Henry Vaux Hopwood

Author of the most important Victorian book on cinematography

Hopwood was Custodian in the Library of the Patent Office in Chancery Lane, London, when he started work on Living Pictures, a comprehensive history and handbook of the new science. He gathered material for the book throughout 1898 with appeals for information in The Optician and Photographic Trades Review, who published it the following year. It is a thoroughly researched and lucid account of a difficult subject, detailing patents and giving advice on production and presentation. The complexities of technology are tempered with occasional philosophical musings: 'The whole history, not of this world alone, but of every sphere that is or has been, is still in vibrating existence, and one universal perception extending through the infinity would embrace within the tremblings of the boundless ether an eternal and universal living picture of all past events.' In September 1899 The Optician published an article by Hopwood on trick films entitled 'Kinematographic Pictures: Their Errors and Falsities', and a supplement to bring his book up to date. He stayed with the Patent Office throughout his career, rising to the post of Assistant Librarian. He retained an interest in cinematography but was unable to find the time to produce a revised edition of his book, which task eventually fell to a trusted colleague, R.B. Foster. Hopwood contributed a preface to the 1915 edition. He died on 5 December 1919.

Stephen Herbert