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    Description

    Historic Mathew Brady Studio Camera, circa Early 1860s. Quite possibly the wet plate camera he used to take his iconic photos of Abraham Lincoln! Although no manufacturer's label is present, it is similar to cameras made by H. J. Lewis of New York circa 1860. The camera is made of dark wood and is fitted with a Petzval-type brass barrel lens bearing the serial number 1195.

    The Brady provenance is iron-clad; it is accompanied by photocopies of original Bankruptcy Court records signed by Brady dating from April 1873 (Brady had filed for bankruptcy), listing this lens with its serial number in an inventory of Brady possessions.

    The camera was featured in a September 23, 1957 Life Magazine article titled "In Image of the Master, the Famous Photographs of Mathew Brady Are Matched Today with Pioneer's Own Camera." Life photographer Ed Clark used the camera offered here to replicate Brady photos with modern equivalents. On page 124, Clark is shown using this camera to photograph President Eisenhower in a pose similar to a familiar Lincoln image taken by Brady during the Civil War. (An original copy of the Life Magazine accompanies this lot.)

    This camera is also pictured in full color on the inside back cover of Mathew Brady and His World, Produced by Time-Life Books from Pictures in the Meserve Collection. The picture is identified: "This camera was used by Brady in the 1860's. To make an exposure, a prepared collodian negative was placed in a lightproof holder. The holder was placed in the camera and a panel removed to let the light in." Frederick Hill Meserve started his celebrated collection of Lincolniana and photography in 1897. In 1902, he made a large purchase of Civil War-era Brady negatives. It is believed this camera was a part of that purchase.

    It features a black fabric bellows, rack and pinion focusing, with wooden knob on rear of back section, and wide casement to accommodate side-loading plates. The camera is mounted on an 11" x 15" base rail. It is accompanied by a ground glass plate (glass replaced) for focusing, which allowed 10 3/8" x 10 3/8" exposures, as well as a dark slide.

    Virtually every public figure of the Civil War era passed through Mathew Brady's studio, and it is thrilling to imagine that many of his iconic photographs may well be have been taken with this very camera! A museum piece in the truest sense of the word.

    Included with this lot is a small library of books and publications on Brady and his work, including a copy of the Time-Life volume based on the Meserve Collection referenced above.

    Exhibition History: "Lincoln and New York", New York Historical Society, Fall-Winter 2009.

    Please Note: The Photographic History Collection of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian has expressed a great desire to add this camera to their display, either by acquiring it or on loan. Bidders who might be interested in assisting the Smithsonian in making this possible may contact Tom Slater at 214 409 1441 for particulars.




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Nov-Dec, 2011
    30th-1st Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 8,462

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