AT THE TURN OF THE 19TH CENTURY, advances in technology, science, and engineering made way for new possibilities in empire, colonialism, and travel. Art, too, benefited from these advances—printing became easier, cheaper, and significantly more colorful through the advent of lithographic printing. Now, for significantly less cost than the price of transcontinental travel, large books with lavish, vibrant prints could transport the British public from the Scottish moors to the Indian peninsula. These “color plate books,” however, were not just beautiful objects, they also created a vision of empire that could be exotic, romantic, and picturesque.
A member of the Class of 1953, Leonard L. Milberg has been collecting British color plate books since the 1980s. His collection comprises about 115 exemplars published primarily in London from the late 18th through the middle of the 19th century. Ranging in topic from history to horticulture, martial achievements to topographical scenery, these selections from the Milberg collection speak to a new aesthetic practice in Britain during a period when a larger sense of nation and empire was forming.