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View Full Version : Nadar's plate camera. A museum piece or just another restoration project?



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anon12345
09-18-2010, 12:52 AM
If you saw this thread on the LF forum, it's the same old dog with a different collar. Just looking to get extra mileage where possible. ;-)

So, I took delivery of a circa 1883 "Sands & Hunter's Exhibition Camera" today. (5x4). I was hoping to just unwrap it, and get right to using it. But to my surprise I found it to be in very original condition. Too original for comfort. So now the question arises . . . Should I restore it to functional condition so that I can use it, or should I start calling the museums and auction houses?

I am inclined to just restore it with the correct lens and a functional bellows. But if that's going to knock 20 grand off it's value, maybe I'll think it over first.

Description:
Circa 1883 Sands & Hunter's Exhibition Camera; 3 plate holders, book type, all serial/model numbers matching the camera serial/model number (#446); One holder still contains two unique patented paper holders that were inserted while emulsions were still wet. Papers appear to be hand-coated albumen.
Both embedded name plaques on the chassis appear to be an engraved ivory type material.

Here are some images of the camera in question. This should take just a few seconds to load.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/44780138@N07/sets/72157624854578555/show/

The original advertisement for camera . . . for those who have access to google books.
http://books.google.com/books?id=ZPANAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP10&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U068F_heTHsMWZTfq7y25dA70HdAQ&ci=31%2C57%2C893%2C1534&edge=0

And a special note for this case: It is noted in "The studios of Europe" by Pritchard 1882 that Nadar (fils) said , quote . . . "I am coming to London in a little while, and for no other reason than to purchase instruments and apparatus.".

He was speaking on the high quality of the English apparatus. This may be one of those purchases?? As far as I know this camera was new on the market as of 1883.

Oh! And I nearly forgot . . . I also read that Louis Gandolfi made cameras for some of these London distributors ('80-'85) prior to spinning off to be an independent. Could this be one of his cameras? More research is definitely required. But, if anyone can supply more information to substantiate or discount the rumor, it would be very much appreciated.

Enjoy! All thoughts are welcome.

ajmiller
09-18-2010, 12:59 AM
It might be my browser but your links don't appear to work for me.

- Tony

anon12345
09-18-2010, 01:04 AM
It might be my browser but your links don't appear to work for me.

- Tony

Thanks Tony. At least one link should work now. That's what I get for cutting and pasting, and not verifiying. :blink:

Direct links to camera images that might function . . .
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4092/4999836165_32016ca459_b.jpg
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4105/4999835849_d77a915ed8_b.jpg
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4089/4999834001_9e7842c635_b.jpg
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4125/4999834363_72270b9c7a_b.jpg
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4088/4999835573_68d13d0473_b.jpg
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4128/4999835211_018d85eee2_b.jpg
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4154/4999834753_5b534c6bff_b.jpg

mike c
09-18-2010, 01:22 AM
Collectors like the petite of old finishes,so in there eye's it would lose value as an antique.Form my point of view I would enjoy a complete over haul to working condition,then use it or let it set in the parlor.If it were rebuilt it would last much longer,maybe another hundred years .All so it does not look in to bad of shape where a guy could put a coat of wax or oil and polish the brass a little,may be replace bellows.

Samuel Hotton
09-18-2010, 07:57 AM
Good morning Cesar,
In my humble opinion, this camera is not a product of the Gandolfi family.
Sam H.

michaelbsc
09-18-2010, 08:16 AM
I can't tell you much about the value of the camera as it sits right now. If it is a true museum piece, then I personally would get rid of it to someone who would care. That may be something you care about, and if so then you've got a find.

OTOH, if you are like me you want working things.

I once bought a very nice fountain pen and shocked the clerck when I filled it with ink and signed the recipt with it. She thought I would put it in the box and "collect" it like everybody else. I told her pens that didn't write were useless.

MB

Casey Kidwell
09-18-2010, 08:43 AM
Looks like an ugly amount of iffy restoration. I think cleaning it and restoring it mechanically and working the original finishes with a conservators wax would be the way to go. But if you went through with it and used it I think that would be wonderful. And the thought that someone a hundred years from now could be using it is really exciting.

jnanian
09-18-2010, 09:02 AM
i would just restore it and use it,
and make sure to dress up as a mime/clown once in a while !

