palace/Period Frame #1203

CRYSTAL PALACE-1851 Photograph of the Original Crystal Palace/Period Frame #1203

I contemplated keeping this for myself as it is so rare to find such an early photo of a world’s fair. It has the typical issues you find in any early large glass plate negative view cameras—any motion during say a 10-second exposure will blur. You can see the slight blurring of the fountains in the center and in the left foreground. You can see that the photographer was careful to ensure no people were walking by.

I have written and published many history books illustrated with early photography and one great plus is that the glass negatives of that era were 8x10 and 11x14 inches. So when a photograph today is reproduced at a fraction of the size of the negative, the clarity is amazing. The problems occur when you want to blow up the image.

This is as fine a Victorian photograph of the original Crystal Palace as you’ll find. I am quite sure that of the modern books written about the fair that on the few occasions where original 1851 photos are used they have been reproduced from prints of prints of prints of prints from innumerable generations. My first book in 1980 was about the Klondike gold rush—and it was a historian’s dream: I worked with a collection of original glass plate negatives that had been crated up and kept unopened by the photographer’s family for 75 years. The detail was overwhelming: You could read signs in windows, see people looking out o of windows and literally identify buildings that you previously did not they were even there!

The back of this picture is sealed with quite old heavy paper but it is impossible to tell if it dates to the original framing in 1851--I would guess that it could well be.