Peepshows: A Visual History

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9780810963498: Peepshows: A Visual History

Book by Balzer, Richard

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From Booklist:

Peep show connotes cheap, coarse, illicit entertainment, but Balzer points out that a peep show is just "a closed, or semi-closed, box having at least one viewing hole." Originally a medium of itinerant exhibitors, the peep show was popular at fairs and on city streets, where vendors would sing and "sound" musical instruments (as opposed to playing music on them) to attract and amuse a crowd waiting patiently for turns to pay for a glimpse through the viewing hole. A glimpse of what? Well, the menu of attractions was limited only by proprietor creativity. Risqueattractions existed, but in their heyday peep shows featured panoramic displays and artistic and fantastic treatments for general audiences--family entertainment, that is. Many displays were simple dioramas with lighting effects provided by candles or light flaps. More elaborate peep shows incorporated hand-cranked or hook-and-string mechanisms that allowed display of multiple and moving images. Beautifully and copiously illustrated, well documented, Balzer's presentation of a nearly forgotten popular entertainment is excellent history, excellent amusement. Mike Tribby

From Library Journal:

This intriguing work presents five centuries of peepshow boxes and lore from Europe, Asia, and the United States in a roughly chronological fashion. Balzer, an enthusiast and collector, gives the topic a strong visual treatment with nearly 200 illustrations drawn from his collection of peepshow images and objects, mostly 19th-century French and English prints, many of which are difficult to date and attribute. The text consists of an anecdotal historical survey of Renaissance perspective mechanisms, camera obscura, curiosity and optical boxes, polyramas, magic lanterns, and early cinematic devices such as the Kinetescope. Balzer pays attention throughout to peepshow-manship, including satirical depictions of itinerant showmen and their attire and antics as they bait gullible viewers. A very brief bibliography and French translation of the introduction and captions appear at the end. Suitable for large academic and specialized collections.ARussell T. Clement, Univ. of Tennessee Lib., Knoxville
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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