Published: September 26, 2000
World Record Cameras Are Snapped Up at London Auction
LONDON, ENGLAND – The world auction record for any camera was broken three times in a sale at Sotheby’s on Thursday, September 21. First, one of only 10 examples of a ciné camera by Friese-Greene and Prestwich, based on a 1896 patent, sold for approximately $112,500.
Moments later, a camera invented by the famous Lumiere brothers and manufactured by J. Carpentier, the world’s first commercially successful motion picture camera, sold for approximately $120,750.
The camera is believed to have been the first of its kind to have been sold at auction and the auction price was double its pre-sale high estimate. But then the third in a trio of cameras from a private collection, an extraordinary contraption by Gaumont and Demeny – one of fewer than 10 known to exist – outstripped that price to sell for a staggering £91,500, or $137,250. Dating from about 1897, it measured an unwieldy 19 by 12 inches and was driven by a hand-cranked bicycle chain movement.
The previous record for a cine camera stood at £55,750, or $83,625.
Sotheby’s sale of Masterpieces of Science and Technology also included the earliest datable British film, the Epsom Derby, recorded by cameraman Birt Acres, which sold for £14,300 against a pre-sale estimate of £6,000-8,000. Acres’ film captured – the 5th Earl of Rosebery’s horse, Sir Visto, racing to victory with a three-quarters of a length lead in the 116th running of the Derby Stakes at Epsom in Surrey on May 29, 1895.
In the same sale a unique Renaissance combined sundial and astrolabe designed by the leading Sixteenth Century mathematician and scientific instrument maker, Arsenius, sold for £185,000 against a pre-sale low estimate of £150,000. The instrument had remained unknown to scholars and collectors for the last 400 years.
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