The Tycoon and the Inventor

A couple of years ago I spent a pleasant lunch chatting with author Edward Ball about Eadweard Muybridge, who was to be the subject of his next book. A while back I heard that it was to be published by Random House, and the title The Octopus and the Inventor: Eadweard Muybridge, the Killer Who Created the Movies cropped up (the ‘octopus’ being Leland Stanford) but then things went quiet. I notice that Doubleday have now listed the book as forthcoming, with the title The Tycoon and the Inventor.

This from Amazon:

From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.

One hundred and thirty years ago Eadweard Muybridge invented stop-motion photography, anticipating and making possible motion pictures. He was the first to capture time and play it back for an audience, giving birth to visual media and screen entertainments of all kinds. Yet the artist and inventor Muybridge was also a murderer who killed coolly and meticulously, and his trial is one of the early instances of a media sensation. His patron was railroad tycoon (and former California governor) Leland Stanford, whose particular obsession was whether four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground at once. Stanford hired Muybridge and his camera to answer that question. And between them, the murderer and the railroad mogul launched the age of visual media.

Set in California during its frontier decades, The Tycoon and the Inventor interweaves Muybridge’s quest to unlock the secrets of motion through photography, an obsessive murder plot, and the peculiar partnership of an eccentric inventor and a driven entrepreneur. A tale from the great American West, this popular history unspools a story of passion, wealth, and sinister ingenuity.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Books (24 April 2012)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0385525753
ISBN-13: 978-0385525756

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge: The Eye in Motion

Professor Stephen Barber of Kingston University London, currently engaged in the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship project on the Scrapbook of Eadweard Muybridge, has annouced details of his forthcoming book, Muybridge: the Eye in Motion, to be published by Solar Books (USA distribution by University of Chicago Press) in 2012. This promises to be a major new book, covering many aspects of the man and his work, as outlined in the Introduction. Central to the book is what Barber describes as ‘that unique ocular object’, now held by Kingston Museum:

Muybridge’s Scrapbook, in which he amassed every trace he viewed as essential about his work, across a span of over thirty years, so that it accumulated into an extraordinary memory-book that interrogated and overspilled time and its own parameters.

…. an aberrant vision-machine as well as a time-machine, and an irreducible archive in its own right, that holds revelations not only about Muybridge’s work, but also into the origins of film, the future of digital culture, and the perception of urban and corporeal forms.

The second part of the book examines

the close and revealing connections between Muybridge’s work and that of two key but neglected instigators of cinema, Max and Emil Skladanowsky, who undertook the first-ever public screening of celluloid-based films for a paying audience [in Europe] (using a projector, the ‘Bioskop’, they had built themselves, and showing films they had shot themselves, with a film-camera they had constructed themselves), on 1 November 1895, at a hotel in Berlin, two years after Muybridge’s formative glass-disc projection events in his Zoopraxographical Hall at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition

In the third part of this work, Professor Barber

… interrogates that pivotal memory-document of Muybridge’s work – in many ways, a crucial document for the understanding of how contemporary visual cultures originated – by disassembling it into the fragments from which it was created, in order to probe the all-encompassing ocular and corporeal processes at stake in Muybridge’s work.

Muybridge’s pervasive inspiration extends far beyond the domain of film and photography, encompassing visual art, poetry, performance, fiction, digital media, choreography, and theory.

The book also examines

… the archival, preservational implications of Muybridge’s work and its own movement into the future, as a body of work whose contrary amalgam is fused by preoccupations with loss, speed, perception, projection, corporeality, vision and the ‘tactile’ eye. In many ways, those preoccupations are exactly those of contemporary digital culture, and connect with archival issues around the uniqueness and potential reproducibility of objects, through such processes as digitisation. While forming a seminal presence for contemporary culture, Muybridge’s work, in its non-replicating resistance to assimilation, also necessitates an archive of its own. In a parallel way, his Scrapbook, itself a self-archiving by Muybridge of his work’s fragmentary traces in texts and images, also demands the formulation of an archive consisting of one unique artefact, in the way that Jacques Derrida, in his final interviews, envisaged objects of such all-consuming resonance that they required a tangible separation and a distinct space of their own, in order more intensively to then impact upon and reveal the surrounding worlds, and their visual cultures; in that sense, no object deserves its ‘sacrosanct’ one-artefact archive more than Muybridge’s Scrapbook.

Stephen Barber tackles  much, much more in this new work – do read the Introduction, which is online now.

