Modifications de la Photo-chronographie pour l’analyse des mouvements exécutes sur place par un animal. [With:] Décomposition des phases d’un mouvement au moyen d’images photographiques successives, recueillies sur une bande de papier sensible qui se déroule. Double-offprint from Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences 107, 15 & 29 October 1888. Offered with 25 other offprints from the same journal in the period 1872-1901, documenting Marey’s foundational contributions to the science of cinematography.

Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1888.

A remarkable collection of offprints documenting Marey’s foundational contributions to the science of cinematography. Marey was “the lead character in the birth of scientific cinema” (Tosi, p. 82); he “was the first to use a single camera to produce photographs on a strip of sensitized film in real time, rapidly enough for the illusion of movement to be reconstituted for more than a single viewer at once … Marey’s contribution to the history of cinema began on 15 October 1888 with an announcement to the Académie des Sciences, the forum for all his presentations. Before he described his photographic experiments with the revolving mirror, he declared his intention to make a series of images on a long band of sensitized paper, ‘animated by a rapid translation with stoppages at the moment of pose.’ Two weeks later he presented the members of the Académie with the first series of pictures he had made. The paper bands, about 50 centimeters long, that his colleagues passed around were greeted with interest and pleasure … They were the earliest filmed images of movement ever seen in public” (Braun, pp. 150-151). “This was indeed the birth of cinematography, which Marey communicated to the Académie des Sciences on 29 October 1888. On this historic occasion Janssen was in the chair, but few of the other members could have realized that these small strips of photographic paper marked the foundation of a new art and a new industry” (Michaelis, p. 741). “When Marey saw that the pattern of leg motions and hoofbeats of a trotting horse could be depicted clearly by photographs taken in rapid succession, he turned to the perfection of a photographic device that could be used to improve his studies of animal locomotion. Beginning in 1881, his modifications of a camera that had been used by Janssen to record the transit of Venus in 1874 made an important contribution to the development of cinematographic techniques. Also in 1881 he persuaded the municipal council of Paris to annex to his professorial chair land at the Parc-des-Princes, where he constructed a Physiological Station for the photographic study of animal motion outdoors under the most natural conditions possible. For almost the whole of the following two decades he devoted himself to the application of cinematography to physiology, extending its use to such subjects as photographing water currents produced by the motions of fish and microscopic organisms” (DSB). Many of these offprints contain images from nature of extraordinary beauty and complexity made possible by Marey’s inventions.

Provenance: Bibliotheca Mechanica (bookplate inside folding case); Beautiful Evidence: The Library of Edward Tufte, Christie’s New York, 2 December 2010, lot 111.

Marey (1830-1904) “began in the late 1850s with graph-making instruments that intercepted movements invisible to the eye, such as the rhythm of the pulse, and traced them onto the surface of a smoke-blackened cylinder. With these instruments, he was able to monitor movements that were hidden in the body, like the beat of the heart, or that happened in units of time so large or small as to be beyond the reach of the senses, like the gaits of a horse or the flight of a bird, and to translate them into a form of writing that made them fully intelligible for the first time [1, 2] … When the relations among the parts of the animate machine were highly complex and numerous, however, Marey found that his instruments could not provide all the information he needed to make a proper analysis. Such was the case when he began his study of locomotion proper, which he began about 1870 … [Marey] wanted to depict in a single image all the relationships occurring both between one body part and each of the others and the body as a whole at each of several instants of a specific movement executed during a discrete unit of time and in a specifically defined and constant space. In 1870 there was no machine that could do this.

“The camera, of course, could describe the body and all its parts at once but no camera could provide a description over time. It could freeze a single image of a moving body if the figure were at a distance, but photographic optics and chemistry prohibited the recording of ongoing movement, at least until 1878. In that year the Anglo-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) published a series of photographs he had taken of moving horses. Muybridge’s work was a stimulus for Marey. But whereas Muybridge had used multiple cameras to capture the shape of the horse’s body at isolated phases of its motion, Marey wanted to give a visible expression to the continuity of movement of the equidistant and known intervals as his graphing machine had done, and to do so within a single image” (Braun, pp. xvii-xviii).

