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[The Thames Tunnel]

Paper Peepshow
ca. 1825 (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. 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 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. There also appeared manuscript copies of printed works, of which this paper peepshow is one. This manuscript work is copied after Gestetner 195, and there are three other manuscript paper peepshows in the collection, Gestetner 202, Gestetner 203, and Gestetner 209.

This paper peepshow, like many others, was produced before the Tunnel was completed, and depicts the Tunnel as imagined. 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 by the publisher as it would appear when completed.



5 cut-out panels. 1 peep-hole. Pen and ink and watercolour. Expands to approximately 62 cm.



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



Panel 3: a man in the left and right archway of the Tunnel respectively.



Panel 4: a man in the left archway of the Tunnel, and the empty right archway.



Panel 5: empty archways of the Tunnel.



Back panel: a hay-cart with a man in the left and right archway of the Tunnel respectively.

Dimensions
  • Height: 11cm
  • Width: 14cm
  • 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
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 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. There also appeared manuscript copies of printed works, of which this paper peepshow is one. This manuscript work is copied after Gestetner 195, and there are three other manuscript paper peepshows in the collection, Gestetner 202, Gestetner 203, and Gestetner 209.



This paper peepshow, like many others, was produced before the Tunnel was completed, and depicts the Tunnel as imagined. 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. 201.
Other Number
38041016058521 - NAL barcode
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 201

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record createdOctober 18, 2017
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