The Victoria and Albert Museum has been gifted more than 360 paper peepshows representing some of the 19th century’s biggest events and architecture.
Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner donated their private collection of tunnel books to the London museum, including a diorama of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace and Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Moscow.
‘Peeping into one of these tunnel books is like stepping into another world, travelling through time and space,’ says Catherine Yvard, special collections curator at the V&A’s National Art Library.
Also among the stage sets – the largest collection in the world – are landscapes, military parades, and even fictional worlds like Lewis Caroll’s Wonderland. Some stretch more than 2 metres in length while others fit in the palm of your hand. Together they span almost 300 years of history.
Paper peepshows were invented in Germany and Austria in the 1820s and quickly gained popularity in the UK where they were sold as souvenirs.
The V&A’s collection – which was donated through the government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme – will be digitised and accessible via the National Art Library’s reading rooms.