Flying, 1902

Identifier: 1902 FLYING (Periodical) 2014028

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Flying. The Record of Aerial Navigation. No.4. Quarterly. September 1902. Illiffe and Sons Ltd, London and Coventry. Pages 148-192. Size: 182 x 245mm.

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This issue of Flying dates from the year before the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight. Of course, balloonists had been drifting through the skies for more than a century, and the new technique of gliding was starting to become practical. However, it seems that maintaining a journal on the subject of human flight was difficult. There had already been failures – the front cover of this issue of Flying states: “ … with which are incorporated The Flyer, The Flying Machine, The Aerostat, The Aeronaut.” The quarterly Flying wasn’t cheap at half-a-crown, and it ceased publishing the following year after just six issues and a total of 288 pages.

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A wide mix of reports, speculations, and history – from the fanciful ‘The bicycle as an accessory to true flight’, to the second of three parts of the seminal report given to the Western Society of Engineers by Wilbur Wright. This journal is an example of that curious mixture of genuine professional technical progress, and the amateur optimistic fantasy which would largely disappear in mainstream aviation journals as powered heavier-than-air flight became widespread.

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Flying isn’t in the British Library but the National Library of Scotland, and both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, have it – as do half a dozen other libraries found by WorldCat, all but one of which are in the USA. There don’t seem to be any copies of any issue for sale online. So it’s very scarce.

Condition: The pages have been re-sewn onto new guards, and are still bright but fragile in places. Some water stains, finger marks, and folded page corners. The fore-edge is ragged. Damage to the first three (blank) pages, several page corners, and the cover has been repaired with acid-free Japanese tissue. Writing in ink on front cover. The price reflects the fragile nature of this copy.

Price: £35.00 plus postage. s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

Scroll down for more pictures and further items.

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Television: “…and it worrrks!”

identifier: 2014063 TELEVISION 1928 [SOLD]

One of the perks of being Head of Technical Services at the Museum of the Moving Image in London was that I got to talk with many interesting members of the public. One day, in the mid 1990s, I met a lady and her teenage son. She greeted me in a broad Scottish accent, introducing me proudly to the youth: “This is James. He’s made a Baird 30-line television, and it worrrks!” James (real name forgotten) was 18 or 19. I congratulated him, but was slightly sceptical, as I knew what was involved in such a project. “Where did you find all the information?” I asked. “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” he replied. My scepticism deepened. “You made a 30-line television receiver from information you’d read in the Encyclopaedia…” The lady broke in. “Well he can’t read, so I read it to him.” Evidently reacting to my bewildered expression, she explained, “He’s dyslexic.” I nodded, and started firing questions at James. “What did you do for a neon lamp?” “Dismantled two electric mains-tester screwdrivers, used the lamps together…..” Sounded plausible. And the big question, “Where was the 30-line signal coming from?” “The local electronics club got some members to build a line-dropper / frame frequency converter for me, so that I could use 625-line signals.” All the right answers. So it was true. He told me what happened if you slowed down the ‘scanning’ disc by pressing on the edge – the image doubled – and of the problems he’d had and how he’d overcome them. I was almost speechless. I lent them my copy of The Television Book (1936) and wished them luck in their future endeavours. “You must be the world’s foremost technical expert on 30-line television construction,” I suggested to James. “Yes,” his mother replied, “and I’m the second.” They returned the book some months later, with a note that James was expecting to start college soon. I bet that kept his mother busy for a few years. Their fellow countryman John Logie Baird would have been so proud of them both.

Which brings us to:

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Television. A Monthly Magazine. Vol. 1, No.1, 1928. The World’s First Television Journal. The Official Organ of the Television Society.

Editor: A. Dinsdale. (London, The Television Press), 1928. 8vo. Original illustrated coloured paper cover depicting a distinguished couple watching the opera being received on their television set, with the actual opera shown in the background. Profusely illustrated throughout. 52 pages + one loose leaf: “Supplement to Television, No. 1 – March, 1928” (comprising the article “Seeing Across the Atlantic!”).

“Of all scientific subjects, perhaps the one which is creating the most interest in the public mind at the present time is television. It is, however a subject upon which almost no literature or authentic information has been available, either to the interested amateur or to the scientist.

