JOHN HARRIS (1666 - 1719)
  Harris was the editor of the 'Lexicon Technicum' (Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, 1704). This was one if not the earliest English Dictionaries written. A writer of scientific books, Harris presented an improved camera obscura that contained a scioptric ball in a wood mount that would enable a panoramic view.  

Painting Of Sir Isaac Newton By Sir James Thornhill 1712

SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)

The English scientist, mathematician natural philosopher Newton published his 'Opticks' in 1704 and went on to explain among other things, the camera obscura principle using a single convex lens.

In order to illustrate his seventh axiom, he used the single-lens analogy in comparing it with vision. This he argued, embodied the answer to Aristotle's old problem. He also made great use of the simple dark chamber for his optical experiments with prisms.

Isaac Newton's epitaph reads "If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants."

  Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton (above) by Sir James Thornhill in 1712. The original is found at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire England, and the very house Newton was born in.  

Illustration Of His Sedan Chair - From Willem Gravensande 1711

Gravensande illustrated a camera obscura in the form of a sedan chair in his ‚€˜Usage de la chambre obscure pour le dessein‚€™ [An Essay on Perspective, The Hague, 1711]. Gravensande‚€™s design allowed for a vertically rotatable mirror, seat, drawing table, and the ability to make panoramas. The device also came with a ventilation tube. Dr. Charles Hutton will describe in detail this camera in 1814. Gravensande also invented the heliostat, a device utilizing the sun as a light source in astronomy.

Gravensande's sedan chair of 1711 (left) was illustrated by Gravensande in his essay 'An Essay on Perspective'. It consisted of a seating compartment where the artist would draw from the image projected down from the roof aperture/mirror. The mirror could be rotated to allow panoramic views. Apparently there was some sort of foot peddle which allowed fresh air to be pumped into the compartment and a periscope-shaped tube for the same.

JOSEPH ADDISON (1672 - 1719)

This editor of the London Spectator writes in an editorial this year, ‚€œThe prettiest landskip I ever saw was one drawn on the walls of a dark room. Here you might discover the waves and fluctuations of the water in strong and proper colours, with a picture of a ship entering at one end and sailing by degrees through the whole piece‚€Ě. This popularization of the camera obscura was made after a visit to the Greenwich Park camera by Addison. The Camera Obscura and Greenwich by Pip Brennan indicates that over the last two centuries, there have been a number of camera obscuras at Greenwich. The modern camera obscura now at Greenwich was built in 1994 in a small summerhouse adjacent to Flamsteed House, named for the first Astronomer Royal who set up his Observatory there.

This portrait (right) of Joseph Addison was painted by Godfrey Kneller sometime between 1703 and 1712.
Joseph Addison


Gravensande wrote his ‚€˜Physices Elementa Mathematica‚€™ this year and described a magic lantern equipped with an oil lamp, which had four flames.
  Willem Gravensande    

Johann Heinrich Schulze 1727

It is generally understood within the photographic historical community that Schulze gathered the first ‚€œimage‚€Ě on a prepared page. The image was in fact text, written on a sheet prepared with silver nitrate and chalk. The sunlight blackened the semi-translucent paper, leaving white text on black paper. It is not known what Schulze wrote on the paper.

Johann Heinrich Schulze (left) was a founding father in the discovery of photography. Although not able to "fix" his images, he was able to produce them long before Niepce or Daguerre.


Bion designed a camera obscura for use in copying drawings. It had to be used in a darkened room, however sunlight was reflected onto a mirror where the light-image was then seen through the camera, and the picture was copied.

In 1727 Nicolai Bion fashioned (right) this 'external' camera obscura into a drawing aid. The mirror on the stool reflected a specific stream of sunlight within a darkened room, up onto the picture to be copied (supported above the base). The image of the picture was then seen through the aperture (in the roof of the base) and within the base, on the sheet of drawing paper. The foreside of the camera box is open to allow the artist to work.
Nicolai Bion's External Camera Obscura For Drawing 1727

Coloured Engraving From 1730 By Martin Engelbrecht Used In  His Miniature Theatre


A celebrated engraver of his time, Engelbrecht dominated the print trade in Augsburg. Best known for his portraits of monarchs as well as his intricate landscapes, Engelbrecht's work is beyond compare.

