An Engraving By Gianfrancesco Costa Of A Portable Camera Used In Drawing 1750

An interesting engraving comes to us by way of Costa who shows a portable tent camera standing on what appears to be four legs, in his book ‚€˜Delicie del Fiume Brenta‚€™. The portable camera is attended to by two people who are rendering a drawing from across a canal, of a church and row of houses.

Costa's engraving from 1750 (left) depicting the open-air use of a tent camera obscura. Two people appear to be manipulating the camera in gathering a view of the community along a canal. This 'on location' illustration comes from Costa's book ‚€˜Delicie del Fiume Brenta‚€™.


Although not the inventor, Hinton published an illustration of a room camera obscura in his publication, ‚€˜Universal MagazineOf Knowledge And Pleasure‚€™.

Hinton's illustration (right) from his 'Universal Magazine'.
John Hinton Gave Us This  Room Camera Obscura Illustration In 1752

Portable Camera Obscura By Abbe Nollet That Folds Up 1752
ABB√‰ NOLLET (1700 - 1770)

Nollet made a camera obscura (as did many others) not only portable, but also collapsible. The portable camera obscura had to this point become a necessity to travelers and those active out of doors. Just like today, a camera was then becoming something that you would not leave home without. This collapsible camera obscura of Nollet is unquestionably similar to one made by a Mr. Thompson who is spoken of by Joseph Harris in 1775.
Abbe Nollet received a patent for this camera obscura (left) after submitting the design to the French Royal Academy of Sciences in 1752. This was a collapsible camera with a pyramid frame. The upper left diagram shows it in it's collapsed state.


Parrat described a 'Showbox' in a letter sent to the ‚€˜Gentleman's Magazine‚€™. As Parrat was describing the use of this instrument in great strides, it is unclear whether he himself built it, or was simply praising it. Easily converted into a camera, it was typically used for viewing drawings or engravings.
Parrat's Showbox From The Gentleman's Magazine 1753
A showbox of questionable origin (right). We do know that Parrat, an Englishman, knew of this instrument, but whether he built it is another question, and not answered here. This showbox for viewing engravings and the like, could be converted to become a camera obscura as well. The lens was located at (CD) and an image was viewed at the back (AB) by pulling the string (F) to open the door (E). In all it would be about 32 inches long, and 12 inches square at the back. Parrat told of it in a letter sent to the Gentlemen's Magazine, 1753.
Cut-Away Of A Room Camera Obscura From 1754 A room camera obscura illustration from 1754 (left). This engraving appeared in the New Complete Dictionary by Middleton and reminds us of the showmen of the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as Edward Scarlett's camera obscura projection into his shop.

ABB√‰ NOLLET (1700 - 1770)

Another portable camera obscura comes to us again by Nollet. This one is illustrated as a tent camera that even though portable, can be used well even at home.

Nollet's tent camera obscura (right) of 1755. The statuette under the balcony acts as subject to the artist in the tent (balcony). The telescopic lens-arm hanging over the balcony reflects the image through the tube and into the tent from the top. The four-legged tent on the ground (bottom right corner) shows us how the contrivance appears in it's uncovered state.
A Portable Camera Obscura Illustration By Abbe Nollet 1755

LEONARD EULER (1707 - 1783)
  The first reference found of the use of the Megascope for projection is by the German physicist Euler. In projecting opaque objects for Phantasmagoria shows, the Megascope lens was used in conjunction with the Fantascope. Today this application is known as an Episcope. The inspiration for this technique came from Charles. SEE MOISSE FANTASCOPE  
JOHN DOLLOND (1706 - 1761)
  Dollond, an optician, improved upon the camera obscura especially in the area of lens construction by manufacturing an achromatic lens which corrected fringes in colour and allowing a much clearer picture. He achieved this through the use of a crown glass lens and a flint glass lens. This method was found to ignore chromatic aberrations. Dollond manufactured camera obscuras.  
De la Roche wrote a book called 'Giphantie' in which he expounded on a series of imaginary scenes. One, that of the main character being taken in a typhoon, arrives in a land where he is shown wondrous things were pictures are ‚€œmade‚€Ě. A portion of the tale has his host telling how this is done, and is as follows;

‚€œYou know, that rays of light reflected from different bodies form pictures, paint the image reflected on all polished surfaces, for example, on the retina of the eye, on water, and on glass. The spirits have sought to fix these fleeting images; they have made a subtle matter by means of which a picture is formed in the twinkling of an eye. They coat a piece of canvas with this matter, and place it in front of the object to be taken. The first effect of this cloth is similar to that of a mirror, but by means of its viscous nature the prepared canvas, as is not the case with the mirror, retains a fac-simile of the image.