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It is the object of this, the first journal of its kind in the world, to fill this want, and to supply an organ the sole object of which will be to keep interested members of the public supplied with up-to-date and authentic information upon this new branch of science, which bids fair in time to rival wireless broadcasting in importance and popularity.” (from the Editorial by Dinsdale).

This magazine existed in both the UK and USA, in two slightly different versions. This is the first issue – worldwide – and was published in the UK in March 1928. The American version was issued in November 1928. The covers of both versions are illustrated here:

http://www.tvhistory.tv/1928-TELEVISION-USA-UK.jpg

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Television, Vol. 1, No.1, March, 1928, London, 1928. The first issue of the world’s first television journal, the official organ of the Television Society. 52 pages; illustrated throughout (including a full page by W. Heath Robinson); original pictorial wrappers. Includes the rare single-sheet supplement with the article “Seeing Across the Atlantic!” Articles include ‘Noctovision: Seeing in Total Darkness by Television,’ by Roland F. Tiltman; ‘Light-Sensitive Cells,’ by K. M. Dowberg; ‘Television on the Continent,’ by M. Dumont; ‘How to Make a Simple Televisor,’ by the technical staff; ‘Commercial Television: When May We Expect it?’ by the editor, Dinsdale; and, ‘Glimpses into the Future: Television in Warfare,’ by R. Heath Bradley, and others.

Perhaps no other published item in the history of television more successfully evokes the very beginnings of the medium’s introduction to the public.

Condition: Very good. Some lower corners have a crease in the margin, and dusty in that area. Pages are slightly tanned, but firm and supple. Staples just starting to show rust. Now in an acid-free paper wallet inside cloth-covered boards, ready for your bookshelf.

Scarce, and almost impossible to find in this condition. There’s a copy on ABE as I write, at £1,000 plus, and another at just £360. The example here is in better condition than the last mentioned.

Price: [SOLD].         s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

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Back of Supplement sheet

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Celluloid, and a scattering of flowers….

identifier: 20140906 CELLULOID NOTEBOOK

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Victorian mourning notebook with a celluloid cover panel. Size: 50 x 80mm.

This miniature notebook has a front panel of embossed celluloid, a material used from the 1870s to provide a material for mass production by moulding, in this case for an item that represented carved ivory. Evidently a mourning item, it contains a name on the inside cover, names of two people on the first page and then … it’s blank. From the dates given, this item is from the late 1870s or 1880s.

For the story of the introduction of celluloid – best known as the physical medium on which motion pictures were, until recent years, made and shown – I would encourage you to read the informative article: ‘Exploding Teeth, Unbreakable Sheets and Continuous Casting: Nitrocellulose from Gun-cotton to Early Cinema’ by Deac Rossell, which is available for free download here.
http://www.academia.edu/341267/Exploding_Teeth_Unbreakable_Sheets_and_Continuous_Casting_Nitrocellulose_from_Gun-Cotton_to_Early_Cinema

‘The company that finally found commercial success with the new material was founded in 1870 by John Wesley Hyatt and his brother Isaiah Smith Hyatt in Albany, New York. They called their formable plastic “celluloid”, and incorporated as the Albany Dental Plate Company. Hyatt used a mixture of pyroxyline and camphor in his celluloid, which he saw as a substitute for the hard rubber used by dentists in the false teeth, bridges, and other dental wares of the day. The company struggled until Hyatt, trained as a printer, began to form his teeth (and billiard balls, combs, and other trinkets) under heat and pressure, which created a material that was stable and hard in nearly any shape. Hyatt’s early products used no fillers, and only the “least quantity” of colouring pigments; therefore they were nearly pure gun-cotton, and his billiard balls burned rapidly if touched by a lighted cigar. Hyatt later wrote that “occasionally the violent contact of the balls would produce a mild explosion like a percussion guncap. We had a letter from a billiard saloon proprietor in Colorado, mentioning this fact and saying that he did not care so much about it but that instantly every man in the room pulled a gun.”
… John Wesley Hyatt received 61 patents between 1869 and 1891 for various celluloid-related processes, and by 1880 his company had issued licenses to almost two dozen firms engaged in the manufacture of celluloid dental plates, harness trimmings, knife and cutler handles, emery wheels, brushes, shirt cuffs and collars, shoes, piano keys, and a vast range of other items.’ [Extract]

 

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The notebook comprises about 60 graph-squared pages with gilded edges, that are mostly blank. Endpapers are white moire-pattern. The boards are covered with green-brown, coated paper. The accompanying pencil is topped with ivory or bone.