Ian Grant
09-18-2010, 09:13 AM
Petite? Don't you mean patina Mike :D

The camera is very similar to a Dallmeyer 5x4 wet/dry plate camera & a couple of others, there are just some slight differences. That's a nice camera but not worth thousands unfortunately :D

There are still camera's out there that look almost new, with near perfect bellows despite being over 120 years old, these are the one's that fetch thousands. I looked at 3 or 4 pre 1900's cameras last week in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

How much a manufacturer made themselves back then and what proportion was sub-contacted and then just assembled is mostly lost in history. BJP Almanacs for that era show that there were companies selling pre-made wood work and all the brass fittings ready for building a variety of camera types.

It's worth restoring sympathetically - by that I mean don't over restore trying to make it look new again, it's a shame you need to replace the bellows but that's not unusual unfortunately.

As to a Louis Gandolfi connection, that's more about where he learnt his skills than his possibly having any input to the design etc he was still under 20.

Ian

anon12345
09-18-2010, 09:55 PM
. . . There are still camera's out there that look almost new, with near perfect bellows despite being over 120 years old, these are the one's that fetch thousands. I looked at 3 or 4 pre 1900's cameras last week in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul . . . .

When those new looking 120 year old cameras have the little gold sticker on top that says "Passed" , I'd say "Beware!" I'll bet those cameras wheren't stored in a pigeon coop for 120 years, like mine. LOL! I don't know why the bellows has produced this white dust from within. Other than this issue, everything about the camera is functional or easily remedied. I'm very pleased that the focus screen was found to be intact. The previous owner would not open the camera for fear of causing damage, and so I had no idea what was hidden within until it was received.

:D

Marco B
09-20-2010, 05:55 AM
Interesting find!

The "Nadar" signature seems genuine enough, it is also visible on the photograph of the Paris studio of Nadar in Naomi Rosenblum's "A world history of photography" (http://www.all-art.org/history658_photography1.html). That book also says Nadar operated a studio in Marseille during the '80s and '90s, but it doesn't say if this replaced his Paris studio (35 Boulevard des Capucines), and in fact the same Paris studio photo is dated as "after 1880"... so he may have run two at the time together with his son Paul.

Funny, there is a bit of conflicting info here as to the whereabouts of Nadar or his son, as this MoMA page (http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O:AD:E:4196&page_number=1&template_id=6&sort_order=1) says:

"After staying in Marseille from 1895 to 1904, where he opened a studio, Nadar returned to the region of Paris."

Also, that page lists 25 Boulevard des Capucine as the address of the studio, instead of 35... :confused:

http://www.all-art.org/yapan/History%20of%20Photography/2b_files/image052.jpg

Although this particular image of the outside of his studio is repeated a multitude on the internet, there doesn't seem to be a depiction of the interior of his studio including the cameras he used...

My "The history of photography as seen through the Spira collection book" shows an "Express Détective Nadar" magazine camera, second model, that Paul Nadar seems to have been using ca. 1889. It used 9x12 cm dry plates.

I also had to laugh when I saw this animated rotating self portrait by Nadar :laugh::

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Nadar_autoportrait_tournant.gif

Another interesting image is this one with Nadar doing aerial photography (Lithograph):

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_ICIVKqThJgE/R9ESiuzZKiI/AAAAAAAAAa4/cG1WWPp9mxU/s400/page12_9.jpg

A more serious version of his own cartoon:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ds1M1RAMHuw/SdloChgM42I/AAAAAAAAADk/GXtg6W3X2Pg/s320/Daumier_NadarGlobo.jpg

Marco

anon12345
09-20-2010, 09:02 PM
Marco, I examined a larger image of the store front at 35 Boulevard des Capucines. I believe it's 35, since 37 is next door in the image. I noticed what appears to be clothing retailer on the ground and first levels of that building. What a great way to lure in customers. Get them into a new suit of clothing and then take their picture while the checkbook is still loosened up. ;-)

Marco B
09-21-2010, 04:34 AM
Although I did not see a similar camera with the quick review I did, you may like this websites index of early camera and other photographic equipment:

http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/index.html

Marco

sandholm
09-21-2010, 04:57 AM
Hi

I am rather interested in antiques and there are two things that are really important here

1: provenance: who had it/used it and can it be proven. An object can reach pretty high values, lets say a 1940 Conway Stewart fountan pen, but now if you can prove that a certain pen is the pen used by Winston Churchil, well, then that pen is worth much much more then any other 940 Conway Stewart fountain pen.

