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probably made at Lacock, Wiltshire

Postcard of Camera.
© National Museums Scotland


The English photographic pioneer, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-70) used a number of different cameras for making his early calotypes (or 'beautiful pictures'), and this example dates from around 1840. It was probably made at Lacock in Wiltshire. Talbot had evolved his negative-positive process from around 1835, using paper. This meant that any number of positive images could be produced from a single negative.

A calotype negative was made in the camera by projecting an image through the lens at the front on to a piece of chemically-sensitised paper fixed to the back of the camera. When developed, this produced a negative image, which had to be fixed with further chemicals before positives could be printed from it.

Talbot heard about Louis Daguerre's (1789-1851) experiments and rushed into print, fearing that his experiments had been preempted. However, the two processes, although both producing images from light and chemicals, could not have been more different. It was Talbot's process, capable of producing many images from a single exposure, which was to prove to be the ancestor of modern photographic processes.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-212-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.1936.28
Date: Around 1840
c. 1840
Material: Wood
Dimensions: 6.00" x 6.00" x 18.00"
Subject: 21. PHOTOGRAPHY (Departmental Classification)
Who: Fox Talbot (Owner)
Where: England
Description: Wooden camera used by Fox Talbot, lens missing
  • Described in A.D. Morrison-Low and J.R.R. Christie (eds.), 'Martyr of Science': Sir David Brewster 1781-1868 (Edinburgh, 1984), p 95 
  • For Talbot, see H.J.P. Arnold, William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and Man of Science (London, 1977); and Larry J. Schaaf, Out of the Shadows: Herschel, Talbot and the Invention of Photography (New Haven, 1992). 
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