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The image shows a small boat with a swan figurehead, carrying five children. One is leaning over the side, and laying a floral wreath on the water. Another plays a flute as the ceremony is performed. I imagine that this was taken or adapted from an engraving or painting, but it’s a difficult subject to research. If you know the original subject, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Condition: Very good. Some wear to the paper board covers.

Price: £35.00 plus postage s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

Le Petit Inventeur – ‘The history of the future’

Le Petit Inventeur

Le Petit Inventeur. New Series nos. 1-25. Editions Albin Michel, Paris. 400 pages, Colour covers, b/w interiors. Hardback, bound in paper-covered boards, with coloured illustration on front. Size: 200 x 282 mm.

I would once have categorised the picture on the cover of this book as ‘Early television’, or ‘Videophone’, but of course it would now be best described as webcam skyping, or whatever the current phrase is for keeping up with family and friends online, both visually and sonically.

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This French magazine started in the early 20s, and this is a re-start from c.1930. Odd little pieces, with many b/w drawings, about all kinds of technological realities and promised future science-fiction gizmos that the boffins were just about to make real. In truth, the covers are the best part – and there are 25 of them, with most reproduced below. Great fun, and useful reference material for anyone writing about ‘the history of the future’. These magazines are not hard to find in their country of origin, but the bound volumes make collecting them much easier, and are rarely found outside of France.

Condition: Interior very good, with usual tanning of the pages. Some foxing to the covers (and minor marks to top margin), and a new webbing repair to the top of the spine. The old pasted-down endpapers are cracking at the spine joint, and there are a couple of small old paper repairs there, but the binding is still holding well so I’ve left those minor faults.

Price: £38.00 plus postage

s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

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The Monkey with the Magic Lantern

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Twenty years ago I became aware of the wide range of illustrated versions of the fable generally known as ‘The monkey with the magic lantern’, while designing the page layout for an article about the subject written by French magic lantern collector Jean-Philippe Salier. I had one edition in my own collection. Some years earlier, I was in Paris with doyen collector Bill Barnes, scouring the cabins of the bouquinistes along the banks of the Seine. I spotted a very nice large illustrated version of the subject, sealed in a plastic wrapper. I picked it up and asked the dealer (in one of my few memorised French sentences), “I want to buy this. May I open it?” The response was an unsmiling “Non.” Bill shook his head and tutted. This didn’t happen in the Charing Cross Road. “Is it complete?” A surly, “Bien sûr, il est complet.”

I gave the book to Bill to hold, took out the required wad of francs, handed them to the dealer and said to Bill, as I took back the book and opened the Sellotaped wrapper, “If there are pages missing I’m going to hit him with it.” There weren’t, so I didn’t. The bouquiniste was now smiling, I managed a forced smile and a “Merci”, we shook hands and Bill and I went away with our treasure. It was later displayed in the exhibition Magical Lanterns, at the Museum of the Moving Image in London. It’s the copy now offered here.

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Les Fables de Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian. Illustrees par A. Vimar. Henrie Laurens, Editeur. [n.d., c.1899] Avant-Propos de Andre Theuriet. 137 pages. Many b/w illustrations, and eight in colour, mostly full-page. Size: 225 x 283 mm. SOLD

Nicolas Stanislas-Auguste Vimar (1851-1916) was a French painter, sculptor, designer and illustrator. He exhibited in Paris and at Marseille, notably sculptures of animals, and contributed drawings to a number of journals including Figaro illustré and Le Rire. [adapted from Wikipedia].

English version of the fable:
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Fables_of_Florian_(tr._Phelps)/The_Monkey_with_the_Magic_Lantern

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Advertisement, 1902

Advertisement, 1902

I believe this book of the Fables, with illustrations by Vimar, was published c.1899. An edition was certainly available by 1902, where it appears in a bookseller’s catalogue [Catalogue: Ernest Martin. Lester Smith collection]. There were two versions of this edition; one with b/w illustrations at 6 fr., and one with some illustrations in colour at 9 fr. This is the colour edition. I have seen this book with an identical cover but in green cloth, grey cloth, and in beige. I have not seen another example in red.