Marey observed that Muybridge’s technique did not apply, for example, to the free flight of birds. He therefore made plans to construct a machine in the shape of a rifle which would allow one to take aim and follow in space a bird in flight, while a rotating plate recorded a series of images which showed the successive position of the wings. Marey’s photographic rifle was derived from the ‘photographic revolver’ of Jules Janssen (1824-1907) who was the first to take automatically a series of photographic images representing the successive phases of a phenomenon (in Janssen’s case a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun). He described his photographic gun as follows in i882: “‘The barrel of this rifle is a tube that contains a photographic lens. At the back, firmly attached to the butt, there is a broad cylindrical breech containing a clockwork. When one presses the trigger of the gun, the clockwork starts, setting into motion the various pieces of the device. A central axis, making 12 revolutions per second, drives all the parts of the contraption. The most important of these parts is an opaque disc pierced by a narrow window. This disc works as a shutter and only lets the light from the lens through twelve times per second, for 1/720th of a second each time. There was a photographic plate behind the shutter, either circular or octagonal, which rotated jerkily but regularly. Twelve images were successively imprinted on the periphery of the plate.’

“Interesting though it was, Marey was not fully satisfied with his photographic rifle yet. The photographs that it took were too small, rather dull, and sometimes difficult to distinguish. Moreover, there were frequent and frustrating technical difficulties with the device. This is why the fixed plate chronophotographic camera was developed … This apparatus consisted of ‘a traditional camera, but slightly modified and equipped with a rotating disc. The window of this shutter can be enlarged or reduced so as to adjust the time exposure in accordance with the brightness of the light and with the angular speed of the disc. With a reduced window and a slow rotation, the images are distant from one another. They are closer when the rotation is faster. The disc is powered by a spring motor or a weight motor, and a small shutter opens or closes the exposure’” ( At this point Marey’s techniques, which he called ‘chronographic’, became known as ‘photochronographic’, or simply as ‘chronophotography.’

“By 1882 Marey had succeeded in making the camera into a scientific instrument that rivalled his graphing instruments in its power to clearly express change over time … He captured ongoing phases of movement and spread them over the photographic plate in an undulating pattern of overlapping segments. Almost without precedent in the history of representation (only Leonardo da Vinci had attempted to depict motion in the same form of overlapping contours), Marey’s photographs gave visible extension to the present, virtually representing the passage of time” (Braun, p. xviii).

“But the possibility of multiplying almost indefinitely the number of images the camera could make was now beginning to be hampered by the inherent strength of photography, its capacity to reproduce in complete visible detail everything that is in front of the camera … The resulting photographs, he wrote, ‘present such numerous superimpositions that the only result is a lot of confusion’ [3] … To make the camera ‘see’ what was invisible, he suppressed the field of visibility – what the camera could see … He clothed his subjects all in black, marked their joints with shiny buttons, and connected the buttons with metal bands. With this artifice Marey was finally able to transform his subject into a graphic notation. Because the surface of the subject was greatly diminished – only the dots and lines made impression on the plate – the number of photographs taken could be greatly augmented … The brighter markings, Marey reported, ‘made the estimation of time easier and created a reference point from which to compare the movement of the legs and arms’ [3]. Marey could now make a photographic image totally without precedent. He had invented an absolutely original, indeed, revolutionary, method of photographing movement by decomposing it and registering its segments on a single readable plate” (ibid., pp. 79-82). He proceeded to use his new technique to analyse human locomotion [4, 5, 6]. Later he started a “survey of pathological locomotion by making geometric chronophotographs of crippled and motion-impaired patients from Paris hospitals [6] … They had widespread consequences affecting courses of physiotherapy and also the making of prosthetic devices” (ibid., p. 102).

“In summer 1887 Albert Londe had brought four Arabian horses – complete with their Arab riders in flowing native dress – to be chronophotographed … Two elephants and a water buffalo arrived from the zoo, borrowed to act as subjects in Marey’s comparative anatomy study; their joints too were suitably marked with dots, crosses, and other shapes cut out of white paper before they were made to walk and amble for his camera [13]” (ibid., p. 124).

“To make an image of the three-dimensional movements of the torso shifting in space as it reacts to the movements of the limbs, Marey briefly switched from his chronophotographic camera to a stereoscopic camera, with twin lenses separated by a distance equal to that between the eyes. He placed a metal button reflecting the bright sun on the coccyx of a man clothed all in black, and the camera captured the curves the metal button made as the now invisible man walked away from them; the resulting pictures were looked at through a stereoscopic viewer that reconstituted binocular vision, making the disembodied, undulating lines fixed by the stereo camera seem like an exotic calligraphy, all the more remarkable in three dimensions [7]” (ibid., p. 100).