The mirror represents images faithfully, but retains none; our canvas reflects them no less faithfully, but retains them all. This impression of the image is instantaneous. The canvas is then removed and deposited in a dark place. An hour later the impression is dry, and you have a picture the more precious in that no art can imitate its truthfulness.‚€Ě

Cover Of Giphantie
One wonders which of the many examples of the past, (Statius, Villeneuve, Cardano, Porta, et al) De la Roche may have drawn from, telling this story. One element however is still unexplained. That is, what ‚€œthis matter‚€Ě is referring to, in the coating of the canvas. La Roche was a doctor who wrote many philosophical romances in the 18th century using alchemy and magic as themes within science. Illuminism and Rationalism pre-date his work and clearly influenced it. Like Verne, Orwell and others, he foresaw the coming of inventions such as photography and motion pictures.
The title 'Giphantie' was in fact an anagram of De La Roche's middle name 'Tiphaigne'.

Cover of Giphantie (above)



A microscopist in his spare time, Ledermuller wrote ‚€˜Microscopic Delights Of The Mind And Eye‚€™, 1760. He described and illustrated several camera obscuras, some of which were designed as solar microscopes to view insects. Both reflex and non-reflex cameras are illustrated. Ledermuller's interest in insects-as-subjects came from his status as government beekeeper.

Ledermuller's 'Microscopic Delights Of The Mind And Eye' provided us with several illustrations, four of which are included here (right). The top images show the camera obscura up against a wall, which could have contained the insects on the other side in some sort of storage area.
The 'Solar Microscope' Camera Obscura Of Martin Ledermuller 1760
It may have been up against a blackened window. The solar microscope is shown attached. The illustration on the top left depicts a reflex camera with 45 degree mirror. The top right shows the camera without the mirror. In the bottom right image we see the apparatus in sections with the solar microscope attached. The right-most image shows (F) as a roll of paper inserted between a sheet of glass and frame for drawing purposes. Ledermuller provided these illustrations in colour.

  ca. 1760
ABBE NOLLET (1700 - 1770)
  Nollet constructed a children's toy, which he named a ‚€˜Dazzling, Whirling, Top‚€™. The amusement itself although not a magic lantern-type instrument, reminds us of the yet-to-come zoetrope, and revolving wheels. This top of Nollet‚€™s, when revolving at a fast speed re-created a sense of motion and had the appearance of being a solid object. Nollet not only encouraged the camera and lantern in entertainment but also in the use of education.  

Book Shaped Camera Obscura By Benjamim Martin 1764 1764
BENJAMIN MARTIN (1704 - 1782)

Camera obscuras came in many forms such as the goblet camera of Herigone. Martin provided us with a book-shaped camera measuring 24 x 18 x 5 inches in its folded state which he gave to Harvard following a devastating fire which destroyed the school‚€™s contents. Martin included with his gifts to Harvard, a camera obscura in the shape of a brass eye.

The book-shaped camera obscura shown here (left) is typical of book camera obscuras of the mid 18th century. The famed portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) owned this one. It is shown open for use. (It sits at The National Museum of Science & Industry). An engraving of Benjamin Martin (right) from the Encyclopedia of London 1815.
Benjamin Martin 1815


An adorable painting of a camera obscura poking it‚€™s way into the frame comes to us by way of Van Loo. The subjects are actually the artist‚€™s family, who are overshadowed by the instrument. A fascinating study of perspective and dimension, the painting named, "The Magic Lantern‚€Ě is rather mis-named. It shows a young boy in the background looking into the lens while embracing the camera, and a little girl in the foreground with her hand on the frame with fingers outside of what would be the natural boundaries of a posed environment. The camera although half in the picture, is clearly not a magic lantern, but appears from the left as if ‚€œentering‚€Ě into the view. This added ‚€˜3rd‚€Ě dimension reminds us of the natural environment the camera obscura provided to artists. The wooden box and lens are not peculiar to a lantern, and there appears to be no chimney. However, the circular frame is typical of the shape of lanternslides. It is unclear why Van Loo called the painting as he did. This historian has suggested that the view we see is in fact that of a lanternslide as it would appear in painted form, thus the name, and the slight humour in blending the two discoveries in the same picture. It is not known if Van Loo painted lantern slides. The painting resides in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Charles Van Loo's Painting "The Magic Lantern' 1764
Van Loo's mis-named painting (right) of 1764, "The Magic Lantern". Clearly the instrument is a camera (having no characteristics to that of a lantern), even to the novice student. The portrait of Van Loo's family represents the finished work of the camera obscura, as opposed to the lantern. It's obvious Van Loo never used the camera in his art.