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‘In France, Jean-Pierre Clarisse de Florian is presently considered a minor writer and poet from the late 18th-century. Most likely his major contribution to literature is the first translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Not many people remember that Florian also write a series of fables … his most famous fable tells of ‘The monkey displaying the magic lantern’. Imagine how a frustrated monkey takes advantage of the temporary absence of his human mentor, a galantee showman. Here is a unique opportunity for him to proudly present to the other animals the lantern show he has watched so many times. No doubt he is fully knowledgeable about the process, and his sharp views of our world are about to change the life of generations to come. At last, a time for deep, philosophical considerations and valuable scientific comment comes of age. Precious sentences are filling the showroom while a series of views slide superbly [through] the lantern. Alas! What should have been an unforgettable one-monkey show quickly becomes an after-dinner talk of the most boring type … The galantee showmonkey … has forgotten just one thing – lighting up the lantern.’ [The Fabulist Displaying the Magic Lantern. A tribute to Florian 1755-1794. by Jean-Philippe Salier. New Magic Lantern Journal, Vol.7 No.2 September 1994.]

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Pictures of an itinerant showman with a monkey feature in many engravings and books from the 18th century onwards. In the illustrations in this book, the monkey is carrying and using a now very collectable Lapierre lantern, in the style known as ‘Carre’. I bought one in Paris in the ‘80s, from a friendly dealer in the Porte de Vanves market; which is still one of my favourite Parisian haunts.

This book turns up occasionally, but not always in good condition, and sometimes it’s the b/w version.

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Les Fables de Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian. Illustrees par A. Vimar. Henrie Laurens, Editeur. [n.d., c.1899] 137 pages. Many b/w illustrations, and eight in colour, several full-page. Size: 225 x 283 mm.

Condition: generally good. Minor foxing and some brown / finger marks to some pages, and general tanning. Wear to the cloth on the bevelled edges of the boards, and spine. Cover illustration colours, and gilding, excellent.

Price: SOLD.

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Communication – Fifty years on

identifier: 2014043 COMMUNICATION CHERRY

I have a real problem when two conversations are going on at once (due to tinnitus). After a short while, I see the lips of the person I’m trying to listen to moving, but the meaning isn’t being absorbed. The study of the extraordinary capacity of (undamaged) humans to filter the relevant audio, known as the ‘Cocktail party problem’ (or in my case, the ‘Noisy pub problem’) – a task that machines find much more difficult – was a specialism of Professor [Edward] Colin Cherry (1914-1979). During the Second World War, Cherry worked on radar research, and in 1952 took sabbatical leave from Imperial College spending six months in the United States at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he worked with Jerry Weisner and Norbert Weiner and others interested in communication.

Cherry’s most influential books include On Human Communication (1957) and World Communication: Threat or Promise (1971). In 1978 he was awarded the Marconi International Fellowship. He decided to use this to write a book, provisionally entitled A Second Industrial Revolution? He completed only three chapters and the Preface before his death. One of his former students, William E. Edmondson, collected his material and completed it, publishing it as The Age of Access: Information Technology and Social Revolution. [adapted from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Colin_Cherry]

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Communication. An introduction to Information Technology by Professor Colin Cherry. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1964. 24 pages plus paper cover. Size: 210 x 134mm.

“Unlike machine learning, deep learning is mostly unsupervised. It involves, for example, creating large-scale neural nets that allow the computer to learn and “think” by itself without the need for direct human intervention.” Luke Dormehl, 2014.

“…information handling machines are being evolved along principles closely simulating certain actions of the nervous system, of such complexity and novelty of behaviour that the term ‘machine’ seems scarcely suitable. There seems no conceivable limit to their possible development.” Colin Cherry, 1964

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In 1964 Cherry gave a series of lectures about Communication, on BBC Television. This is the accompanying booklet which, appropriately, is carefully designed to communicate clearly the subjects under discussion. The text is prescient one moment, the next – hopelessly outdated by subsequent events. On the inside cover the Professor is seen in London, talking to a conference in Boston via Telstar satellite. Very cutting edge – though the design of the telephone (which seems to belong to an earlier period, but was of course still standard in the ‘60s) rather lets the side down.

