View Full Version : Gasc & Charconnet Petzval

23-Nov-2009, 12:06
I found this Parisian Petzval yesterday when strolling around Dutchland with Eddie. So far, I think it was made around 1860 or so. It appears to be an 8-inch focal length lens with a widest aperture of about f4. Its physical length is 5 inches with hood and the diameter is about 3,5 inches. On 4x5 it gives me more room for movements than a 210mm Sironar-N.

I can not take any pictures with it yet. No waterhouse stops (those I have to make) and no suitable lens board yet. The one in the picture on the 4x5 is a dummy I made out of foam board, already quite a challenge for me... :)

Does anyone know more about Gasc & Charconnet or of this particular lens? Their logo looks rather interesting, but I have no idea what it means. On the forum I found a few references, but nothing really revealing.

Cheers, Maurits


Steven Tribe
23-Nov-2009, 15:32
These have been on e**y quite a few times during the years mostly on offer in the UK - also with the crude engaving around V & A. VM says virtually nothing. The "Quick Acting" suggest an export item. VM seems to suggest they are associated with Laverne - and, like Laverne, were an export organisation for other lens makers. The V and A doesn't stand for Victoria and Albert! I would have guessed at 1885-1895.

23-Nov-2009, 16:15
If you look here http://archive.liveauctioneers.com/archive4/westlicht.auction/17450/0837_4_lg.jpg

you will see the same lens engarvings without the Gasc/Charoconnet marking... I think this is basically an f/4 Dallmeyer Petzval copy that GC added their name to... I think the lens is earlier, maybe 1870-1880. Not sure what the V&A marking is however...


Jason Greenberg Motamedi
23-Nov-2009, 16:19
I had one a few years back, a 9" as I recall. Same markings. I know I took it apart to clean, and I don't remember it being a Dallmeyer type, but that doesn't mean it wasn't. It was a perfectly decent lens--f3.7 or thereabouts, with good contrast.

23-Nov-2009, 16:31
Does anyone know more about Gasc & Charconnet or of this particular lens? Their logo looks rather interesting, but I have no idea what it means. On the forum I found a few references, but nothing really revealing.

Cheers, Maurits


Not that it would be helpful a lot but nobody said it yet - Gasc & Charconnet was a French manufacturer of photographic lenses. It had its share of the market in their time...

24-Nov-2009, 01:38
Gasc et Charconnet were producing petzval lenses quite early. I will check my information to see wether I find aything more specific.

I would regard this as a "rare", valuable and high quality item.

24-Nov-2009, 01:59
Not much extra info, just this:

Gasc et Charconnet, Paris changed name to Charconnet et Lavrance, Paris.

This is according to a 1911 book. Maybe you could find out when the change of name took place?

The company is mentioned together with Hermagis, Darlot, Jamin, Dallmeyer and Ross.

24-Nov-2009, 05:54
Many thanks all for the input so far!

I found (on the web) that Albert Gasc and Alphonse Charconnet were originally optical instrument makers. They were located at 7 Rue Chapon in the Marais district in Paris. There is a derelict looking little shop there now, selling what looks like used handbags... :) Jamin & Darlot was located in the same street at number 14.

Around 1877 the French lantern maker Arthur-Léon Laverne took over Gasc et Charconnet. Laverne sold his firm in april 1890 to Clément et Gilmer, after a 3 year partnership. Some of this information was found in the text of an actual French court order from 1891 published in the Revue Chronometrique. Laverne-Clément et Gilmer were operating out of the Rue de Malte in Paris, not far from the Marais.

For a while, Laverne sold his lenses using both names on the barrel. As in: Laverne & Cie, Ancienne Maison Gasc & Charconnet. This, I believe, means that all lenses with only the Gasc & Charconnet logo and name predate 1877.

I can find nothing relating Gasc to Dallmeyer or that they were openly copying Dallmeyer's designs. In A History of the Photographic Lens by Rudolf Kingslake (1989), Gasc et Charconnet are referred to as one of the principal early manufacturers of Petzval lenses. So I do not believe that their role was restricted to being an export firm only.

It is, however, recorded that Gasc et Charconnet produced European versions of Harrison's globe lens of 1862. Van Monckhoven's source for the data of the optical design of the globe lens was obtained directly from Gasc et Charconnet (Moritz von Rohr, Theorie und Geschichte des photographischen Objektivs, 1979, p. 174).

See also Photographic optics: including the description of lenses and enlarging by Désiré van Monckhoven (1867). On page 125 he states that "These data have been communicated to us by Messrs. Gasc and Charconnet, of Paris, the opticians who introduced the globe-objective into France under the name of lentiforme de l'oeuil; and who construct it with great perfection, and at a price much lower than the original American objectives."

