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Tunnel under the Thames as it will appear when finished, 600 feet already completed

Paper Peepshow
ca. 1828 (made)
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 generated 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. This paper peepshow is actually a handmade work. The shutter design is inspired by that of A View of the Tunnel under the Thames published in 1828 by S.F. Gouyn (Gestetner 208), although the design on the cut-out panels differs.

The paper peepshow is a rather crude work: there is much repetition in the imagery on the cut-out panels, which could suggest that the maker was less concerned with the content than with the perspectival effect. Moreover, in assembling this paper peepshow, the maker used different methods, and did not show much attempt in concealing where different sheets of paper joined together. While the adhesive strips from envelopes are used to attach the cut-out panels to the front face and back panel, some panels are stitched to the bellows.

This paper peepshow, like many others, was probably produced while the Tunnel was still under construction, and depicts the Tunnel as imagined when completed. 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
Tunnel under the Thames as it will appear when finished, 600 feet already completed, ca. 1828
Physical Description
Hand-made accordion-style paper peepshow of the Thames Tunnel imagined as it would appear when completed.



5 cut-out panels. 1 peep-hole. Ink wash and watercolour. Expands to approximately 61 cm.



Front-face: text handwritten in ink providing an introduction to the peepshow ‘Tunnel under The Thames / as it will appear when finished. 600 feet already compleated [sic] / Length from shaft to shaft 1300 feet’ and below the peephole, ‘Chasm in the vignette represents the hole in the bed of the / river which inundated the works 18th of May 1827 and the / manner in which it is stop’d with bags of clay &c.’. A large oval peep-hole surrounding shutters. The upper shutter shows a view across the Thames, and the lower shutter illustrates the inundation of the Tunnel on 18 May 1827. The shutter image is a hand-painted copy of the image in Gestetner 208.



Panel 1: people on the left and right side of the staircase, a woman in the left archway, two men in the right archway.



Panel 2: a coach drawn by two horses and with three passengers in the left archway, a cab and a single pedestrian in the right archway.



Panel 3: a woman and a cart with several men riding in the left archway, a cab and a single pedestrian in the right archway.



Panel 4: a woman and a horseman in the left archway, a cab and a woman in the right archway.



Panel 5: a woman in the left archway, a cab and a single pedestrian in the right archway.



Back panel: a carriage in the left archway, a single pedestrian and a wagon in the right archway. On the reverse side, manuscript note that reads ‘Louise Williams the gift of Miss Bowles 1836.’



The cabs and the pedestrians on Panel 2 to 5 look almost identical, but with different colours.





Dimensions
  • Height: 11.5cm
  • Width: 13.7cm
  • Fully extended length: 61cm
Marks and Inscriptions
‘Louise Williams the gift of Miss Bowles 1836.’ (Inscription on the reverse side of the back panel.)
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
Louise Williams, 1836 (On the reverse side of the back panel, manuscript note that reads ‘Louise Williams the gift of Miss Bowles 1836.’)



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 generated 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. This paper peepshow is actually a handmade work. The shutter design is inspired by that of A View of the Tunnel under the Thames published in 1828 by S.F. Gouyn (Gestetner 208), although the design on the cut-out panels differs.



The paper peepshow is a rather crude work: there is much repetition in the imagery on the cut-out panels, which could suggest that the maker was less concerned with the content than with the perspectival effect. Moreover, in assembling this paper peepshow, the maker used different methods, and did not show much attempt in concealing where different sheets of paper joined together. While the adhesive strips from envelopes are used to attach the cut-out panels to the front face and back panel, some panels are stitched to the bellows.



This paper peepshow, like many others, was probably produced while the Tunnel was still under construction, and depicts the Tunnel as imagined when completed. 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. 209.
Other Number
38041016059388 - NAL barcode
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 209

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record createdOctober 17, 2018
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