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I wonder whether the programmes survive? As Google Brain battles with Microsoft’s Adam, this booklet provides a very useful precis to the thinking of those communicators who were at the front end of communication theory and research in the early 1960s. No copies on Amazon, as I write.

Contents:

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Condition; Good.

Price: £10.00 plus postage. s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

Scroll down for more images, and further items.

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Retro Video

identifier: 2014070 TELDEC & TELCAN

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Video discs. an invention of TELDEC TELEFUNKEN-DECCA SCHALLPLATTEN-GESELLSCHAFT M.B.H.
ALLGEMEINE ELEKTRICITATS-GESELLSCHAFT AEG-TELEFUNKEN

The DeccaRecord Company Limited, Decca House, 9 Albert Embankment, London, S.E.1. [Printing number: PL564770]

Folded leaflet, page size: 202 x 254mm. [SOLD]

In 1970 – or was it 1971? I was technician for a conference about Video Discs, held at the National Film Theatre. The possibilities of this new medium, not yet commercially available, were promoted – short extracts from videos of surgical operations, so that surgeons could easily have repeat viewings in their office or at home, and other groundbreaking possibilities. To set the scene, it should be remembered that this was many years before VHS and Betamax, and before the introduction of the Philips VideoCassette. The images were recorded on an 8-inch-diameter (200 mm) flexible foil disc which spun at 1,500 rpm on a cushion of air, and reproduced by means of a pickup with a diamond stylus. Running time: 5 minutes (12-inch disc: 7.5 minutes).

“…the undisputed merits of the disc as a storage medium – encouraged engineers of TELDEC … to resume experiments five years ago. Their labours were not in vain. The Video Disc is now a reality and a commercial proposition; and the world of communication will, as a result, be revolutionised.”

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I think it was intended to have a demo at the talk, but the gear didn’t materialize – though I do remember seeing a sample flexi-disc. Launched a while later as TeD (Television Electronic Disc), there was limited commercial application. The technology moved on. The year that TeD was launched I wrote a science fiction short story, Razzle Dazzle (Science Fiction Monthly, August 1975) alluding to the Philips LaserDisc, then in development. Twenty years later, in the museum building next door to the NFT, I found myself Technical Manager responsible for perhaps the largest (anywhere) installation of Philips LaserDiscs – 72 players that whirred away all day, six or seven days a week.

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I picked up a leaflet at that 1970 conference, thinking “This might be of interest in the future.” Well, the future has come and gone, with the later development of LaserDiscs now a distant memory, and DVD and BluRay fading away as downloads and modern storage methods take over. So here it is, a leaflet from the deep past of visual media. Well, my deep past, anyway.

Condition: very good.

Price: £15.00 plus postage. (Plus: see item below)  s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

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BASF NEWS LETTER [No.8?] [SOLD]

For all Recording Tape Users. Published by Badische Anilin-& Soda-Fabrik AG Ludwigshafen am Rhein and distributed by BASF Chemicals Limited, 5a Gillespie Road, London, N.5. 20 pages including cover. Size: 146 x 146mm.

The main interest is a short piece entitled Tape Recording of Vision and Sound, which occupies less than 4 pages. Telcan was the first attempt at marketing a domestic “TV recorder” in the UK. For those of us not backroom boffins in tv studios, the idea of recording moving images onto magnetic tape seemed like some kind of magic. Yet this is what we were promised.

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A friend told me years later that he’d been to a demonstration at a London hotel. The quarter-inch tape was moving at 120 inches per second! The system worked, it was marketed briefly, but soon died.

The young people on the cover are perhaps recording a play – in between cigarette puffs. No doubt they would also drag out the Grundig occasionally to record messages for friends; as explained herein, swapping audio tapes by post was a popular hobby in those days. I was doing it myself a few years later. Social media of the early 1960s.

