T H E   P H E N A K I S T I S C O P E

The Phenakistiscope (or phenakisticope/ phenakistoscope) meaning: 'deceptive view', was invented simultaneously in 1830 by physicist Joseph Plateau in Belgium, and scientist Simon Stampfer in Austria. A cardboard disc with slots around the edge, and drawings between the slots, was spun on an axle in front of a mirror.

Sequence drawings were arranged on one side of the disc, and the viewer looked through the slots at the reflections of the pictures in the mirror. The eye saw each picture only briefly as it moved opposite to the slot, and the view was then obscured by the disc until the next image was seen though the next slot, and so on. The sequence of images was designed to be cyclic.

Subjects ranged from dancing jesters, cellists, and circus performers to abstract patterns. The last phase of the movement joined up with the first phase, so the motion was repeated continually.

Later versions had separate shutter disc and picture disc on the same spindle. The viewer looked through the slots in the revolving shutter at the sequence pictures: no mirror was necessary. The toy was marketed in England in 1831, and quickly became popular under a variety of names in many countries.


Another spinning toy...


Back to The Projection Box