A French drawing camera with supplies

The extraordinary French drawing camera shown on the left is of special interest to us. Some vintage instruments seem made for show or were, as we have heard them called, "Drawing Room Camera Obscuras". This one, however, was obviously made to be used. The original instructions mounted on the underside of the front door are near perfect. It has a compartment and two drawers to hold a selection of drawing tools and paper. It seems to date from the middle of the 19th century and has two original packets of paper, the original bottle of ink (containing only a small amount of dried material), a wooden tool for transferring the drawings, a pencil with an ivory top that looks very old, and a worn gritty, stone-like rectangle that seems to be an eraser. The ink, paper, and wooden tool are all mentioned in the instructions mounted in the camera.

The instructions carry the notation B.A. Paris. The ink is marked BOURGEOIS Ainé Paris with a B embossed in a diamond shape. We assume that the camera and suppliers were made by Bourgeois Ainé, a French art supply maker in the 19th century.

Below the camera is a photograph of the contents of the compartment and the two drawers.

The lower picture on the left shows the instructions mounted inside the lid. Using very rusty college French, the aid of the Internet, and a coworker who speaks French we have made a translation that seems logical to us. The scan below is too small to read well in order to keep the page from being too slow to load. A page with a larger scan if the instructions can be accessed by this link if you would like to read the original French.

Below the title - Trace Nature Directly - the instructions describe how to focus by moving the lens back and forward, how to draw the image on the frosted glass on the tracing paper provided with the special ink called Multi-Reports that is included, and how to then transfer that image to the drawing paper by rubbing the back with the wooden tool. The instructions say that many copies can be made by this method. There is also a mention of the need for a dark cloth over the head when the camera is used in a bright light.


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Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
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A French Artist's Camera < You are here
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