Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Stanhope Thimble

I found this thimble at a local car boot sale for 50p. Well, technically it was T who spotted it first. He pointed it out to me as he thought it looked wierd.

It’s made from metal, possibly brass, and has a small round hole at the top. 

It's a peephole thimble, otherwise known as a Stanhope thimble. It has an inbuilt lens for viewing micro pictures. You put the top of the thimble up to your eye, tilt towards the light and you can view the little tiny picture inside.

The pictures inside could be of famous people, historic events, seaside resorts. Some could even have been a touch risqué. Basically, they are souvenirs or novelties. Unfortunately, the picture in this one has been lost so I can only guess at what it might have been.

The name Stanhope refers to the lens on the inside and is named after the 3rd Earl of Stanhope who is generally accepted as being the inventor of this style of lens. He didn’t invent it for looking at micro pictures in souvenirs though. He died in 1816 before Microphotography was even thought of.

Microphotography was invented around 1839 by John Benjamin Dancer. Although innovative, Dancer’s microphotography had a bit of a drawback. It needed a microscope to view it.

In 1859 René Dagron had a flash of inspiration. He put Stanhope’s lens and the microphotography together which made it possible for the pictures to be viewed without the need for a microscope. Simply brilliant!

Bye for now