Lucien Bize designed a series of compact stereoscopes. Almost nothing is known about the company. The company was located at 69, Rue Oberkampf in Paris. It was continued in 1913 by Robert Pleyau.
Le Minimus was patented by Lucien-Albert Bize and Siméon-Louis Claparède in 1907. A year later, the device was launched, along with the more advanced Multiphote. The Minimus was introduced for the glass stereoview formats 45x107mm and 6x13cm.
The Minimus doesn’t have an advanced mechanism and was therefore compact and affordable. The device can hold 24 slides which are placed in the top section. By turning a knob, the front panel with the lenses moves outward and the slides fall off the end of the viewer and are positioned in front of the lenses. Turning further will drop the slides into the slots of the storage compartment in the bottom. When all slides have been viewed, the Minimus is inverted and all slides fall back in their original position and can be replaced. Later models used a slide tray to catch the slides and made replacing the slides a bit easier. The lenses of the Minimus can be focussed, but the distance between the lenses is not adjustable. The model in this post is for the 45x107mm format and has a dealer plate of Photo Bachelier from Épinal.
The Multiphote is a further development of the Minimus and adds a slide-tray to place and catch the slides. It’s a slightly bigger device compared to the Minimus, but it simplifies replacing the slides. Multiphotes were manufactured for the 45x107mm and 6x13mm format.
The top cover of the device needs to be removed to load the glass slides. It contains a short instruction manual on the inside. The slide-tray with 24 stereoviews is placed on the top section of the device. By removing a metal slide at the bottom of the tray, the slides fall into position. The empty tray is now placed in the bottom part of the device so it can catch the slides.
By turning the knobs on the left and right side, the viewer part with the lenses moves outward the device and the rearmost slide falls down and is placed in viewing position. By turning the knobs a little bit further, the slide drops into the slot of the slide-tray. This procedure is repeated for every slide. After viewing all the slides, the tray can be removed to reload the device. It’s a simple but clever and effective design.
The lenses of the Multiphote can be focussed with a ring which is positioned between both lenses. Its modest design offers no feature to adjust the distance between the lenses and it lacks a slide index.
Le Polyphote looks more like a common multiple view stereoscope than Bize’s other designs Minimus and Multiphote. A 1910 advertisement lists the Polyphote as a new device, so it’s assumed that this is the year of its introduction. The device was available for 45x107mm and 6x13cm glass stereoviews.
The viewer uses a slide tray for 25 slides. What’s special is that the tray is compatible with the Taxiphote trays. Perhaps Lucien Bize wanted to piggyback on the popularity of Jules Richard’s well-known stereoscope design and focused on this target group.
By turning a key-shaped knob anti-clockwise, a glass slide is lifted out of the tray and placed in front of the lenses. By turning clockwise, the slide is placed back in the tray and the tray is moved so the next slide can be loaded. With a button on the left it’s possible to navigate to a specific slide in the tray. The mechanism used is relatively simple which makes it a compact device.
The lenses of the Polyphote can be focused and the distance between the lenses is adjustable. At the bottom of the device there is a compartment to store one tray. On the right side, a fold-out plate with a little mirror is probably intended to read the number on the tray. It suggests that the original slide trays of the Polyphote contain an index, but I’m not sure because my device is purchased with a Taxiphote tray.
There were models of the Polyphote where the base plate of the viewer can be tilted to create an oblique viewing angle, which can improve the viewing experience.
The Omnium is a simple folding stereoscope for paper card stereoviews, but there were also models with a frosted glass to view glass stereoviews. The viewer comes with its original burgundy colored box. The viewer is collapsible and the handgrip can be unscrewed from the viewer part. Focusing is done by a knob on the bottom that slides the card holder forwards or backwards.
- Stereoscopes: the first one hundred years, Paul Wing, 1996