Optical Toys



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Price: 8.32
(Excluding VAT at 20%)

Stanhope Design


These are modern reproductions of a Victorian novelty. Contained within the object, a small pewter spoon or a hat, is a tiny lens and a tiny photograph or 'photomicrograph'. When you hold the object up to the light and 'peep' through the lens, you see the secret image.

Stanhopes or peeps (or peepers) were popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, but went out of production over 50 years ago. We have managed to find a company that has just started making modern replicas, reviving an ancient enthusiasm.

First a bit of history. Charles Stanhope, the 3rd Earl of Stanhope, was a politician and a scientist. Born in 1753, he invented a printing press, various calculating machines, and the lens which is named after him. Based on a small cylindrical glass rod, convex at one end and flat at the other, the lens will greatly magnify any transparent object that is placed on the flat surface and viewed through the other end.

Used originally as a microscope lens, it found a new use after the invention of photomicrography in 1853 in the tiny trinkets and souvenirs which came to be known as 'Stanhopes.' The earliest Stanhopes were rings and brooches, but from the 1860s until into the 20th century, a great variety of objects containing these tiny photographs were made from ivory, bone, wood and metal. Some show popular tourist spots or other places of interest. Some commemorate important events, contain a religious poem, or even a young lady in a state of undress!

These antique Stanhopes have now become collectors items, although they are not yet enormously expensive. The Stanhopes we supply are modern replicas, created by a small firm of enthusiasts, 50 years after the original Stanhope peepers finally went out of production.

There is a choice of designs. There are three designs of spoon, which are shown from left to right in the picture above. The Art Nouveau spoon contains the Wedding Vows, the Celtic spoon contains the Lord's Prayer,, and the Knox spoon contains a Baptism Prayer.

There is then a miniature hat which contains a picture of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, and an old fashioned Bellows Camera which contains a saucy lady in a state of undress.

Made in UK