The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Source: Samuel Pepys, Diary, entry for 19 August 1666, online version http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1666/08/19/

Text: Sunday 19 August 1666

(Lord’s day). Up and to my chamber, and there began to draw out fair and methodically my accounts of Tangier, in order to shew them to the Lords. But by and by comes by agreement Mr. Reeves, and after him Mr. Spong, and all day with them, both before and after dinner, till ten o’clock at night, upon opticke enquiries, he bringing me a frame he closes on, to see how the rays of light do cut one another, and in a darke room with smoake, which is very pretty. He did also bring a lanthorne with pictures in glasse, to make strange things appear on a wall, very pretty. We did also at night see Jupiter and his girdle and satellites, very fine, with my twelve-foote glasse, but could not Saturne, he being very dark. Spong and I had also several fine discourses upon the globes this afternoon, particularly why the fixed stars do not rise and set at the same houre all the yeare long, which he could not demonstrate, nor I neither, the reason of. So, it being late, after supper they away home. But it vexed me to understand no more from Reeves and his glasses touching the nature and reason of the several refractions of the several figured glasses, he understanding the acting part, but not one bit the theory, nor can make any body understand it, which is a strange dullness, methinks. I did not hear anything yesterday or at all to confirm either Sir Thos. Allen’s news of the 10 or 12 ships taken, nor of the disorder at Amsterdam upon the news of the burning of the ships, that he [De Witt] should be fled to the Prince of Orange, it being generally believed that he was gone to France before.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1663-1703) was a British naval administrator, MP and diarist. In between the speculations on astronomy, using a telescope of some kind, is the earliest account in English of a magic lantern. London optician Richard Reeves was a manufacturer of optical instruments and the first person to sell magic lanterns in Britain (from 1663), from his shop in Long Acre, London, though the Reeves referred to here is believed to be one or other of his sons, John and Richard. Three days after this account, Pepys purchased a ‘lanthorne’ (“and so home, and there find Reeves, and so up to look upon the stars, and do like my glasse very well, and did even with him for it and a little perspective and the Lanthorne that shows tricks, altogether costing me 9l. 5s. 0d” i.e. £9 5s). A projecting lantern with lens is generally accepted to have been invented by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in 1659.

Links: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Life, Letters and Diary of Horatio Hollis Hunnewell

Source: Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, Life, Letters and Diary of Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, born July 27, 1810; died May 20, 1902; with a short history of the Hunnewell and Welles families, and an account of the Wellesley and Natick estates (New York, The De Vinne press, 1906), p. 223

Text: 25 December 1897

Christmas day. Coldest day so far; thermometer 8°. Had our usual family gathering, — twenty at the large table and ten at the small one at dinner. Charlotte Sorchan and Isabella Harriman, with their husbands, came on from New York. In the evening had dancing and a kinetoscope entertainment.

Comments: Horatio Hollis Hunnewell (1810-1902) was an American banker, horticulturalist and philanthropist. His diary entry is a very early record of a home cinema entertainment. The use of the word ‘kinetoscope’ probably indicates motion pictures in general, rather than the Kinetoscope peepshow itself, and the entertainment is likely to have been projected on a screen. At the time he was resident at Wellesley, Norfolk County, Massachusetts.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

The Cinematograph

Source: ‘The Cinematograph’, Pall Mall Gazette, 21 February 1896, p. 9

Text: THE CINEMATOGRAPH.

The world in general and London in particular has been given a new series of “living pictures” by some French inventors who have sufficiently tamed the kinetoscope to compel it to exhibit its wonders on the sheet of a magic lantern. No longer will the curious be conpelled to hunt for pennies to deposit in a slot, and to bend the back at an angle of 45 deg. in order to gaze at a moving picture rather less than two inches square. Now you may go to the Marlborough Hall, alongside the Polytechnic – a theatre, by the way, which has been the scene of famous optical wonders in times past – and having handed in the customary shilling, you can sit at your ease and watch scene after scene pass before you, clearly shown on a white screen, with the figures of life-size proportions. Yesterday there was a fairly successful private view of the new show, although the inventors declared that they hoped to attain still greater perfection. Under their system the series of photograph is taken even more rapidly than for the kinetoscope. For each of these series of negatives forty exposures a second are necessary. Even so there is a certain amount of vibration in the moving picture, although the retina of the human eye retains its impression for a full tenth of a second. There is also some of the glittering flicker which is also a defect of the kinetoscope. The series of scenes exhibited yesterday attracted each its burst of applause. They are also agreeably varied – you may see the throng of employees leaving a factory at the dinner hour, or a baby dabbling its hands in a bowl of goldfish. Altogether, it is a more interesting show, and quite worth seeing. The whole series of pictures is to be exhibited hourly.

