Industry, Liberty, and a Vision: Wordsworth Donisthorpe's Kinesigraph
THE PROJECTION BOX :EARLY CINEMA : OPTICAL MEDIA : SILENT FILM : PHOTOGRAPHY : MAGIC LANTERN
and a Vision: Wordsworth Donisthorpe's Kinesigraph
by Stephen Herbert
Herbert and Mo Heard have been researching pioneer inventor Wordsworth
Donisthorpe and his associate WC Crofts. In 1876, Donisthorpe applied
for a patent for a camera for exposing glass plates in sequence. Two
years later, he proposed using the device, his 'Kinesigraph', in conjunction
with the newly-announced phonograph. In 1889, in association with Crofts,
he patented another camera - this time for taking paper, and eventually
celluloid, film. Surviving frames of Trafalgar Square indicate that
the camera worked - but the result was never successfully projected.
Until now, not much more than the above bare outline has been known
to film historians. For the first time, Stephen Herbert tells the intriguing
story of the enigmatic collaborators, including details of the probable
source of inspiration for the unique technology used, and a possible
motivation for their moving picture work - political activism.
A5 paperback 120pp numerous illustrations
ISBN 0 9523941 3 8 Price: £10.95
"One day between the end of 1889 and the Spring of 1891, (probably some time during 1890), Donisthorpe and Crofts set up their camera in a room above some shops numbered 1-4 Charing Cross, overlooking Trafalgar Square...Having loaded the camera in the dark, set the focus, and chosen their moment, the giant wheel was got up to speed and the camera whirred into action, with a noise 'like a young threshing machine or a small gas-engine, or, perhaps, a little of both'. Seconds later, it was over...The fulfillment of their ambitious project, to recreate real life in motion on the screen, must have seemed very close. The affable Donisthorpe, and perhaps even the ascetic Crofts, no doubt had a drink to celebrate their achievement, but any euphoria was to be shortlived..."
"Herbert does what few historians of the invention of cinema do, which is to ask what motivated them, and the answers he supplies are inspiring. A whole world is opened up from what was previously a few lines in the reference books. This is one of the most exceptional works in cinema history in recent years."
Luke McKernan, Viewfinder, British Universities Film and Video Council.
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