Academy - Antique and Vintage Cameras



Marion & Co.



Image of Academy

f4.5, c. 2" Petzval type lens. Fixed aperture.

Rotary sector, spring powered. Fixed speed.

Polished wood, dovetail joints.

12, 1 " x 1 " plates held in internal changing mechanism.

Sliding lens to 27".

Direct ground glass view-finder behind viewing lens. Viewing lens moves for focusing.

Retailer's paper label on top of camera: B. Wyles & Co. Artist, Photographers and Miniature Painters. Prize Medal 1875. SOUTHPORT.

Part of cardboard box.

The Academy is an early magazine hand camera. It consists of a pair of vertically mounted lenses which slide for focusing. Behind the top lens is a ground glass screen. To expose a plate the camera is inverted a brass knob is pulled which opens a shutter to the magazine allowing a plate to drop to the exposing position. After exposure the knob is again pulled (against a spring) and the plate drops back into the magazine which is then moved one position.

In 1887 a New Academy was introduced this had a mirror behind the glass screen making the camera into a twin-lens reflex, the smallest model did not have this improvement which was the subject of a patent by V. Driffield.

Seven models were originally produced:

  • No. 1 for 1 " square plates.
  • No. 2 for 2" square plates.
  • No. 3 for 3 " square plates.
  • No. 4 for 3 " x 4 " plates.

Numbers 2, 3 and 4 were available with rectilinear lenses and superior finish, giving models 2A, 3A and 4A. Models except No. 1 had rack and pinion focusing. Several minor variants of the No. 1 exist, the most noticeable being the width of the shutter plate.

The camera was based on a provisional patent by Warwick Brookes of Manchester taken out in 1881. The patent refers to a rotary shutter patented by J and W.I. Chadwick (BP 1054/1880) but production models have a simpler rotary shutter. The Chadwick shutter is shown in a publication by Marion where it is advertised as an accessory unrelated to the Academy. Another camera patented by Warwick Brookes, specifically intended for lantern plates, was marketed by Marion.

As well as variations in the finish and type of wood used, the type of joint - dovetail or comb - also varies between examples. Some examples exist without the Marion name plaque. This might indicate that there was more than one manufacturer or early/late manufacture differences, possibly small numbers were made prior to Marion's involvement or the manufacturers were able to supply other retailers. The price of the No. 1 Academy was 2.10.0.

Benjamin Wyles were photographers and Miniature Painters, the prize medal may refer to the 1875 RPS exhibition where Wyles exhibited several photographs.

References & Notes:
BP 4320/1881. BP 6013/1886. Marion's Guide to Photography, 1885, p. 251. YBP 1887, advertisement.

Further Information:
Lothrop, Century, p.27.

Phillips Cat. 27/10/1982 lot 125, 3 " square model. Phillips Cat. 6/11/1991 lot 376. Sci. Mus. Cat. p.24, p.94, Improved Academy. Christie's Cat. 7/5/1998 lot 438, 2" x 2" Improved model. Christie's Cat. 15/5/1992 lot 307, a model labelled "Rowland Ward Naturalist's Camera, 166 Piccadilly", another model by Rowland Ward is in the Oxford Science Museum. Christie's Cat. 10/11/1988 lot 165. Christie's Cat. 16/10/1974 lot 33.

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