Stephen Barber holds a PhD from the University of London. He has previously held posts at Sussex University, the University of Tokyo, the Berlin University of the Arts, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, the Keio University Research Centre for Art in Tokyo, and the California Institute of the Arts, where he was a Visiting Professor in 2007-8. He has been a Professor since 2002.

Stephen has received numerous awards and prizes for his research, from such foundations and funding bodies as the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the London Arts Board, in the UK; the Rockefeller Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Annenberg Foundation, in the USA; the DAAD-Programm in Germany; the Japan Foundation, the Daiwa Foundation, and the Saison Foundation, in Japan

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Taschen book – a handsome addition to the Muybridge bibliography

It’s some weeks now since the new Taschen book popped through my letter box. Or rather, was heaved up to my front door by a gasping delivery man. At 804 large-format pages, it’s some tome. I’ve now had a chance to look through it, and Eadweard Muybridge – The Human and Animal Locomotion Photographs certainly lives up to expectations. Hans-Christian Adam’s introductory essay, a comprehensive and contextual overview of Muybridge’s life and work is in English, German and French, with alternative illustrations for each, allowing glimpses of the unique cyanotypes, large format landscapes, and stereoviews that are not part of Muybridge’s motion sequence work.

Next comes what, for me, is the most useful part of the book – the entire 200-plus plates from the rare album The Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881). Some are shown somewhat reduced, four to a page; others are enlarged, one to a page. This arrangement has meant that some juggling has been necessary, so the plates are not is strict order – but a plate that’s out of sequence is only a page-turn away. The large reproductions of the skeleton horse are especially stunning. Muybridge’s 1879-80 Palo Alto work has never before been republished, and with less than 20 original albums in existence, has always been rather difficult to get to see. All of the images are on the web, but not in a way that is easy to access, so this section of the book alone is worth the price.

The following section comprises the complete 1887 Animal Locomotion, all 781 plates. Some have a page to themselves, others are arranged with either two or four plates to the page, and there are some extra whole-page close-up views showing parts of sequences. It’s more than 30 years since Dover published all of the University of Pennsylvania work in three large volumes, so this new publication by Taschen, despite the reduced size of some plates, is very welcome. Finally an edited version of my Chronology (also in English, German and French), a select Bibliography, and an Index of Plates complete the volume.

Beautifully printed – and the publication of this magnificent and very affordable book means that a quality trove of Muybridge’s motion photography will be accessible to all who have an interest in the subject.

Taschen Fall/Winter 2010 catalogue pages

The published title was different from that shown on Amazon. (Two or more names for one Muybridge book isn’t unusual – which is kind of fitting.)

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Thank you, great-aunt Nell

(c) Kingston Museum

In the early 1890s, Muybridge contributed to the first edition of Funk & Wagnalls’ Standard Dictionary of the English Language, one of the great American dictionaries. His presentation copy of the two-volume work, with a handwritten dedication by Isaac Kaufmann Funk, was kept by the Lawrence-Smith household at Park View, Kingston, where Muybridge was living until his death in 1904.

(c) Kingston Museum

The family’s maid Nellie Sawyer was just 14 years old when she started employment in the household c.1902 and continued as cook, housekeeper and nurse until lastly Miss Katy died and Nellie retained the Dictionary. Her great nephews David and Roger Prince regularly visited their elderly aunt, and there was often talk of Mr Lawrence, Miss Katy (Catherine Plow Smith), Mr Muybridge, and Park View. The Dictionary passed to their mother in 1966-67, and the family generously donated the set to Kingston Museum in 1998.

(c) Kingston Museum

Muybridge had been given the task of writing entries relating to Animal Locomotion; yet another indication that Muybridge’s own scientific analysis of his photographic sequences has been used for texts in authoritative reference works. (So, doubters – ‘Go look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls’, as they used to say on Laugh-In.) Entries included line drawings based on the photo sequences.

Nature [Vol.50 p.146] noted: “…Prof. Huxley has had evolution under his care; Dr. P.T. Mason, anthropology, and Mr. E. Muybridge, animal locomotion. These are only a few of the names of men of science who have helped…”

(c) Kingston Museum

A reference work, Farm Live Stock of Great Britain by Robert Wallace (probably the 1893 edition), used six examples of the drawings from Funk & Wagnalls, from “advance sheets of the Standard Dictionary”, which was then still in preparation. Muybridge also “revised and corrected the letterpress”.

