The Tunnel

Paper Peepshow
ca. 1825 (published)
The Tunnel thumbnail 1
The Tunnel thumbnail 2
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. 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 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 199 apart from some minor details. They also share a high level of similarity with those in Gestetner 195, Gestetner 196, and Gestenter 198.

This paper peepshow, like many others, was published before the Tunnel was completed, and 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, ca.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 62 cm.



Slipcase: red with the gilt title on the front and reverse. A silk ribbon to facilitate extraction of the paper peepshow.

Front-face: 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.



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



Panel 2: a man carrying two pails in the left archway, a carriage drawn by two horses in the right archway.



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



Back panel: a cart with a tall load in the left archway, and a brewer’s dray and several pedestrians in the right archway. On the reverse side features a partial manuscript transcription of the text printed on the slipcase label of other paper peepshows in the collection, Gestetner 198 and Gestetner 199 The text introduces the construction of the Thames Tunnel.



Dimensions
  • Height: 11.5cm
  • Width: 15cm
  • 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 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 199 apart from some minor details. They also share a high level of similarity with those in Gestetner 195, Gestetner 196, and Gestenter 198.



This paper peepshow, like many others, was published before the Tunnel was completed, and 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. 200.
Other Number
38041016058919 - NAL barcode
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 200

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record createdOctober 18, 2017
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