Some of his best work was with optical prints. He used these in his perspective boxes and miniature theatres. Typically 8 cards would be inserted into a peepbox, consecutively, which provided imagery similar to that of a theatre scene, or play. The view had great perspective.

This coloured engraving (left) by Martin Engelbrecht showed people working in a mine. Engelbrecht used rich highlights such as reds, and gold.


J. PEELE ( - )
  Published a book entitled 'The Art of Drawing and Painting in Water Colours‚€™. He describes how to build a camera obscura, it‚€™s costs and how it can be used.  
  During the early part of this century, Musschenbroek very likely was the first to attempt motion through a simple effect in the magic lantern. Musschenbroek was a Dutch mathematician and philosopher who took the work of Zahn a step further by producing two sets of slides. The rear slide was typically the background and the slide closest to the lens was of the figure or main character(s). As Zahn had used a circular disk with many pictures, and Kircher had used a horizontal series of a few slides, Musschenbroek created slides of both the fore and background, thus producing what was a primitive form of movement. The forward panel of slides were connected to a string which, when pulled slightly would give an illusion that the figure was separated, or ‚€œ3 dimensional‚€Ě. By using two sets of frames simultaneously, Musschenbroek was able to create a sense of motion for the first time. Musschenbroek‚€™s work would less than a century later, greatly influence Robertson.  

Illustration From Cheselden's Osteographia Of 1733 1733

For his ‚€˜Osteographia‚€™ (Anatomy of the Bones) in 1753, Cheselden used a camera obscura to reproduce the human skeleton on paper. The title page of this book shows an artist pearing into an oblong camera longer than a man. The skeleton hangs from a tripod upside down a few feet away, thereby providing the draughtsman with an upright image.
For his 'Osteographia' in 1733, Cheselden used a camera obscura to illustrate the human skeleton. This diagram (left) appears in the title page of the book. He gave the camera credit in the preface, explaining that it improved on previously approved drawings. The skeleton hangs upside down, providing the artist an easier job.

In the introduction to ‚€˜Osteographia‚€™, Cheselden notes; ‚€œThen we proceeded to others, measuring every part as exactly as we could, but we soon found it impossible this way: upon which I contrived what I had long before meditated, a convenient camera obscura to draw in , with which we corrected some of the few designs already made, throwing away others which we had before approved of, and finishing the rest with more accuracy and less labour, doing in this way in a few minutes more than could be done without in many hours, I might say in days‚€Ě.

  Musschenbroek made a presentation during this year to the famed scientist Abb√© Nollet, in Holland. This private show consisted of a gentleman taking off his hat, a female walking down the street and then bowing, and a windmill which appears to revolve. Through the use of several slides, Musschenbroek manipulated them in such a way as to imitate motion. Nollet helped Musschenbroek greatly by returning to Paris to popularize this new sensation in his salon each evening to the scientists of the day.  
ABB√‰ GUYOT ( - )
  After seeing the ‚€œmotion‚€Ě lantern of Musschenbroek in Paris during a visit this year, Guyot will later publish a book called ‚€˜Nouvelles Recr√©ations Physiques et Math√©matiques‚€™. This book was even later, translated into English by a doctor in London (1st ed. 1755), W. Hooper (Rational Recreations In Which The Principles Of Numbers And Natural Philosophy Are Clearly And Copiously Elucidated, By A Series Of Easy, Entertaining, Interesting Experiments).

Hooper provided an illustration of the device with an explanation of how a tempest may be seen . . . . .‚€œOn one of these glasses you are to paint the appearance of the sea, from the slightest agitation to the most violent commotion. Observe that these representations are not to be distinct, but run into each other, that they may form a natural gradation; remember also, that great part of the effect depends on the perfection of the painting, and the picturesque appearance of the design.‚€Ě

Guyot (and Hooper) went on to explain in greater detail how the effect could be simulated to near perfection (for it‚€™s time). Guyot was known to use smoke as a backdrop for the illusion of ghosts. The ancient Chinese and their shadowplays simulated the same results in centuries gone by. These same shadow-plays grew in popularity throughout Germany in the middle of this century. Hooper published his 2nd. Edition in 1782 where he described an original camera obscura having reflecting mirrors mounted on a table (Ch.2, p36, table 3).


