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Miragioscope, folding French cardboard camera obscura
Early 19th century
Private collection of Jack and Beverly Wilgus
Collector note (29 November 2015)
It dates from the early 1800s and the condition seems to defy the laws of possibility. When set up the camera is about 10 3/4 inches long, 7 1/4 inches wide, and 5 3/4 inches high. The camera body collapses into a flat rectangle less than 1 1/2 inches high! Along with its lens in a cardboard tube about 2 inches in diameter it then fits into a rather rough wooden box with a paper label inside the lid. The box is not a beautiful object but it must be responsible for keeping the camera in such beautiful condition.
It is a marvel of design. When the sides are lifted the mirror raises into position and the front and back can be slipped into place. The hood swings up and two black baffles rest in copper clips. The lens tube slides into a round hole in the front and focuses by moving in and out.