8

In chapter 8, E. Nesbit said:

Bill was a man who knew his business. In a very little while, the photographic views, the spyglasses you look at them through so that they really seem rather real, and the lights you see them by, were all packed away. A curtain—it was an old red-and-black carpet really—was run across the tent. Robert was concealed behind, and Bill was standing on a trestle-table outside the tent making a speech.

What did she exactly mean by photographic views and the spyglasses? They were in some sort of a show in Bensonhurst. I've looked at both on Google, yet I haven't found anything useful.

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It is likely that the author was referring to stereoscopic images and viewers.

Stereoscopic images show the same view from fractionally different angles, such that when viewed with a device that allows each of your eyes to focus on just one of the images, created a 3D effect, making the images ‘really seem rather real’.

The concept was discovered in 1832 by Sir Charles Wheatstone:

stereoscopy’s popularity gained a boost when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert became interested in examples at The Great Exhibition in 1851 at Crystal Palace. By 1860, almost every Victorian middle-class family owned their own stereoscope viewer and an accompanying collection of images.

So middle class families could view images in the comfort of their own homes, the working classes would only have occasional opportunities when travelling fairs came around with stereoscopic viewers as a side show, or if they visited a seaside resort that might have booths showing them.

Although the link I gave has examples of celebrities of the time, images of famous scenery would likely have wider appeal and be less subject to going out of fashion. So images of the Pyramids at Giza, the Sphynx, the Matterhorn, the Acropolis etc would be popular.

Subjects ranged from views of buildings, travel scenes, landscapes, invented tableaux, important events and natural disasters to portraiture, and they provided a fascinating and novel form of entertainment that preceded the moving image.

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  • Yes, as Spagirl says. I believe a huge part of the problem is what to modern readers like me seems the rather strange use of "spyglass." To us, a spyglass is a telescope and then, prolly a folding, pocket telescope. To Nesbit, it seems to have included all of Spagirl's stuff and might quite likely have covered any and all optical instruments. Jun 13, 2021 at 20:48
  • 1
    These ones are quite spyglassy
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 14, 2021 at 11:05
  • Modern readers might be familiar with the View-Master - it's something like that. Jun 14, 2021 at 16:00

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