A Treasure from my Collection - By William Belier

Bill Belier

A treasure does not have to be a rare camera. The criteria being that it is a photographic article which YOU cherish and is part of YOUR collection. Just as interesting as the item’s technical data, is the story leading to its possession. Where did you find it? Was a trade involved? Was it a sleeper at a flea market?...was it a basket-case discard?...or was there some other element of discovery to make it interesting? If you have such an item, please contact me or Bob Lansdale, editor of Photographic Canadiana, via info@phsc.ca or at a meeting.

English Tailboard Wet Plate Camera

Edited by Bill Belier

This month's "treasure" is a recent acquisition by Bill and John Kantymir, a father and son team who have assembled an impressive collection of photographica over the years. The Kantymir collection is one of the most extensive in our Society and both Bill and John are always on the lookout to add particularly rare pieces to their collection, ... "a daguerreotype camera would be nice", as Bill expresses it!

The other night, said John, I spotted what appeared to be an interesting camera while surfing the Internet. It turned out to be an English wet plate camera offered by a vendor in California. After brief negotiations a deal was consummated and the camera was on its way to its new home in Port Colborne, Ontario.

Both Kantymirs expressed delight with the overall condition of their new treasure. Original in every respect, the cosmetics attested to the tender loving care it must have received from successive owners over the past one hundred and twenty years.

Only the lens is missing, but it is expected that a suitable one will soon be found (preferably of British manufacture) to complete this fine Victorian era camera.

The camera was manufactured, circa 1875/78, by W.W. Rouch & Co. of London, England. Construction is of beautifully finished mahogany, dovetailed joints, and brass-bound reinforcements. Included is the original focussing panel and a wet plate holder (typically silver nitrate stained). The holder is for a single wet plate, has a hinged door, metal pivoting retainers and a leather pull. Focussing is done by turning a folding handle brass crank located on the rear bed. All brass hardware is original lacquered except for the focussing handle. The original burgundy leather bellows are in perfect condition, as is the original fabric constructed case. The plate size is approximately 5" x 7 1/2". The camera dimensions are... H. 8 1/2", L. 11 1/2", W. 10 1/2".

The camera has excellent provenance in that two ivory labels attest to the manufacturer and to the original owner... see illustrations. It would be an interesting genealogical exercise to trace the history or migration of this camera over the 120 years of its existence.

We know it was "born" circa 1875-8 in London, England, "moved" to Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1878. It surfaced in Nevada U.S.A. circa 1987 and "moved" to California about the same time. The camera now besides in Canada. It has taken up residence in at least four countries... maybe more?

There are two excellent clues to pursue: who was J.A.S. Gregg ESQ... and who were his friends at MOVILLE?

kancam manflabel.jpg (7845 bytes) ownerlabel.jpg (7728 bytes)

Ivory labels attached to front and side of the camera establish the camera's beginning in London, England and its presention to J.A.S. Gregg in Londonderry, Ireland, on September 1878.

Editor's Note:

The lens opening for this camera is 1 3/4". If you have a suitable lens for sale, please contact Bill Kantymir at nostinv@itcanada.com.

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