It is unclear to me whether Gasc et Charconnet were officially licensed to create lenses based on Harrison's design or that they simply took the design and ran with it.

In his Traité encyclopédique de photographie, Charles Fabre wrote in 1889 that the opticiens who perfected Harrison's design are "[in France], MM. Darlot […] and Gasc et Charconnet (objectif lentiforme de l'oeil) […]." Again, this puts Gasc et Charconnet above simply being outright copycats or an export firm only.

In the USA, Gasc et Charconnet were represented by Geo Bryant. Lenses sold through Bryant were marked GEO BRYANT Co. Sole Agents Boston Mass. Some of these lenses also carried the Laverne name. I think Jon Wilson (of this forum) has or had one of these lenses. Apparently Richard Walzl from Baltimore imported Gasc et Charconnet copies of Harrison's globe lens into America. I guess Harrison wasn't overly happy with that.

Some of the archives of auction houses revealed pictures and descriptions of Gasc et Charconnet lenses. Most are dated around 1860, maybe that is where I got my date from. But I am not too keen on relying on dates provided by auctioneers. Westlicht from Austria dates a Gasc stereoset 1890 (# 20662 and 20663), when the firm already ceased to exist in 1877.

In an auction at Breker's, a Gasc version of the Harrison globe lens is dated circa 1860, two years before the patent for the globe lens was granted? This French wide-angle version of Harrison's globe is numbered 16569. Another Gasc et Charconnet lens, sold through Breker's, is numbered 8300 and dated 1857. Yet another wide-angle Gasc from the Brochard collection is dated circa 1860 and numbered 7919.

The lens in my original post has an even lower serial number 5565. It must be older than 1877 (when Gasc ceased to exist) and, given the low serial number compared to the globe lens variants (of which production started halfway the 1860's since VM wrote about these in 1867), probably from the early 1860's.

Pertaining to Gasc et Charconnet's logo there is nothing I could find. Obviously the central oval and lens-shaped artifacts to the left and right are related to their business as optical designers. The V&A are indeed unrelated to Victoria and Albert. Right minded Frenchmen would never name their lenses after the English queen and her husband (even more so since these royals where in fact more German than English). In that light it is remarkable that Gasc et Charconnet used English text on their lenses at all!

My theory: what if the V&A actually is A&A? The upper letter being a reversed A to form a symmetrical logo that reads Albert & Alphonse, lensmakers?


Anyway, sorry for being long-winded!

Cheers, Maurits


Steven Tribe
24-Nov-2009, 11:20
Thanks for an entertaining and informative account! Quoting from respectable auction houses reveals, as you imply, that they have often completely bogus information. There was an example a few years ago, mentioned here, where a "complete" Plasticca was sold with only one of the two cells along with a set of perforated discs from a Imagon. And they have higher fees than e**y! Yes the V V idea is a good one - so the strange shaded background contains a C and a G. There is a vertical dash to the right of the & which could be the crossing on the G. Just because the company disappears, doesn't mean the engraving or established name is quickly given up. Remember Jarmin/ Jarmin Darlot etc. Jamin remained a long time on the optics after he was out of the picture. And the Goerz name was used long after 1926.

24-Nov-2009, 12:40
My theory: what if the V&A actually is A&A? The upper letter being a reversed A to form a symmetrical logo that reads Albert & Alphonse, lensmakers?

so the strange shaded background contains a C and a G. There is a vertical dash to the right of the & which could be the crossing on the G.

This is actually a rather plausible analysis of the logo, and the more I look at it, the more I am convinced. The A&A was rather clear from the beginning, but I did not manage to explain the odd vertical dash - as part of a stylized lens, it made very little sense. Steven's suggestion is very plausible, and it feels like a few pieces fall in place…

24-Nov-2009, 16:51
That is very plausible indeed Steven and csant! The bold lines in the lens element shapes are the important and therefore emphasized parts of the logo and the remainder is probably just decoration. If you omit the decoration, you end with A G A C or A C A G. I hadn't seen that. But now that I see it, it sticks.

And my guess now is that there is even more to this logo we haven't figured out yet. Cool! The Large Format DaVinci Code. Or Large Format Holy Blood Holy Grail. I prefer the latter. One day maybe, we will discover a tomb containing the 2 digitus by 1 palmus negative that forever ends speculations as to who sat where at the last supper... :)

Cheers, Maurits


Steven Tribe
24-Nov-2009, 17:43
It's fun solving mysteries - but I still think it is a pretty ugly trademark. There is nothing quite like the Curved N in Voigtländer's No. - easy to engrave, distinctive and very attractive!

