21 August 2019

The Glyphoscope

The Glyphoscope - André Ruiter Photography

The Glyphoscope was a stereo camera using glass plates, developed by the famous manufacturer Jules Richard from Paris. It was a compact, simple and affordable camera that could also serve as a stereoscope.

In a previous post I wrote about stereoviews published by Jules Richard. However, he was better known as an innovator and builder of devices. His introduction of the compact 45x107 and 6x13 formats in 1893 was decisive for the success of French stereoscopy at the beginning of the 20th century. He launched a wide range of stereo cameras, stereoscopes and accessories in various price ranges.

The Glyphoscope was an alternative to the more expensive and advanced Vérascope camera. It made stereo photography accessible for amateurs. The marketing slogan was: “Établi tout spécialement pour les débutants en photographie” (designed especially for beginners in photography). The camera was sold from 1905 until the end of the 1930s without changing significantly in design.

Glyphoscope - Jules Richard - Advertisement from 1912
Advertisement from 1912 (author's collection)

Three models of the camera were available. They offered the same functionality but differed by shape, used materials and weight. The models 1 and 2 where made of bakelite and weighed 430 and 345 grams. Model 3 was made of wood and weighed 320 grams. A catalogue from 1913 shows all three models for the 45x107 format. Glyphoscopes that supported the 6x13 format were introduced later but were more rare.

Glyphoscope - Jules Richard
Glyphoscope model 1 for 45x107 format with serial number 2742

The camera's characteristics:

  • Two achromatic lenses with a focal length of 54mm
  • Three diaphragm settings: position 0 (large diaphragm), position 1 (increasing 2 stops) and position 2 (increasing 4 stops)
  • A guillotine shutter with two settings: P and I
  • A folding crosshair viewfinder

To turn the camera into a stereoscope, the front panel with the shutter needs to be removed. A slide holder fitted with an opaque glass replaces the plate holder at the back. It works quite well, but it doesn't offer the same ease of use and viewing experience as a dedicated handheld stereoscope.

Glyphoscope - Jules Richard - Instruction Manual
Instruction manual (author's collection)

As you already know I'm interested in stereoviews with images from the First World War. I can imagine that this affordable and compact camera was hidden in the bags of many French soldiers. I wonder how many Glyphoscopes have found their way to the battlefields and captured the horrors of war...

References:

  • Introduction pour l'emploi du Glyphoscope, Maison Jules Richard
  • Product catalog from 1913, Maison Jules Richard
  • Product catalog from 1929, Maison Jules Richard
  • Stereoscopes: the first one hundred years, Paul Wing, 1996
  • Glyphoscope (via: Wikipedia)