Smith, in his ‚€˜Optical Machines for Making Pictures of Objects, and their Uses in Drawing‚€™, brought attention to a ‚€˜sky-optric ball‚€™ which he had experienced in a 'shoppe' of one Edward Scarlett stating it was ‚€œthe broadest lens of this kind that I ever saw‚€Ě. Scarlett had actually projected the street scene outside his shop into the store, taking advantage of his small (and rather darkened, we suppose) window. Smith reported in his book regarding the use of a mirror to correct the image that, ‚€œthe people in the street appear upright and without any undulating motion of the heads‚€Ě.

One of Mr. Scarlett's business cards (right) from the year 1758. The upper left corner identifies a scioptric ball lens [second from the left] manufactured and sold by Scarlett. The card also shows a magic lantern, camera, spectacles, telescopic lenses, sighting tubes and mirrors. Scarlett's projection of the street scene into his shop was an ingenious idea from a business perspective. It would certainly have attracted prospective patrons and hopefully have resulted in some sales.
Eighteenth Century Business Card Of Robert Smith
  Robert Smith was an English mathematician who in this same year (1738) also published 'A Compleat System of Opticks' and thereby gained the nickname of 'Old Focus'. Smith was made senior fellow of Trinty College, Cambridge in 1739, and master in 1742.  

BENJAMIN MARTIN (1704 - 1782)
  The Englishman Benjamin Martin was a manufacturer of scientific gadgets and other useable's. He published several books on said subject throughout his lifetime including one by the name of ‚€˜A New and Compendious System of Optics‚€™ in 1740. In it he occupied much space telling how the dark room could be configured for optimum performance. He also spoke about inverting the image, the scioptric ball and the camera obscura in general. Martin is quoted as saying ‚€œThis is natures art of painting, and it is with ease observed, how infinitely superior this is to the finest performance of the pencil‚€Ě. His six-volume ‚€˜Biographia Britannica‚€™ of 1755 made strong references to Della Porta and his ‚€˜Magiae Naturalis‚€™.  

Giovanni Canaletto 1743

The camera obscura is still very much in use as an aid to painting in the paintings of Venice, by Canaletto. The wide angled views he painted are presented by historians and commentators like Links as assurance that Canaletto was greatly influenced by the camera. Canal painted many 'scenes' of the city for traveling aristocrats. By the mid-18th century, the camera was well established as an aid especially in perspective. After painting the Piazza San Marco (believed to be between 1735 and 1740), he went to England and painted many landscapes and properties. He returned to Italy in 1755 but his best work is remembered to be his earlier paintings. Canaletto called the camera obscura the ‚€˜camera ottica‚€™.
Piazza San Marco (right) by Giovanni Antonio Canal is perhaps the most often used work historians will point to when comparing Canaletto with the camera obscura. It was created sometime between 1735 and 1740 and is a fine example of perspective assisted through the camera. He often used the camera obscura as an aid to composition and this can be seen in his many Venetian scenes. For a closer look at the works of Canaletto and Vermeer, have a look at The Addio Gallery.
Canaletto's 'Piazza San Marco' - Painted With The Use Of The Camera Obscura

JOHN CUFF (1708 - 1772)
  An English maker of optical instruments, such as eyepieces, spectacles and microscopes, John Cuff was also well known for his interest in the camera obscura. His advertisements and cards might read ‚€œcamera obscuras for exhibiting prospects in their natural proportions and colours‚€Ě. An unknown author (perhaps commissioned by Cuff for marketing purposes) provided a poem in booklet form which was called ‚€˜Verses occasioned by the sight of a camera obscura, printed for John Cuff, 1747‚€™. This poem-story actually tells us of an enacted play of sorts involving ships a-wreck but the ‚€œpicture fades‚€Ě upon the opening of a door and the light entering in. One can easily envision those re-enactments of the showmen Villeneuve (SEE 1290 Villeneuve) and Cardano (SEE 1550 Cardano). A portion of the poem helps us to remember the importance of the lens to invert the image; ‚€œHow the Clown stares! Smit with surprise and love, To see th‚€™inverted pretty Milk-Maid move, With pail beneath her head, and feet above‚€Ě. The author describes the colours of the crystal fountain and garden provided on a ‚€œclear white sheet‚€Ě.  
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