Talk:Joshua Billcliff

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Original text about the Billcliff field camera (of 1885? text by ebayer):

A camera the like of which I cannot find in any reference book or collection.

Although there is no maker's name plate it is clearly by the renowned Joshua Billcliff of Manchester who made cameras for Chapman, Chadwick, McKellen, Thornton et al.. It has his characteristic ebony inlay strips on the sides and built to his very high standard with fine dovetails and lined-up screw heads.

On the rear it bears a small ivory disc which reads 'Patent No. 13956'

Patent 13956 was issued on November 16th 1885 to Joshua Billcliff.

The abridgement reads : "Relates to an arrangement fitted to the back of the camera by which the slide that contains the sensitive plate may be rotated through a right angle, from a vertical to a horizontal position or vice versa without moving the camera. A circular opening, the edges A, A of which are flanged or rabbeted, is cut in the back B,B of the camera. On the plate holder are fixed corresponding flanged or rabbeted pieces C, C which fit into those on the back so as to bind them together. These latter rabbeted pieces may be those cut from the hole in the back reversed. "

In other words, this is the patent for the rotating back found on so many later metal cameras. What is surprising that it was not adopted by the other manufacturers of the time. Perhaps its advantages were not appreciated or it was too difficult to make.

Additionally this camera has another feature that I have not seen elsewhere. The lens board detaches from the front standard in the manner of a Kinnear camera. A brass knob on the front of the baseboard can be unscrewed to allow a hinged section on the top part of the baseboard to swing out. This then allows the movable bed with the front standard to be removed from the camera and replaced the other way around giving some extra extension. The lens board fits from either side of the standard.

A swing back is fitted which pivots about the centre and is locked by two knobs in curved plates. Another very advanced feature.

Finally the lens is almost 'bayonet mount'. A cut-out on the circular wooden disc on which it is mounted enables it to fit into the circular aperture on the lens board because the cut-out is bigger than the lower brass plate. The lens and disc are rotated 180 degrees and the cut-out is hidden behind the larger top brass plate and the lens is held securely.

I hope all this makes sense. It is a quite remarkable camera and deserves explanation. I have tried to illustrate the features in the photos but please contact if you need more clarification or information.

The camera is half-plate and is in excellent condition but it has had use. The lacquer work is generally very good but there are some marks and scrapes and minor corrosion of the brass work. The bellows are a bit saggy and the corners are rubbed at on the top.

The mahogany is of good quality and has 'fiddle-back' markings on the side.

The lens is marked 'Chadwick' and looks like a Rapid Rectalinear. It has a set of waterhouse stops in a leather case.

There are two darkslides and a canvas carrying bag.

Postage: Expensive, because it is a well made camera using high grade mahogany and top quality brass fittings it is rather heavy - around 3k when packed.