Item 2018.09.02.010 - Pontioscope viewer

Title and statement of responsibility area

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Pontioscope viewer

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  • Object

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Statement of scale (cartographic)

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • [ca.1860- ] (Creation)
    Ponti, Carlo

Physical description area

Physical description

1 photographic viewing equipment : pontioscope ; 56 x 25 x 56 cm

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Carlo Poni was an Italian photographer and optician. He was born in Switzerland in approximately 1823 before moving to France. During his time in Paris, France he worked with the optician, Chauchois, studying photography. In ca. 1852 he moved to Venice Italy where he photographed and published an album of 160 photographs of Venetian architecture between 1854 and 1855, which were sold in his shop. He also sold a variety of optical equipment and reproductions of works of art, as well as inventing optical instruments designed to allow a greater experience of three-dimensionality in two-dimensional photographs, including the megalethoscope, the graphoscope, and the alethoscope, which was variously called a dioramascope or pontioscope. From 1860 to 1865 Ponti photographed Rome, Italy. Between 1857 and 1868 Ponti published and edited Carlo Naya's photographs, until a dispute which ended their relationship. In 1866 Ponti was also appointed optician and photographer to the King of Italy. Ponti died blind at age seventy-three.

Custodial history

Scope and content

This item is an optical instrument designed to create larger three-dimensional experiences from a two-dimensional photograph. Item is made of wood and has two sets of lenses made to enlarge images. Lenses also create different effects: "day effect" caused by reflected light, and a"night effect" created from a transparency with light shining through it. Item folds down onto itself. The pontioscope was one of many optical instruments designed by Carlo Ponti (1823-1893). Ponti also made and distributed stereoviews of Italian cities and reproductions of art. In 1866, Ponti became the official photographer to the king of Italy. Eventually opening other branches throughout Europe, America and Canada. In 1868, a legal battle began between Carlo Naya and Carlo Ponti over the rights to Ponti’s inventions. Naya had worked with Ponti from 1857 onwards developing pictures under his trademark,however, in 1868 Naya began selling imitations of Ponti’s inventions. In 1876, Ponti attempted to get back the sole rights to his invention but was unsuccessful.

Notes area

Physical condition

Good condition, however, stereoscope holder does not move fully

Immediate source of acquisition

Collected by the late Dr. Martin J. Bass and Gail Silverman Bass and donated to the Ryerson University Library and Archives by Gail Bass in 2018


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Open. Records are available for consultation without restriction

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The J. Paul Getty Trust. (2004). Gerry Union List of Artist Names Online. The Getty Research Institute. Retrieved from

Hannavy, J. (2008) Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Retrieved from

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