Dubroni No. 1 - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Dubroni No. 1

c. 1867

G.J. Bourdin



Image of Dubroni No. 1

f3.5, c. 7 cm Darlot (Petzval type). Fixed stop.

Unpolished wood body.

4 cm diameter images on 5 cm square wet-collodion plates.

To 3 feet. Lens slides in mount, locking screw.

The camera consists of a small box enclosing a green glass container. The container has an opening for the lens, a larger opening to place the plate against the edge of the container and a small hole at the top for introducing chemicals. The rear of the camera consists of a door which holds the plate in place and which has a large brass cover that can be swivelled aside to reveal a red window. The development could be inspected by looking through the lens at the plate. Inside the camera is a spring to clamp a focusing screen in place.

The brass cover at the back of the camera has the name: Appareil Dubroni. 236 Rue De Rivoli. The lens elements have written in ink: A Darlot Paris.

Instructions, 2 pages. French text. Printing frame. Developed negative.

The Dubroni first appeared in 1864, that model had an open container with only wooden supports front and back. A few years later the container was fully enclosed within a wooden box. It was the first successful self-developing camera and was often sold in an outfit which included a developing kit. The price was 2.0.0.

The camera was made in several sizes, the instruction sheet with this example shows:

  • No. 1 - 4 cm round exposures.
  • No. 2 - 5 x 5 cm or 5 x 4.5 cm exposures.
  • No. 3 - 9 x 7 cm oval exposures.
  • No. 4 - 10 x 8 cm or 10 x 9 cm exposures.
Other models were produced both in box and folding bellows versions.

The No. 1 was produced in either plain wood or polished. The others were only available polished. Models 2, 4 were sold with both a landscape and a portrait (Petzval) lens. The developing container was made in either green or orange glass or ceramic. The bellows cameras, introduced after the others, had the glass container in a removable box which clipped onto a conventional camera (Smith shows a drawing of this). Early version of the 'wooden box' model had at the back of the camera a large brass plate that is pushed aside to observe development, later a wooden flap in the rear door was used.

To use the Dubroni:

  • The plate was cleaned with alcohol, provided along with all the other chemicals in the outfit box.
  • The camera was placed on its tripod or other support. A ground glass screen was placed against the rear of the glass container and held in place by a spring, the camera was then focused, the focus could be locked in place by tightening a screw.
  • After focusing the lens cap is put in place, the camera removed from the tripod and the focusing screen removed.
  • Iodised collodion is poured over the cleaned plate which is then placed in the back of the camera, the rear door was closed which holds the plate in place by springs.
  • Silver nitrate was then introduced into the container using a pipette with a rubber bulb, there is a small whole in the top of the camera with a valve.
  • The plate is sensitised by flowing the silver nitrate over the plate, the chemical could then be removed.
  • The camera was put back on the stand and the exposure made by removing the lens cap.
  • After exposure the developer (pyrogallic acid) was introduced, progress could be seen by opening a door in the back of the camera or moving aside a brass plate and looking through the lens.
  • After development the plate could be washed and fixed whilst in the camera.

References & Notes:
BP 3175/1864. BJP 27/1/1865, p. 48. BJP 10/2/1865, p. 72. BJP 17/2/1865, p. 89. Lothrop, Century, p. 14. Smith, Antique Cameras, p. 52.

Further Information:
Coe, Cameras, p.177.
Information on the Wet Collodion Process.

Lothrop, Century, p. 14. Early model with open sides. Auer, History, p.253. Outfit box. Smith, Antique Cameras, p.53. Version with wooden door. Christie's Cat. 22/11/06 lots 532, 533, 534. Includes an early model with open sides and one in an outfit box. Christie's Cat. 10/9/87 lot 339. Open sides. Outfits are shown in Christie's Cat. 7/5/98 lot 480, 18/4/96 lot 565, 1/9/94 lot 381, 15/3/90 lot 105, 24/4/86 lot 250, 26/5/83, 231 and 17/1/97 lot 158.

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