for want of a board …

Lancaster Instantograph c1886 – 1910 as snapped by Carl Baxby

Toronto. This is the famous English camera called the Lancaster ‘Instantograph’. The camera was made from c1886 to 1910. The name indicates a dry plate camera.

The Instantograph used a revolutionary dry plate that was so much faster and neater than any wet plate. And dry plates finally allowed ‘instantaneous’ photos (about 1/15 second) to be taken on a tripod.

Lancaster manufactured the camera in various sizes to accommodate different plate sizes from a small 1/4 plate model to a large 10×12 inch plate model. A major design change was made about a year after first introducing the camera, making earlier cameras very rare (information from McKeown’s Cameras price guide, 11th edition).

While visiting an auction in Eastern Ontario this summer, past president of the PHSC, Les Jones, managed to obtain one, less a single critical part – the baseboard – which allows the lens/bellows to be set for subject distance.

Les writes, “I bought a wonderful and early English Instantograph camera at the auction which is missing the baseboard. Essential for use and hard to replace. Eventually tracked down a photo. If you ever come across anything that looks like any of these – maybe 4” x 6”, very approximately – please do let me know. It would make my day.”

Should you have a suitable baseboard like this (click hot link for photo) kicking around, drop me a note at and I will pass the note on to Les.

NB. Les contacted the Photographic Collectors’ Club of Great Britain’s expert on all thing Instantographic, Carl Baxby, who kindly provided the photos used here.

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