Thank you Nellie May Sawyer, for keeping the Dictionary safe for so many years, and thank you to David Prince for kindly supplying information provided in this post, and to Peta Cook and Jill Lamb of Kingston Museum and Heritage Service.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

New book from Taschen!

Well I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s in print. With all of the Animal Locomotion plates, and the complete (previously unpublished) Attitudes of Animals in Motion album, its evidently a substantial tome!

Eadweard Muybridge, The Human and Animal Locomotion Photographs.
Eadweard Muybridge, Hans Christian Adam
Hardcover, 33.2 x 24.3 cm (13.1 x 9.6 in.), 804 pages
(44.99 Pounds)
ISBN: 978-3-8365-0941-1

Multilingual Edition: English, French, German
Details from

Life in motion – The forerunner of the moving image

This resplendent book traces the life and work of Muybridge, from his early thinking about anatomy and movement to his latest photographic experiments. The complete 781 plates of Muybridge’s groundbreaking Animal Locomotion (1887) are reproduced here. In addition, Muybridge’s handmade and extremely rare first illustrated album, The Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881) is reproduced in its entirety. A detailed chronology by British researcher Stephen Herbert throws new light on one of the most important pioneers of photography.

Hans Christian Adam  studied psychology, art history and communication in Vienna. As a specialist in historical images, he has published numerous articles and books, including titles on travel and war photography. He is the author of TASCHEN’s Edward Sheriff Curtis: The North American Indian, Karl Blossfeldt, Eugene Atget: Paris and Berlin, Portrait of a City.

This posting by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge and Will Day

Brochure announcing Will Day's book

I recently downloaded Muybridge’s book Animals in Motion – available here:

Click to access 019.pdf

and The Human Figure in Motion, here:

Click to access 053.pdf

Dr. Stillman’s magnificent (though flawed) The Horse in Motion is also available, here:

Click to access 156.pdf

These copies all belonged to Will Day.

The Chapter details shown here are from the two-volume book 25,000 Years to Trap a Shadow, by Wilfred E. L. Day. The picture of the book is an artist’s impression – it was never published.

Will Day (1873-1936), for those who haven’t come across him, was involved in the early days of cinema as a travelling showman, became a major figure in the British cinema equipment industry – and tried his hand much less successfully in production. Fascinated , to the level of obsession necessary for a dedicated collector without substantial financial resources, he accumulated a large collection of material relating to pre-cinema and the early days of the film industry. In the 1920s this was shown in a back room of his shop in London’s Lisle Street. He was the foremost champion of the claims of William Friese Greene to be acknowledged as the ‘inventor’ of cinema.

Zoöpraxiscope disc displayed in London's Science Museum in the 1930s

Day went into the radio business in the 20s, and was a key player in the very early days of television, in partnership with John Logie Baird, and was at one time co-patentee of television. All the time his interest in the origins of cinematography continued, his collection eventually being displayed in a special gallery in the Science Museum, London. The prestige enabled Day to add many items. The collection included several Muybridge publications.

In 1931, Day gave a speech at the unveiling of the memorial tablet in Kingston Museum, and around that time donated a zoetrope to the museum, with a copy of an original picture strip of a silhouette sequence of a Muybridge galloping horse.

Zoetrope, Kingston Museum Collection

He was keen that the motion aspects of Muybridge’s work should be seen by visitors, and suggested that the zoetrope could be worked by a handle. It was never installed. I believe that a phenkistiscope moving image disc (mid 19th-century) in the Kingston Collection was also provided by Will Day.

Day’s collection at one time included a lens that had purportedly been used by Muybridge – I’m currently researching that particular item.

His book was compiled during the same period, but Day was not a professional writer and it never did quite shape up into a publishable script. He tried to sell his collection in the mid 30s, and a catalogue was compiled and printed, but the sale didn’t happen. Day had sold out his television patent after becoming exasperated by Baird and perhaps realizing that it would not be a paying business for many years. He helped at the Forty Years of Cinema celebrations at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London in the spring of 1936, but by then he was tired and ill. He died just weeks later. In the fifties his sons offered to sell his collection to the nation, but the necessary funding was not made available. It was purchased by the French Government, and now forms an important part of the French national collections on early and pre-cinema.

The manuscript and typescripts of the book (in several drafts) are in the Bibliotheque du film (BiFi) in Paris and accessible to researchers. I have not read the Muybridge chapter.

Zoopraxicope disc, Cinématheque française

‘Le mouvement continué’ catalogue number 1201. Inv. AP-95-1731 (W. Day) Glass disc painted with 11 phases of a horse and rider in motion. Accompanied  by a metal shutter disc, with 12 slots.

