British photographic history

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Auction: Camera obscura 'associated' with Story-Maskelyne

Christie's is to offer a Jones camera obscura associated with Nevil Story-Maskelyn in an auction of Travel and Science on 8 October 2014. It is estimated at £4000-6000. The camera obscura was previously offered by Christie's in 2012 when it sold for £15,000 ($24,180) including buyer's premium and VAT.and in June 1981 when it failed to sell.  Sadly Christie's has only illustrated the device from the back but it is complete with a lens. 

Christie's have described the lot as 'associated' with Nevil Story-Maskelyne when, as was reported on this blog in 2012 it is actually a late eighteenth/very early ninetreenth century camera obscura (the clue is in the ink stamp which refers to 'His Majesty', with Victoria not ascending the throne until 1837). It's first owner was Story Maskelyne's grandfather, the astronomer royal, Nevil Maskelyne (1732-1811), from whom it was passed down.

The previous BPH blog report and discussion can be found here and the lot description for the upcoming auction here. 

Lot Description

Jones, mid-19th century
reflex model, the mahogany body of dovetail construction, with hinged lid, lens in wooden mount and 'push-pull' focusing front section, signed JONES Artist LONDON ; BY HIS MAJESTY'S SPECIAL APPOINTMENT No. 4, Wells Street Oxford Street.   12½in. (32cm.) long


Nevil Story Maskelyne (1823-1911).
Thence by descent.
Christie's South Kensington 25 April 2012, lot 69.

Lot Notes

Nevil Story-Maskelyne (1823-1911) left law for the Natural Sciences in 1847, and was soon lecturing on mineralogy, a field he would come to lead. His research ran from the petrology of Stonehenge to developing the collection of minerals and meteorites at the British Museum into the 'largest and best arranged series ... in existence' (ODNB online). He and his wife Thereza May Llewelyn were both involved in the pioneering of photography. He was close friends of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77) -- whose own camera obscura is held at the Science Museum London.

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