This select bibliography lists some of the many works on Victorian cinema, with a short account of their content and current standing as works of reference in the constantly changing field of research into this period. Works on individual filmmakers or companies are not included except where the work also gives a broad picture of the period.
Dry but impressively detailed account of the rise of French cinema, with an emphasis on business strategies, genres, filmic style (with analysis of individual films) and the key contributions of Gaumont, Lumière, Méliès and Pathé.
Abel, Richard (ed.), Encyclopedia of Early Cinema (Abingdon/New York: Routledge, 2005)
Substantial reference work on early cinema in all its aspects, international in scope, and particularly strong on theoretical issues.
Volume one of John Barnes' history of Victorian Cinema, The Beginnings of Cinema in England (London: David & Charles, 1976) tells the story of how the Edison Kinetoscope and Lumière Cinématographe came to Britain, the first English films made by Birt Acres and Robert Paul, and Britain's first film shows to the end of 1896. Detailed descriptions of the equipment used and the films produced. Further volumes in the series are: (vol. 2) The Rise of the Cinema in Great Britain (London: Bishopsgate, 1983), continues the story, covering 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year; (vol. 3) Pioneers of the British Film (London: Bishopsgate, 1988), examines the producers, exhibitors, films and equipment of 1898; (vol. 4) Filming the Boer War (London: Bishopsgate, 1992), takes us through 1899, with the war being just one of the activities covered; (vol. 5) The Beginnings of the Cinema in England, 1894-1901: Volume Five – 1900 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997) takes the story to the end of the Victorian era. All five volumes (volume one revised) have now been published as a set, The Beginnings of the Cinema in England 1894-1901, by University of Exeter Press. An essential reference for anyone interested in the origins of film in Britain and the personalities involved.
An engaging account of an under-researched area, that of the enthusiasm with which so many magicians embraced the arrival of film. Includes useful biographical accounts of Georges Méliès, Albert Smith, Billy Bitzer, David Devant and others, but does not do full justice to a large subject.
A finely researched, beautifully illustrated, and thorough treatment of the history of film exhibition and production in Italy to 1904, this is the standard history of the period for Italy, and is the first volume of three which cover the period to 1914.
Innovative and detailed account of the economics underpinning the Victorian cinema industry, through the example of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company. A considerable corrective to much prior writing on British films of this period, and writing on the early film industry in general, stressing the economic imperatives that always drove the Victorian filmmakers. With illustrations and a detailed filmography, itself a painstaking work of ingenious reconstruction from many sources.
Comprehensive and very sound history of filmmaking in Italy in the silent era, with clear accounts of the still little known activities of the earliest Italian filmmakers.
Widely available in several languages, this book by German archaeologist Kurt Moreck was a very useful addition to the literature of pre-cinema and early film at a time when little was in print. Covering magic lanterns, optical toys and chronophotography as well as the first films. An accessible, if factually inaccurate account, with many useful notes and references. The use of the illustrations (a wealth of material, mostly from the Barnes Collection, collected by Olive Cook, author of Movement in Two Dimensions, an important work on pre-cinema), is limited somewhat by the lack of page numbers in the illustrated sections.
Chanan's orientation to Marxist economics does not detract from this illuminating and sometimes provocative presentation of the invention of the cinema in Britain in a fully-elaborated context of music hall, popular, and middle-class culture. One of the few sources to discuss the origins of celluloid, the politics of the patent system, and the business practices of early cinema.A second edition was published by Routledge in 1995.
Useful basic guide to silent Italian cinema, with a short biographical dictionary (every entry illustrated), basic histories of individual companies and essays on individual themes.
Published to accompany the BBC television series The Last Machine this follows the same pattern in offering an imaginative entry into the world of early cinema through such broad themes as Time, The City, and The Body. Places the phenomenon of cinema in the world of Victorian and Edwardian ideas that in the short space available is meant more to intrigue than to offer complete answers.
The clearest and most reliable work on its subject. The author, then curator of the Kodak Museum, outlines in three chapters the beginnings of the cinema with accuracy, clarity and economy; the best popular introduction to the technology of early film.
Prepared to accompany an exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image, London. Author Brian Coe, familiar with the subject for forty years, packs a great deal of informative text and a wide range of illustrations into sixty pages.
Although now being superseded by recent research, this detailed account of the birth and evelopment of the industry (mainly in France) through its first thirty years retain an authority from having been written when many of the pioneers were still alive. Technical but accessible, with much on Marey, Demenÿ, and in particular the Lumières.
Covers all aspects of image projection, internationally, from the earliest times to the first years of the twentieth century. The magic lantern was 'the environment into which the moving picture was born, and the medium with which the cinema co-existed for about two decades'. 40 contributors, over 900 entries.
