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Mousetrap camera

  • Object:

    camera

  • Place of origin:

    Lacock Abbey (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1835 (made)

  • 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.3048-2017

  • 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

'Mousetrap' camera, wooden construction with single lens in a metal housing in the front panel. No back to the camera and side panels are slghtly loose, with a small piece missing from one of the side panels at the top rear corner.

Place of Origin

Lacock Abbey (made)

Date

ca. 1835 (made)

Dimensions

Height: 73 mm whole object, Width: 58 mm whole object, Depth: 99 mm whole object, Height: 65 mm internal body, Width: 48 mm internal body

Descriptive line

'Mousetrap' camera, owned by William Henry Fox Talbot. Wooden construction with single lens in a metal housing in the front panel, 1835-1839

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; Metal; Optical glass

Categories

Cameras; The Royal Photographic Society; Photographs

Collection

Royal Photographic Society Collection

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