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Engraving - 'Raree Show at Lin-Sin-Choo', T. Allom, circa 1840 Image Reg. No: ST 042261

Hand-coloured engraving showing the public scene of a raree (or peep) show in China.

A peepshow is a closed, or partially closed box with one or more viewing holes. Interchangeable images are placed within the box for viewing. There were basically two types of peepshow boxes produced. Horizontal boxes had their viewing holes at one end, and relied on the lens of the viewer and depth of the box to create perspective. Vertical boxes (boite d'optiques) also used the lens of the viewer, but in combination with an angled mirror to redirect the gaze, or to create an illusion.

Peepshows have their origin in the study of perspective during the 15th and 16th centuries. Whilst originally the preserve of the educated, scientists and artists, by the 18th century peepshows had become a feature of popular street entertainment. Itinerant showmen travelled the towns and fairs, attracting people by the use of their voices, musical instruments and sometimes an accompanist. The mysterious and magical peepshow was but part of the total show which relied strongly on the showman's story telling abilities. The showman would also at times create movement by manipulating the images within by use of strings and hooks. Some types of images allowed the viewer to see the picture as by day, and then as by night through the use of back-lighting, provided by the sun or a candle. Popular themes for the peepshows included foreign countries, historical events and nature. Small, domestic versions of the peepshow were also produced. During the 19th century peepshows were also sold as souvenirs. These could be as diverse as alabaster peep eggs, to sheets of paper pasted together to form a concertina shaped perspective view of a scene. Peepshows were popular in many parts of the world and went under several different names: in England and the U.S.A., peepshow; in France, boite d'optique; in Italy, mondo nuovo, in Holland, optiques; in Germany, guckkasten. They were also popular in China and Japan.

The artist Thomas Allom (1804-1872) was an architect, topographical draughtsman, illustrator and watercolourist. Allom was a founder member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Allom travelled extensively and many of the resulting drawings were engraved and incorporated into travel books. This particular illustration featured in 'China Illustrated', which was printed between 1843-47.

This image is part of the Francis Collection of pre-cinematic apparatus and ephemera, acquired by the Australian and Victorian Governments in 1975. David Francis was the curator of the National Film and Sound Archive of the British Film Institute as well as being a co-founder of the Museum of the Moving Image in London, which was operational between 1988 and 1999.
Discoloured white paper. Hand-coloured engraved image.
Description Of Content:
Raree show at Lin-Sin-Choo.
Acquisition Information:
Loan & Subsequent Donation from Australian Film Institute (AFI)
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 210 mm (Height), 273 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: entertainment, motion picture films, pre-cinema moving images, peepshows
Themes this item is part of: Francis Collection, Images & Image Making Collection, Leisure Collection
Primary Classification: RECREATION & TOURISM
Secondary Classification: Performing Arts - Street Entertainment
Tertiary Classification: illustrations
Inscriptions: Below image: At Left: 'Drawn by T. Allom'; At Right: 'Engraved by G. Paterson.'; At Centre: 'Raree Show at Lin-sin-shoo./Montre des poupees a Lin-sin-shoo. Puppenspiel zu Lin-sin-choo/FISHER, SON & CO. LONDON & PARIS.'
Format: Print - Engraving: Colour
Collector: Mr David Francis, London, Middlesex, England, Great Britain, 1990
Artist: Mr Thomas Allom, circa 1840
Engraver: G. Paterson, circa 1840
Publisher: Fisher, Son & Co., London, Paris, England, Great Britain, (1828 - 1847)
References: Thomas Allom
Accessed 11 June 2010.

Fisher, Son & Co. National Portrait Gallery website
Accessed 4 March 2011.

The Richard Balzer Collection - Peepshows
Accessed 4 March 2011
  1. [Book], Mr Richard Balzer, Peepshows: A Visual History, Harry N. Abrams Inc., New York, 1998, 1998, 10-43 Pages

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