Optical views probably first emerged in the XVth century: these etchings, often coloured, depicting landscapes, various scenes and interior views with vast perspectives, which could be viewed with the aid of a box equipped with magnifying glasses, enjoyed growing popularity and were very fashionable from the end of the XVIIth century. The impression of relief experienced while observing the optical views was to find a development with the appearance of stereoscopic pictures.
Travelling picture showmen roamed the towns and fairgrounds to the great delight of young and old, and many postage stamps depict the mat work. Editors were selling these pictures in Germany at first, then in France, England and Italy. From the middle of the XVIIIth century, the mass production of these pictures lowered their quality somewhat and their colouring often remained minimal. They were soon to be overtaken by the fashion for the magic lantern.