Rarely seen photographs of 19th century London are going to be revealed at an exhibition at the British Library in October. Many of the photos were originally taken in order to preserve the history of the city, while industrialisation altered its appearance significantly. The exhibition will also include images from around the world during the period, but the ones I found most interesting are those representing real people and the construction of key London sights, such as the Underground and Nelson’s Column. The photos that have been released also include one of Hippo Obaysch in London Zoo, who was donated by Egypt in 1850. From The Guardian:

The animal’s arrival at London zoo caused huge excitement and visitor numbers quickly doubled. But, as is often the way with celebrity, interest waned as people began to realise the star didn’t do very much.

Hippo Obaysch in 1852

The image of Obaysch will be one of more than 250 rarely seen 19th-century photographs to be exhibited at the British Library’s big winter show, details of which were announced today. Incredibly, for an institution which has some 350,000 photographs spread across its various and vast archives, this will be the first major photographic exhibition to be held at the library.

John Falconer, the library’s head of visual materials, said: “Although we have what is undoubtedly a world class collection of 19th-century photographs, these have not been particularly prominent in the public eye. This exhibition is an attempt to remedy that.”

The construction of the Central line in 1898 The construction of Nelson's Column in 1844

The exhibition, Points of View, will run at the British Library from 30th October 2009 to 7th March 2010 and will be free. There’s a little more information about it on the British Library website with a video of some of the photographs.

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