Guinea Hand Camera
Griffiths, Walter & Co Ltd
|Name:||Guinea Hand Camera|
|Manufacturer:||Walter Griffiths & Co Ltd|
|Country of Origin:||United Kingdom|
|Construction:||The main body is made of fibre board with only limited reinforcement with wood. The top is hinged to provide access for changing and loading plateholders. The single reflecting viewfinder is built into the top cover.|
|Production Period:||c1890 - ?|
|Plate / Film Size:||¼ plate|
|Lens:||Achromtic f/9 (single aperture)|
|Shutter:||Simple drop shutter powered by elastic band|
|Dimensions (h x l x w):||17 x 24 x 13 cm|
|Date of this Example:||c1892|
The Guinea camera is a Hand or Detective camera of relatively simple and cheap construction. The main body is made of fibre board with only limited reinforcement with wood, such as on the opening front panel. The top is hinged to provide access for changing and loading plateholders. The single reflecting viewfinder is built into the top cover. The hinge on the top cover has long since broken on this example and has been repaired using seld-adhesive cloth tape inside and out.
Inside the lid there is a label for the retailer, although it does identify the camera by name. "W. Tylar / 57, High Street, Aston / Birmingham / Wholesale Agents / for the / Guinea / Hand Camera". According to Channing and Dunn , this address for Tylars changed to 41 High Street from 1893, so hence the estimated date for this camera of 1892.
The camera has a simple drop shutter powered by elastic band. The band that was fitted when I received the camera had dried and broken, and has been replaced. There is only a single speed and a single fixed aperture (f/9 according to other references) on this basic model.
The camera came with three original DDS. These are of an unusual design and are marked "Patented". They are constructed of fibreboard and metal components. The principal components are of fibreboard, with what seems to be either a leather or cloth hinge. Once the "book" is closed, the open 3 sides are sealed with a metal edge piece that then clamps the whole assembly together ready for use. The plates are protected with metal slides.
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Given the relatively cheap materials used in its construction, it is perhaps unsurprising that examples of this camera are often in rather poor condition. The failure of the hinge to the lid is a common problem.
The Guines camera was the basic model and the first to be introduced but was followed bu a Guniea and a Half, the Two Guinea and a Two Guinea and a Half model. The more expensive models were better made. An example of the Two Guinea camera can be seen on the Early Photography web site (last accessed July 2020) and has a leather covered wooden body that is much more substantial than the fibreboard body of the Guinea camera.
Griffiths apparently achieved good sales of this camera when first introduced, and as shown by this example, it was also being retailed by others. In their advert in the 1893 BJPA they state that the camera "is now too well known to need description. It has the largest sale of ANY Detective Camera that is not a toy.". Interestingly in the same advert they then go on to note that "Several firms are now selling cameras under our name - The Guinea. See that our name is upon the instrument."