Saturday, February 6, 2010


What did people see in peepshows? The variety of images was substantial, but mostly what one could see were scenes of great cities, battle scenes or far off lands. Most views employed some element of perspective drawing, the most typical being the use of a vanishing point, to create a more 3d feeling to the flat image. Large numbers of these images, often based on famous paintings or prints, were turned out in England, France and Italy. The large majority of views were daytime views, the prints mounted on stiff cardboard. However, there were a group of prints which had some transparent elements, often pieces of the print were cut out or pin pricks were made, and colored paper was used as backing creating day/night views and allowing the showman more range in what was shown. Now with such views not only could a day-time image be shown, but when lit from behind, night time effects, often with stars coming out, or lights in windows could be made.

I have just added a page to the web site featuring 60 remarkable day/night views

Click here to see the Peepshow view collection

Click here for a flash gallery of several views

Friday, February 5, 2010

Many people have asked me how I began collecting. The answer is easy: without intention. I used to be a professional photographer and I was living in England when a friend dragged me to a small country auction. I looked around and was attracted to a beautiful wooden object. I thought it was a camera but it was a magic lantern and not only was the lantern for sale but there were about 100 glass slides from about 1880 of daily life in China and for fifty pounds they became mine. Nothing much would have happened if I hadn’t been invited to see a magic lantern show a month later. I thought I might see some more photographic slides but no what I saw left me open-mouthed full of wonder and amazement. What flashed on the screen was an array of moving hand-painted glass slides, wondrous dissolving images, kaleidoscopic effects and an incredible visit to an imaginary circus.

Now I was hooked. It was only a matter of time, exploration and learning and a collection began to form and, as is the case with many collectors I know, the interest keeps expanding and my little collection of magic lanterns spread to include optical toys. I can still feel the thrill of finding new items, of learning something I didn’t know before.

I created a site for two reasons. One was selfish. I had never gotten to catalogue my collection and the web site allowed me to do that. The main reason however was to share the material. The Internet has made many things possible. Long before setting up my site, I used to visit the Hermitage online. I thought maybe some people would be interested in the things I have collected and why not share it? I have added animation because many of the toys were animated and the ability to experience the animation adds to the enjoyment.

I hope to use this blog for several purposes:

1. To let interested people know when I have updated the site or added new features

2. To share information about events, books or other matters pertaining to the collection

3. I would also be glad to share information about other sites collectors or animators