*New information 4/2008*
Watercolor Painting of a Camera Obscura – Translation of German Text

We posted this 3" X 5 1/4" watercolor painting and the handwritten text on the back several months ago. We were not even sure of the language although we thought it was German with a few words of English. An enlarged scan of the card back was included with an appeal for help. The wonder of the internet has brought us a translation that changes almost everything we thought we knew. We are exceedingly thankful for the transcription/translation which is courtesy of Dr. Gregory Hahn, Essen, Germany.

The design of the camera obscura in the watercolor is so specific that we had some hope of finding the location. The translation puts that hope in doubt since it appears to be from an architect to a client and talks about a proposed design which the client might change. If the design was changed or the camera obscura was never built then we will not be able to link it to an existing camera obscura building. That said, the text is even more intriguing to us because it discusses concerns being considered before a camera obscura is built.

Dr. Hahn tells us that the writing is in the 19th century German "Kurrent" script. On the left below is a transcription of the German and on the right a translation into English.

Transcription of German "Kurrent" script:

Ich füge diese Scizze bei, um Dir
mehr zu verdeutlichen, was ich
unter den Haupt-Nebenumständen
gemeint habe – Sollte Dir irgend
ein anderer Bau Styl lieber
sein /als dieser english amerikan
Chapel Style/ als Schweitzer,
holländisch etc. würde es am
Ende zwecklose mehr Unkosten
verursachen – die Dimensionen
des Hauses hängen ledig von
der Personen Zahl ab, welche es
auf eine Vorstellung besuchen soll.
In der Erhöhung welche außer dem
Zweck für bessere Befestigung zugleich
eine Abwehr Zudringlicher dient
kann sehr bequem ein Kellerchen
für Speise, Getränke u. ein Nachtlager
wenn es seyn muß eingerichtet
werden. Glück auf. Dein
William Bittmann/Billmann/Rittmann/Rillmann*

Translation into English:

I am including this sketch in order to better illustrate what I meant by the main secondary particulars. If you would rather prefer an architectural style /other than this English American Chapel Style/ or than Swiss, Dutch etc., it would in the end cause pointless additional costs. After all, the dimensions of the house depend upon the number of people who will visit it for shows. Within the raised foundation, the purpose of which is both to better anchor the structure and to hold back pushy crowds, we could quite easily set up a small cellar for food, drink, and, if needs be, a place to sleep. Good luck. Yours
William Bittmann/Billmann or Rittmann/Rillmann*

*Since the writer mixed Kurrent and English letter forms Dr. Hahn is not sure about the spelling of the last name. We will research all the names for an architect from the correct period.

This translation identifies the proposed camera obscura as a commercial venture when it mentions "people who will visit it for shows" and "a small cellar for food, drink, and, if needs be, a place to sleep."

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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
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US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
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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 4/2008