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An 1843 Victorian circus poster for the Pablo Fanque Circus, which inspired the 1967 Beatles song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", a homage to Victorian circuses
The Dusty Circus font, a commercial font inspired by Victorian circus posters, is an example of Victoriana.

Victoriana is a term used to refer to material culture related to the Victorian period (1837–1901).[1] It often refers to decorative objects, but can also describe a variety of artifacts from the era including graphic design, publications, photography, machinery, architecture, fashion, and Victorian collections of natural specimens.[2] The term can also refer to Victorian-inspired designs, nostalgic representations, or references to Victorian-era aesthetics or culture appropriated for use in new contexts [3]

The term "Victoriana" was coined in 1918, just before a wave of interest in Victorian objects and artifacts began in the 1920s. Another increased period of collecting of Victoriana emerged in the 1950s.[4] In 1951, the Festival of Britain commemorated the centenary of the Victorian era's first world's fair, the 1851 Great Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace.[5]

In the 1960s and 1970s, the eclectic character of Victorian era wood type inspired graphic designers like Seymour Chwast and Push Pin Studios.[6] Items such as Stevengraphs were popular collectable items during the revival of interest in Victoriana in the 1960s and 1970s.[7]

In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, promoted an interest in Victoriana by emphasizing "Victorian family values"[8] as part of a roadmap to cultural, moral, and economic improvement.[9]

Popular culture[edit]

In science fiction circles (especially in genres like steampunk), Victoriana is used loosely to describe mock-Victorian worlds, where visual references to the machinery of the Industrial Revolution are incorporated into urban, romanticized pastiches with fantastic creatures and imagined mechanical contraptions.[10][11][12]


  1. ^ "Definition of VICTORIANA". Retrieved 2022-12-17.
  2. ^ Stevens, Matthes (18 January 2021). "John Gould: The age of collecting". The Australian Museum. Retrieved 2022-12-17.
  3. ^ Kaplan, Cora (2007). Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticism. Columbia University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-231-14217-5.
  4. ^ Gardiner, John (2006-10-27). The Victorians: An Age in Retrospect. A&C Black. pp. 91–2. ISBN 978-1-85285-560-4.
  5. ^ Taylor, Miles; Wolff, Michael (2004-09-04). The Victorians Since 1901: Histories, Representations and Revisions. Manchester University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-7190-6725-9.
  6. ^ Chwast, Seymour (2004-09-09). The Push Pin Graphic: A Quarter Century of Innovative Design and Illustration. Chronicle Books. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-8118-4103-0.
  7. ^ Thorncroft, Antony. Memories are made of this 29 November 2008
  8. ^ "TV Interview for London Weekend Television Weekend World ("Victorian Values") | Margaret Thatcher Foundation". Retrieved 2022-12-17.
  9. ^ "What is Thatcherism?". BBC News. 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2022-12-17.
  10. ^ Albrecht, Kathe Hicks (2021-11-04). The Machine Anxieties of Steampunk: Contemporary Philosophy, Victorian Aesthetics, and the Future. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-5013-4934-8.
  11. ^ McAllister, Robbie (2019-03-07). Steampunk Film: A Critical Introduction. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 978-1-5013-3122-0.
  12. ^ Whitson, Roger (2016-12-01). Steampunk and Nineteenth-Century Digital Humanities: Literary Retrofuturisms, Media Archaeologies, Alternate Histories. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-50910-3.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bridgeman, Harriet & Drury, Elizabeth, eds. (1975) The Encyclopaedia of Victoriana. Feltham: Hamlyn for 'Country Life'
  • Field, Rachael (1988) Victoriana. London: Macdonald Orbis ISBN 035615856X
  • Gabriel, Juri (1969) Victoriana. London: Hamlyn ISBN 0600001385
  • Latham, Jean (1971) Victoriana. London: Muller ISBN 0584103263
  • Laver, James (1966) Victoriana. London: Ward Lock
  • --do.-- (1973) --do.-- revised ed. London: Ward Lock ISBN 0706312791
  • Victoriana. (Miller's Antiques Checklist.) London: MitchellBeazley, 1991 ISBN 0855338954
  • Palmer, Geoffrey & Lloyd, Noel (1976) The Observer's Book of Victoriana. London: Frederick Warne
  • Woodhouse, C. P. (1970) The Victoriana Collector's Handbook. London: George Bell & Sons