The books represented in this exhibit were intended to give mostly French and English audiences a view—through the lens of costume—into the lives of peoples and places near and far, from the recent and distant past. Grounded in historical and ethnographic research but rendered with an artistic eye, these books filled with colorful plates fed several overlapping nineteenth-century fascinations, including antiquarianism, romanticism, ethnography and travel literature, nationalism, and nostalgia. Costume history books offer a window into the historiography of the amateur study of culture. The authors of these works were as interested in disseminating fantasy as in collecting and curating fact.
Images of the exhibit are available from Swem Library on Flickr.