An optical device, it is usually a box with a small peephole through which an object outside is reflected by a double convex lens onto a surface. From there, the image can be traced, and if desired, made larger or smaller proportionately. This method insures accuracy and flexibility, which was especially handy for topographical artists commissioned to return from explorer expeditions with accurate drawings. "Camera obscura" is an Italian term dating to Renaissance inventor Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), who popularized the method, which, in turn, dated back to principles of Aristotle. Today "Camera Obscura" is practically obsolete, replaced by its successor, the camera.Source: Ralph Mayer, "A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques"; Kimberley Reynolds and Richard Seddon, "Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms"<br><br> A system of lenses and mirrors developed from the 16th to the 17th centuries, which functioned as a primitive camera for artists. With the camera obscura, painters could project the scene in front of them onto their painting surface, as a preliminary drawing. Vermeer, among others, is thought to have used the camera obscura.<br><br>The origin of the present day camera. In its simplest form it consisted of a darkened room or box with a small hole through one wall. Light rays could pass through the hole to transmit an inverted image of the scene outside the room onto a flat surface on its inside. It was first mentioned by Aristotle in the fourth century BCE, and employed through the centuries as an aid to drawing. These are Latin words, literally meaning "dark room."Examples: French, about 1750, Th??tre de l'univers (Theater of the Universe), a portable camera obscura built into a folio binding stamped Th??tre de l'univers, made with wood, metal, and glass; open: 22 1/8 x 21 3/4 x 14 3/8 inches; Getty Research Institute, Werner Nekes Collection, Malibu, CA. See theater.