21 March – 21 June 2016 in Florence, Rome, Naples, Palermo, Padua


[John Piggott & Co.], London, end of 19th -turn of 20th century

Brass, mahogany, glass, leather;
Box size 38 x 34 x 23 cm

INAF-Palermo Astronomical Observatory

This special type of camera was very popular between the end of the 19th and the 30’s of the 20th century. After the invention of the daguerrotype camera, the introduction of the bellows connecting the photosensitive plate to the objective, improved the focus of the picture, thanks to basculing and decentering of the focal plan as well as of the plate. The camera on display is a Tourist Camera, designed for traveling photographers and therefore suitable for scientific expeditions, as it can be used both outdoor and indoor. It was probably used by the astronomer Temistocle Zona (1848-1910) during the expedition to Sfax, in Tunisia, aimed at observing the total solar eclipse of 1905.
The camera is provided with a stand, about 165 cm high, kept in a leather case; it is equipped with a wooden box for travelling and is accompanied by another wooden case containing three plate-holders, each one bearing a double plate. It is well known that, at that time, glass plates, about 1 mm thin, were covered with a photosensitive emulsion (generally silver bromide).
On the outer part of the box is a small brass plate where it is engraved the name of the importer:
The camera has recently been cleaned and restored: the missing frosted glass for focusing has been put anew and the missing brass screw fixing the camera to its stand has been remade; the stand has been repaired and cleaned, and the original objective has been replaced by a coeval one (Rapid Rectilinear ser. A, made by Manhattan Optical Company N.Y.). [i.c.]