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Le Daguerréotype Susse Frères

West Licht



A previously unknown sliding box Daguerreotype camera for 167x216 mm (“full-plate” 6.5x8.5 inch) exposures, manufactured in 1839 according to instructions by Daguerre. Soft wood, stained black, brass fittings, a manufacturer’s label is affixed to one side with the legend: «LE DAGUERRÉOTYPE, D´aprés les Plans officiels déposés par Mr. DAGUERRE au Ministére de l´Interérieur. SUSSE Frères, 31, Place de la Bourse».

The doublet lens by Chr. Chevallier (brass mount engraved by hand : No.3) has a focal lenghth of 382mm. At the front of the lens is a cylindrical brass mount that functions as an aperture as well as a swivelling brass plate that serves as a shutter. On the lens cap is an inscription: «DAGUERRÉOTYPE, SUSSE FRÉRES, 31, Place de la Bourse». The rear sliding box has two doors that open to the inside. These can be closed from outside thus making the camera lightproof during the insertion of the plate. The doors and the interior of the camera are lined with black velvet, the door-closing mechanism and the hinges are made of brass. There is also a holder for photographic plates or for a frosted-glass screen on the rear of the camera.

The overall, original condition of the camera is exceptionally good and it has never been restored. It was originally owned by Prof. Max Seddig (1877-1963) who was the director of the Institute of Applied Physics in Frankfurt am Main and, among other things, godfather to the founding of the Josef Schneider Optical Works in Kreuznach. Seddig gave the camera to his assistant, Günter Haase, as a present. The latter was later Professor at the Department of Scientific Photography at the University of Frankfurt and, from 1970 on, occupied the Chair for Scientific Photography at the Technical University of Munich. Prof. Günter Haase died on February 20th 2006 at the age of 88 and left the camera to his son, Prof. Wolfgang Haase.

Numerous experts attest that it is very likely the oldest commercially-produced camera in the world. The following expertise by the well known specialist for early photography and author of numerous books on the subject, Michel Auer, is included:

"I examined the camera very carefully and took all the measurements to compare it with the Daguerre camera sold by Giroux – the dimension are identical. The body is made of lime wood and the black paint is original. The printed paper label, which is attached to the left side is a lithography.

I have dismantled and examined the optical system, a doublet, and specified it’s focal length, which is, as expected 382mm. The brass mount of the lens is engraved by hand: “No3” and “III”.

The camera was produced 1839 and is in original condition. It corresponds in every detail with the plans that have been deposited by Mr. Daguerre at the French Ministry of the Interior.

To my knowledge this camera produced by Susse Fréres is the only of it's kind in existence."

(Authorised English Translation of the original French text – see last picture)

In addition to this unique Daguerreotype camera comes the extremely rare German manual entitled: ‘Praktische Beschreibung des Daguerreotyp’s’, published by Georg Gropius, Berlin 1839, 12x20cm, 24 pages, with 18 illustrations on 5 plates showing the apparatus for the production of daguerreotypes in accordance with Daguerre´s invention. Attached to the rear cover of the booklets are two handwritten notes from the early 1840´s in German concerning details of the process.

Year: 1839













Praktische Beschreibung des Daguerreotyp’s’, book published by Georg Gropius, Berlin 1839









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