Meydenbauer cameras and survey photographs

The only known cameras of Albrecht Meydenbauer (1834–1921) can be found in the National Library’s Prints and Drawings Department, as well as historically important holdings of survey photographs.

Front and side view of the large and small Meydenbauer cameras (survey cameras), built in around 1898
© Photo: NL, Simon Schmid

A fall from scaffolding while carrying out surveying work prompted the German civil engineer, architect and photographer Albrecht Meydenbauer to begin searching for a photographic method that could replace measurements made by hand. Starting in the 1860s, using trigonometry and a specially built camera, he developed a method of survey photography for buildings and topography. Known today as photogrammetry, that method is now of central importance to photography for documentation purposes and an important way of systematically recording historic buildings.

Meydenbauer in the National Library

Kathedrale Chur
Chur, cathedral with cemetery. Survey photograph with calculation points added, before 1896

In 1898, with the help of the architect Rudolf Fechter (1840–1902), the predecessor of the Federal Commission for Monument Preservation was able to obtain two photogrammetric cameras designed by Albrecht Meydenbauer. 

Both the cameras – the only ones of their kind still in existence – and a number of original photographs taken using them by Meydenbauer and Fechter, along with associated text documents, were acquired in 1977 by the Federal Archives of Historic Monuments. The documents are available for use in research.

Content and scope

  • 245 vintage prints (contact copies from glass negatives in 30 x 30 cm format) of subjects including the Stein Glacier, the Predigerkirche in Basel, Chur Cathedral, the St.-Ursanne Collegiate Church and a number of other historic buildings
  • Notebooks containing calculations, survey and photography records, technical remarks, etc.
  • Two original, exceptionally well-preserved survey cameras with accessories.
Collégiale de Saint-Ursanne
Saint-Ursanne Collegiate Church, interior view of the side aisle and pulpit in the nave, survey photograph, before 1899

Research and access

  • Original documents can be viewed on site. Please contact us to arrange an appointment.

Last modification 01.09.2021

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