It’s stained, creased, torn, inked, patched-up and poorly – and hence, free to whoever buys the video disc brochure listed above.  s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

The Kinora: a lost world flickers into life

It wasn’t always a foregone conclusion that films would be seen in cinemas. At first, there weren’t any such places – village halls, theatres, fairgrounds were the venues for ‘living picture’ shows. Short movies were also shown in arcades, first with Edison’s peepshow kinetoscope film machine, and then with the flip-card mutoscope. But it was also a possibility that the big demand would be for motion pictures in the home, and it was a miniature version of the mutoscope that took most of this early market, which flourished in France and Britain, especially, before the First World War. The Kinora featured of the technical designs of the American inventor Herman Casler, developed into a miniature clockwork machine by the Lumière Brothers in France, in 1896. It was marketed a few years later by Gaumont in France, and then hand-cranked versions appeared in England during the early years of the 20th century. Viewers could be purchased, and Kinora reels of professional productions – printed from 35mm film – rented. There were even studios that specialized in taking one’s Kinora portrait – for a price more than twice that of many workers’ weekly take-home pay. Around 1908 in England a home camera was added to the system, but seems to have been technically unreliable and was very expensive. I’ve always been fascinated by the Kinora, I think mainly because of the extremely efficient use of the viewing machine’s minimal technology to produce a very effective moving picture. A scene or face from a lost time is seen though the lens, the crank is turned, and the frozen past gradually flickers into life again, in a way that somehow seems different from just watching an old movie on a screen. Over the years I’ve given talks about the system to the Royal Photographic Society, at the National Portrait Gallery (London), and to the Magic Lantern Society. In the 1990s my partnership The Projection Box published Barry Anthony’s booklet, Kinora: Motion Pictures for the Home 1896-1914, and later a facsimile of the original Kinora Reels catalogue, taken from the only known original. A new edition, combining both booklets, is available from Blurb. http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/2573925-the-kinora-motion-pictures-for-the-home

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I’ve owned this Kinora viewer by Kinora Ltd, London for thirty years, and it’s now time to find it a new home. This example, from c.1906-1908, is in mahogany.  Condition is very good, with just a small piece of wood missing (as per photo), at the bottom of the hood.

With the viewer is the Kinora reel No.117: Portrait, woman eating apple. (Title in ink on the box: LADY WITH APPLE). The reel is in good condition, and works well. Evidently a studio set-up. It was necessary to give the sitter something to do. Gentlemen usually smoked, ladies removed their hats or blew kisses. This lady (probably an actress) consumes the fruit most enthusiastically.

Kinora viewer and this reel: [SOLD].

References: Barry Anthony, ‘Shadows of Early Films’, Sight & Sound Summer 1990

Richard Brown and Barry Anthony, A Victorian Film Enterprise: A History of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (Flicks Books, 1996)

Stephen Herbert, ‘Animated Portraits’ History of Photography Vol.13 No.1 1989

________‘Kinora Living Pictures’ Amateur Cinematography Papers No.6, 1984

________‘Kinora Living Pictures’, Photo Historian No.95, Winter 1991

Henry V. Hopwood, Living Pictures Their History, Photo-Production and Practical Working (Optician and Photographic Trades Review, 1899)

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Goaheadison’s Real Latest

identifier 2014058 GOAHEADISON

In 1973 or ‘74, I was a technical assistant at a late-night presentation at London’s New Victoria Theatre. Usually employed to project films or work the ‘limes’ (follow-spot) for the London Festival Ballet season, my role in this particular show was minimal – but it was certainly an extraordinary experience. A Mohammed Ali boxing match was being transmitted live from the USA, to an Eidophor video projector – a huge, ugly beast that required four men to carry it, strung onto scaffolding poles. The machine was set up in the back stalls, roped off within touching distance of the audience, and the signal came through from the Post Office Tower (as it was then) – to an outside van? – and by cable to the projector. At least that’s how I remember it as I glimpsed the preparations while scurrying about with polystyrene cups of coffee for those who were actually doing the work.

After warming up for an hour the projector gave a ‘raster’ on the screen, and then an amazingly clear black-and-white picture of the ring appeared. Our audience of perhaps 2,000 fight fans jostled into their seats, and the pugilistic punishment began. The technology was all working well, but there was no Plan B. The video technician standing next to the machine said to me as the fight hotted up and our own beered-up crowd became at least as excited as the natives, “You realize, if the projector lamp goes pop or the signal’s lost, we won’t get out of here alive?” I have no interest in boxing and I remember nothing of the bout – perhaps frozen in sheer terror at the potential result of a technical failure – but from the dates it must have been either Joe Bugner (February 14, 1973) or Bob Foster (November 21, 1972) who lost to Ali that night. I was reminded of that episode when I found this item, twenty years later.

