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Mousetrap camera

  • Object:

    camera

  • Date:

    c. 1835 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • 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.337-2017

  • 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 box with back piece removed, with a lens made from a telescopic eyepiece, and a metal 'book-end' attached to the bottom of the box to hold the wooden case for the paper (RPS.337:2-2017, RPS.337:3-2017).
Lens is securely attached to the front of the box, over a hole made in the front panel of the box. Box made of 5 pieces of wood. L-shaped piece of metal attached at the bottom of the box with four screws (quite loose), and extends out the back to support the wooden case. This metal lip has cut-out shape to allow for the metal covering on RPS.337:2-2017.

Date

c. 1835 (made)

Artist/maker

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

Marks and inscriptions

'10' or '01'
On top of box, top right hand corner, in pencil?

Dimensions

Height: 75 mm Box, Width: 52 mm Box, Depth: 43 mm Box, Height: 76 mm Whole object, Width: 52 mm Whole object, Depth: 102 mm Whole object

Descriptive line

"Mousetrap" camera, 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; Metal; Glass

Categories

Photographs; Portraits; The Royal Photographic Society; Cameras

Collection

Royal Photographic Society Collection

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