More than a century before smartphones put moving images in our hands, flipbooks were doing the same. Produced since at least the 1860s, these booklets came to develop close ties with the medium of cinema that they so resemble. Two sets of recently digitized flipbooks, described below, attest to that.
The first set harks back to the dawn of cinema. It contains two dozen flipbooks produced by Léon Beaulieu, an obscure French entrepreneur, between 1896 and his death in 1901. They reproduce scenes from live-action movies of the time by the likes of Georges Méliès, Thomas Edison, and Léon Gaumont, many of which are lost.
As such, the books serve as a valuable archive of early cinema, as well as beautiful objects in their own right. By effectively breaking down the scenes into their constituent frames, they also remind us of the essential similarity between the processes of animation and live action, both of which create the illusion of movement out of still images. Videos of the flipbooks in action have been uploaded by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, alongside an essay outlining their origins. Watch one below and see the rest here.