In July 2004 English Heritage was alerted to a forthcoming auction of 47 photographs of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. They are a unique and complete set of images of this iconic building, at the height of its fame, in the middle 1850s. The entire set was purchased by English Heritage and are all reproduced in sepia, in this gorgeous book. The photographer - Phillip Delamotte - was also a highly accomplished artist and lithographer. Many examples of his work, featuring the Crystal Palace, are also reproduced - some in colour. Only 6 colour prints, using the early 'Dufay' process are known to have been taken of the Palace - some of these also appear in the book, although they were taken much later 1n 1936. The images are further augmented by the work of other leading artists and photographers contemporary with Phillip Delamotte.
The Delamotte pictures were - of course - taken prior to the first disasterous fire in 1866, which consumed much of the northern end of the nave and the northern trancept, and was never rebuilt. Consequently, there are images of objects including the giant 'Abu Simbel' figures, that occupied the trancept - but were damaged beyond repair in the fire.
Although this book is largely a picture album, there are extended captions and a highly informative text covers the major characters involved in the Crystal Palace. One short chapter 'A Mythical End' poses the intriguing question of what would have become of the palace - had the fatal fire of 1936, which destroyed it utterly - never happened?
Almost every page is a joy to study, with so many sublime images to explore. The publishers - English Heritage - have done a superb job! For anyone with an interest in this 'Victorian Pleasure Dome' this is one of the definitive, must have volumes!