A "camera" in 1818?

James A. Landau <JJJRLandau@netscape.com> JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Mon Dec 1 22:59:25 UTC 2008

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

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."

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

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.

(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.)


My response: I see the quotation as referring to three different parts of the exhibit:
1.  camera
2.  view of Rome
3.  other plates

With this interpretation "plates" has no connection to "camera".  Apparently the artist used a camera obscura for tracing, and was meticulous (or honest?) enought to so state.  Then "colourings" refers to camera obscura tracings that the artist subsequently colored.

What bothers me is the word "refuse".

OT:  "May I ask you a question?" is an example of a convention in English in which a statement or request is made politely by being indirect.  Somebody has probably come up with a name for this convention.  A similar convention was covered in ADS-L a few months ago when someone tried to interpret "I wish to thank..." literally, not realizing that "I wish to thank" is a conventional phrase implying modesty and respect on the part of the speaker.

OT:  if you're puzzled about my signoffs, here's a hint:
don't think engineering but rather Confederate currency.

           James A. Landau
           test engineer
           Northrop-Grumman Information Technology
           8025 Black Horse Pike, Suite 300
           West Atlantic City NJ 08232 USA

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