Jim Fitzgerald
24-Nov-2009, 22:17
I have one of these lenses. It has the ribbon script and shows the Geo. Bryant info on it. Looks to be a 6" and is a Petzval for sure. About 3 1/2 " long and 2 1/4" in diameter without a hood. When I remove the front element it looks to be almost a 20" lens?


25-Nov-2009, 05:12
Dallmeyer produced the "Quick Acting Portrait Lens" in 1860 which was a Petzval of f/3 speed. Since G&C has used this phrase of "Quick Acting" I assume its playing off the enormous popularity of the Dallmeyer lenses and is "just" a very fast Petzval. In addition, the G&C mentions a Patent...what Patent that refers to is a bit of a mystery...

Remember, G&C was only formed in 1860, so they were not first generation makers of Petzval lenses... And G&C was well known for producing their own Harrison Globe lens copies...

More data to ponder.


PS - the 1860 start date for G&C comes from Photographische Correspondenz, Volume 32 1895 p. 591

Translated from German;

"French specialties.

Founded in 1860, Gasc & Company Charconnet, Opticians, Paris (Rue de Malte, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.) has already made itself felt in the beginning of the sixties in the photographic world by introducing the so-called Kugelobjective (eye lens). The same is then passed into the hands of Messrs. A. Laverne & Co. and is currently operated under the name of Clement & Gilmer which strive to bring practical innovations for amateurs in the trade. We meet in what follows the wish of these gentlemen, readers of the Photographic correspondence describe some of their specialties, although we must point out that the company initially represents a large optical institution, which under the verEchiedensten marks more or less popular Objectivsorten, mostly anonymous, bring into the trade. The Objective and its "American Star" and "Panorthoscopique", which one encounters frequently in trade, coming from the house of Clement. <k Gilmer. In addition, the Hess Company Registration nor the following trademarks: "Lanterne universal" picture of a lion, "Lightning," "Progress", "Cldgil" Picture of a Maltese Cross, etc., which we see when and photographic articles impressed. Of course, underlying the description of one's own data from Clement & Gilmer destroyed."

25-Nov-2009, 09:11
Thanks for that extra info, Dan! I had not found any info on the internet on when the G&C company was founded.

I think you are right in thinking that "Quick Acting Portrait Lens" was copied from Dallmeyer. It is not a name Gasc would have invented independantly.

Cheers, Maurits


25-Nov-2009, 11:34
dallmeyer started about 1860. i believe that G&C were already in business by then. quick acting is just a designation that it was a fast petzval lens.

i do not believe that G&C copied dallmeyer. i will look a bit further but they were one of the big name french lens makers or the day. maurits has a pretty low S#. i have a great big one here:


is it s1n 18 inch FL lens. about f5. if i was to remove the water house housing on the inside of the barrel it would be way faster! that thing really necks it down! mine has a 5 digit S# for what i can see....BUT it only has teh logo. no G&C

great lenses.

fun time in holland!

25-Nov-2009, 15:10
If you read my reference above, G&C was founded in 1860, not before. Dallmeyer was an optician by 1851 and working for Ross, on and off, through the 1850's and had garnered a reputation as a very fine optician. He also became Ross' son-in-law during this time.

Dallmeyer was an almost instant success when he started his own firm, early 1860, and his lenses were considered some of the best around the world. G&C was far less distinguished and again, my speculation is that they were using the word "Quick Acting" to play off of Dallmeyer's success with his Quick-Acting Portrait Lens of 1860...( see attached ad ).

"Copy" was poor word choice on my part, since they are all Petzval lenses - what I was trying to say is that G&C was perhaps trying to ride Dallmeyer's success by using the same term...


25-Nov-2009, 15:24
Attached is an ad for Dallmeyer Oct 1860 in the The Lancet and Aug 1860 in the Chemical News....and already in a book published in 1861 had MANY photographic items being advertised ( see 3rd ad below )

25-Nov-2009, 15:55
And for you G&C fans, a photo of their "copy" of Harrison and Schnitzer's Globe Lens

25-Nov-2009, 17:26
not to get us too far off topic but here is my emil busch "copy" of the globe.

Jim Fitzgerald
25-Nov-2009, 19:21
I have no idea if it makes any difference but the lens I have has a # 3137 on it.


Jan Pedersen
25-Nov-2009, 21:51
Eddie, Youre in Amsterdam, Did you bring a photo of your Busch lens with you?
I think you need to go North a little (Denmark) and seek help :p

26-Nov-2009, 03:23
I'm very sorry to wander even more off topic, but can anybody tell me how to tell a globe lens from an aplanat (wide-angle aplanat)?