Original cartoon artwork signed by James Francis Sullivan (1852-1936) , in period mount.

Professor Goaheadison’s Real Latest

The idea of television and other forms of seeing-at-a-distance flourished in the late 19th century. In 1889 Thomas Edison encouraged reporters to believe that he had already achieved some experimental results with ‘… an invention which will enable a man in Wall-street not only to telephone to a friend near Central Park, say, but to actually see that friend while speaking to him.’1 This invention failed to appear but the popular press and satirists soon latched onto the idea. In July 1889 two relevant cartoons appeared in the satirical magazine Fun, a rival to Punch.

In ‘Professor Goaheadison’s Latest’ (3 July 1889) a gentleman wishes to consult his doctor, Sir Settemup Pilliboy in Harley Street. Not happy about the prospect of a journey to London, he is told of Professor Goaheadison’s Far-Sight Machine: “by means of which a person in Nyork can actually see another person in Shicaago, or Borston, or even ‘Frisco’”. The writer uses the concept to make political comment about contemporary concerns. The text has an accompanying drawing of a videophone / webcam, sketched by James Sullivan, best-known for his cartoons featuring the working man.

A subsequent issue of Fun (17 July 1889) has a three-panel cartoon strip by Sullivan: ‘Goaheadison’s Real Latest’, featuring the Far-Touch Machine, and the original artwork is being offered here. 2

The artist imagines a form of trans-Atlantic cable virtual-reality boxing. No need for one of the fighters to cross to another continent – he could fight from home. A Far-Touch machine is seen as a logical follow-up to Edison’s proposed Far-Sight machine; the latter we are told is being used by the boxers to keep sight of each other as they trade punches.

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‘EH? Goaheadison’s Far-Sight Machine? Bless your soul; that’s quite an antiquity now. Quite eclipsed by the Far-Touch machine!

Haven’t read the account of that mill between Dan Dotter of Doncaster and the McFlattener, the Boston Bumper? Oh, yes – all carried out by cable; one end of it at Doncaster, and the other at Boston.

Dan faced the machine at the Doncaster end in good form at 11.32. Some very pretty play. Dan dodged a cleverly-tried jaw-compresser from Mac’s right, and got the electric current onto the ropes in the fifth round.

Then the machine planted several on Dan’s ribs; & Dan came up groggy for the 17th round; but supplied the cable with a neat lifter under the ritht ear at 12.13 1/4.

On the call for the 24th round Mac forgot to come up; & Dan got the belt.

It was a pretty sight throughout; the American cham-pion being distinctly visible through a Far-Sight machine.’

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At the end, a passing gentleman is sent sprawling by the full thrust of a stray punch.

During the affair an amusing incident occurred.
As Mac was ushering in a superior lightning
locater with his left, a heedless visitor happened
to pass in front of the transmitter.
Curable in six weeks, with reserve.

The published version had typeset text. The version offered here is the original cartoon artwork hand drawn in ink, with manuscript ink captions on the card mount. The cartoon is in three pieces, mounted at the back with brown paper tape, into the three beveled apertures. Sullivan’s signature is meticulously lettered on the lower piece. The card mount includes another version of Sullivan’s signature. I believe that the manuscript captions and signature on the mount were also most likely both written by Sullivan at about the time of the creation of this piece, but of course it’s impossible to be certain.

In very good condition. Mild foxing and yellowing to the original cartoon. Tanning to the edges of the mount. Mount size: 372 x 527mm. A digital printout of the published version will be provided with the original.

Price: £320.00 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

With thanks to Dr. Nicholas Hiley for information about Sullivan.

Note
1. Levant Herald, 1 September 1889.
2. This artwork, ‘Goaheadison’s Real Latest’, has been reproduced in two modern publications: the academic journal Early Popular Visual Culture, Vol. 9, Issue 1, 2011; and: A History of Early Television, Volume 1 (Routledge 2004), edited by Stephen Herbert.

‘Goaheadison’s Real Latest’, Fun, 17 July 1889, p. 24.

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