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Supper lecture: A Victorian Sensation: The Stereoscope

Tuesday 9 May — Book now
6.45pm for 7pm. Denis Pellerin, curator of Dr Brian May’s extensive collection of Victorian stereo photographs and director of Dr May’s London Stereoscopic Company, will tell how the stereoscope opened a window onto the world and turned all middle class Victorians into armchair travellers who could, without leaving the comfort of their homes, visit every continent in glorious 3-D.

From Egypt to the United States, from China to the Holy Land, adventurous photographers captured for the stereoscope all the most famous cities, buildings, bridges, landscapes and thoroughfares of the world. Historical palaces or monuments, which had only hitherto been known through imperfect engravings and woodcuts, could now be viewed in all three dimensions through the oculars of an optical instrument hardly bigger than a pair of binoculars; architects and engineers could watch the progress of a distant construction without leaving their offices, as clearly as if they were standing on the building site; the general public could stand face to face with their ruling monarch or with the celebrities of the time; the doors of the Vatican, the apartments the Royal or Imperial residences of Britain or France, the streets of the ruined cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the alleys of the Crystal Palace and of later Exhibition halls lay suddenly wide open for the multitude; it was an amazing visual revolution which gave rise to a thriving industry and left millions of images as so many mementoes of its glory. The talk will be illustrated with photos from Dr May’s collection, all visible in 3-D. Denis Pellerin, a former teacher in his native France, has been the curator of Dr Brian May’s vast collection of Victorian stereoscopic cards for nearly five years. Together, Brian May and Denis have co-written books about several aspects of Victorian life as depicted through the stereoscope. They met while collaborating on their first book, Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell, and have since published a book on the links between Victorian art and stereo photography (The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery) and one on a fashion that reigned nearly unchallenged (but not uncriticised) for over 15 years, the Crinoline (Crinoline: Fashion’s Most Magnificent Disaster). Brian and Denis are currently working on a 3-D book about the band Queen and on two new books devoted to other aspects of stereo photography in the second half of the 19th century. At the Victorian Society, 1 Priory Gardens, London W4 1TT. Tube: Turnham Green, District line. Lecture £30 with complimentary supper and wine afterwards. Please indicate any special dietary requirements. Booking required.

Event code: 1712


Later event: Walk: London's Disappearing Victorian East End
Earlier event: Saving a Century

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