The Diary of Ralph Thoresby

Source: Ralph Thoresby, diary entry for 1 February 1709, in Rev. Joseph Hunter (ed.), The Diary of Ralph Thoresby (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830), vol. II p. 41, reproduced on the Thoresby Society website,

Text: In return met with Mr. Milner at Mr. Blythman’s, where we dined; I afterwards called to see the Moving Picture, a curious piece of art: the landscape looks as an ordinary picture till the clock-work behind the curtain be set at work, and then the ships move and sail distinctly upon the sea till out of sight; a coach comes out of the town, the motion of the horses and wheels are very distinct, and a gentleman in the coach that salutes the company; a hunter also and his dogs, &c. keep their course till out of sight. I had some discourse with the German inventor of it, Mr. Jacobus Morian: see his paper and autograph. Evening, packing up papers and apparel.

Comments: Ralph Thoresby (1658-1725) was a British antiquarian, diarist and historian of Leeds. His diary entry refers to a mechanical picture driven by clockwork that was on display in London in 1709. A similar mechanical picture was witnessed by Jonathan Swift in 1713, and recorded in one of the letters in his Journal to Stella (qv).

Links: Transcription at Thoresby Society website
Copy at Internet Archive

Journal to Stella

Source: Letter from Jonathan Swift to Esther Johnson (‘Stella’) and Rebecca Dingley, 21 March 1713 in Jonathan Swift (ed. George A. Aitken), Journal to Stella (London: Methuen, 1901), Letter 62, p. 530

Text: I dined to-day with a mixture of people at a Scotchman’s, who made the invitation to Mr. Lewis and me, and has some design upon us, which we know very well. I went afterwards to see a famous moving picture, and I never saw anything so pretty. You see a sea ten miles wide, a town on t’other end, and ships sailing in the sea, and discharging their cannon. You see a great sky, with moon and stars, etc. I’m a fool. Nite, dee MD.

Comments: Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was an Irish satirist, essayist and novelist, best known for Gulliver’s Travels. His Journal to Stella is a collection of letters to his friend Esther Johnson and sometimes jointly to her companion Rebecca Dingley, which was posthumously published in 1766. ‘MD’ stands for ‘my dears’. The ‘moving picture’ to which he refers was shown in a house next to the Grecian Head coffee house in the Strand, London. Sixpence and a shilling were charged for admission. It was a fixed picture probably with clockwork moving parts. Mechanical pictures of German origin are reported as being shown in London by The Tatler around this time (see nos. 113 and 129) and were witnessed by diarist Ralph Thoresby in 1709 (qv).

Links: Copy at Internet Archive