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p-cameras-msg – 10/28/05


Notes on period camera obscura.


NOTE: See also the files: cameras-msg, glasswork-msg, painting-msg, medieval-tech-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: tabron at binah.cc.brandeis.edu

Subject: Re: xxx

Organization: Brandeis University

Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1993 20:13:39 GMT


whheydt at pbhya.PacBell.COM (Wilson Heydt) writes:

>Conal Blackhawke of Martinhoe writes:

>>We all know (more or less) the evolution of the camera, so it is safe to

>>say that it's most definitely not a period tool. The only exception is the

>>type I've seen used in the Flintstone cartoons, but I've never been able to

>>locate one.


>Kind of depends on what you mean by camera...  Not only is the

>original "camera obscura" late period, but the application of a lens

>to the structure is just within period.  Porta did it in (if memory

>serves) 1598.  That sort of camera, however is two rooms.  (Which

>interesting enough, makes really *large* cameras far closer to period

>than small ones, leading to....)


>      --Hal


>        Hal Ravn, West Kingdom

>        Wilson H. Heydt, Jr.,  Albany, CA 94706, 510/524-8321 (home)


The first documented case of a camera obscura being used, as far as my research

indicates, is that of Fillipo Brunelleschi in 1425. (For an interesting

discussion see Shigeru Tsuji, "Brunelleschi and the camera obscura: the

discovery of pictorial perspective", _Art History_ vol. 13, Sep. 1990, pp.

276-292.)  There may still be some debate about whether Brunelleschi used a

camera obscura but to my mind his argument is convincing.


James Snyder (author of _Medieval Art_ and _Northern Renaissance Art_) has

said that camera obscuras were quite popular with landscape painters right

around the time of Rembrandt, which would be quite in period.


Raedwynne aet thaem Grene Wudu

Dark Horde


Judith Tabron

Dept. of English and American Literature

Brandeis University

tabron at binah.cc.brandeis.edu



From: djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu (Dorothy J Heydt)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Lenses and telescopes

Date: 21 Jul 1994 21:49:27 GMT

Organization: University of California, Berkeley


(Hal posting from Dorothy's account...)

Michael Moore <moore at mari.acc.stolaf.edu> wrote:

>Perhaps binoculars and telescopes are more alike than I think.

>However, there seems to me a difference in distance between the miles to

>the horizon and the miles to the nearest night star...


Using the data as is normally done for cameras.....


When a lens is focused at "infinity", the optical center of the

lens is at it's closest to the film plane.  If you examine any

camera lens with focus distance marking (a thing that is getting

rarer by the day), you will see that the scale is non-linear.

The practical difference in focusing between an object a mile

away and an object light-years away is too small for any

practical purpose.  This is complicated by a lens characteristic

called "hyper-focal distance."  This is the distance to an object

in critical focus in which everything from one-half the

hyperfocal distance to infinity is acceptably sharp.  This

distance depends on focal length of the lens and aperture.


If one considers a telescope like the first ones that Galileo

made--usually quoted in the range of 3 to 20 power--one might

assume a focal length around 500mm and an aperture no better than

F10.  Such a device will have a hyperfocal distance of no more

than a few hundred feet, and under some assumptions it might well

be no more than 50 feet.


For what its worth, lenses were incorporated in camera obscurae

in 1598.


        --Hal Ravn

         (Hal Heydt)



From: djheydt at uclink.berkeley.edu (Dorothy J Heydt)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Magic Lantern help

Date: 11 Dec 1994 19:17:07 GMT

Organization: University of California, Berkeley


[Hal posting from Dorothy's account...]

Ferret <dnb105 at psu.edu> wrote:

>Does anyone have information on camera obscuras and magic lanterns ?

>Plans or books.


So far as I know "magic lanterns" are completely out of period.


As for the camera obscura...  Depends on what form of it you

mean.  The period ones (invented by an Italian born in 1540)

consist of two rooms with, at first, a small hole bewteen them.

The room with the subject would be brightly lit, while the room

with the artist would be quite dark.  Using a lens in the opening

between the two rooms is documentable to 1598--just barely



        --Hal Ravn

         (Hal Heydt)



From: ae766 at yfn.ysu.edu (David Sanders)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Camera Obscura, and related

Date: 1 Jun 1995 11:52:44 GMT

Organization: St. Elizabeth Hospital, Youngstown, OH


Greetings all, from Vajk!


A while back someone asked about construction of a camera obscura.  At the

time I had little in the way of suggestions, even though I had been looking

for such myself.  However, this past week I came upon a *great* work.


