Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the National Art Library

The Tunnel

Paper Peepshow
1825 (published)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Thames Tunnel was one of the most popular British subjects for paper peepshows, and its enduring association with this kind of optical device can still be judged from one of its modern names, the ‘tunnel book’ (this term is most often used in the United States). The paper peepshow’s accordion shape would suggest a natural link to the form of the Tunnel, as the expanded bellows effectively create the depth impression that echoes the Tunnel archways. When we look through the peep-hole of this work, we can see pedestrians and vehicles promenading in the bright underground passage.

The construction of the Thames Tunnel connecting Wapping on the north with Rotherhithe on the south was authorised in 1824. Work began on the Rotherhithe shaft in March 1825, and the first Thames Tunnel paper peepshow appeared as early as 16 June of the same year, showing how the finished work would look. Although the Tunnel officially opened on 25 March, 1843, the publishers’ interest in the topic would continue into the 1860s.

Similar to the Great Exhibition, the Thames Tunnel also spurred great public excitement both at home and abroad, and the paper peepshow is but one part of the huge souvenir market this engineering feat gave rise to. Their production in large quantities was however accompanied by a neglect in quality, and a large number of paper peepshows recycled their content from one to the other. The images on the cut-out panels in this paper peepshow are the exact replica of those in Gestetner 195 apart from some minor details. They also share a high level of similarity with those in Gestetner 196, Gestetner 199 and Gestetner 200.

R. Silvester's firm Silvester & Co. is a company of engravers and printers, and it appears that they had already printed the shutter image in 1824. Published before the Tunnel was completed, this paper peepshow depicts the Tunnel as imagined by the publisher. The horse-drawn carriages shown in the paper peepshow, for instance, were never able to enter the Tunnel in reality, as a ramp was never built.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brief Description
The Tunnel, Silvester & Co., 1825
Physical Description
Accordion-style paper peepshow of the Thames Tunnel imagined by the publisher as it would appear when completed.



5 cut-out panels. 1 peep-hole. Hand-coloured etching and steel engraving. In a slipcase. Expands to approximately 66 cm.

Slipcase: a label on an asparagus green background. The labels carries the text titled ‘Perspective View of the Tunnel now Making Under the Thames, between Rotherhithe & Wapping, about Two Miles below London Bridge.’ The text introduces the construction of the Thames Tunnel and explains the intention for producing the paper peepshow.



Front-face: the title on a swallow-tailed scroll, surmounted by the Swordbearer’s Fur Cap, the City Mace and Sword at the bottom. A large oval peep-hole surrounding shutters. The upper shutter shows a view across the Thames, and the lower shutter is a cross section of the Tunnel. The publisher’s details are below the image on the lower shutter.



Panel 1, 4 and 5: pedestrians in the left and right archways in the Thames Tunnel.



Panel 2: a carriage drawn by two horses in the left archway, the figure(s) originally in the right archway appear to have been torn away.



Panel 3: a man in the left archway, a man accompanying a cart in the right archway.



Back panel: a brewer’s dray and several pedestrians in the left archway, and a cart with a tall load in the right archway.

Dimensions
  • Height: 12cm
  • Width: 14.5cm
  • Fully extended length: 66cm
Credit line
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from the collections of Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016.
Object history
Part of the Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection, collected over 30 years and given to the V&A Museum through the government's Cultural Gift Scheme, 2016.
Summary
The Thames Tunnel was one of the most popular British subjects for paper peepshows, and its enduring association with this kind of optical device can still be judged from one of its modern names, the ‘tunnel book’ (this term is most often used in the United States). The paper peepshow’s accordion shape would suggest a natural link to the form of the Tunnel, as the expanded bellows effectively create the depth impression that echoes the Tunnel archways. When we look through the peep-hole of this work, we can see pedestrians and vehicles promenading in the bright underground passage.



The construction of the Thames Tunnel connecting Wapping on the north with Rotherhithe on the south was authorised in 1824. Work began on the Rotherhithe shaft in March 1825, and the first Thames Tunnel paper peepshow appeared as early as 16 June of the same year, showing how the finished work would look. Although the Tunnel officially opened on 25 March, 1843, the publishers’ interest in the topic would continue into the 1860s.



Similar to the Great Exhibition, the Thames Tunnel also spurred great public excitement both at home and abroad, and the paper peepshow is but one part of the huge souvenir market this engineering feat gave rise to. Their production in large quantities was however accompanied by a neglect in quality, and a large number of paper peepshows recycled their content from one to the other. The images on the cut-out panels in this paper peepshow are the exact replica of those in Gestetner 195 apart from some minor details. They also share a high level of similarity with those in Gestetner 196, Gestetner 199 and Gestetner 200.



R. Silvester's firm Silvester & Co. is a company of engravers and printers, and it appears that they had already printed the shutter image in 1824. Published before the Tunnel was completed, this paper peepshow depicts the Tunnel as imagined by the publisher. The horse-drawn carriages shown in the paper peepshow, for instance, were never able to enter the Tunnel in reality, as a ramp was never built.

Bibliographic Reference
R. Hyde, Paper Peepshows. The Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection (Woodbridge: The Antique Collectors' Club, 2015), cat. 198.
Other Number
38041016058711 - NAL barcode
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 198

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdOctober 18, 2017
Record URL