Thursday, 11 July 2013

Stereoscopy: 3D imagery in the 19th century

The latest item to be added to the online catalogue is a copy of Charles Piazzi Smyth’s  Teneriffe: an astronomer’s experiment; or, specialities of a residence above the clouds, first published in 1858. As Astronomer Royal for Scotland from 1846-1888, the book describes Smyth’s expedition to Tenerife, where, accompanied by his wife, he spent a month undertaking numerous astronomical, meteorological and geological observations.  What is perhaps of particular interest however are the 20 photo-stereographs used to illustrate the volume. This was the first book ever to be illustrated with stereoscopic photographs, which, upon purchase of a book stereoscope, could be viewed in 3-D.

                As the author explains, ‘if we wish to enjoy the effects of solidity or of distance, effects which are the cynosures of all the great painters, we have only to combine the two photographs stereoscopically, and those bewitching qualities are produced’.