A detailed and accurately researched account of the Victorian cinema in Mexico, with an integrated view of the cinema's appearance in the culture of the period.
Deslandes, Jacques, Histoire Comparée du Cinéma: Tome I, De la cinématique au cinématographe (1826-1896) (Tournai: Casterman, 1966) and Deslandes, Jacques and Jacques Richard, Histoire Comparée du Cinéma: Tome II, Du cinématographe au cinéma 1896-1906 (Tournai: Casterman, 1968)
Thorough and richly detailed work covering in two volumes the emergence of moving pictures in the nineteenth century, with an emphasis in the second volume on the various national scenes.
A useful collection of articles on silent film, sumptuously illustrated, from the magazine of the International Museum of Photography, Rochester, New York. Reminscences of Lumière operator Francis Doublier, the first films in Rochester, the Lathams' early Eidoloscope shows, and one of the few published articles on Mutoscope reels.
Massive eleven volume encyclopedia of the performing arts, with an impressive worldwide scope, fine illustrations, and thorough coverage of film (under the general editorship of Francesco Savio) including both early filmmakers and many of the theatre and variety stars who featured in the first years cinema.
A very useful selection of essays on international aspects of early cinema gathered from such writers as Charles Musser, Gordon Hendricks, Eileen Bowser, Barry Salt and Raymond Fielding.
An exemplary work of research into the first filmmakers and film shows in Portugal, showing what a rich history lies in the less frequented areas of early cinema research.
A collection of historical papers from the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture (and Television) Engineers, including technical reminiscences by Dickson, Lumière, Armat, Jenkins, and Paul; and articles on Le Prince, Messter and others. Many photographs of early projector mechanisms.
A rare example of a publication for children about the origins of cinema, this pocketbook is a delightful and accurate account covering the 'whole story' of pre-cinema and how films were invented, and the first shows in France. With charming watercolour illustrations by Loic Derrien.
This is the German equivalent of Hopwood's Living Pictures, a massively complete history of the technical development of cinema apparatus, worldwide, written by a knowledgable engineer and division head of the German patent office. If anything, it is more thorough and detailed than Hopwood, and has yet to be surpassed as a source for European technical developments from the beginnings to 1912.
Collection of papers from a conference celebrating the ‘invention’ of cinema, held in Bradford in 1895. The contributions combine empirical studies with theoretical concerns, and are divided into five sections: Inscribing a New Technology, Exhibitions and Audiences, Popular Culture, Cultural Representation and Reconsidering Formal Histories.
This thesis examines the proliferation of suggested methods for reproducing life not only in motion but in three dimensions, during the second half of the nineteenth century. A bonus is a clear account of the development of the first successful film systems.
Excellent collection of original texts and illustrations from the early cinema period, divided up thematically into chapters such as 'Cinema and Authority', 'The Biograph in Battle' and 'The Cinema and Royalty'. Each section has a helpful introductory essay, and there are supplementary essays by Richard Brown on copyrighted British films, Vanessa Toulmin on fairgrounds, and Stephen Bottomore on cartoons.
A monumental collection of references relating to projection, moving images, panoramas and dioramas etc. Patents are described, books abstracted, and newspaper and journal extracts given. Many of the entries amount to short papers on their subjects. Despite its title, includes many references to the end of the century and beyond, including much information relating to Victorian cinema.
Hendricks, Gordon, Origins of the American Film (New York: Arno reprint, 1972) containing: The Edison Motion Picture Myth (University of California, 1961) Beginnings of the Biograph (Hendricks, 1964) The Kinetoscope (Hendricks, 1966)
Meticulously detailed accounts of the development of the Kinetograph, Kinetoscope and Biograph based on extensive research of original records at the Edison Historical Site, New Jersey. Edison's technical knowledge is questioned, and Dickson's contributions highlighted. An essential reference for anyone interested in the subjects, but sometimes difficult to follow as the complexity of detail swamps the overall picture.
A survey of film production in Latin America, this is the only work of any substance to acknowledge early filmmaking in the region in any sort of depth. It is divided into individual national histories, with generous space given to the arrival of film in each and basic but generally reliable facts.
This 26-page booklet is a chronology of film shows (and sources of production) throughout the world before May 1896. With a brief introduction of the chronophotographic experiments that led to the first successsful films.
Herbert, Stephen and Luke McKernan (eds.), Who's Who of Victorian Cinema: A Worldwide Survey (London: British Film Institute, 1996)
International biographical survey of the men and women who collectively invented cinema; not only the inventors and filmmakers, but the subjects of the first films, and the 'opportunists, eccentrics, propagandists and crooks' who adopted the new medium in the years to 1901 and the death of Queen Victoria. The basis of this web site.