2: Original object, if the object dont work it doesn't matter, if the pen is the real pen with all the original bits and pices that Churchil used, then its worth a fortune, if its tampered with it loses value rapid.

I was once asked to make an estimate on a very old table and i was very excited because the table had the stamps of a very good and know Stockholm master. Problem was when i arrived the table had been sanded/restored and laquerd (clear), the table looked new. If the table have had the old finish produced by time and history it would have been worth around 250 000 dollars, now it was worth around 2000 to 3000.

This camera do have the two above, provenance and originality, if its restored it loses the time/history aspect and a great deal of the price. Dont change anything, it might have to undergo a conservation process, but that is the maximum that should be done with it. Dont destroy the history that this object contain, dont restore it.

cheers

Ian Grant
09-21-2010, 08:33 AM
The flaw in the argument above is that Nadar is the name of the Distributor/seller of the camera rather than the name of the camera's owner unfortunately. Secondly the condition isn't good enough to have a very high collectors value.

It's still going to be worth somewhere over £100/120 euros but even very good condition camera's of similar vintage often only sell for £200 - £400

Some of the websites don't show just long some these tailboard cameras were being manufactured, Sands, Hunter & Co were still making one in the late 1920's as were Adams & Co. In the case of Adams the "Challenge" of 1928 is the same as the 1882 model, the 1928 De-Luxe Universal Sands, Hunter model has a rising front.

Sands, Hunter were more of a distributor & retailer than a manufacturer so it's likely the camera was made by another workshop. Louis Gandolfi worked for Lejeune & Perken who didn't sell cameras under their own name, and the Gandolfi tailboard cameras were quite similar to the later Sands, Hunter model.

Ian

sandholm
09-21-2010, 09:36 AM
The flaw in the argument above is that Nadar is the name of the Distributor/seller of the camera rather than the name of the camera's owner unfortunately. Secondly the condition isn't good enough to have a very high collectors value.

Ups, my fault, i missed that, read a bit to fast. Now when its just a camera it change everything (same argument as I wrote with the pen). Restore if you want.

cheers

Ian Grant
09-21-2010, 10:18 AM
My guess is with sympathetic restoration, cleaning brass work and wood work, with a light fresh coat of french polish the framin body of the camera will look excellent.

If the right material can be found to make new bellow the camera will probably be worth anything between £150 - £400 once finished. X1.5 for $ value.

Ian

anon12345
09-21-2010, 10:48 AM
The flaw in the argument above is that Nadar is the name of the Distributor/seller of the camera rather than the name of the camera's owner unfortunately. Secondly the condition isn't good enough to have a very high collectors value.. . . .

Ian,
We can surely put that question to rest. Since Nadar sold apparatus can you point me to reference of other tailboards (or view cameras) that Nadar has sold (excluding Paul's detective camera)? Especially cameras that you know of having a similar Nadar plaque. Either through completed auction listings, on the web, camera collections, or in printed reference material, etc? I gather that Nadar sold many cameras of various types.

Thanks in advance.

anon12345
09-21-2010, 11:26 AM
Although I did not see a similar camera with the quick review I did, you may like this websites index of early camera and other photographic equipment:

http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/index.html

Marco

Yes, I made inquiry about the original lens for the camera. The operator of the site was very informative saying that a good quality Ross or Dallmeyer of about 6" would do. And that I should pay attention to the serial numbers.

Ian Grant
09-21-2010, 12:12 PM
Most camera's sold get listed by their manufacturer's name not the shop who sold them. Then there's an ebay problem where searches don't map across from different countries properly so using the US or UK sites doesn't pull up items listed/sold in France, However there are references to Nadar selling British cameras (http://earlyphotography.co.uk/site/entry_C678.html) around the 1880's and his visiting London to buy cameras is mentioned elsewhere.

Then it's no coincidence that the Paul Nadar's Detective camera has a similar Nadar name plate (http://spiracollection.com/spira%5Chome.nsf/by+title/BF598DB70CDCBB1F8525735A006D68F9/$File/012-7279.jpg) to your camera.

Nadar had met with George Eastman, they photographed each other, his son's camera is using Kodak roll film very early compared to competitors.

Searching in English is likely to throw up much information as Nadar was French few of the cameras he sold would have left the country. I'm sure if you looked in the French equivalent of the British Journal of Photography you'd find adverts for Nadar & his camera sales.

Ian