Brander was German, and published a book, ‚€˜Beschreibung dreyer Camerae Obscurae‚€™ (Augsburg, 1769) in which he illustrated a ‚€˜desk‚€™ camera obscura capable of allowing the ease of large drawings. The apparatus which one could actually sit at was at least 4 feet high with an extended aperture, which appears to be of equal length. The artist would sit like as to write a letter and see the subject before him through the aid of a 45¬į mirror within the camera. Brander was a student in mathematics and physics at Nuremburg and later wrote several books on the camera obscura. He edited ‚€˜Beschreibung dreyer Camerae Obscurae‚€™ twice, in 1775 and 1792.
Illustration Of Brander's 'Desk' Camera Obscura 1769
Georg Friedrich Brander provided us with this (right) large and very practical desk camera obscura illustration from his ‚€˜Beschreibung dreyer Camerae Obscurae‚€™ of 1769. One could just imagine the view through the desktop as the artist rendered his subject. It stood approximately four feet high with a similar length. The extentions seen housing the aperture allowed for close-ups or telephoto images. Likely, in this drawing the artist had a close-up of the subject with a head and shoulders picture, the lens being extended as it is.

Desmarees Painting Of Joachim Beich And A Camera Obscura ca. MID 18TH CENTURY

Another camera obscura finds its way into a painting (bottom right corner) by Desmarees, of German artist Joachimus Franciscus Beich. The portrait of Beich shows another ‚€˜painting within a painting‚€™ with a cherubim with a magnifying glass looking at the subject who appears within an almost circular frame (magnified image typical of a zoom lens). The camera obscura is found outside this frame, in the bottom right of the picture as a reminder of it‚€™s abilities to enlarge. A mezzotint engraving of this exact painting is found at George Eastman House in Rochester New York. It is said by Coke (One Hundred Years Of Photographic History, Essays In Honour Of Beaumont Newhall, Edited by Van Deren Coke, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, p130) that the camera obscura in this painting is of the same make used by Caneletto, (original constructed by Venetian optical instrument maker, Selva). The one in the painting is a German model.
Desmarees' painting (above) of Beich provides us with a splendid view of a small camera obscura outside the portrait itself. The juxtaposed portrait would indicate a subjective view of what the camera sees. And the magnifying glass in the child's hand? Perhaps it suggests the ability of the camera to enlarge the image.

  18TH CENTURY    
  During the 18th Century and the first half of the 19th, the camera obscura was embraced more by artists than by scientists. It was encouraged to be used for drawing, sketching and painting. Masters such as Caneletto and Vermeer were often linked to the camera obscura and controversies have arisen due to this point.  

ca. 1770

The Megascope was a camera obscura which was able - through the use of a larger lens - to make large scale images of smaller objects. The Megascope became fairly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Additional mirrors were used to supremely illuminate the subjects. A focal length of plus 30 inches were typical. In 1872 Guillemin will publish his ‚€˜The Forces Of Nature‚€™, outlining the megascope along with illustrations (The Forces of Nature, A. Guillemin, 1872, London).
The Megascope In The Wall - From  'The Forces Of Nature'
One of Guillemin's illustrations from his book 'The Forces of Nature', published in 1872. The megascope shown here (above) reminds us of a typical room camera obscura except that the focal length (sometimes longer than 30") was great enough to fill the room inside. Notice an exterior mirror at a 45 degree angle downward to illuminate the subject (a simple lighting effect still used today by television and film crews). In or around 1770 the megascope began to appear in books and journals.
ABB√‰ GUYOT ( - )

Publishes his ‚€˜Nouvelles Recr√©ations Physiques et Math√©matiques‚€™ (Paris, 1770) with an illustration (vol. 3, plate 20) of an upside down pyramid camera obscura with legs, or, a table camera obscura. The instrument was said to be 2 feet high and had it‚€™s lens about 2-3 inches off the ground. It could have been used for outdoor scenes, placed close to a window. If the curtains were drawn, this would allow enough darkness for a more brilliant screen. It might also allow for secrecy in that the subject may not know they were being sketched. Hooper, in 1787 will describe this apparatus in 'Rational Recreations‚€™.

