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Sliding box camera used by William Henry Fox Talbot

  • Object:

    camera

  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (Lens, made)

  • Date:

    1840-1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    R. Field & Son (makers)

  • 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.3040-2017

  • 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

Daguerreotype camera used for calotypes, wooden construction with a brass lens on the front panel with rack and pinion focusing adjustment. Consisting of two boxes within one another the design allows for the extension of the focal length of the camera. Loosening a metal screw and wheel on the side panel allows the two box elements to be extended, with an indentation on the top and bottom panels to also assist in this motion. The lens has a fixed aperture with approximately f/3. The camera would take paper negatives of approximately 9.6cm x 12cm. With removable darkslide.

Place of Origin

Birmingham (Lens, made)

Date

1840-1850 (made)

Artist/maker

R. Field & Son (makers)

Marks and inscriptions

4159
Sticker on side panel, bottom corner.

Dimensions

Height: 153 mm, Width: 140 mm, Depth: 216 mm

Descriptive line

Sliding box camera used by William Henry Fox Talbot, with a lens made by R. Field & Son. Wood with a brass lens and a dark slide. Originally designed for Daguerreotypes, though used by Talbot for calotypes, 1840-1850

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; Brass; Optical glass

Categories

Cameras; Photographs; The Royal Photographic Society

Collection

Royal Photographic Society Collection

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