Box camera obscura

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made in London

Postcard of Box camera obscura.
© National Museums Scotland

Box camera obscura

A box camera obscura, the precursor of today's photographic camera, is a small portable device for assisting artists to draw landscapes. This wooden example was made in the early 19th century, and retailed by W. & S. Jones, scientific instrument makers based in London.

The view in front of the lens was projected on to the ground glass screen through a mirror held at 45 degrees inside the box. By placing a piece of paper over this, outlines could be drawn. The box has an ivory plaque inscribed 'W. & S. JONES/ 30 HOLBORN/ LONDON'. The mirror is a replacement and it is optically incomplete.

This piece, by the famous London firm of the brothers William and Samuel Jones, would have been sold as an artist's aid for drawing, between 1799 (when their premises moved from no 135 to no 30 Holborn) and 1860 (when their effects were sold at auction). William Jones contributed to the article on the camera obscura (Latin for 'dark room') in Abraham Rees' Cyclopedia in 1879.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-985-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1993.81
Date: Early 19th century
Spring 1993
Material: Compact disc in transparent polychromate "jewel" case, with folded card insert, printed in colour on one side. Inscription: nectar 3; LOST; SHRINK01; lost / is this all? / undertow / melancholy girl / Produced by Nectar 3
Dimensions: 120 mm D (disc)
What: Compact disc
Who: A&R Studio (Recording studio)
Aly Barr (Musician / composer)
Astronaut Canteen (Design house)
Incredible Shrinking Records (Record label)
Jeremy Black (Graphic designer)
John Gurney (Musician)
Keith Burns (Musician / composer)
Marco Gio (Sound engineer)
Max Howarth (Sound engineer)
Nectar 3 (Musical group)
Rebecca Marr (photographer)
REL Studios (Recording studio)
Sound Recording Technology, St Ives, Cambridgeshire (Maker)
Where: England, Cambridgeshire, St Ives
Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Compact disc entitled "Lost" by Edinburgh rock band "Nectar 3", featuring four original songs, released on the Edinburgh "Incredible Shrinking Records" label, summer 1993
  • For the camera obscura generally, see Hammond, John H. The Camera Obscura. Bristol, 1981 
  • Mallahein, Huon. Around the Salesrooms. County Life, (15 April 1993). 
  • Morrison-Low, Alison & Simpson, Allen. A New Dimension: A Context for Photography before 1860. In: Stevenson, Sara. Light from the Dark Room. Edinburgh, 1995, p 16 
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