Eadweard Muybridge


The Zoopraxiscope (earlier known as the Zoogyroscope) was essentially a projecting version of the old Phenakisticsope or 'spinning picture disk'. The device projected sequences of images from glass discs and was devised in order to prove the authenticity of Muybridge's galloping horse pictures. The earlier Zoogyroscope took the 16 inch discs while the latter Zoopraxiscope took the 12 inch discs.

Zoopraxiscope discs

All of the zoopraxiscope glass discs in Muybridge's possession at the time of his death in 1904 were bequeathed to Kingston Museum (together with the surviving zoopraxiscope and many other items). These were probably the only zoopraxiscope discs in existence. A large number of discs were stored by the Science Museum (London) from about 1947 to 1996, when they were returned to Kingston.

One of the discs was incorporated into the Will Day collection. This disc is now in the collection of the Cinématheque Francaise. One other disc was given to the National Technical Museum in Prague. Of the 71 known surviving discs, 67 are still in the Kingston collection. A number of early glass photographic negative plates from which 12 inch discs could be printed are in the Smithsonian collection.

The images on the discs represent animals, birds and humans in motion. The images on the painted (16 inch) and drawn (12 inch) discs have been informed by Muybridge's original photographic sequences. The zoopraxiscope produced a distortion on projection (compressing the images). This was compensated for by painting the images in an elongated form.

Many of the discs contain imaginary scenes produced by combining sequences and by adding imaginary details, eg 'matchstick' figures around a racetrack etc. Most of the discs are in quite good condition. Some have cracks and some of the silhouettes are lifting, whilst other discs have had damp damage in the past. Most discs have numbers on the labels, relating to the original numbers given to the discs and to the quantity of images.