Guyot's table camera obscura (right) of 1770. The surface viewing area received the projected image from below with the lens about 2 inches off the ground. Perhaps the camera was a simple novelty for guests or a conversation piece. Of course, it could also be used for drawing. The illustration appeared in Guyot's ‚€˜Nouvelles Recr√©ations Physiques et Math√©matiques‚€™.
Illustration Of A Pyramid Camera - Upside Down As A Table
Thomas Sheraton's Tiny  Box Camera From Late 18th Century ca. 1770
THOMAS SHERATON (1751 - 1806)

This furniture maker in London produced what could be the smallest camera obscura yet known of. Measuring just 2 x 3 x 3 inches, this supposed gift was a box within a box. The smaller, inner box slid out of the larger one, allowing a focus. The lens was in the larger, outer box and fixed.

The English furniture maker Thomas Sheraton made a somewhat intricate pocket camera (left) in or around 1770. Along with the camera in the handle of a cane, and Herigone's goblet, this camera obscura is one of the smallest to date.
  This German, in Lepzig, began using phantasms and the like in some presentations which preyed upon the superstitious. Eighteen years later Robertson would gain notoriety for the very same magic lantern shows using smoke, mirrors, mobile lanterns and multiple lanterns. Schropfer was a necromancer who eventually committed suicide. He practiced witchcraft and persauded many to follow him into the occult.  

JOSEPH PRIESTLEY (1733 - 1804)

Finished and published his ‚€˜History and Present State of Discoveries Relating to Vision, Light and Colours‚€™. He states that Kircher did ‚€œmore conveniently‚€Ě in the night, what Porta did in the day. He gave inventors credit to Porta, describing his ‚€œtheatrics‚€Ě in introducing the camera obscura into history. Priestley is noted as the discoverer of; graphite (carbon) being a conductor of electricity; carbon dioxide; soda; nitrus oxide; oxygen; photosynthesis; and the eraser made from India gum (coining the phrase 'rubber').

Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley

The Smoke 'n Spectres Of The Phantasmagoria PHANTASMAGORIA
The Phantasmagoria became an extremely popular piece of entertainment for children as well as adults. It‚€™s popularity soared throughout Europe, particularly in Germany but never as much as in France. Born of a combination of the Shadowplay, the magic lantern and the desire to deceive or trick, the Phantasmagoria could be considered the forefather of today‚€™s horror movie. Its basic purpose was to produce through simple techniques, an illusion. Subjects were primarily of the black magic or necromancy categories; ghosts, spirits, dead relatives or personalities and politicians. The purpose was to scare the audience to death. Techniques included the use of smoke, the Shadowplay, use of two or more magic lanterns, rear projection, hidden projection, projection on glass, use of mirrors, projection from below the stage, movement of the lantern (hidden) offering the illusion of subject-motion and many other ingenious moves. (Image Courtesy Toronto Reference Library)

Magic lanterns also played a part in certain conjuring shows put on by travelers well versed in such trickery. There are reports dating back to antiquity which suggest that such tricks were known using other mediums. Such showmen were common in the streets of European cities during the 18th and 19th centuries. The great magician Robertson had at the time of the French Revolution, an elaborate system which made the effigies of the dead appear to his stunned audiences. He compensated the movement of the lantern (s) by changing the position of the lens and thereby was able to show a figure growing larger and remaining in sharp focus throughout the show. In this manner he obtained the compelling impression of an approaching figure.
Dissolving Views within the magic lantern would become an important fare of the traveling man in the next century. Traveling from city to town, the traveling magic lantern showman was a virtual cinema on legs. He carried his lantern, oil, slides and stories with him on his back. Sometimes traveling in pairs in order to share the audio/visual element of the program and to attract more patrons, their shows were known as Galantee So. This the English title given, comes from the meaning of a 'fine show'. Only the 'show' part was mispronounced through the accent of the showman to come out as 'so'. Catching on more and more as the century wound down, slide shows of the traveler were mostly as those of the static lantern found in homes of the time; Biblical themes such as Judgment Day, Noah, Christ on the cross and a vivid hell for the cheater.

  One man, Francois Seraphin, was one of the first to bring the Shadowplay into France. He called it the ‚€˜Ombres Chinoises‚€™. Seraphin performed before royalty which was at that time, a very popular and inviting venue. His first performances of deception were at the Palace of Versailles. His shows lasted through the French Revolution and into the next century. Marionettes, a French entertainment-art, had dominated France until this time as the number one form of movement re-creation in artistry, and never would regain its hold on audiences as it had. The magic lantern and the phantasmagoria would for the next one hundred years hold that title, until the coming of cinema in 1895, at another French venue, the Grand Cafe in Paris.  



