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The Subaquarama

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. Like another example entitled The Tunnel (Gestetner 195), it was published on 16 June, 1825 by the same publisher. Interestingly, the title was changed to ‘subaquarama’ thus adopting the popular suffix for optical devices in this period. The front-face adopts a completely different design; the inside, however, is almost identical, except that the second and the third cut-out panel are swapped round. The publisher might have been trying out different designs with his stock. As the design of The Subaquarama does not appear in other Thames Tunnel paper peepshows, whereas Gestetner 195 has many imitators, it seems that the latter proved a more popular design.

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 Subaquarama, Brown, T., 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. In a slipcase. Expands to approximately 64 cm.



In a red buckram portfolio, which indicates that it came from the collection of Percy Muir. Inscription in gold on the spine: ‘Thames Tunnel 1825.’



Slipcase: a blue label on a beige background, with the title on a scroll, the imprint, and a view of a cliff crowned with a classical pavilion on the left, and river or sea in the background.



Front-face: A mountain in the background by the lake, a cave with sparse vegetation in the foreground. The peep-hole consists of the mouth of the cave.



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



Panel 2: empty left archway, a man accompanying a cart in the right archway.



Panel 3: a carriage drawn by two horses in the left archway, a man carrying two pails 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: 11.6cm
  • Width: 14.2cm
  • Fully extended length: 64cm
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
Percy Muir (In a red buckram portfolio, which indicates that it came from the collection of Percy Muir. Inscription in gold on the spine: ‘Thames Tunnel 1825.’)



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. Like another example entitled The Tunnel (Gestetner 195), it was published on 16 June, 1825 by the same publisher. Interestingly, the title was changed to ‘subaquarama’ thus adopting the popular suffix for optical devices in this period. The front-face adopts a completely different design; the inside, however, is almost identical, except that the second and the third cut-out panel are swapped round. The publisher might have been trying out different designs with his stock. As the design of The Subaquarama does not appear in other Thames Tunnel paper peepshows, whereas Gestetner 195 has many imitators, it seems that the latter proved a more popular design.



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. 196.
Other Number
38041016059081 - NAL barcode
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 196

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record createdOctober 17, 2018
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