Ajaloolised fotokaamerad Tartu Ülikooli muuseumis


  • Tullio Ilomets




Historical photo cameras
at the University of Tartu Museum

The University of Tartu Museum has exhibits dating back to the beginning
of photography. There is an incomplete wooden camera, of
which only the immovable ground box has survived. Based on the
inventory number of the Department of Physics that is on the camera
it was obtained in 1852. The measurements of the camera are 17.6
x 13.5 x 9.0 cm, the length of the stand is 24.5 cm. The camera also
includes two wooden boxes for daguerreotype plates. In the larger
box, there are six galvanically silver-plated daguerreotype plates in
the size 108 x 8 0 x 0.5 mm by the French company 30 GARANTI
HOUSSEMAINE. The smaller box holds five 80 x 69 x 0.5 mm galvanically
silver-plated plates. The mark of the company is H. B., image
of an eagle, 30. The company has not been identified, it is probably
French. The other slightly larger wooden camera has remained intact.
The measurements of the immovable part are 20.0 x 19.2 x 8.8
cm, the width of the outer side of the moving part is 4.0 cm, the total
length of the camera stand is 26.0 cm. The diffused glass in the wooden
frame is 11.4 x 12.6 cm. There is no lens. Neither of the cameras
has the name or symbol of the manufacturer.
The article also provides a short overview of the history of covering
daguerreotype plates with a layer of silver, i.e., mechanical and
electrochemical plating (electroplating), and matters related to researching
the history of the daguerreotype.
The article covers the discovery of galvanoplasty, i.e., electrotyping
(plating) by the University of Tartu Professor of Architecture
Moritz von Jacobi, and the debates over priorities.
While studying the characteristics of the Daniell cell in the laboratory
of the university’s chemistry cabinet in 1837, M. v. Jacobi
discovered that the layer of copper that deposits on the cathode is
an exact replica of the surface patterns of a copper cathode. When
he examined this phenomenon closely, he immediately sensed the
practical perspective of the discovery and notified the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences where the description of Jacobi’s discovery was
presented at the Academy’s session on 5 October 1838 and published
in the Academy’s French-language journal.
This piece gives a short overview of the history of the darkroom
or camera obscura from ca 500 BC until the first cameras in the 19th
century AD. The main focus is on authors who have explained the
nature of the darkroom or improved and updated its construction.


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