1870 Carlo Ponti Megalethoscope Tabletop Photograph Viewer - Massive & Very Rare For Sale
Exceptionally Rare and wonderful, 1870 Carlo Ponti Megalethoscope - the largest commercially produced, Table Top Photographic Viewer ever made and used to view specially manufactured, large size albumen photographs in the manner of the early traveling Peep-Show Viewers. Included are 12 original Megalethoscope Slides.
This beautiful, mid 19th century, Tabletop Viewer measures approx. 36" long overall by 23" tall by 18“ at its widest. This is a massive and stunningly beautiful Victorian Photo Viewer and is among the rarest and most desirable Table Top Viewer manufactured for the parlor.
The Megalethoscope is an optical apparatus designed by Carlo Ponti of Venice shortly before 1867. The Megalethoscope is the evolution of the Alethoscope, invented by Ponti between 1859 and 1862. With this large and beautiful tabletop Viewer photographs are viewed through a large lens, which creates the optical illusion of depth and perspective. The specially constructed, 14” by 10” albumen photographs are either backlit by an internal light source—usually an oil or kerosene lantern—or lit by daylight admitted via a system of opening doors. Ponti and others produced specially prepared photographs for use in the Megalethoscope. The photographs themselves were translucent and were colored and pierced to create dramatic visual effects, such as using backlighting to create the impression of nighttime.
The Mealethescope Slides, when viewed through this wonderful Tabletop Viewer create an effect VERY similar to that experienced by the patrons of the that wonderful 18th century traveling entertainment - The Peep Show. Ponti tried to recreate using the new medium of Albumen Photography the wonders of the engraved "Day - Night" Peep Show Views which were the rage of the 18th and early 19th century. A Peep Show (also known as "Peep Box" or "Raree Show) is an exhibition of pictures, objects or people viewed through a small hole or magnifying glass. Historically a peep show was a form of entertainment provided by wandering showmen - his "Peep Box" would be as large as a "grinder organ" or a "pubbet theater" and for a penny (or a half-penny) the viewer could gaze into the "magic box" and see wonderful views of far away places. These views would be back lit (just as is possible with the Megalethoscope) to create brilliant day and night versions of the same view.
In both its massive size as well as the photographic views produced for the Megalethoscope, this wondrous Viewer essentially recreated the experience of the earlier Peep Show Experience.
Not only is the Megalethoscope highly sought after but it is also exceptionally rare. A recent survey counted only 60 examples that are known to exist today. We offer here a rare opportunity for the serious collector to acquire a newly discovered example of this amazing device.
It should be noted that due to the delicate nature and the massive size of the Megalethoscope, it will be necessary to have the instrument professionally crated and double boxed for shipping. The resulting crate will likely measure approx 50” by 36” by 36” and will need to be shipped by freight. We have been quoted $175.00 to have the Viewer boxed for safe shipping and this amount will be added to the final offer price and shipping charge. The Viewer can be shipped overseas but be aware that overseas freight charges alone will likely amount to approx $700. The Viewer could also be picked up here on Cape Cod at no cost to the buyer or we would be happy to meet the buyer anywhere in Eastern Massachusetts.
This rare and wonderful, Tabletop Megalethoscope is in excellent condition and in fine working order. The Viewer appears to have been professionally refinished some time in the past and retains a wonderful, brilliant French Polish type surface. The Viewer is near complete lacking only the separate set of 3 "diaphragms" which could be inserted into the body of the Viewer to allow for viewing of photographs smaller in size than the original Megalethoscope Slides (the hinged attached "frame" that would hold these diaphragms is present and in excellent condition). When the Viewer was refinished a repair was made to a horizontal crack in the fixed panel on the left hand side of the body (this is not one of the hinged doors) - the repair is very well done but the line is still visible). The circular "collar" on the outside of the case just behind the viewing lens is flat at the top. Close inspection gave no hint that there was ever any damage at this point as the beautiful French Polish surface is flawless in this area however, in viewing images of other examples of the Megalethoscope, we found that in all cases this "collar" formed a complete circle. It is possible that the Viewer offered here lost that small upper section at some time in the past and that the restorer simply did a fantastic job with his work. It should be noted, however, that this may likely be a variation from the original configuration of this decorative element. The only other flaw that we could find is that the knob on the right hand side of the viewing hood appears to be a replacement (although the turning is an excellent match to the knob on the opposite side. Overall, we must state, that this is one of the most beautiful and definitely THE most impressive Tabletop Photograph Viewers we have ever had the pleasure to own and we are sure that the lucky buyer will be thrilled with their purchase!!
Of the 12 Megalethoscope Slides included 10 are without damage - one has 2 small holes and one has some larger tears and significant damage. Some have light foxing. All are views of Italy - two of Vesuvius and one of Venice which will certainly make for a wonderful display when properly backlit.
While sale records of the Megalethoscope range from $6,000,00 to $12,000.00 and more, we are proud to offer this outstanding Optical Instrument here, as always, without reserve and with the confidence that it will attract the serious attention that it justly deserves!!!! An exceptionally rare and stunningly beautiful, 1870 Carlo Ponti Table Top Mehgalethoscope Viewer and worthy of a place at the center of even the most advanced collection!!!
Be sure to check out this seller’s other sales for other 19th and early 20th century Stereoscopes / Stereoviewers which are also being offered for sale this week on !!
Overseasshippping is extra and cost will be quoted at buyers request. Massachusetts residents must add 5% sales tax.
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Important Notes about Shipping Charges:
The amount quoted for Shipping & Handling is calculated by and is equal to the EXACT amount charged by the Post Office plus a $1.00 "packing fee" - the $1.00 fee is our only compensation for the virgin packing materials we use on all of our professionally packaged boxes as well as our cost for the salaried help that does most of our packing - as I am sure you can see, we make NO profit on the Shipping charges and, in fact, our costs are usually greater than the $1.00 fee. Please contact us if there are any issues regarding the cost of shipping.
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1870 Carlo Ponti Megalethoscope Tabletop Photograph Viewer - Massive & Very Rare: $3,875