Scarce, Early Forerunner to Peepshow Books
Yet "Engelbrecht's Work is Beyond Compare"
[PEEP-SHOW BOOK aka Miniature Theater]. ENGELBRECHT, Martin (designer and engraver). [Royal Jousting]. [N.p., Ausburg]: [n.p., Christian and Martin Engelbrecht], [n.d., c. 1730].
Number forty-one in an ongoing series of unknown total, complete, as issued. Six hand-colored, hand cut-out copperplate engravings (6 1/2 x 8 in; 167 x 204 mm) mounted on cardboard, each signed Cum Priv. S.C. Maj. (left corner), Mart. Engelbrecht excud. A.V," (right corner) and "41" (center). On the rear to each is a contemporary holograph "41-273" and number, 1 through 6, by the same hand. When consecutively mounted and arranged front to back within a display box the cut-out plates create a 3-D perspective scene. Minor edgewear, a bit of soiling as expected. Numbers one, two, three and four with early reinforcement to rear, otherwise an excellent set. Considering that it was used for entertainment purposes, it is startling to have survived the past 279 years. There are no auction records in ABPC for any of Engelbrect's peepshows/miniature theaters within the last thirty-five years and library holdings are near absent for any of them; only one for this particular tableau., at Yale. Fits into the same custom miniature theater display box within a elegant protective case as #01523.
Artist Martin Engelbrecht (1684-1756) and his brother Christian were printsellers and engravers in Augsburg, Germany during the eighteenth century. Martin Engelbrecht engraved some plates after Rugendas and other masters. His other works included illustrations for Ovid's Metamorphoses, The War of Spanish Succession, Les Architectes Princiers by P. Decker, 92 views of Venice, and a series of prints of workers and their dress, Assemblage Nouveau Des Manouvries Habilles, published at Augsburg, circa 1730. Also in about 1730, he created cards for miniature theaters, which when inserted into a display box showed religious scenes and pictures of daily life in perspective view.
Engelbrecht's miniature theaters or dioramas were the forerunners of the peepshow books popularized by Dean & Son of London during the mid-nineteenth century, and have been cited by photographers and cinematographers for their early optical effects and appreciated as an aid to creating dramatic perspective on film.
"A celebrated engraver of his time, Engelbrecht dominated the print trade in Augsburg. Best known for his portraits of monarchs as well as his intricate landscapes, Engelbrecht's work is beyond compare. Some of his best work was with optical prints. He used these in his perspective boxes and miniature theatres. Typically 8 cards would be inserted into a peepbox, consecutively, which provided imagery similar to that of a theatre scene, or play. The view had great perspective. (The History of the Discovery of Cinematography, Precinema).
"In the 18th century dioramas became very popular as a means of entertainment. Around 1730, the Augsburg copperplate engraver and publisher Martin Engelbrecht created miniature theater[s]. [They] consist of 5-8 scenery-like sheets, which create a perspective image if arranged one behind the other. Along with religious themes, these scenes show courtly life, the seasons...These small-size dioramas are regarded as the precursors of the paper theaters that became popular in the 19th century." (Deutsches Historisches Museum).
"The first true movable books published in any large quantity were those produced by Dean & Son, a publishing firm founded in London before 1800. By the 1860's the company claimed to be the 'originator of childrens' movable books in which characters can be made to move and act in accordance with the incidents described in each story.' From the mid-19th century Dean turned its attention to the production of movable books and between the 1860's and 1900 they produced about fifty titles. To construct movable books, Dean established a special department of skilled craftsmen who prepared the hand-made mechanicals. The designers used the peep-show principle of cut-out scenes aligned one behind the other to give a three-dimensional effect. Each layer was fixed to the next by a piece of ribbon that emerged behind the uppermost portion, and when this was pulled, the whole scene sprang up into perspective." (Montanaro, Ann. A Concise History of Pop-Up and Moveable Books).
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