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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Camera.
© National Museums Scotland


This metal daguerreotype camera was designed by Thomas Davidson (1798-1878) and made around 1841, probably in Edinburgh. Born into a Northumbrian labouring family, Davidson proved an adept mechanic, and moved to Edinburgh in 1836, where he began his own business in 1840. When the news of Louis Daguerre's process broke in 1839, Davidson enthusiastically took to practising photography and subsequently made apparatus for David Brewster, D.O. Hill and Robert Adamson.

This brass cylindrical daguerreotype camera is unsigned, but is constructed along the lines described by Thomas Davidson in a publication of 1841.

Although Louis Daguerre (1789-1851) had patented his process in England, he had not done so elsewhere, so that his form of photography could be pursued without acquiring a licence. However, the difficulty of production, combined with its fragility and the legal complications in England, meant that this process was never as popular in Britain as it was elsewhere.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-214-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.1925.16
Date: 1841
c. 1840
Material: Brass body / brass slide
Dimensions: 6.25" L x 4.25" D
What: Camera / slide
Subject: 21. PHOTOGRAPHY (Departmental Classification)
Who: Thomas Davidson, Edinburgh (Maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Antique camera in a brass body on a pillar stand, with one single brass dark slide
  • Described in A.D. Morrison-Low and J.R.R. Christie (eds.), 'Martyr of Science': Sir David Brewster 1781-1868 (Edinburgh, 1984), pp 94-5; see also A.D. Morrison-Low, 'Dr John and Robert Adamson: an early Partnership in Scottish Photography', Photographic 
  • J. Calder (ed.), The Wealth of a Nation (Edinburgh, 1989), p 131 For Davidson, see Sara Stevenson and A.D. Morrison-Low, Scottish Photography: a Bibliography 1839-1989 (Edinburgh, 1990). 
  • Thomas Davidson, 'Description and Drawing of a simple but Important Improvement in the Camera Obscura, in taking portraits and other objects' Proceedings of the Scottish Society of Arts 1 (1841), pp 79-80 
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