Herschel family, The Herschels as artists, Astronomical and navigational instruments

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Camera lucida

Herschel family

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Object ID AST0794
Description The first camera lucida was designed by William Hyde Wollaston in 1807. It was designed to aid drawing, perspective in particular, allowing the artist to draw the different parts of their landscape in proportion. It is similar to a camera obscura except no dark room is needed. Typically a camera lucida is made up of a prism (to direct the light from the artist's subject onto the page) and a mount that attachs onto the artist's page/ drawing table while holding the prism at eye height. The camera lucida we have here has unfortunately no mount. John Herschel, like many men of science, was an enthusiatic user of this device using it to sketch landscapes, plants and flowers on his travels throughout Europe and South Africa. Some have suggested that it was his proficiency with this device that meant he missed out on the discovery of photography, whereas in contrast, Henry Fox Talbot had real trouble using this to produce adequate sketches and so put more effort into photography.
Date made 19th century

Artist/Maker Unknown
Place made Unknown
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Herschel Collection
Materials glass; brass
Measurements Overall: 37 mm x 60 mm x 52 mm
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