  Hermann Hecht,  Pre-Cinema History. An Encyclopaedia and Annotated

Bibliography of the Moving Image Before 1896 (London: Bowker-Saur, 1993).


It is "Published in Association with the British Film Institute".


The earliest work mentioned that I have found on cursory examination is

from the 1st century BC.  There are many from the 16th century, and some

from the 15th century and before.


One must really read through some of the entries to get a real feel for what

this bibliography is all about.



ae766 at yfn.ysu.edu



From: ae766 at yfn.ysu.edu (David Sanders)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Camera Obscura, and related

Date: 5 Jun 1995 12:00:16 GMT

Organization: St. Elizabeth Hospital, Youngstown, OH


In a previous article, dickeney at access2.digex.net (Dick Eney) says:


>What is its ISBN, my lord?  Without this bookstores are reluctant to

>order a book from England.  (And when we're over there in August it'll be

>handy to use in searching British bookstores, for that matter...)


You know, I looked in vain for an ISBN.  But now I have found it.  Not in

the usual places.  It appears on the bar code on the back of the book.


ISBN 1-8539-056-3


Also, Bowker Saur appears to have offices in London, Melbourne, Munich,

and New Jersey (no city listed).



ae766 at yfn.ysu.edu



From: polsons at cruzio.com (The Polsons)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Camera Obscura, and related

Date: Sun, 04 Jun 1995 17:06:22 -0800

Organization: sirius.com


Just wondering if anyone else has seen the camera obscura that operates in

San Francisco, CA? We happened upon it at The Cliff House, a restaurant

and tourist spot just north of Golden Gate park right along the ocean. If

you can figure out how to get there, it's worth the admission! You can see

how it works and get a brochure about it too...!


Willow Polson, Editor                  polsons at sirius.com

               Recreating History Magazine

"The Resource for Living History Enthusiasts of All Eras"




Subject: Camera

Date: Sat, 20 Dec 1997 20:53:51 -0500

From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>

Organization: Windmaster's Hill, Atlantia, and the GDH

To: RowenRhys <RowenRhys at aol.com>


> 'Tis true that camera date to the time of the American Civil War

> Rowen ferch Rhys


Actually the term camera dates to renaissance times. It refers to

the "camera obscura", Italian for Dark Room. It was a tent like a

little round pavillion. In the middle of the roof was a hole with

a lens in it, above this was a mirror mounted at 45 degrees. The

whole thing operated much like a periscope. In the dark tent

there was a table with a light surface. The light would strike the

mirror, be focused through the lens, and strike the table and one

would see the first moving pictures. "The trick seems to have been

known in ancient days but it was not until 400 years ago that any

great use seems to have been made of it." They charged for the trick.


Clipped the page a long time ago from possibly an old volume of

Book of Knowledge. Shows the tent, table, mirror and lens.

But obviously a modern depiction.


The first box camera seems to date from about 1670 and was a black

box with a lens at one end and a white glass plate at the other.

One looked at the image and sketched from it. Invented apparently

by Englishman Robert Boyle.


Magnus Malleus, repository of inane and_obscure_trivia.


(Now I suppose Dafydd will have to build one...)



Subject: [Fwd: Camera]

Date: Sat, 20 Dec 97 20:06:19 MST

From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>

To: mark_harris_RSVE60 at email, "Mark.S Harris" <rsve60 at msgphx1>


The book was probably from about 1930...        Magnus


I used to get old textbooks, magazines, etc. and dissect them for

the medieval and craft pictures, still do actually. :)

In this case the Pavilions and Tents book is 2 1/2"+ thick.

There are separate ones on yurts and nomad tents.

I have about 5 real books on tents, yurts, and teepees too. Hard to

find. Not SCA publications.



Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2005 18:46:32 -0400

From: Elaine Koogler <ekoogler1 at comcast.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] camera obscura

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Stefan li Rous wrote:

> Serena mentioned:

>> I have been doing research on the Camera Obscura which led me to

>> peruse the text "Natural Magick" by Giambattista della Porta.


I don't remember further information but, when I visited Edinburgh some

years back, there was a building that had a room in it that had

historically functioned as a camera obscura.  Didn't have the time to

get to see it, but the idea of a room-size camera was a little

mind-boggling. Then I remembered that, IIRC, the Italian word for room

is "camera"...or is it Latin?  So it makes sense that these things were

an actual room.





Date: Sat, 22 Oct 2005 12:36:22 -0400

From: "Daniel  Phelps" <phelpsd at gate.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] camera obscura

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Regards the subject, if I recall correctly there was an article in the

Smithsonian Magazine on the camera obscura within the last 10 years  

or so.




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org