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The World's Show

Price: £29.50

By Leslie Lewis Allen.

The first work devoted entirely to Crystal Palace Medals and tokens dating from the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park in 1851, the Exhibition of Art Treasures, Manchester 1857, The International Exhibition, Kensington, 1862 and the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, destroyed by fire in 1936.

The World's Show, is about commemorative items, such as medals struck in celebration of the Crystal Palace and events that took place in it. You can still buy examples for under £10, but this is the first book to catalogue them. It contains more than 500 and promises good hunting.

Allen, a retired accountant, began his own collection when he was given a Coronation Medal worn by a friend who had been one of 100,000 children who greeted the newly crowned King George V and Queen Mary at the coronation fete at the south London palace in 1911. That number is a clue to the enormous scale of the building and grounds, originally built in Hyde Park in 1851 to house the Great Exhibition, but moved to Sydenham, where it was burnt down in 1936.

It still stirs collectors' hearts, especially when contrasted with the Dome, which achieved 6.5 million visitors in a year, compared with the Great Exhibition's 6 million in six months - in a country that then had little more than 20 million people. The Great Exhibition made a profit of £186,000 - equivalent to £50m today.

Among the Crystal Palace medals are some worn by children taking part in the annual national school orchestra competition. Lewis values participants' medals, showing a somewhat camp semi-draped Apollo with violin, at a mere £8. The top price quoted is £2,000 for a presentation set of five Great Exhibition Council bronze medals.

What building could house such a competition today? And what of the brass bands, gymnasts and the exhibitions of cats, canaries, rabbits, poultry, honey bees, all of whose medals are catalogued in the book? Crystal Palace gave them status. (John Windsor, The Observer, 21 January 2001)

In remembrance of Leslie and in celebration of the publication the Crystal Palace Foundation is now selling this important work - now regularly quoted as the industry standard.

276 pages hardback over 800 illustrations

See also the companion volumes - Recipients of Official Crystal Palace Medals Awards made by Her Majesty's Commissioners at the Great Exhibition 1851 and the South Kensington Exhibition 1862.