Father of Thomas, this famous maker of pottery introduces the camera obscura into the Wedgewood home.



Josiah Wedgewood

Josiah Wedgewood


J. H. LAMBERT (1728 - 1777)
  Lambert wrote ‚€˜Nouveaux Memoires de l‚€™ Academie Royale‚€™ in which he documents the use of the camera obscura to record cloud height. A German physicist, Lambert found a scientific use for the camera which was rare, or at least, poorly documented. Previously, cloud height had been detected through observance of the shadows on the ground.  
JOSEPH HARRIS (1702 - 1764)
  Harris wrote ‚€˜Treatise of Optics‚€™ but it was not until this year that it was published, after his death (London, 1775, 2nd Book, pp 269-282). It describes using many fine depictions, the image made with a lens. Besides telling how one could make a camera, and the uses of the ox-eye lens, Harris also suggests the ‚€œpocket camera‚€Ě with a lens of 1 1/2 inch focus which could be fitted to the handle of a cane.  


MATTHEW BOULTON (1728 - 1809)

There are many commentaries of which suggest that Boulton may have produced photographs at his establishment, Boulton & Watt, this year. Jerome Harrison for one, states in his ‚€˜A History Of Photography‚€™, (Scovill, New York, 1887) these were of the aquatint process, mechanically produced on metal, large scale, 4 feet by 5 feet, and coloured (p13, ch. 2). Harrison further states that this process was that of an employee of the factory, one Mr. Francis Eggington, inventor. Boulton‚€™s grandson will discredit these claims however, in a pamphlet published in 1865. It should be noted that Francis Eggington in his own right became well known for his work in enamelled glass and stained glass, as well as his work alongside Boulton in reproducing oil paintings using a mechanical process.

Matthew Boulton
Matthew Boulton

Charles Scheele's Personal Home Pharmacy


Scheele was considered a great chemist, and had been working with silver chloride and sunlight. He found and proved that the different hues of the spectrum had substantially different effects on silver when exposed. He noted that the darker colours such as purple and blue turned silver chloride darker and faster, than red or yellow. Scheele also confirmed the fact that light is what affects the nitrate base, and not heat, as has been suggested and believed to this point by some. Even beyond this point in time, there were some who continued to document heat to be the agent in action, regarding silver salts and the like SEE 1798 RUMFORD

Charles Scheele
  Scheele's Home Pharmacy & Laboratory
Charles W. Scheele

William Storer's 1778 Royal Accurate Delineator Camera Obscura 1778

William Storer was an English instrument maker. He produced a camera obscura of such technical superiority that it was named the Royal Accurate Delineator. Utilizing rack and pinion motion, Storer‚€™s camera contained two boxes, one sliding within the other and had two lenses in the aperture. A third lens allowed for a brilliant picture and clear focus, however the depth of field was lessened. A Storer Delineator resides at the Science Museum, London.

A William Storer camera obscura 'delineator' (left) of 1778.



Charles was commissioned by Louis XVI to construct (at the Louvre in Paris) a projection machine known as a Magascope which would project images of people onto a wall.

Charles is also known in history as the man who invented the hydrogen balloon.

Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles 1820
Jacques A. C. Charles

  In 1781 Loutherbourg, an accomplished painter, put the finishing touches on what he called an Eidophusikon which attempted to present motion through the presentation of successive pictures. Based loosely on the camera obscura room and it's ability to entertain crowds, and leaning more towards the Panorama and Diorama, the Eidophusikon was first set up in a room in his house. Guests would peer through an aperture no less than 6 feet square to see pictures painted on fine tafata with colours which were translucent. Light was projected from behind at different distances depending on the desired effect. Reflecting mirrors were added to define the scenery with brilliance and life.

