Publications about portable camera obscuras to our collection

*New December, 2004 The long promised Adobe Acrobat PDF file of the 1885 article "The Camera Obscura: Its Uses, Action, and Construction" from Amateur Work discussed below can now be downloaded using the link above. This article gives instructions on constructing several types of camera obscuras. Be aware that the 19th century text is not always easy to follow but with patience may give some assistance in designing a camera obscura.

Amateur Work Vol. IV

Amateur Work was a periodical for amateur craftsmen published over the last years of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This article from Vol. IV, 1885 is by H. C. Standage. On the left is the full-page illustration that accompanies the article. It shows the types of camera obscuras that are covered. There are no plans included although we understand this periodical often published them as a supplement. The article gives step by step instructions for making each of the cameras pictured. Although the somewhat wordy 19th century style will seem strange to 21st century readers, the information presented should allow a careful worker to construct a camera obscura.

Good luck to those who try. If you are successful in following the plans we would be glad to hear from you and see a picture of your camera.

*Note: We have received a partial translation of the Play and Work booklet and will post the a notice when the PDF of the translation is available.

On the right is a cardboard folder that contains a set of plans and instructions published in Germany that date from the early years of the 20th century. It is called Spiel und Arbeit which translates Play and Work. We have found references to other projects in the series that are dated 1911 and 1912. These dates seem right for our publication. The folder with a color cover contains two folded sheets of thin paper that open up to 32 X 40 inches. They contain full-size plans to build the camera pictured on the cover. A booklet with the same illustration gives instructions for completing the project, some information on different types of camera obscuras, and advertisement for other projects in the series. We know no German and can only translate a few words at a time with on-line translation programs. A kind volunteer is in the process of translating it into English.

We have had the plans duplicated. Watching the flimsy paper, almost a century old, run through the copy machine made us very nervous. Fortunately, as the operator assured us, it came out perfectly and the full-size plans are wonderfully sharp and clear. As soon as we are able we will post PDF files for the text and plans. When they are ready a notice will be added here and on the front page.

The first image below is a corner of the folded plans and below that is a detail showing the finished camera. We know from the partial translation that the the material used is cardboard.

Magic Mirror of Life Home Page and Site Map

What is a camera obscura?

Why we created this site

Frequently Asked Questions about the Camera Obscura (please check this page before sending email questions)

Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Map and illustrated diary of
our visits to
US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
our 1996 trip to
Great Britain camera obscuras

Images of camera obscuras from our collection.

Some Images from our collection
The Camera Obscura at War
Advertising flyer for a Camera Obscura
Trade Cards with Camera Obscuras
Lost UK Seaside Camera Obscuras
Other Lost UK Camera Obscuras
Lost US Seaside Camera Obscura
Lost US Park Camera Obscuras
Melville Garden Camera Obscura
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
Lost European Camera Obscuras
No, it's not a camera obscura

Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
Wooden Camera Obscuras
Metal Camera Obscuras
Camera Obscuras with the Lens at the Top
Cardboard Camera Obscuras
A French Artist's Camera with supplies
Vermeer's Camera, a 1934 teaching camera
Camera Obscura Publications < You are here

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Modified 12/2004