Generally called as peepshow boxes or perspective boxes.

There is an amazing variety in sizes and styles from peep-eggs to large boxes with theatrical settings. In many cases perspective drawings are shown in the boxes.

In Japan, peepshow was a popular entertainment at amusement streets or on festival days in 18th and 19th centuries.


Among many inventions, zoetorope, phenakistiscope, praxinoscope are well known. A later zoetorope from 1920s is shown here.

Emile Reynaud who invented praxinoscope combined it with a magic lantern so that a number of audience could see the projected image from a film.

Practically it can be regarded as cinema.

Reynaud's Theatre Optique is reconstructed and shown at Musee Grevin at Les Halles in Paris.

Flip Book

Among many such machines and techniques developed to see contiuation of photography, flip books (which even now animators make to check the movement), kinora (in short, a desktop version of flip book), and mutoscope (arcade machine or coin slot machine type of kinora, with which one can see a whole sequence of a moving picture, such as a boxing match) were very popular.

There were also such coin-op machines for stereoscopic moving images.

Flip books made out of Muybridge's photo, Lumiere's first film, computer graphics works, etc.

19th century was the period when an amazing variety of visual technology flourished. They were predecessors of cinema, or even today's virtual reality technology.

Inventions combining elements such as light, shadow, animation, stereoscopic vision, peeping, projecting and even physical sensation, took place and developed into popular entertainment.

Information on Japanese optical toys

“The Toy Museum” edited by Toshikatsu Tada and published from Kyoto Shoin (Kyoto) in 1992 in 24 volumes is the most comprehensive collection of Japanese toys with brief descriptions in English for every plate. Volume 17 shows many optical toys,  including the most precious early peepshows from Edo era.

Most of the toys introduced in the series are now kept at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History as Irie Collection. A catalog on optical toys from the collection has been published by the museum.