In his Musical Memoirs of 1830, Parke would comment on the Eidophusikon as the ...."newly invented transparent shades upon which was shed a vast body and brilliancy of colour producing an almost enchanting effect." A darkened auditorium aided Loutherbourg in setting a mood consistent with the program, and agreeable to the audience. It would be another hundred years however, before patrons would sit in theatres with only the screen/stage lit. Loutherbourg's first showing was that of an early morning scene of London.
Loutherbourg has also been associated with the names Lauterbourg and Lutherbourg. Adolf Hübl in a 1947 published work was announced by the German film director Werner Wekes as a post-biblio 'source' for his 1986 documentary on the prehistory of cinema, and links Loutherbourg as the inventor of the Flip Book in 1760. No other reference has been found.
  Begins performing his Shadowplays at the Palais Royale in Paris. The magic lantern had grown in such popularity as a form of contemporary entertainment, that the Royal court was now the ultimate venue.  
  Robert, from Belgium, changed his name early on to the lengthier Robertson. He maintained this stage name for the most part, throughout his entire life and was well known as E.G. Robertson the master of the Fantasmagoria. Robertson probably did more for the art than any other magician, performer or showman. His Fantasmagoria grew out of an early interest in and love for magic, or more importantly, optics. A professor of physics in his native Liege, he states in his memoirs that he read the works of Porta and Kircher et al, and began on the road to horror by devising what would become the most prolific entertainment of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1784, Robertson gave an exhibition of an improved magic lantern. He was greatly influenced by the earlier work of Musschenbroek‚€™s motion attempts, and had been impressed with the works of the Shadowplay artists including Seraphin, a decade earlier in Paris. Robertson headed towards Paris with his ‚€˜Fantomes Artificiels‚€™ (Artificial Fantoms).  
  ca. 1785
GIUSEPPE BALSAMO (1743 - 1795)
  Also known as ALESSANDRO CONTE DI CAGLIOSTRO or COUNT CAGLIOSTRO, this Italian itinerant traveling showman and perhaps charlatan, was known for using Fantasmagoric imagery and Shadowplays of a deceptive nature in order to deceive patrons and was jailed several times. Balsamo became quite popular throughout Europe, and well known we might add.  

Chretien's Self-Silhouette Physiotrance From 1786 1786

Produced his process of making multiple ‚€œsilhouettes‚€Ě which he called a ‚€˜Physionotrace‚€™. As was the silhouette, an outline of the subject was made along with a matching copper engraving. The copper plate was then used for reproductions. (SEE 1687 MARCO ANTONIO CELLIO for similarities in copperplate etchings).

This portrait of Chretien was made in 1792. The Physionotrace was invented by Chretien in 1786 and produced a product similar to the silhouette in appearance. It also allowed the user to trace smaller etchings and engravings.

ROBERT BARKER (1739 - 1806)

Barker receives this year a patent for a new form of entertainment which contained huge painted pictures. It is recorded on the patent as "an entire new contrivance or apparatus called by him 'La nature a coup d' oeil' ." Barker, having spent some time in jail, was said to have needed light in order to read a letter and came up with the idea of lighting from above when using a shaft of light falling through a crack. Barker, a Scottish painter, had seen the work of Loutherbourg and his backlit spectacles. Barker's entertainment became known as the Panorama.

The Classic Encyclopedia based on the 11th edition of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the Panorama and explains it as ... "the name given originally to a pictorial representation of the whole view visible from one point by an observer who in turning round looks successively to all points of the horizon. In an ordinary picture only a small part of the objects visible from one point is included, far less being generally given than the eye of the observer can take in whilst stationary. The drawing is in this case made by projecting the objects to be represented from the point occupied by the eye on a plane. If a greater part of a landscape has to be represented, it becomes more convenient for the artist to suppose himself surrounded by a cylindrical surface in whose centre he stands, and to project the landscape from this position on the cylinder. In a panorama such a cylinder, originally of about 60 ft:, but now extending to upwards of 1 3 0 ft. diameter, is covered with an accurate representation in colours of a landscape, so that an observer standing in the centre of the cylinder sees the picture like an actual landscape in nature completely surround him in all directions. This gives an effect of great reality to the picture, which is skilfully aided in various ways. The observer stands on a platform representing, say, the flat roof of a house, and the space between this platform and the picture is covered with real objects which gradually blend into the picture itself. The picture is lighted from above, but a roof is spread over the central platform so that no light but that reflected from the picture reaches the eye. To make this light appear the more brilliant, the passages and staircase which lead the spectator to the platform are kept nearly dark."

  These enormously popular forms of entertainment were the closest things to an actual movie theatre in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They required great artists who excelled in perspective and large-scale productions. Besides Loutherbourg, Thomas Gainsborough and Louis Daguerre also provided spectacular scenery. Daguerre would open the first Diorama in Paris in 1822. So popular were they that several other 'versions' came out of them. Some were known as; Pleorama, Giorama, Cyclorama, Betaniorama, Cosmorama, Kalorama, Kineorama, Europerama, Typorama, Neorama, Uranorama, Octorama, Poecilorama, Physiorama, Nausorama, Udorama.