Profusely illustrated, largely from the collection of the Deutsches Filmmusem. Subjects: Magic Lantern; Shadow puppets; Optical toys; Chronophotography; Anamorphosen; Panoramas; peep shows; Zoetropes; Transforming views, Photography; and Cinema inventors and pioneers. A full overview of all pre-cinema and cinema apparatus and themes, this is hardly a children's book, except that from the Museum's point of view it absolved them from the technical necessity fully to annotate the illustrations. The text is clear and direct, the design and choice of illustrations are energetic and clear, and the book is appealing, a good introduction to the field for readers of all ages.
A two-volume account of the seminal 1978 FIAF Brighton congress on early cinema which broadly covered film production 1900 and 1906 and is generally accepted to have established the modern school of early cinema studies. Volume one contains transcripts of symposium proceedings and papers presented at the symposium; volume two (edited by André Gaudreault) is a detailed filmography of all titles shown at the congress.
This large work on all aspects of magic has sections on the shadowgraphy of Félicien Trewey, chronophotography and early cinematography (including the scientific microcinematography of Dr R.L. Watkins). Illustrated with numerous Scientific American engravings.
Hopwood, Henry V., Living Pictures (London: Optician & Photographic Trades Review, 1899 Reprint: Arno, 1970. CD edition, The Projection Box, 2005)
The first comprehensive review of cinema technology, by a writer with a sophisticated understanding of the requirements of film production and presentation mechanisms, and a clarity of expression in explaining them to the general reader. Includes patent details and useful explanatory line drawings. Still used extensively as a standard reference work by researchers today. The 1915 revision by R. B. Foster is also useful: R.B. Foster, Hopwood's Living Pictures (London: Hatton Press, 1915). The 1915 edition can be downloaded for free from the Internet Archive.
Still a very useful account in English of the Russian and Soviet cinema, with generous coverage of the arrival of film into Russia. Leyda's Dianying: An Account of Films and the Film Audience in China (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1972) is equally informative for the earliest years of film in China.
Liesegang, Franz Paul (trans. and ed. Hermann Hecht), Dates and Sources: A Contribution to the History of the Art of Projection and to Cinematography (London: The Magic Lantern Society of Great Britain, 1986)
History of magic lantern projection, the Phenakistoscope, photography; chronophotography; the development of cinematography; colour cinematography; panoramic projection; soundfilm projection; covering 1646-1926. Originally published as Zahlen und Quellen: zur Geschichte der Projektionkunst und Kinematographie in Berlin in 1926, this is a translation and heavily annotated and corrected edition of the original volume, now extremely scarce. Liesegang was extremely accurate, and Hecht has extended and clarified his work with respect. It is largely a technical history of projection apparatus - Liesegang came from a family of magic lantern and cinematograph manufacturers - presented chronologically and clearly. Although much new information has been developed over the past sixty years, this remains a good basic outline of the mechanical and optical development of projection, not really replicated elsewhere in English.
Of Rachael Low's celebrated multi-volume history of the British film, this first book is the weakest, covering only lightly an area of immense richness, though with very little in the way of serious error. Basic information and interesting accounts of such key figures of the period as Smith, Williamson, Paul and Urban.
This general film history has very good chapters on pre-cinema, chronophotography and the invention of moving pictures. An accessible, concise and generally accurate account, still useful as a general introduction to complex subjects.
The most important recent account of pre-cinema and the birth of film production and exhibition (before 1897), particularly in France; clarifying and expanding on earlier accounts, with much new material based on original research, an extensive bibliography and list of patents. It has now been published in English in a translation by Richard Crangle, as The Great Art of Light and Shadow: Archaeology of the Cinema (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000).
Published as the cinema ostensibly celebrated its centenary, the provocative title of this book indicates the author's suggestion that projected and moving images of earlier periods are very relevant to our understanding of later screen techniques. The story is illustrated with items from the collection of the Cinémathèque Française.
A treasury of facsimile documents relating to shawowplay, peepshows, optical toys, optical projection, chronophotography, and the beginnings of cinema - with explanatory essays by the editors.
Handsomely illustrated and thoroughly detailed account of early film production and exhibition in Madrid, while sketching in the broader picture of early film activity worldwide; a model of its kind.
Very readable account of the beginnings of Canadian cinema, though parts have been superseded by more recent research.
Examines in detail Porter's role within the general context of cinema production and exhibition, and the wider context of turn-of-the-century popular culture. Much information on the nineteenth century years, based on extensive original research. An expansive, indispensible, well illustrated reference.
The definitive work on its subject, listing every known Edison title for the period chronologically, with credits, supporting documentation and location of existing prints.
