Ottewill's Registered - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Ottewill's Registered Camera


Thomas Ottewill & Co.



Image of Ottewill's Registered Camera

f20, c. 16" landscape by Horne, Thornthwaite & Wood. Washer stops. Serial no. 2217 .


Spanish mahogany case with Honduran base, dovetail joints, brass fittings.

10" x 12" wet collodion plates or paper negatives held in dark-slides.

Sliding box movement and rack and pinion on lens to 6 feet.

Rise and cross front.

Address on lens:121, 122 & 123 Newgate St. London. (1857 - 1866).

2 washer stops for lens. Focusing screen. 1 double dark-slide for paper negatives. 1 single slide for wet-plates, silver wires at corners.

Cameras produced in Britain at this time were generally of the sliding box form where an outer box was attached to a baseboard and an inner box slid within it for focusing. This made a strong camera ideal for the studio but awkward for field work. To make cameras more compact for carrying a folding design was developed where the camera consisted of a simple rectangular trunk with hinges along the centre of the sides so that they could fold inwards and collapse the camera. There were one or more openings, covered by flaps, in the top of the box for the dark-slide.

Ottewill's design combined the folding principle with the sliding box design. Both the inner and outer boxes carry hinges on their sides so that they can fold inwards and collapse. The outer box folds from a little way above the baseboard, this leaves space for the folded inner box. To collapse the camera remove the dark-slide, remove the front panel, open the door on the top of the outer box, with the inner box drawn back a frame can now be seen at the front of the inner box, this is removed, both boxes will now collapse. An advertisement by Cox of 1858 describes a similar camera which is probably an Ottewill. This is shown in sizes from 7" x 6" to 24" x 22", the cost of a 10" x 12" without lens was 8.10.0 or 10 if it is with brass binding. An 1863 catalogue from C.E. Clifford lists sizes up to 30" x 30" and also lists "folding and rigid cones" to increase the extension. The camera was described in the Journal of the Photographic Society (later RPS) in 1853.

Other than the optional brass binding (especially suitable for India according to advertisements) there are other small differences between examples; the position of the rising front bolt varies, some models have a revolving circular disc to close the tripod socket others have a square plate and sliding shutter.

The concave finish to the edges of the cross front and rising front panels are typical of Ottewill. The method of clamping the panels is also peculiar to Ottewill; usually a socket with screw thread would be let into the body and a stud would screw into this to clamp the rising or cross front, Ottewill cameras usually have the stud passing through from inside the camera body to which a nut can screw. (The image on the right shows another Ottewill camera with these features).

This example has a landscape lens, a dark-slide for wet-plates and a double dark slide for paper negatives. At the bottom of the recess for the slides are two indents these are to accommodate the hinges of the double dark-slide.

A camera sold at auction carried a Mawson of Newcastle name plaque and additionally stated "T. Ottewill Regd. 25 May 1853".

References & Notes:
Notes & Queries 25 june 1853 p. 635, Thomas Sutton, 'Calotype Process' 1856, advertisement. Cox, Cat. 1858, p. 9. Solomon Advertisement, 1863. Clifford Cat. c. 1863, p. 5. Journal of the Photographic Society 21/12/1853. Smith, Antique Cameras, p. 43. Christie's Cat 8/7/93 lot 487.

Further Information:
Information on the Wet Collodion Process.

Christie's Cat. 11/12/02 lot 137. This example, formally in the Barron collection, has the original flat carrying case for the camera. Ross lenses numbered 3998 and 4483. Christie's Cat. 16/9/82 lot 276. Christie's Cat. 25/11/82 lot 290. Spira, History, p. 46.

Company Details:


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Sensitising Box

Developing Box

Ottewill's Registered

Portable Folding Camera

Horne Thornthwaite

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Shepherd Sliding Box

Sliding Box

Sliding Box

Rouch Sliding Box Stereo

Stereo Box Camera

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Wet-plate Dark Tent

Early Accessories

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Studio Stand