A "camera" in 1818?

Chris Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Mon Dec 1 08:19:14 UTC 2008

On Sun, 30 Nov 2008 23:38:01 -0500, "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>

> 1818 Jan 8.  "His camera exhibited as near life as such a thing can
> particularly some fine paintings & colourings of refuse. His views of
> Rome were next, the other plates were of less perfect character & of
> diminished effect."

This is the kind of cite where some indication of the provenance would help
to contextualize it.

> What kind of camera is meant here, and what are the "plates"?

I'd expect this to be hand-painted plates, and a portable camera obscura.

> I think of a camera obscura, but then I don't know what "plates"
> refers to.  A camera obscura would have a glass plate on which the
> image was projected, but that wouldn't be the "views of Rome" and
> "the other plates".  Or, if this camera were indoors, perhaps these
> plates were placed before the lens so they would be projected on the
> camera obscura's viewing plate?  And I assume these plates were not
> photographic in 1818.

If 1818 is correct, this pre-dates the earliest examples of photography by
about a decade. However, camerae obscurae as painting aids appear to have
been not uncommon during that period.

> (The only camera obscura I can recall seeing was in "Stairway to
> Heaven" (AKA "A Matter of Life and Death"), released 1946, and it was
> very impressive.)

(The one in San Francisco, next to the Beach House, is also pretty cool.)

Chris Waigl

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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