Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: Donisthorpe's Kinesigraph
From: (Stephen Herbert)

(((bruces remarks: Stephen Herbert needs no introduction to longtime Necronauts == but our list has expanded lately, so I'll introduce him anyway. Stephen Herbert is the author of *When the Movies Began,* a chronology of film productions before 1896. "The Projection Box" is a London small press publisher, producing and reprinting invaluable source texts on the Thaumatrope, the Kinora, Pepper's Ghost and other proto-cinematic wonders.)))

Wordsworth Donisthorpe's Kinesigraph

by Stephen Herbert

In 1876, English barrister Wordsworth Donisthorpe patented and had made a plate-changing camera for recording moving pictures. In 1878, in a letter to 'Nature' he suggested that his 'Kinesigraph' and Edison's recently-invented phonograph could be combined to produce talking pictures on the screen.

In 1889, Donisthorpe and his associate William Carr Crofts patented a novel camera and projector for taking and showing moving pictures on 'film'(initially paper). In 1890, they shot a film of Trafalgar Square, London,of which ten celluloid frames survive. They were unable to obtain funding to perfect their projector.

That's the story as told in those few film history books that mention Wordsworth Donisthorpe and W C Crofts. New research provides evidence for their motivation, and a link with the technology of the industrial revolution. Donisthorpe, and Crofts (his cousin) were both political activists, passionate Individualists fervent in their anti-socialist crusade.

Both men were born into a linked dynasty of technologists; Donisthorpe's father had been an inventor of wool-combing machines, and it was the technology of the textile industry that provided the inspiration for the cameras.

By 1890, only three or four people in the world had managed to obtain sequence pictures on sensitised bands (paper or celluloid film). Could it really be just a coincidence that two of those people == Donisthorpe and Le Prince == came from the same industrial community in the same English city, Leeds?

This new book proves that Edison was discussing Donisthorpe's suggestion of talking, moving pictures in 1878 == ten years before the meeting with Muybridge that film history books suggest sparked his interest.

"Industry, Liberty, & a Vision...Wordsworth Donisthorpe's Kinesigraph" by Stephen Herbert, tells the full story for the first time, with previously unpublished illustrations.

To be published in September 1998, by The Projection Box, 66 Culberden Road, London SW12 9LS.

Stephen Herbert (