The Panorama was unique in the sense that one could not only see the centre of the picture but also, the peripheral vision could see as in nature, the outer corners of the view. This gives us the sense that there is no boundary other than the limitations of the eye itself. Today's Panorama is of course, the Cinerama, more commonly known as the IMAX format (IMAX incorporating height as well as width). The Panorama was also the precursor of the 1930's and 40's newsreels of the movie theatre. Patrons could not only see the film but prior to it's beginning, news footage of recent events, news happenings and the like would be shown fresh from the battlefield or street scene. In 1812, a Panorama in Berlin was presenting the burning of Moscow just three months after it happened.
  Guinard greatly advanced the process of grinding glass into finer lenses for optical use. Guinard was a Swiss glassmaker.  

ROBERT BARKER (1739 - 1806)
  Barker makes his first public presentation of his new Panorama at Leicester Square, London in 1792. Patrons sat in the centre of a slowly revolving rotunda, which measured 16 feet high and 45 feet in diameter. The view was of the British navy moored between the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth and was named The English Fleet. Shortly thereafter, Barker toured with his Panorama showing such epics as View of London, Battle of Aboukir, The Environs of Windsor and Lord Howe's Naval Victory. While touring in Germany, his show was given the unfortunate German translation of Nausorama. The Panorama was as wide as 300 feet and as high as 50.  
Robert Barker's Gigantic Panorama Of Edinburgh 1792
    1792 Panoramic Painting From The Top Of St. Giles Church  
  One of Robert Barker's 'new contrivance or apparatus called by him 'La nature a coup d' oeil'. This panorama (above) by Barker is of the city of Edinburgh. These enormous paintings were a pre-cursor to today's wide-screen cinema. Edinbugh Castle can be seen to the right. Barker ironically was also a painter of miniatures. The above Panorama of Robert Barker is from The Edinburgh Virtual Environment Centre at The University of Edinburgh and is © the City Arts Centre. it is entitled "Edinburgh From The Crown Of St. Giles". Thanks to John Hadden.
  View A Large Format Of This Digitized Panorama Here.    
2004 Panorama Of Edinburgh By John Loughlin
     2004 Panoramic Photograph From The Scott Monument  
  A superb modern-day panoramic photograph of Edinburgh from a different vantage point (immediately above). As Barker's panorama of the late 1790's was painted from the crown of St. Giles, this 2004 photograph by photographer John Loughlin was taken from the Scott Monument. Locating the castle on the horizon off the right border, one can follow the city landscape as well as landmarks and roads down the Royal Mile. Photograph Source: John Loughlin  
  View A Large Format Of This Digital Photograph Here.
Panoramic Photograph Taken From The Camera Obscura In Edinburgh Scotland
     2004 Panoramic Photograph From The Edinburgh Camera Obscura  
  This marvelous panoramic photograph taken by photographer Peter Stubbs is from the Edinburgh camera obscura. It was taken in 2004 and is more than 360 degrees as Edinburgh Castle can be seen on both the far left and far right edges. Stubbs used twelve photogaphs to complete this image. The camera obscura building can be seen on the far right, above the two lasses. Visit Edin Photo here for an annotated view. Photograph Courtesy Peter Stubbs © (  
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  A Scot, Fulhame was the wife of a doctor who had an interest in producing images. Possibly influenced by her husband, she wrote and published 'An Essay on Combustion: With a View to a New Art of Dying and Painting' this year. Fulhame wrote on the need for a 'catalysis' in decelerating the action of light on silver and gold compounds and conducted experiments on reducing oxidation. Through her husband Thomas she came into contact with men like Joseph Priestley.  
  . . . provides us with another book-form camera obscura. This illustration depicts a camera which when unfolded, appears in the shape of a pyramid. It allows the hand of the illustrator to be inserted in order to make the drawing. It also had a knob which could be turned and thus control the lens, allowing a clear focus.  
  AUTHOR‚€™S NOTE: Numerous entries such as this are found throughout time and therefore are consuming to say the least. We therefore reserve the right to document those entries we feel are significant to the theme of this book, and discard others we feel are repetitive or duplicative, and do not contribute to the meaning of discovery, although historical.  

Folding Book Camera From 1794 Another book camera obscura with a pyramid-shape when unfolded. This illustration (left) appeared in the 1794 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In comparison to Guyot's table camera (SEE ABB√‰ GUYOT) of 1770, this model is a righted version. The mirror (L) and lens (d) were stored in the top (ABCD). The base (GFE) took the shape of the "book" when collapsed and not in use. A knob was located at (M) [below the top] which could be turned to focus. The viewer looked through (K) to see the image. A cloth-covered entrance between (FG) allowed the user to insert the hand if the picture was to be drawn.


