Kilburn’s folding stereoscope

William Edward Kilburn (1818-1891) was an English daguerreotypist. He was renowned for his skilful hand tinted daguerreotypes which he made in his studio on Regent Street in London[1]. He was was one of the most commercially successful daguerreotypists in London and the first English photographer to receive the title of court photographer of the British royal family[2].

Kilburn designed a viewing case for stereo daguerreotypes that was registered in Britain and patented in France in 1853. It was common to put a precious daguerreotype into a small protective hinged case. Kilburn added lenses to the case so that it could serve as a stereoscope. The case shows similarities with the smaller Mascher case that was introduced in the United States the same year.

Kilburn’s folding stereoscope.

Kilburn’s design consists of a folding wooden case that is covered with maroon leather. Two lenses with a short focal length are mounted in a lens board. This board has two attached foldable side flaps which can be hooked onto the back part that contains the stereo daguerreotype. The interior is darkened with a black cover. The case is equipped with clips on both sides that ensure that the case is securely locked when folded. The viewing case was exclusively manufactured by Moran and Quin in London and was sold to daguerreotypists who could customise it with their own name[3].

The hand tinted stereo daguerreotype of this viewing case shows a young man leaning on a cabinet. The daguerreotype is made by Kilburn and has a size of 8 x 11.5 cm. The two images of the stereo pair are outlined with golden fillets and covered with a protective glass plate. The lens board shows:

Kilburn’s stereoscope.
Regr 12th Jany 1853.
Brèveté à Paris

The cover shows Kilburn’s logo:

By appointment
Mr. Kilburn
222 Regent Street

Folding stereoscope by William Edward Kilburn.


  1. ‘Kilburn, William Edward (1818-1891)’ in Hannavy, J. (ed.) (2008) Encyclopedia of nineteenth-century photography. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, p. 797 
  2. Perret, R. (2006) Kunst und Magie der Daguerreotypie: Collection W.+T. Bosshard. BEA + Poly-Verlags AG. 
  3. ‘The Claudet Years’ (2021) in Pellerin, D. and May, B., Stereoscopy: the dawn of 3-D. Windlesham: The London Stereoscopic Company, p. 88 
Images © André Ruiter 2018 - 2022, unless otherwise stated.
Content may not be used without permission.