This is volume one of the History of the American Cinema, and the standard reference work. A meticulously researched, well illustrated and highly perceptive account of the complex story of America's first films. Covers the economic, social and even psychoanalytical aspects of the subject as well as the technical.
Motion Picture Herald journalist Quigley traces pre-cinema history in fourteen chapters, with the final thirty pages of the book detailing the introduction of film. A very readable account with many references given.
A legendary history of pre-1925 cinema in the USA, told in a romantic style. To quote Thomas Edison's foreword note: 'A high degree of detailed accuracy has been attained. Ramsaye's theories, opinions and deductions are his own.' Although many of those deductions are questionable, the book is still useful as a guide to the lives of the early film pioneers.
An account of the first Lumière films and the operators Promio, Doublier, Mesguich and others who travelled the world shooting and showing motion pictures in 1896/97. Enthusiastic in its championing of some remarkable figures, it is unfortunately historically suspect on a number of occasions. With many frame enlargements from the films.
Well-informed and handsomely-illustrated account of the early years of American film, taking the story from magic lantern developments through to American dominance of world film markets by the time of the First World War. Particularly strong on the development of the Edison Kinetoscope, the 'inherited repertoire' of motion picture content, and the business struggles underlying the development of American film.
Concise but thorough account of the international development of the first films, with particular attention given to such crucial factors as the origins of celluloid, the background of magic lantern shows, and the socio-cultural influences affecting the motion picture inventors and their technologies.
Instantly the standard chronological reference to the earliest years of motion picture experimentation. A triumph in unravelling the names, dates and other complex facts of early patents, demonstrations, productions, and shows worldwide.
Originally published in 1946, the second edition of 1948, and subsequent editions (incorporating corrections by Louis Lumière himself) are still a useful account of cinema's origins. Part 2: Les Pionniers du cinéma 1897-1909 continues the story with much valuable information.
An unusual and valuable approach to film analysis; an examination of the extent to which technology has determined film style, including a short but illuminating section on the very early years, analysing the work of such filmmakers as Georges Méliès and G.A. Smith. The author offers a lively counterblast to much modern film theory, and the work is handsomely illustrated. An expanded second edition was published in 1992.
The major source on the still scarcely known area of early Russian filmmaking, invention and exhibition.
Produced as an exhibition catalogue, this work gives a very clear account of the origins of American film (much of which was located in New Jersey), specifically the contributions of Thomas Edison and W.K-L. Dickson. The work covers filmmaking in the area until 1920 and has very useful backgound detail, studio information and a simple but very helpful who's who.
A review of the art and (especially) the technology of moving pictures just before the First World War. Talbot's popular account of the introduction of film in America, France and Britain must be treated with caution, but is still often quoted. A updated edition was published in 1923.
A standard source for Japanese film history, the first volume (Katsudo Shashin Jidai, 'The Age of Moving Pictures') of a four volume series covers the early cinema period and contains much valuable documentary material with a linking commentary. Inevitably it remains little known in the West, along with other works covering early Japanese film, such as Tsukada Yoshinobu's Nihon Eigashi no Kenkyu (Tokyo, 1980) which covers the 1897-98 period exclusively.
Fine account of the development of the first moving pictures, concentrating particularly on the chronophotographic work of Marey and Demenÿ and how their scientific ambitions were carried on by a number of scientists, doctors and anthropologists in the first years of cinema. A revised edition has been published in Mexico, and an English edition with a translation by Sergio Angelini was published in 2005 by the British Universities Film & Video Council, under the title Cinema Before Cinema: The Origins of Scientific Cinematography.
Profusely illustrated and attractive colour pocketbook outlining the story of the first films for the general reader, with an appendix including extracts from the memoirs of a number of pioneers. There is a noticeable French bias.
This classic study of the relationship between nineteenth century stage practice and the early cinema is still useful, especially for its material on melodrama, stage realism, and the pantomime in relation to the film medium.
A monumental 680 pages of text presents worldwide coverage of all pre-cinema topics, the invention of cinema, and the silent film to the beginnings of sound. More than half the book is devoted to Victorian and pre-Victorian material, and it is the central German-language source containing much information not included in French and English publications.
Only language has kept this thorough and intriguing study of the evolution of photography, magic lanterns, pantomime, popular melodrama theatres, panoramas and the invention and first years of the cinema from being better known. While it cites many unique examples of work drawn from Northern Europe, Waldekranz is especially good on the relationship of theatre and film in the Victorian period.
Williams, Christopher (ed.), Cinema: The Beginnings and the Future - essays making the centenary of the first film show projected to a paying audience in Britain (London: University of Westminster Press, 1996)
Useful collection of commissioned essays both on the very beginnings of cinema, and its future possibilities. Includes essays on the Lumière Cinématographe in Britain, on types of early cinema exihibition, and recreating the first film shows.