The earliest enlargers used direct sunlight, and thus came to be known as "solar cameras". It was an American, D.A. Woodward, who in 1857 first constructed an enlarger. It was a cumbersome object. The sun was collected by means of a convex lens, and the camera has to be turned with the sun. This design became the model for a number of solar cameras. The picture shows an advert for his cameras, and a medal that he had been awarded to him at a major exhibition.

Another pioneer was Wothly, from Aachen, who made a few improvements to Woodward's solar camera, and exhibited portraits almost at life size.

Wothly's solar camera was a monstrosity! The condenser had a diameter of 1 metre. The heat of the condensed rays of sun was such that one had to have water troughs built in.

However, perhaps the first ever reference to an enlarging process can be attributed to Draper. In 1840 he wrote:

"Exposures are made with a very small camera on very small plates. They are subsequently enlarged to the required size in a larger camera on a rigid stand. This method will probably contribute very much to the practice of the art."

Louis Jules Duboscq (1817-1886) made an apparatus for enlarging by electric light, and showed it to the Paris Photographic Society in 1861.

Eventually, of course, the solar camera disappeared from the photographic industry and was replaced by enlarging cameras that used arc lamps. As the sensitivity of papers increased, so it was possible to use other sources of light.

However, even at the turn of the century it was possible to buy simple daylight enlargers. This one was made by Griffin and Sons. The advert. in the A.P. read as follows:

Messrs. J. J. Griffith and Sons Ltd. have introduced an instrument which should find a cordial welcome at the hands of many an amateur who desires to make bromide enlargements without elaborate apparatus. They are inexpensive, and whilst folding into small space can be erected quickly and by one movement, there being no loose screws or bolts. .... Having set up the instrument, the user places his negative in the groove at the small end and sensitive paper in the box at the large end. The camera is then taken into daylight and exposed to the clear sky for a period varying between a few seconds and a minute or two. Upon development of the exposed paper a sharp, bright enlargement will be the result.

The price of the enlarger to take quarter-plate and enlarge to whole plate, including meral exposure shutter and achromatic lens, is 12s 6d (62p).

May we also ask your attention to our gaslight attachment for enlargers? This consists of a parabolic reflector, in from of which are fixed two incandescent gas burners of a special type. ... The attachment can be fitted to almost any enlarger on the market." (Cost, 10s 6d - 50p).

© Robert Leggat, 2003.