[The Thames Tunnel]

Paper Peepshow
ca. 1825 (made)
[The Thames Tunnel] thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
National Art Library
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. This homemade work is a manuscript copy of printed paper peepshows. 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 copy of one of the printed Thames Tunnel peepshows (Gestetner 195). The Gestetner collection contains three other handmade paper peepshows copied after the same printed model (Gestetner 201, Gestetner 203, and Gestetner 209). Interestingly, the reverse side of the cut-out panels shows pencil sketches of houses and vegetation. The maker thus appears to have recycled boards he had previously used to assemble this paper peepshow.

This paper peepshow, like many others, was 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
[The Thames Tunnel], ca.1825
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. Pen and ink and watercolour. Expands to approximately 62 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 – (Home made) -Ca. 1825.’



Front-face: a large oval peep-hole without shutter.



Panel 1: a man descending the stairs on the left, two men standing by the right archway of the Thames Tunnel.



Panel 2: a person carrying two pails in the left archway.



Panel 3: a cart with three packages in the left archway, a man in the right archway.



Panel 4 and 5: one man in each of the two archways.



Back panel: a hay-cart with a man in the left archway, a hay-cart with pedestrians in the right archway.



Dimensions
  • Height: 11.5cm
  • Width: 15cm
  • Fully extended length: 62cm
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 – (Home made) -Ca. 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. This homemade work is a manuscript copy of printed paper peepshows. 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 copy of one of the printed Thames Tunnel peepshows (Gestetner 195). The Gestetner collection contains three other handmade paper peepshows copied after the same printed model (Gestetner 201, Gestetner 203, and Gestetner 209). Interestingly, the reverse side of the cut-out panels shows pencil sketches of houses and vegetation. The maker thus appears to have recycled boards he had previously used to assemble this paper peepshow.



This paper peepshow, like many others, was 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. 202.
Other Number
38041016059099 - NAL barcode
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 202

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record createdOctober 17, 2018
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