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The Vélocigraphe is a falling-plate camera for up to twelve plates, designed by Étienne Ricard and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Lacroix,[1] and made by Hermagis in Paris, in the 1890s.[2] The body is a wooden box; it was supplied in a close-fitting leather case, the front opening to allow it to be used while in the case; all the controls are on the front. It has an Hermagis lens with an iris diaphragm, mounted with a coarse screw thread for focusing. The camera has a behind-the-lens shutter, with seven speeds (numbered 1 - 7 on the control), set by varying spring tension.[3] The shutter tensioning lever also operates the plate-changing mechanism.[2][3] There is a plate counter, in a window in the maker's name plate on the right-hand side. There are Watson-type viewfinders, and spirit levels, for horizontal and vertical orientation.

The Vélocigraphe was made in 9×12 cm[4]and 13×18 cm plate sizes.[5] A stereo version was made for six 8×16 or 9×18 cm plates.[5]

The Vélocigraphe was perhaps so named to take advantage of the fashionability of cycling; certainly the camera, in its case, and intended for hand-held use, would have been easy to carry on a bicycle. One of the advertisements at Collection Appareils promotes the camera and a sommier vélocipédique (bicycle mount) for mounting cameras, such as the Vélocigraphe, on a bicycle or tricycle, even allowing photographs to be taken while moving.[5] In l'Amateur d'Excursions Photographiques, Hermagis and Rossignol included an article on photographic excursions by bicycle.[6] However, an article on the Vélocigraphe in the same issue stresses the speed with which successive exposures can be taken, so the name may instead have been intended to convey this.[7]


  1. Swiss Patent 3730 of 1891, Chambre Photographique, granted to Étienne Ricard and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Lacroix on 15 June 1891, describing the camera, and most particularly the plate-changing mechanism; at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
  2. 2.0 2.1 McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). p388.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Vélocigraphe serial no. 909 at Early Photography.
  4. Velocigraphe 9x12cm, s/n 1137, with Hermagis Aplanastigmat No.8 140mm s/n 34383, seen in on-line auction (Dec 2013).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Contemporary advertisements for le Vélocigraphe at Collection Appareils
  6. Hermagis and Rossignol, 1897, Excursions Photo-vélocipédiques, in l'Amateur d'Excursions Photographiques, No.3, pp346-355. The whole volume was previously available for reading online or downloading from E-Corpus.
  7. Hermagis and Rossignol, 1897, Le Vélocigraphe de MM De Ricard & Lacroix, in l'Amateur d'Excursions Photographiques, No.3 (as above), pp455-459.


Cameras sold at Westlicht Photographica Auction (now Leitz Photographica Auction):

  • Vélocigraphe serial no. 305, sold at the twentieth auction, on 1 November 2011.
  • Vélocigraphe serial no. 831, in its case (with tripod bushes and spirit levels on the case) and with Tele-Objective (a teleconverter, to mount between the camera and lens); sold at the twelfth auction, on 17 November 2007.
  • Vélocigraphe serial no. 899, with a folding optical finder on the top; sold at the sixteenth auction, on 5 December 2009.
  • Vélocigraphe serial no. 1454, with Aplanastigmat No. 8 140 mm f/6.8 lens, and altered shutter release, and with an accessory shoe and two tripod sockets on the body, sold at the seventeenth auction, on 29 May 2010.