Posted 5 years ago
An important part of my camera collecting is research and getting access to important ephemera (primary source material). When I first started collecting, things we take for granted today such as eBay and Google books did not exist. Research was a difficult and slow process. And is often the case, rare and significant literature was in poor condition and inaccessible. Today given the Internet’s broad reach and advanced search tools, research is much easier but it’s still a challenge to dig up obscure, important information.
Back in 2002, finding key ephemera was not easy. At that time, a close friend and collector gave me a challenge. He knew I was in IT (after all, that’s my profession) and asked if it was possible to make a digital restoration of a camera’s ‘hand-book’ cover. He owned the camera (an amazingly rare Anthony Lilliput) and its original hand-book (rarer yet). The cover was in tatters and the intent was to reproduce the hand-book before the entire thing disintegrated.
As background, the Lilliput detective camera (patented 1889) is historically significant, rare and a beautiful piece of work. It was also made at a time when George Eastman introduced his landmark Kodak roll film camera. The Lilliput used plates and simply couldn’t compete with roll film convenience. As a result, only a few are known. The camera itself is disguised in a thick leather case. Unfortunately, the leather case (if found) is typically in dismal, un-repairable condition. (FWIW, I’m not found of box cameras, but if a really great example in original condition appeared, I would consider buying it.)
The notion of doing a digital restoration was a new idea to us back then and I agreed to give it a try. The effort took me about 8 hours and we were thrilled with the result. Today’s advanced photo-editing software would make a similar project much easier. Yet what was exciting is that this was completed without having to touch the original paper once it was scanned and a life-sized high-resolution TIF image e-mailed to me. Six (or so) reproductions of the hand-book were made and I still have mine.