André Ruiter Stereoscopy

Hemdé Stereoscope

July 7, 2019
Hemdé Stereoscope - B&W photographer and collector of antique photographica
My latest acquisition is an antique cabinet stereoscope for viewing 45x107 glass stereoviews. The stereoscope dates from the beginning of the 20th century and is built by Hemdé. I wanted to know everything about the device and its maker. A product catalogue and online archives revealed some information about its past.

The company

Hemdé is a lesser-known French manufacturer of stereoscopes. Little is known about the company. The name "Hemdé" is said to be composed of the name of founder Maurice Delécaille and Hem, a village near Lille in northern France. A paper of the Sociétés Photographiques du Nord de la France from 1903 mentions "M. Delécaille, director of Hemdé devices and products".

A new name appears on a product catalog from April 1914: M.P. Sorel. According to the patent database this is Paul Sorel. A trade register from 1910 mentions a dissolution of Société Delécaille et Sorel, à Hem on 31 December 1909. Paul Sorel solely continued building stereoscopes under the Hemdé brand name. The business activities moved from Hem to Lille and probably from now on the products carry both names Hemdé and Sorel. In 1913 the company moved from Rue Nationale to Rue Macquart in Lille. I haven't found any traces from 1915 or later. During the First World War, Lille was occupied by the German army on 13 October 1914. The city suffered from heavy shelling. Maybe the war ceased Sorel's business activities, altough its products can still be found in a Magasin Moderne de Photographie catalog from 1920.

Hem during the war
Hem during the war
45x107 glass stereoview, publisher unknown

The products

The 1914 catalogue shows a relatively small range of stereoscopes, development tools and a price list. Interestingly, the introduction contains a detailed description of the mechanics and a user manual.
Hemdé product catalogue from April 1914
Hemdé product catalogue from April 1914 (author's collection)

Hemdé distinguishes itself from other makers by "extreme simplicity and robustness of the parts and the absolutely infallible mechanism that is protected against dust and moisture".

The stereoscope

The stereoscope is a Series I model for viewing 45x107 glass stereoviews. The device has a mahogany finish and consists of two parts: a viewer and a cabinet for storing slide trays with stereoviews. There is room for 12 slide trays to store a total of 300 stereoviews.

Stereoscope Hemdé

The front shows the Hemdé logo and a patent plate with Stéréo Hemdé Breveté S.G.D.G. Unfortunately, the stereoscope doesn't contain a serial number or year. Because the name Sorel is missing, I assume that this model is built before 1910.

Stereoscope Hemdé

The two eyepieces can be focused with two knobs on both sides. The distance between the two eyepieces can be adjusted. Eyepiece blinders can be adjusted to block incident light.

The mechanism is simple and the device is very easy to use. A slide tray with 25 stereoviews is placed in the device. Turning the crank brings a new stereoview into position. The slide is lifted and placed in front of the eyepieces and can be viewed. At the rear, an opaque glass window illuminates the slides and on the right side of the device the number of the stereoview in the tray is displayed.

Stereoscope Hemdé

My stereoscope is in good condition and I'm very pleased with my purchase. These types of stereoscopes are readily available but finding a Hemdé is rare. To quote Paul Wing: "It is a nice collectable if it can be found".


  • Notice et prix courants des Stéréoscopes classeurs "Hemdé", April 1914
  • Bulletin des Sociétés Photographiques du nord de la France, June 1903 (via: Gallica)
  • Archives Commerciales de La France, February 1910 (via: Gallica)
  • Revue Mensuelle du Commerce & de L'Industrie Photographiques, January 1913 (via: Gallica)
  • Stereoscopes: the first one hundred years, Paul Wing, 1996
  • Lille tijdens de Duitse bezetting, C. Wallart (via: Wegen van Herdenking)