The first photographic cameras were essentially boxes with a lens and plate holder at opposite ends with the sliding box design providing an early variation on this theme. As photographers moved away from the studio taking advantage of processes that were easier to work the fixed box design began to be refined with a view to making it more portable. Chevalier's collapsible camera of 1840, which was still being advertised in 1851, was the first to try and reduce the bulk of the camera which it did with some success.
But it was British camera maker's who looked at making cameras even more portable. Bland and Long introduced a folding camera that collapsed more compactly than Chevalier's design while remaining fully rigid and light-tight when assembled. The camera was limited by being a simple box with the only focus adjustment being that on the camera's lens. This camera by Horne and Thornthwaite is essentially a copy of the Bland and Long design.
Other camera maker's attempted to make the design more useful. Ottewill introduced two slots for the darkslides and Negretti and Zambra had three slots. Both designs allowed lenses of different focal length to be used making the camera more versatile. In the case of the Negretti and Zambra design the slots at 7, 10 and 13 inches from the lens panel would allow wide-angle, normal and long-focus views to be made.
Ottewill's design of 1853 (see the following lot) took the idea one step further by producing a collapsible, sliding-box design so that focus adjustment could be undertaken by adjusting the camera rather than changing lenses or darkslide position. Horne and Thornthwaite and Bland and Co. advertised their own versions of this design.
Horne and Thornthwaite were established as Horne, Thornthwaite and Wood in 1841 as opticians and philosophical instrument makers and remained in business until the end of the century under a number of variations of their original names and at a mix of addresses. The Newgate Street address was in use from 1841 until 1858. The firm was heavily involved in photography from it's formation and W. H. Thornthwaite, in particular, was active in publishing on photography from 1843 when the first edition of his Photographic Manipulation appeared.
The firm's catalogues show their Folding Portable Camera from 1853 and it continued to be listed until at least 1857. A number of variants were produced including this model with a single aperture for the plate holder without a lens at £4 15 0, with a single achromatic meniscus lens at £7 0 0 and single achromatic lens with rackwork adjustment at £7 15 0, each was for views 7 x 6 inches. Other versions included two apertures for views and portraitsand models for 9 x 7 inches.
Thornthwaite's A Guide to Photography (seventh edition, 1853) described the camera:
'The most useful and complete camera for general photographic purposes, and especially adapted for tourists, from its extreme portability, combined with lightness and strength, is that represented ready for use... The front of the camera holding the lens has a vertical adjustment, which enables the relative proportion of foreground, or sky, in the required picture, to be altered without disturbing the position of the camera. In the body of the camera is placed two or more openings or slides, by which either the long focus lens for views, or the shorter combination for portraits, &c., can be employed as desired. When not required for use, the lens is unscrewed, the front and slides lifted from their grooves, and the body of the camera folded together by the hinges, shown in the cut, by which arrangement the camera box, together with the slides for prepared paper, glass, or silver plates, frame for ground glass, achromatic, &c., can be conveniently packed, and in the smallest possible space, as shown in leather case'.