As perhaps one of the most unusual examples of photographic ephemera to come up for auction, WestLicht will be offering for sale one of Julia Margaret Cameron's original wooden wet-plate negative boxes (7,000-9,000 euros). Dating from 1865-66, the inside lid is inscribed in Cameron's handwriting with the captions for the 24 negatives of some of her most well-known photographs that were originally stored in the box. Another example of ephemera in the auction is an autographed letter by Louis J.M. Daguerre on Diorama stationary (6,000-8,000 euros).
One of the rarest amusements in the sale is a musical automaton of a photographer, c.1890, (20,000-25,000 euros). No more than three or four of these wondrous mechanical dolls with a photographic theme are known.
Included in the sale is an important and apparently unique early Japanese lacquered Graphoscope, 1860s, (8,000-12,000 euros) containing 100 carte-de-visite albumen prints of Japan. One of the most fascinating pre-cinema devices is an Emile Reynaud Praxinoscope-Théatre, c.1880s, (2,400-3,000 euros), in which early "cartoon" figures miraculously come to life.
Also on offer is an outstanding group of 19th-century optical amusements including what is considered to be one of the most magnificent kaleidoscopes ever to come up for sale, a William Leigh kaleidoscope, c.1822, (80,000-100,000 euros). This kaleidoscope was made by the clockmaker William Leigh probably as a special commission from a wealthy and important client. No other Leigh kaleidoscope is known or is recorded in any scientific reference. It was described in the kaleidoscope collectors' publication of the Brewster Society as the most beautiful example ever made.
From the well-known Spira Collection comes pre-photographic articles include a large Scioptric Ball camera obscura lens, late 18th century (8,000-12,000 euros), as well as three exceptionally large groups of 19th-century optical amusements. The first comprises a collection of over 1,100 magic lantern slides including an early phantasmagoria hand-painted lever-operated slide of a snake, late 18th-century (500-700 euros). This rare and early slide moves on the screen when the levers are operated. Complicated special effects could be produced with magic lanterns that projected two or three overlapping images. A rare and beautiful example of such a projector is offered in the sale, a Tri-Unial magic lantern, c.1890 (20,000-30,000 euros).
The second group comprises over 3,500 stereographs, including several lots of early views from the 1850s-1870s of Paris, New York, Venice and other cities, as well as lots of humorous, comic scenes and "spirit" views which use double exposure to produce ghost effects. Also from the Spira Collection comes a group of 19th-century stereographs which show photographers at work or with their equipment and "tissue" cards in which special effects were produced by printing the images on thin paper and hand-painting the backs so a day/night or other transformation occurred when the stereograph was lit from the front or the back.
The third group is 100 micro-photographic "Stanhopes". These ingenious 19th-century optical novelties were invented by René Dagron in 1860. A microscopic photograph only 1 mm square is mounted at one end of a tiny but powerful magnifying lens. These miniature black & white transparencies were mounted in small objects of all types and sold as souvenirs and amusements.
WestLicht is already known for auctioning rare and collectible cameras and among the 915 lots in the sale are many fine examples, including the 100th Leica camera ever produced and one of the original Lunar Haselblad cameras, which since 1968 was engaged in the Apollo missions. In the 19th-century area there is a fine early 1840s American daguerreotype camera in the sale.
The WestLicht Photographica Auction will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 11 a.m. (CET). The sale items can be previewed before Tuesday, November 14 by appointment, then between Tuesday, November 14, and Friday, November 17 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and finally on the day of the sale, Saturday, November 18 from 8 a.m.-11 a.m.
WestLicht Photographica Auction is located on Westbahnstrasse 40, A-1070 Vienna, Austria; Phone: +43 1 523 56 59; Fax: +43 1 523 13 08; email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
A four-color catalogue will be published in book form and can be ordered at the auction website http://www.westlicht-auction.com . The complete on-line version of the current catalogue will be available by mid-October on the website and two weeks before the auction on www.ebayliveauctions.com . You will already find a selection of lots to be auctioned there.