Paper peepshow of Thames Tunnel goes under the hammer alongside book by David Hockney

One of the most extraordinary feats of Victorian engineering is remembered in Tennants Auctioneers’ Books, Maps and Manuscripts Sale on May 18, with a Paper Peepshow of the Thames Tunnel (estimate: £200-300 plus buyer’s premium).

By Gemma Jimmison
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 1:20 pm

The tunnel was the first of its kind to be dug under a navigable river, made possible by the ingenuity of engineer Marc Brunel and his more famous son Isambard. From the early days of its construction between Rotherhithe and Wapping, which began in 1825, the tunnel became a popular subject for folded and cut paper peepshows that gave the viewer a three-dimensional view into what the tunnel would look like when it was completed. Whilst many peepshows were made to be sold as tourist souvenirs after the opening in 1843, it is likely that this is an early example as it shows horse drawn carriages in the tunnel; the ramp that would have allowed access for carriages into the tunnel was never built and it remained pedestrian only until it was converted into use by the railway in 1865.

A very unusual leaf-cut picture will also be included in the sale, as part of a group of Victorian ephemera (estimate: £150-250). A detailed silhouette of workers around a derelict tower and trees has been created by scraping back the outer layers of the leaf leaving a delicate skeleton of the leaf’s ribs and veins as a transparent background. Also included in the lot is an 1838 hand-coloured printed Valentine, and cobweb or beehive papercut scene of a garden that reveals a brightly coloured butterfly when the cobweb papercut is pulled.

Of North East interest is a collection of approximately 240 19th and early 20th century photographs, predominantly of Teesdale scenes. The collection was compiled by Doreen and J. Kendall Thomas of Middlesborough, and the vast majority of the photographs are the work of Elijah Yeoman of the Teesdale Studio who worked in Barnard Castle from at least 1890 and 1910. The black and white and sepia photographs depict the likes of High Force, Barnard Castle, Gainford, Bowes, and Raby Castle. The collection is being sold with an estimate of £500-800.

Sign up to our daily Harrogate Advertiser Today newsletter

An outstanding archive of early drawings and plans relating to Radcliffe and Broomhill Collieries on the Northumberland Coast is also on offer with an estimate of £300-500. The majority dating from the 19th century, the drawings depict shafts, drifts, seams and colliery buildings and were gathered together by John H Merivale (1851-1916), a lecturer for the Mechanics’ Institute in Newcastle and a partner at the Broomhill Coal Company.

Finally, a giant limited-edition book by David Hockney is offered with an estimate of £1,000-2,000. ‘A Bigger Book’ was published as an edition of 10,000 by Taschen in 2016 as an impressive visual survey of the artist’s long and varied career. Measuring 50 x 70cm and containing 498 pages, the book comes with a painted metal tripod stand and both are in ‘as new’ condition.

A fully illustrated catalogue for the sale will be available at

NB: Prices quoted are an estimated hammer price, which is subject to 22% buyer’s premium plus VAT. Estimates are subject to change.

Tennants Auctioneers is a fourth-generation family business and is one of the UK’s largest international Antiques and Fine Art auctioneers. Situated in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, Tennants holds over 80 sales a year.

Tennants connects more than 200,000 buyers and sellers a year. In 2014 Tennants expanded the Auction Centre to 80,000sq ft with the development of The Garden Rooms - a dedicated venue for events, weddings, conferences and exhibitions. The venue is one of the region’s largest event spaces with a capacity of over 600 people.