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Mousetrap camera

  • Object:

    camera

  • Date:

    c. 1835 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Talbot, William Henry Fox, born 1800 - died 1877 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wooden box with optical glass lens

  • Credit Line:

    The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund

  • Museum number:

    RPS.336:1-2017

  • Gallery location:

    Photography Centre, Room 100, The Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery, case ARCH1 []

Talbot was the British inventor of photography. In 1834 he discovered how to make and fix images through the action of light and chemistry on paper. These ‘negatives’ could be used to make multiple prints. This revolutionised image making.

Talbot excelled in many fields, including mathematics, optics, botany and chemistry. However, it was his inability to master drawing outdoors that prompted him to experiment with capturing images inside a camera. He published his photographic discoveries and ideas, illustrated with original photographs, in his book The Pencil of Nature. Talbot patented his negative photographic process, which he called the ‘calotype’, in 1841. Later, he pioneered photographic engraving – printing photographs in ink. His processes became the basis of virtually all subsequent photography.

Physical description

Wooden mousetrap camera with lens made from an eyepiece from a telescope or microscope, and separable sliding back panel. This object has two parts.
The lens is slightly loose in the box. Small holes in the wood at the edges nearest the lens end, on both sides of the box.
Sliding back panel is slightly moulded, with curved indentation carved in (to help remove the panel by sliding it). On the interior side of panel, four corners have additional material that has accrued over the years - patches of glue and paper, as this interior would have been where the paper for the negative was attached.

Date

c. 1835 (made)

Artist/maker

Talbot, William Henry Fox, born 1800 - died 1877 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Wooden box with optical glass lens

Marks and inscriptions

4150
Sticker on bottom face, stuck in the top left-hand corner

1928-677
Painted in white on one of the side faces, along the edge.

1928-677
Sliding back panel, on interior facing side, in pencil, handwritten.

Sliding back panel, on outside facing side, pencil inscription, handwritten but indecipherable - a circled letter or number?

Dimensions

Height: 64 mm Box, Width: 62 mm Box, Depth: 67 mm Box (without the lens), Depth: 79 mm Box with the lens, Height: 61 mm Sliding back panel, Width: 54 mm Sliding back panel, Depth: 4 mm Sliding back panel

Descriptive line

"Mousetrap" camera back, wooden slide with indent, invented by William Henry Fox Talbot, c. 1835

Labels and date

Photography Centre 2018-20:

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–77)

Talbot was the British inventor of photography. In 1834 he discovered how to make and fix images through the action of light and chemistry on paper. These ‘negatives’ could be used to make multiple prints. This revolutionised image making.

Talbot excelled in many fields, including mathematics, optics, botany and chemistry. However, it was his inability to master drawing outdoors that prompted him to experiment with capturing images inside a camera. He published his photographic discoveries and ideas, illustrated with original photographs, in his book The Pencil of Nature. Talbot patented his negative photographic process, which he called the ‘calotype’, in 1841. Later, he pioneered photographic engraving – printing photographs in ink. His processes became the basis of virtually all subsequent photography.

You can see how calotypes are made in the ‘Dark Tent’ film room in Room 99.

The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund
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Materials

Wood; Optical glass; Steel

Categories

Photographs; Portraits; The Royal Photographic Society; Cameras

Collection

Royal Photographic Society Collection

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