Friday, October 4, 2013

Microscopic Panorama: The Stanhope

What can comprise up to a thousand acres and is as small as the head of pin?  Any Dr. Who fans out there?  I'm not talking about Time Lord "It's bigger on the inside" science.  I'm describing a Stanhope.

A Stanhope consists of microphotographs covered with a special lens modified from one originally invented by the Earl of Stanhope.  Developed by French photographer René Dagron in 1857 and debuting at the International Fair in Paris in 1859, the little device soon became all the rage across Europe, England, and even America.  Though Dagron called them microscopic photo-jewelry, that name never stuck (you can guess why), and the devices are still called Stanhopes to this day.

Stanhopes were generally made for promotional purposes.  They might include pictures from a town to encourage tourism or as a souvenir of a visit.  The picture might feature a particular building, a company, or an event like the World's Fair for similar reasons.  Portraits of famous people like kings and queens were also popular, and there were a few more titillating pictures as well. The pictures and viewers were inserted in a wide variety of useful and not so useful items, such as button hooks, canes, pins, pendants, bookmarks, letter openers, and rosaries.

The one at the top belongs to Marissa.  It's a bone or ivory propelling pencil, about 3 1/4 inches long.  The viewer in the end shows the history of the Isle of Wight with about six tiny images.  More than one image wasn't uncommon.  Dagron made history by creating one that held the portraits of 450 people!

Stanhopes are still being developed today, although with a slightly different technology.  My apologies for not having more pictures, but all the ones I found were copyrighted.  Instead, I'll give you places where you can learn more.  Here's one site that will create one for you.  You can also find a wide variety on eBay.  For more information, you might try this site by expert Jean Scott (no relation).

Maybe I should be reaching for one of Marissa's spectacles to get a better view.

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