  Chevallier was optician to the King as well as an engineer. He was also a manufacturer of scientific instrument s including optical pieces beginning this year. Chevallier sold Phantasmagoria magic lanterns including a machine which could mimic the sounds of thunderstorms.  
  Proposes to the French government his ‚€˜Miroir d'Archimede‚€™ or Mirrors of Archimedes and a plan for burning the invading ships of the English navy. The plan was refused and from this point he concentrated on the magic lantern and a more entertaining host.  
  Wedgewood experimented with silver salts making images of leaves and insects using silver nitrate on a number of different bases including leather.  

A Late Eighteenth Century Illustraion Of The Phantasmagoria 1797

Robertson is given permission to present a magic lantern show within a chapel on the property of a Capuchin monastery. The chapel was abandoned and presented as the ideal venue for his phantoms, spectres and gouls. Robertson used his mobile lanterns (several), smoke, mirrors and the lively imaginations of the patrons of Paris. He also used rear projection and projection on gauze that was coated with wax which he ironed to produce a translucent appearance.
Robertson used a variety of techniques and strategies in order to scare his audiences to death. His famous show at the monastery near the Palace Vendome created a stir not lived down too soon. Using huge sheets of glass, roving lanterns, smoke and mirrors, Robertson became the talk of Europe and the phantasmagoria soon made its way to North America.



Venturi decodes the mirror writing of Da Vinci and publishes his work showing detailed and scientific descriptions of the camera obscura and the pinhole image as seen by Da Vinci (Essai sur les ouvrages phisico-mathematiques de Leonardo da Vinci, Paris, 1797). Venturi became professor of geometry and philosophy at the University of Modena in 1773 and physics in 1776 also at Pavia.

In 1814 Venturi wrote his 'Commentari sopra la storia e le teorie dell'ottica' (Bologna, 1814) on the history of optics. SEE DA VINCI 1500

Giovanni Battista Venturi
Giovanni Battista Venturi

A Magic Lantern On Wheels 1798, The Fantoscope 1798

Robertson presented his first French exhibition of the Fantasmagorie at the Pavillon de l'Echiquier in Paris. He used a magic lantern that was on wheels for great effect in motion and realism. In 1799 he obtained a patent naming the instrument a ‚€˜Fantoscope‚€™.

Robertson was clearly the early master of the magic lantern phantasmagoria. His concept of motion-projectors precedes the concept of dollying and panning, which was born of the cinematographer in the early 20th century.



Presented to the Royal Society a paper entitled ‚€˜An Enquiry Concerning The Chemical Properties That Have Been Attributed To Light‚€™. Rumford claimed that heat caused silver salts to darken under light and not the light. The Royal Society published this in their Philosophical Transactions Journal. His claims were directed towards Charles Scheele who had conclusively shown the opposite.

During the American Revolution Rumford took the side of the British. He moved to Europe living in Germany and England, working with the poor and continuing his experim ents and studies in heat.

Rumford is known today for the 'Rumford Fireplace' and also as the inventor of thermal underwear. The Rumford crater on the moon is named after him. SEE 1777 SCHEELE

Benjamin Thompson, Better Known As Count Rumford
Count Rumford
  Robertson applied for and obtains a patent for his portable ‚€˜Fantoscope‚€™, a magic lantern on wheels. . . . A representation of a magic lantern on wheels used for recreating motion during phantasmagoria shows of the late 18th and early 19th century.  
Main Page Contents Preface Introduction Bibliography Related Sites Critiques About The Author Copyright Information 900BC-1399 1400-1599 1600-1649 1650-1699 1700-1749 1750-1799 1800-1829 1830-1849 1850-1859 1860-1869 1870-1879 1880-1884 1885-1899 1890-1894 1895 - 1900 Planetel Communications Email The Author Top of Page
Home Page Table of Contents Preface Introduction Years 900BC - 1399 Years 1400 - 1599 Years 1600 - 1649 Years 1650 - 1699 Years 1700 - 1749 Years 1750 - 1799 Years 1800 - 1829 Years 1830 - 1849 Years 1850 - 1859 Years 1860 - 1869 Years 1870 - 1879 Years 1880 - 1884 Years 1885 - 1889 Years 1890 - 1894 Years 1895 - 1900 Bibliography Related Sites Critiques About The Author Copyright Information