A 16-inch Zoopraxiscope disc, once displayed in the Will Day section of the Science Museum, went to France with his collection, and is now on display in the Cinema Museum in Paris. It is not known how this came to be released from the Kingston Collection. The disc, showing a cantering horse, is seen in Day’s catalogue (there were two editions). The illustration here is from a book by Laurent Mannoni.

I have bumped into the ‘ghost’ of Will Day on many occasions over the years – as I posed in front of that same 1931 memorial tablet when the Muybridge exhibition opened at MOMI London in 1992; researched cinema pioneers in his documents at BiFi; Viewed David Robinson’s exhibition of Day’s life and work at the Pordenone silent film festival some years ago; and examined his lecture slides (about the development of cinematography) at the Cinémathèque archives in Paris. I was even roped in to project a film on a Lumière Cinématographe at London’s Polytechnic – now Westminster University – (as Day had tried to do half a century earlier) for the Centenary of Cinema celebrations in 1996. Also in 1996 I was commissioned to provide two small motorised zoetropes for the new Muybridge Gallery at Kingston Museum – sixty years after Day’s attempt to arrange a working zoetrope. (They have been creaking around in the cabinet to this day, and are due to be removed for a replacement exhibit layout next month.)

Will Day’s achievements have always been prominently acknowledged by those who now hold his collections of equipment, books, lantern slides, films, and documents – and, notwithstanding his shortcomings as a historian, his efforts will always be remembered by media researchers. As Stephen Bottomore has written, “In an age before cinematheques and film museums existed he saw the importance of this work, and today’s film historians have much to thank him for.”


Laurent Mannoni, Le Mouvement continué. Catalogue illustré de la collection des appareils de la Cinémathèque française
This catalogue describes (accurately) and illustrates all of the items of equipment (including phenakistiscope discs, etc) from the Will Day Collection.

Laurent Mannoni, ‘”Whither wilt thou lead me?”: en suivant l’ombre de Will Day’, Cinémathèque, no. 6 (Autumn 1994)

Will Day, ‘The joys of operating twenty years ago’, Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly, 1 March 1917

Will Day, ‘The Portrayal of Movement. History of Cinematography. From Camera Obscura to the Living picture’. The Times, 19 March 1929.

Will Day, 25,000 Years to Trap a Shadow. The Birth and Biographical History of Moving Pictures (unpublished)

Michelle Aubert, Laurent Mannoni and David Robinson (eds.), ‘The Will Day Historical Collection of Cinematograph & Moving Picture Equipment’, special issue of the journal 1895, October 1997
This publication includes essays on the books, films, and other items in the Will Day Collection, researched in recent years by French scholars.

Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema website:

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Alice Simpson: somersaulting figures

Alice Simpson, whose Artist Book, “Bird” appears on The Compleat Eadweard Muybridge website [go here and then scroll down], has kindly sent some photographs of her other Muybridge-related work, in which she references his somersaulting figures. The first is another artist book, the others are ceramics. Enjoy.

Unique Artist Book
Size: 7 1/2” x 5 1/2” x 40” open
Structure: Accordion fold in box with inset label
Materials: Collage, spackle, acrylic, bees wax,
metal punch letters, Japanese  papers
Historical images by Eadweard Muybridge (c.1884)
Poetry: Pablo Neruda (Chile 1904-1973)

I asked of everything if it had
something more,
something more than shape and form,
and I learned that way that nothing is empty–
everything is a box, a train, a boat
loaded with implications,
every foot that walked along a path
left a telegram written in the stone,
and clothes in the washing water
dripped out their whole existence…

Pablo Neruda
from Fully Empowered
Translated by Alastair Reid

12″ H x 16″ W
Stoneware with glaze and oxide

In ‘Reading Lolita in Teheran,’  author, Azar Nafisi, writes about Nabokov’s ‘Invitation to a Beheading’ in which he created the word “…an upsilamba, becoming a bird or catapult with wondrous consequences.”

Alice writes: “Eadweard Muybridge images of somersaulting figures frequently catapult through my books, art and sculptures.”

16” H x 12” W
Glazed porcelain

Five sculptures in motion. Glazed stoneware
From 9.5” to 16.5” H

BETWEEN CLAY AND BOOKS and SOMERSAULT were also inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic  images of somersaulting figures

A L I C E   S I M P S O N
C L A Y & B O O K S

Posted here by Stephen Herbert