It may not look much today, but this camera was the latest cutting-edge piece of technology when it was first released for sale in 1899 – and it helped lay the foundations for the future of film and moving pictures. Then it retailed for £30, now it has just sold at auction in Surrey by Lawrences of Bletchingley for £7800.
It was in early 1896 that Arthur S. Newman
(1861-1943), perhaps the most innovative British camera maker of the early 20th century, first
saw the Lumière Cinématographe in action at a theatre in Covent
He had been designing still cameras since
the mid 1880s and, together with a London businessman and keen
photographer named Julio Guardia, had established a reputation for
high-quality products. But moving pictures were clearly the
Within the year he had filed a series of
patents for a projector of perforated 35mm film he called the
Newman & Guardia Kinematograph. Production began at 90 and 92
Shaftesbury Avenue towards the end of 1897.
It was advertised for sale in three
different versions between 1899 and 1903. Among the first customers
was the British magazine publisher Sir George Newnes (1851-1910),
who bought one for use on the first British venture of the heroic
age of Antarctic exploration, the Southern Cross Expedition of
Today these instruments, fashioned with
brass chain-driven movements and leather-clad cases of tropical
hardwood, are extremely rare.
There is no doubt that the internet has helped transform the
marketplace for early technology. Not just a huge information
resource just waiting to be Googled, the net has brought together
like-minded enthusiasts and matched sellers of the quirky and the
obscure with buyers of the same.
A rare gramophone by EMG was a recent valuation day discovery
for Richard Winterton (21% buyer's premium) of
Like Arthur S. Newman, Ellis Michael Ginn (whose initials gave
the firm its name in 1923) specialised in hand-built, sometimes
bespoke, instruments for a demanding top-end clientele.
The firm went into voluntary liquidation in 1980, having
produced and sold around 1500 of the finest acoustical gramophones
ever made. In the 1930s in particular, EMG were at the forefront of
two new hi-fi technologies: the sometimes controversial use of
electricity to power the turntable and the relatively new science
of acoustics that saw gramophone horns grow bigger and bigger in
pursuit of more and better quality sound.
It was doubtless thanks to experiments such as R.P.G. Denman's
27ft (8m) long exponential horn loudspeaker - a benchmark in audio
quality in 1929 recently recreated at the Science Museum - that the
papier-mâché speaker to this EMG 'table top' model measures a
massive 2ft (60cm) across. It was believed by the vendor, in whose
family it had been for many years, to have been used for public
On May 28, four serious collectors bidding
on the phone saw it sell way over expectations at £2700.
When Christie's South Kensington sold a
working example in November 2000 for £9000 it was described as the
only known example in private hands with only one other in the
collection of the National Museum of Photography, Film and
Television in Bradford.
So doubtless there were a few deep intakes
of breath when camera aficionados happened upon mention of 'a
Newman and Guardia Ltd cine camera with mahogany cased reel boxes
and loose lenses etc, housed in a leather case' at the sale held by
Lawrences (18% buyer's premium) of Bletchingley,
Surrey on April 29-May 1.
Although the cataloguing was brief, and no
estimate given, a revealing digital image of a third surviving
Kinematograph and its accessories was published online. Doubtless
Arthur S. Newman would have approved.
Lawrences received a number of enquiries for
additional images but were more than surprised to see it sell at
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