Small version; see bottom for a medium-sized
| How it works | Lighting
scenarios | What became of it
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The poly-o-rama panoptique came out in the 1850s,
and was quite popular during that time. It came only in
three sizes--small, medium, and large. The name "poly-o-rama
panoptique" is of French origin; the English also produced
these devices at the same time under a different name.
How it works:
Poly-o-rama panoptiques were hand-held, and used
to view translucent paper pictures. These pictures, properly
called "paper views," were made of very thin paper with
a different scene on each side. They were designed so that a
person could look through the back of the viewer, and depending on
the type of lighting the paper view received, the person could see
two different images of the same picture.
First, paper views would be inserted into the
viewer through the top. Once the picture was in place, a lid
was placed on top. The viewer was rather light-tight; some poly-o-rama
panoptiques had real gold foil on its edges and corners to reflect
any light that might enter through these areas.
Two types of lighting scenarios:
To allow people to see two different images when
looking at a paper view, backlighting and frontlighting techniques
were used. In backlighting, a light was placed behind the
paper view so that anything painted onto the side facing the eyes
was lit. In frontlighting, light was allowed to pass through
the front end of the viewer and through the paper view, so that
both sides of the paper view are lit together.
The scenes were often before/after pictures, such as a
promenade during day and night, or a building before and after a
door or window had been opened. The two lighting scenarios
made it possible for the two different images to be seen,
depending on the type of lighting. A person would cover the
front end of the viewer to see the "before" image (with
backlighting), and then uncover the front end to see the
"after" image (with frontlighting). Or, the
process was reversed so that the "before" image was
frontlit, and the "after" image was backlit.
What became of it:
Because of the delicate nature of the poly-o-rama
panoptique's paper views, this device never became a children's
toy as several of the other optical toys have.
Interview with Dr. Ralph Wileman, July 24, 2000
A medium-sized version: