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Engraving - 'Tottenham High Cross', William Ellis, circa 1806 Image Reg. No: ST 042171

Engraving by Haydon, based on an original drawing by William Ellis (1747-1810). It was published by J. Stratford for the publication 'Descriptions of London' by Dr. Hughson. In the foreground a peepshow has been set up.

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.

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.
Single sheet discoloured paper. Hand-coloured engraving in muted tones.
Description Of Content:
Shows tree-lined street running past the 'high cross'. Two wagons are shown on the road, with some pedestrians walking along the side path. A peepshow has been set up in the foreground. Several spectators are gathered around it.
Acquisition Information:
Loan & Subsequent Donation from Australian Film Institute (AFI)
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 200 mm (Height), 130 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: amusements, optical toys, peepshows, perspective views
Themes this item is part of: Francis Collection, Images & Image Making Collection, Leisure Collection
Primary Classification: RECREATION & TOURISM
Secondary Classification: Performing Arts - Peep Shows
Tertiary Classification: illustrations
Inscriptions: Along bottom of page: 'Drawn by Ellis & Engraved by Haydon For Dr. Hughson's Description of London/TOTTENHAM HIGH CROSS./Published by ...atford, 112 Holborn Hill July 12th. 1806'
Format: Print - Engraving: Black & White
Collector: Mr David Francis, London, Middlesex, England, Great Britain, 1990
Artist: Mr William Ellis, 1806
Engraver: Haydon, 1806
Publisher: J. Stratford, 1806
References: The Richard Balzer Collection - Peepshows
Accessed 18 June 2010
  1. [Book], Mr Richard Balzer, Peepshows: A Visual History, Harry N. Abrams Inc., New York, 1998, 1998, 10-43 Pages

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