Comment: The Lumière Cinématographe had a press show at the Polytechnic, Regent Street in London, a regular location for popular science lectures and demonstrations. It opened to the public the following day. The inventors, Augute and Louis Lumière, were not present. The number of images per second employed by the Cinématographe was fewer than that required by the Edison Kinetoscope peepshow, not more. The two films referred to are La Sortie des Usines Lumière (1895) and Pêche aux poissons rouge (1895).

Louis Olivier to Louis Lumière

Source: Louis Olivier, in Jacques Rittaud-Hutinet (ed.), Letters: Auguste and Louis Lumière (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), translation by Pierre Hodgson, pp. 21-22

Text: Paris, 13 July 1895

Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you once more for the enchanting evening you gave me and my friend last night. Wherever I was yesterday and again this morning, people said what a brilliant session it was, and how enthusiastic the audience was, as you know from the extent of the applause. We were delighted to discover these marvels, never before seen in Paris. I am sure that they will spread throughout the country.

I am most grateful to you for having given my guests a preview of this fine show which is an important landmark in the story of the photographic sciences. Allow me to compliment you, you and your brother, on the magnificent results you have obtained and to express the pleasure which I ex[p]erienced on viewing them.

Further, I enclose all the letters I received in response to my invitations, filed according to whether they are acceptances or not. Several people who said they would come did not and others who did not reply, did come. The entire Bouvier dinner came as a gang. All in all, about one hundred and fifty people probably passed through the rooms where the projection was held on Thursday night. A pleasure for everyone.

Yours etc.

Louis Olivier

Comment: The Cinématographe Lumière was shown to the Revue Générale des Sciences Pure et Appliquées in Paris on 11 July 1895. The films exhibited were La Voltige, Un Incendie, Les Forgerons, Place des Cordeliers, Répas de Bébé and Pêche aux Poissons Rouges. This was its fifth showing to private audiences. Other private shows followed before the first commercial screening on 28 December 1895.

Silent Magic

Source: Ivan Butler, Silent Magic: Rediscovering the Silent Film Era (London: Columbus Books, 1987), p. 15

Text: I saw my first film in 1915 – from the wrong side of the screen. It was at a private show at a school and my mother had brought me in, aged all of six, by a door at the back of the room. We were probably there for only a few minutes before someone discovered us and found us seats in the proper place. I have no memory of the programme apart from that brief glimpse, through wooden struts holding the makeshift screen in place, of what appeared to be a lot of pumpkins careering down a hill to the accompaniment of raucous laughter of (to me) enormous boys almost drowning a well-thumped piano. It must have been a very primitive production, probably a comedy short made some years previously, but in those pre-television days it was miraculous to a child that a picture could move at all – and I was hooked.

Comment: Ivan Butler (1909-1998), after a career as an actor, went on to become a notable writer on the art and history of cinema. His Silent Magic is a particularly evocative memoir of the silent films he could remember when in his eighties.

Journal of Queen Victoria

Source: Journal of Queen Victoria, 23 November 1896

Text: After tea went to the Red drawing-room, where so-called “animated pictures” were shown off, including the groups taken in September [sic] at Balmoral. It is a very wonderful process, representing people, their movements and actions as if they were alive.

Comment: Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was filmed at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, by the photographic firm W. & D. Downey on 3 October 1896, in the company of her guests Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. This account from her journal records the screening of the film by Downey, among a selection of other films, at Windsor Castle the following month. The film was billed by Downey as Her Majesty the Queen and TIMs the Emperor and Empress of Russia, TRHs the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, HRH Princess of Battenberg and Royal Children at Balmoral.