Publications from national and international exhibitions, expositions, world's fairs and festivals

Exhibition Literature Collection

International exhibitions (also known as Expositions or World’s Fairs) can be considered as one of the hallmarks of nineteenth century civilisation. Their origins lay in small national exhibitions of the eighteenth century. However, by the late nineteenth century their scale had increased significantly. Nations displayed their industrial and artistic achievements to huge audiences. Vast amounts of money were spent sending thousands of examples of the latest technology and art around the world. For many, the international exhibition was their first experience of foreign cultures and peoples.

The Exhibition Literature Collection contains many examples of literature from 149 national and international exhibitions, including:

  • exhibition catalogues, listing all objects displayed and sometimes published in several languages
  • exhibition guidebooks, colourfully written, often published in many different editions
  • commemorative publications, including souvenir albums of views
  • surveys of industries in participating countries
  • general, financial and jury reports published by the organisers
  • official government reports by participating national governments

It is particularly strong in British, French and American exhibitions although other countries events are well represented.

  • Exposition universelle (1900 : Paris, France): 138 volumes
  • World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, United States): 132 volumes
  • Exposition universelle (1867 : Paris, France): 130 volumes
  • Exposition universelle (1889 : Paris, France): 90 volumes
  • International Exhibition (1862 : London, England): 72 volumes
  • Great Exhibition (1851 : London, England): 67 volumes
  • Centennial International Exhibition (1876 : Philadelphia, United States): 59 volumes
  • Weltausstellung (1873 : Vienna, Austria): 54 volumes
  • Exposition universelle (1878 : Paris, France): 49 volumes
  • Louisiana Purchase International Exposition (1904 : St.Louis, United States): 39 volumes

London exhibitions include those held on the Science Museum’s South Kensington site: International Fisheries Exhibition (1883); International Health Exhibition (1884); International Inventions Exhibition (1885); and, exhibitions held at the White City in West London: Imperial-Royal Austrian Exhibition (1906); Franco-British Exhibition (1908); Japan-British Exhibition (1910); and those held elsewhere in London including the British Empire Exhibition (1924 & 1925 : Wembley) and the 1951 Festival of Britain.

complete list of exhibitions is available.

The coloured engravings in some commemorative publications have been digitised including

Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851

Treasures of art, industry and manufacture represented in the American Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia 1876

The Rare Books Collection also contains catalogues from the first four French national industrial exhibitions (1798-1806); a collection of Prospectuses of Exhibitors from the 1851 Great Exhibition; and, Printed Documents and Forms for the International Exhibition held in London in 1862.

The collection is complemented by the Smithsonian Institution’s microfilmed collection The Books of the Fairs (held at SML London).