TitleTunnel under the ThamesDate of publicationDescription
Peepshows for children were produced in the early years of the 19th century by the London firm of S & J Fuller as costly novelties to commemorate landmark events such as the completion of massive construction projects. This hand-coloured peepshow object from 1826 presents an expanding perspective view of the tunnel that was constructed under the River Thames. Contrary to opinion, the term 'tunnel book' did not develop because of its tunnel like view, but because this was the first book in this format, designed especially to commemorate the construction of the Thames Tunnel.
Tunnel books are a very simple and clever form of paper engineering technology. The pages are cut-out paper panels placed one behind the other, bound with two folded concertina strips on each side which allow the book to be expanded to its full expression and the scenes within to be displayed. The openings in the front of each page allow the viewer to see through the entire book to the back, and images on each page work together to create the depth of a three-dimensional scene.
The Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe was designed by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and was the first tunnel under a navigable river. Beset by disaster and death, it took 18 years to construct (1825-1843) and the completed tunnel turned out to be too narrow to accommodate horse-drawn carriages! To compensate for this oversight, the Thames Tunnel was marketed as a pleasant pedestrian walk for Londoners, and the views in this tunnel book show people promenading through the space. Today, the tunnel forms part of the London Underground East London Railway Line.