Also, CCHarrison, are you absolutely sure the picture you posted is a globe (by Gasc et Charconnet) lens? I don't want to contest it, or doubt it, just want to make sure.

26-Nov-2009, 05:10
Wimpler - I grabbed the pic from here http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/2453581

and it is listed as simliar to Globe Lens, but now that I study it more, I am not entirely sure its the G&C "Globe" as the front lens group seems a tiny bit less curved than other Globes and the lens shade seems a bit too deep... hmmmmmm...........

If its not their Globe copy, it would appear to be a fairly extreme wide angle...

Attached below is another G&C lens with less lens curvature - a more moderate Wide Angle....


26-Nov-2009, 05:44
For more contrast, here is another firm's French "copy" of the GLobe lens



26-Nov-2009, 07:12
All those globes... They look very pretty. Anybody has some shots taken with the globe they are willing to share? I have never consciously seen anything shot with them.

Jon Wilson
26-Nov-2009, 13:31
I have 2 Gasc & Charconnet Petzval lens, 18 inch f6 and 7 inch f4.6 (estimated based on their waterhouse slots). Both are newer than the one you have for their serial numbers are 310xx & 926xx respectively. They are also marked Geo. Bryant & Co. which was the importing agent. Here is a link of a picture I took of my son a couple of years ago using the 7 inch Gasc & Charconnet petzval http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=5816490

26-Nov-2009, 15:10
Thanks Jon, I would have loved it when my old man had made images like that when I was a teenager. Not then probably, but now I would look at them and be a happy kid again!

Cheers, Maurits

Jon Wilson
26-Nov-2009, 17:17
Thank you Maurits. I know what you mean. My son was not the true "volunteer" for the picture.....he is the typical teenager. At least his mom truly likes the picture....I am sure he will appreciate it as he ages....:)


anton orlov
10-Jul-2015, 00:35
I have a 9in (or thereabout) magic lantern lens that has a flange with France stamped into it, but no markings on the body. When I took it apart on the glass I see G&C marks - you guys think it's Gasc & Charconnet?

Steven Tribe
10-Jul-2015, 00:59

It is not uncommon for early French lenses with plain bodies to have "known" lens marks or internal identification stamps on brass parts. I have a couple of Petzval bodies with "AD" marks, a plain Petzval with "Gasc et ......." lens edge text and a large plain pillbox with Derogy lens text. I think Corrado's book has a couple of examples (the Dubroni lens which was supplied by Darlot in the 60's).

Steven Tribe
15-Apr-2016, 07:44
You learn something new every week.

- D'Agostini's book contains just a selection - well I did know that already.
- There is much more comprehensive illustrated array of the various lenses for a number of French makers available giving the various sizes that were mmade and efls. This must obviously be based on the original catalogues or adverts.

There are a series of short Monographs on individual makers including JAmin/Darlot, Hermagis and Gasc & Charconnet.
There is a low quality image of some of the sides on line which makes the text almost unreadable, encouraging purchase.

I bought the illustrated G&C petzval to-day. Very odd looking, but nice with 2 mounted flanges for portrait/landscape conversion. A bayonet joined brass barrel. Deduction was that this must also be to facilitate washer stops around 1860. Very different from the examples shown in D'Agostini! But shown in the levere.edition website!

It is the lens on the left-hand page middle right.

Steven Tribe
21-Apr-2016, 01:25
I have received permission to post low quality extracts from the A to Z series of booklets, so here are two part pages which covers the early Petzvals from Gasc & Charconnet in B/W!

Steven Tribe
21-Apr-2016, 12:07
Series 3 Gasc & Charconnet mentioned above is turning out to a surprise! The lenses are screwed directly into the 2 sections of the (single) bayonet joined barrel saving a lot of brass machining! There no separate brass lens cells. The lenses were mounted at the wrong end (50% chance!). The rear lenses are pretty standard, but the front achromat is an air-spaced achromat! The curvatures are very close to the standard balsam Petzval achromat but there is a very narrow (under 1mm) spacing ring between the two.

I think I have all the genuine lenses because of complete matching edge pencil identification, the diameters match perfectly and the spacing ring is unusually thin and matches the rear brass spacer in appearance. In addition, the patent granted to Gasc & Charconnet (illustrated in the levere-edition booklet) has a diagram which seems to show a x-section of an air space achromat. Some early telescopes had this system.

Will check focus when it is cleaned and reassembed - both as a Portrait Petzval (?) and as a meniscus (?) landscape lens!