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[Thames Tunnel]

Paper Peepshow
ca. 1843 (published)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Thame Tunnel was one of the most popular subjects for British paper peepshows, which were produced throughout the period of its construction and beyond. The Tunnel’s construction started in 1825, and after various flood accidents and a long period of suspension of work between 1828 and 1835, the Tunnel finally opened to the public on 25 March 1843. It was received with great excitement both during and immediately after its construction, which explains why it remained a popular topic for the paper peepshow for so long. Yet the glory of the Tunnel did not last for very long and, in 1865 it was sold to the East London Railway Company and converted into a railway tunnel in 1869. Today the Tunnel forms part of the London Overground network.

This paper peepshow is unique in the Gestetner Collection for many reasons. Compared to other Thames Tunnel paper peepshows, it is miniature in size and, very unusually, only shows one archway of the Tunnel. More significantly, this work was made from a construction sheet entitled ‘Amusement for the Ingenious or Mechanical, Architectural Perspective, Forming a pleasing View of the Thames Tunnel, giving Employment to the Curious, and rendering Pleasure for the Million.’ (a copy of it is at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum) It was sold in different states: 1d (one penny) for the unconstructed plain version, or 2d if unconstructed, but coloured, and 6d. when coloured and constructed. The publisher, G. Purkis, also advertised cheap literature in stock on the same sheet.

Interestingly, although produced by G. Purkis, the construction sheet as well as the made-up work include a reference to J. V. Quick. This would suggest some kind of collaboration between the two. Quick had a stall in the Tunnel, which is represented in this paper peepshow. Located at No. 47, it had a printing press, where Quick produced paper toys and puzzles, paper peepshows and other optical toys. But what has survived in largest quantity of his production is the broadsheet named Thames Tunnel Newspaper or The Royal Thames Tunnel Paper, commemorating the Tunnel’s opening, and a bit later, of Queen Victoria’s visit in July 1843. By using the term ‘newspaper’ and stressing in his broadsheet that it was printed ’76 feet below high-water mark’, Quick emphasised the sense of immediacy and first-hand experience of the Tunnel. The paper peepshow was another way of giving its users the illusion of unmediated experience.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brief Description
[Thames Tunnel], Purkis, G., ca. 1843
Physical Description
Accordion-style paper peepshow of the Thames Tunnel.



2 cut-out panels. 1 peep-hole. Hand-coloured wood engraving. Expands to approximately 26 cm.



Front-face: view of the surface buildings at the Rotherhithe end of the Thames Tunnel, and the vendor’s name I. V. Quick, two men standing in the bottom right corner. The peep-hole consists of the small square in the centre.



Panel 1: two men standing in the Thames Tunnel archway.



Panel 2: a man in the archway in the middle; a woman and a man standing by a stand that carries the words ‘I. V. Quick Printer No. 47.’



Back panel: a couple in the archway.

Dimensions
  • Height: 11.3cm
  • Width: 7.5cm
  • Fully extended length: 2.6cm
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 Thame Tunnel was one of the most popular subjects for British paper peepshows, which were produced throughout the period of its construction and beyond. The Tunnel’s construction started in 1825, and after various flood accidents and a long period of suspension of work between 1828 and 1835, the Tunnel finally opened to the public on 25 March 1843. It was received with great excitement both during and immediately after its construction, which explains why it remained a popular topic for the paper peepshow for so long. Yet the glory of the Tunnel did not last for very long and, in 1865 it was sold to the East London Railway Company and converted into a railway tunnel in 1869. Today the Tunnel forms part of the London Overground network.



This paper peepshow is unique in the Gestetner Collection for many reasons. Compared to other Thames Tunnel paper peepshows, it is miniature in size and, very unusually, only shows one archway of the Tunnel. More significantly, this work was made from a construction sheet entitled ‘Amusement for the Ingenious or Mechanical, Architectural Perspective, Forming a pleasing View of the Thames Tunnel, giving Employment to the Curious, and rendering Pleasure for the Million.’ (a copy of it is at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum) It was sold in different states: 1d (one penny) for the unconstructed plain version, or 2d if unconstructed, but coloured, and 6d. when coloured and constructed. The publisher, G. Purkis, also advertised cheap literature in stock on the same sheet.



Interestingly, although produced by G. Purkis, the construction sheet as well as the made-up work include a reference to J. V. Quick. This would suggest some kind of collaboration between the two. Quick had a stall in the Tunnel, which is represented in this paper peepshow. Located at No. 47, it had a printing press, where Quick produced paper toys and puzzles, paper peepshows and other optical toys. But what has survived in largest quantity of his production is the broadsheet named Thames Tunnel Newspaper or The Royal Thames Tunnel Paper, commemorating the Tunnel’s opening, and a bit later, of Queen Victoria’s visit in July 1843. By using the term ‘newspaper’ and stressing in his broadsheet that it was printed ’76 feet below high-water mark’, Quick emphasised the sense of immediacy and first-hand experience of the Tunnel. The paper peepshow was another way of giving its users the illusion of unmediated experience.

Bibliographic Reference
R. Hyde, Paper Peepshows. The Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection (Woodbridge: The Antique Collectors' Club, 2015), cat. 239.
Other Number
38041016058976 - NAL barcode
Collection
Library Number
Gestetner 239

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record createdAugust 22, 2018
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