Horne Thornthwaite Bellows Camera - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Bellows Wet-plate Camera

c. 1860

Horne & Thornthwaite



Image of Bellows Wet-plate Camera

Mahogany, dovetail joints, concertina type bellows partially paper covered.

6" x 6" wet-collodion plates held in dark-slides.


Ground glass screen. Wet-plate slide.

This camera is very similar to one described at a meeting of the South London Photographic Society in 1860 and further described in the British Journal of Photography as being invented by a Mr Martin 1. The essential point being that the baseboard is in three parts with bellows connecting the front and rear sections both of which can slide along the baseboard. This arrangement gives an extra long baseboard which, combined with the movement of the front and rear standards, allows different focal length lenses to be used and makes the camera suitable for enlarging and reducing work. He also states that the camera is to be put into production by Horne & Thornthwaite.

The general construction - type of wood, rounding on the front panel edges - and some particular features - hooks to secure baseboard, pegs joining front and rear standards - point to this camera being produced by H&T.

A patent from ten years later by W.J. Stillman describes the same arrangement, there the camera had a baseboard in three parts where the two end sections folded up around the camera body. In a letter to the British Journal of Photography (December 1897) Stillman states that he designed his camera and sent drawings to Meagher who stated that the camera was unworkable, he then had the camera made by Hare after producing a working model. Stillman goes on to say that subsequently he found a folding baseboard camera in a Meagher catalogue of the following year, he does not say that the camera in the catalogue had a baseboard in three sections. Probably the Meagher camera had just a folding tailboard and Stillman was claiming originality for this design (though there were earlier examples).

References & Notes:
BP 3069/1871 (The back section of the camera was curved at the bottom and fitted into a cross piece moving on the baseboard allowing the back to be inclined.). BJP 1860, p. 65. BJP 24/12/1897, p. 832. Smith, Antique Cameras, p. 90.

[1] Probably James Martin who worked at Horne & Thornthwaite and was prominent in the South London Photographic Society.

Further Information:
Information on the Wet Collodion Process.

Company Details:

Horne & Thornthwaite

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