Camera obscura

< 227 of 1138 > Back

probably made in London

Postcard of Camera obscura.
© National Museums Scotland

Camera obscura

The camera obscura is an optical instrument which gives an image of a scene on a glass screen (all the optical components are missing from this example). If a sheet of paper is laid over this, then the outlines of the view can easily be traced. This example, now incomplete, was made around 1770, probably in London. It was used by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-70), the photographic pioneer. Talbot's dissatisfaction with this, and other drawing aids, led him to explore the possibility of preserving images chemically on paper.

This is now merely an oak box with decorative hinges, but would once have had a horizontal ground glass screen, an interior mirror sloping at 45 degrees, and a lens panel at the front to project the image on to the screen through the mirror. It is marked in ink 'John Talbot, Lacock', who was W.H.F. Talbot's great uncle who died in 1778.

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

To search on related items, click any linked text below.

Online ID: 000-180-001-219-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.1936.29
Date: 18th century
Around 1770
Material: Oak
Dimensions: 12.25" x 14.75" x 11.00"
What: Photographic box
Subject: 21. PHOTOGRAPHY (Departmental Classification)
Who: Fox Talbot (Owner)
Where: England
Description: Photographic box made in oak, with fancy hinge mounts, used by Fox Talbot
  • 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). 
Related Records:
< 227 of 1138 > Back
Powered by Scran