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Category: Events

Classic camera auction - Leading London auction house Christie's is to offer the 350-lot collection of Swiss collector, Thomas Ganz.

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A Triunual magic lantern
Thomas Ganz
Press release:
Christie’s is to offer the collection of prominent Swiss collector Thomas Ganz in a single owner sale on Monday 22 January 2007. The collection consists of magic lanterns and lantern slides, optical toys, selected cameras and photographs as well as prints and engravings representing the entire history of the moving and static image. The 350 lots on offer were collected by Ganz over the past forty years, and are expected to realise in excess of £300,000. His collection is thought to be one of the most significant collections of its type in private hands.

Thomas Ganz is the great grandson of the founder of the Zürich firm of J Ganz which started business in 1844 and still trades today as Ganz A.G. The firm has been a pioneer and market leader in the fields of photography and projection for more than 150 years, and in the 1870s produced its own range of magic lanterns. Today, the firm specialises in digital audio-visual systems and conference facilities and is managed by Thomas’s daughter Catherine.

This sale provides the opportunity for enthusiasts to acquire rare and wonderful slides for future slide-shows, for collectors to add specialist pieces to their collections, and for museums to obtain significant pieces of pre-cinema history.

Particular highlights include:
• A biunial magic lantern (estimate: £8,000-12,000)
• A pagoda lantern (estimate: £2,000-3,000)
• A zoetrope, phenkistiscope, and praxinoscopes (estimates from £300-4,000)
• A rare early peep box (estimate: £4,000-6,000)
• A number 1 Kodak camera from 1889 (estimate: £600-900)
• An early (pre-1900) French movie camera (estimate: £1,000-1,500)
• Stereoscopic views (estimates from £300)
• An early reflex camera obscura circa 1820 (estimate: £1,200-1,800)
• A large quantity of original prints and engravings showing lanterns and related subjects including Daumier’s classic engraving of Nadar photographing from a balloon (estimate £6,000-9,000)

The world of pre-cinema is a fairly new collecting category, only really coming to light in the 1950s, when a post-war affluent society had disposable income to spend and invest, and there was a greater awareness of cinema heritage. Magic Lanterns, the pre-cursor of modern day slide projectors, and other pre-cinema pieces started to appear at auctions across the world and a new field of collecting had begun. Thomas Ganz was one of this new breed of collectors, building on the memory of a Pathé-Baby given to him at Christmas in 1927. This period saw the reemergence of slideshows on social occasions. Interest grew, and by the 1970s academic interest in the history of the cinema encouraged university courses covering the history of the cinema. In the late 1980s the Museum of the Moving Image opened in London as the quest for knowledge and information showed no sign of abating.


In 1994, at the age of 74, Thomas published Die Welt Im Kasten (The World in the Box), which chronicles the history of the projected image from the camera obscura to the audio-visual systems of the late 20th century. This wonderfully written and illustrated book quickly became one of the standard works of reference for students of the history of the cinema and many of the pieces illustrated are included in this sale.

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