Learn about Stanhopes

Stanhopes are small, often utilitarian, objects that have been set with a tiny lens, which, when held to light and close to the eye, reveals a tiny photograph. The microphotograph itself is no bigger than the size of a full stop, but is magnified when viewed through the lens.

Three people contributed to the development of Stanhopes – J.B. Dancer, inventor of microphotography, Lord Stanhope, inventor of the lens and Frenchman Rene Dagron, who first combined the two and set the result into novelty items, thereby popularising the technique.

Mass-produced on a rapidly increasing scale from the early 1860s onwards, most were sold as inexpensive souvenirs of places or as commemorative objects for events and exhibitions. From the mid-1860s, Dagron exported thousands of lenses from his factory.

People could send him photographs, which he would miniaturise and mount on a lens making them ready for insertion into any object. Exported lenses were marked ‘Made in France’ or with Dagron’s company name. The objects into which the lens was inserted are usually made from inexpensive materials such as bone, vegetable ivory, bog oak or base metals. Plastic was used after the 1920s. more...
These items are not for sale and the descriptions, images and prices are for reference purposes only.

Nineteenth century ivory binoculars stanhope 2 cm long. One side functioning depicts Chester

Victorian bone mechanical pencil with stanhope together with a small tin of pen nibs

Antique ivory dip pen and letter opener with Stanhope peep showing the Eiffel Tower, 22.7 cm long

Antique ivory stanhope letter opener and needle holder. 21 cm long. Scenes of great Yarmouth.

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