Carte de Visite photographs are small prints
mounted on cards that are roughly 2-1/2 by 4
inches. The predecessors of the Carte de Visite
were calling cards. Calling cards were used in the
same manner as today's business card but were
In 1854, Andre Adolphe Disderi was the first to
devise a way to make Carte de Visite multiple
images or portraits on a single photographic plate.
This called for a new type of camera with a shifting
back. Each time the back was moved, a different
portion of the plate would be exposed allowing a set
of several images to be printed at the same time.
Some cameras used anywhere from 2 to 32 lenses
while still others had both shifting backs and
multiple lenses. These cameras soon were referred
to as Multiplying Cameras and were very efficient at
producing numerous images in a short period of
time. Multi-lens and multiplying cameras were
popular from the mid-1850s to 1870s and continued
to be made through the early 1900s.
Wet plate, multi-lens cameras are rare and prized
items. The wet collodion process required that a
plate be coated just before taking a picture. The
entire process of coating the plate, taking the
picture, and developing the image had to be
accomplished while the collodion was still liquid
(wet). Regardless of how careful a photographer
tried to be, the collodion would always drip through
the plate holder and inevitably get on the camera.
The presence of stains is considered a desirable
"badge of honor" and adds character to the
1860s Scovill (possibly Peck) style wet-
plate camera with four Darlot No.4 lenses.
Collodion stains are very evident on the large brass
plate-holder retaining springs and wood. Heavy brass
tarnishing and large stains on the wood back would
indicate that this particular camera earned its keep.
The original wood color can also be seen as the lighter
colored vertical area to the right of the lens chamber.
A wide back allowed the photographer to reposition
the wet plate-holder for multiple images.
4-tube Carte de Visite Wet Plate Camera, 1860s Unknown American Maker (possibly Samuel Peck)