(Thames Tunnel) Wood, J. T. | Peepshow titled “Thames Tunnel Wapping Entrance”
A charming, hand-coloured Victorian peepshow toy depicting Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel. This particular example is uncommon and seemingly unrecorded. The only other J. T. Wood Thames Tunnel peepeshows we can locate are double-decker examples sold by Dominic Winter in 2010 and 2017.
The tunnel under the Thames between Wapping and Rotherhithe was an engineering marvel – the first to be constructed beneath a navigable river and the first project to use the tunnelling shield newly designed by the elder Brunel. Construction was stop-and-start between 1825 and 1841, when the full 1300-foot length was finally completed, and over the next two years the shaft was fitted out before opening to the public in 1843. Though originally designed for cart traffic, the tunnel was mainly used by pedestrians and became a popular tourist attraction and underground market, with many publishers producing books, prints, and peepshows depicting the tunnel before it was closed to the public and converted into a railway in the 1860s.
This peepshow was published by J. T. Wood sometime between 1845, when he moved into his premises at 33 Holywell Street, and 1858, when 78 Strand became his primary place of business. Wood initially trained as a copper-plate printer, and the earliest extant item with his imprint is an 1841 broadside celebrating the birth of Edward VII. Wood specialised in views and souvenirs, and produced enamel cards of London vistas as well as scenes of the Great Exhibition of 1851. He also published “chapbooks and populist part-works in penny numbers... acted as an agent for the toy-theatre publishers, producing several toy-theatre plays of his own. And he built up a range of stationery products, many of them intended and advertised for wholesale and export rather than simply retail sale. He offered notepaper; envelopes; foreign fancy prints; tomb cards and tablets; window and show cards; poetry cards (in gold, silver, satin, and gelatine, embossed and perforated, and in envelopes); puzzle, toy and conversation cards; embroidery, knitting and crochet books and patterns; children’s books; and almanacks” (Worms, “J. T. Wood of the Strand”, The Bookhunter on Safari blog, July 30th, 2013).
London: J. T. Wood, c. 1845-1858.
Concertina-style peepshow with three hand-coloured, engraved sections and an uncoloured engraved frontispiece pasted to a piece of thick, blue card. Bound in the original marbled boards with red cloth backstrip measuring 150 x 115 mm. Corners of the binding and the ends of the spine worn, a few other weak spots in the backstrip, a little spotting to the frontispiece and spotting and offsetting to the connecting paper strips. The slips attaching the scenes to the connecting strips may be newer, but it is difficult to know for sure. Very good condition.