From the data furnished by the different sets of photographs he sculpted plaster models, first of birds [12] and then of humans [14, 15]. These sculptures, some of which were made by Georges Engrand, were then mounted into a very large zootrope, to make what he called his ‘synthesis in relief’. As the zootrope was spun he could view the motion from different aspects. “Anticipating holograms, Marey described his new experiment thus: ‘The great advantage of figures in relief is that it allows one to see the bird under all possible angles … one can study at will the movement of the wings, and slow down the speed as one likes, reducing more or less the rotation of the zootrope’ … This simple machine … stimulated the imagination of such artists as Max Ernst, who made it the subject of a graphic transcription where one of his figures takes off and flies away” (Tosi, p. 107).

“In his 1888 note to the Académie des Sciences that accompanied the presentation of Engrand’s casts, Marey specified the service that detailed chronophotography provided for art … ‘Certain artistic representations of walkers or runners are sometimes bothersome to the physiologist familiar with the succession of movement in human locomotion. The impression is somewhat analogous to what we feel in front of those landscapes painted when the laws of perspective were less observed than they are today. The difficulty artists find in representing men or animals in action is explained when we realise that the most skilled observers declare themselves incapable of seizing the successive phases of locomotive movements. To this end, chronophotography seems called to render services to art as it does to science, since it analyses the most rapid and most complicated movements’ [15]” (Braun, pp. 207-208).

“Marey was conceptually ready now for the steps towards the final stage of technical development of cinematography as we know it today, which is to say a camera with moving film. In 1887 in France, Eastman began selling a new sensitive film placed on a paper strip that could be rolled onto a bobbin, which would be destined eventually to replace glass plates. This was to avoid the problem of their weight and the fact that they were hard to handle, but also because the new film allowed the camera to be loaded just once for a whole series of photographs … Marey asked the photographer Balagny, an artisan manufacturer of sensitive materials and already his supplier, to make him some strips of his new type of emulsioned paper. Having gained experience from the photographic rifle on the various types of chronophotography (with fixed plate, multiple lenses, mobile plates), Marey was about to construct a new series of filming machines: filmstrip chronophotography … On 29 October 1888 he presented to the Académie des Sciences his first results in a paper entitled ‘Décomposition des phases d’un mouvement au moyen d’images photographiques successives, recueillies sur une bande de papier sensible qui se déroule’ [17]: ‘I have the honour to present … a series of images obtained at a rate of twenty images per second. The apparatus I have constructed for this purpose has running through it a strip of sensitive paper that can reach 1.60 metres per second’ …

“With regards to the technical descriptions of the first film cameras, one cannot but be astonished by the series of brilliant inventions that we owe to Marey – they each constitute genuine qualitative leaps compared with the technology of the day and even his previous work. The first model [17], in which the apparatus was housed entirely in a camera obscura from which the lens emerged, used an ingenious system to move the strip intermittently. The strip, driven at constant speed, was stopped periodically by an electromagnetically operated clamp, just as the shutter opening passed the focal plane. The second model [19] was already portable since the entire mechanism for rolling and unrolling the paper strip was housed in the machine which was no greater than a camera for plates measuring 18 x 23 centimetres … With renewed enthusiasm he thought of a whole series of new research areas opened up by the potentially unlimited possibilities offered by filmstrip chronophotography. It would no longer be necessary to photograph white subjects on a black background; there would be no more problems with images being superimposed on the same plate” (Tosi, pp. 109-110).

“By summer 1889 Marey could get two kinds of transparent strips for his new camera that he used in place of the fragile paper bands. The first, made by George Balagny, had a light-sensitive gelatin emulsion supported by a collodion base, while those produced by Eastman had a nitrocellulose base. These primitive ‘films’ … were scarce and difficult to work with; they were not of a consistent thickness; the gelatin sometimes became detached from its base; and often the films were marked by frilling and static electricity. The continuing search for a satisfactory support on which to take a long series of rapid images would not be concluded until the large-scale commercial manufacture of celluloid film was introduced by Eastman in the early 1890s. Since it was sufficiently strong, thin, and pliable to permit the intermittent movement of the film strip behind the lens at considerable speed and under great tension without tearing, the new film stimulated the almost immediate solution of the central problems of cinematic invention” (Braun, pp. 153-155).

“By the end of 1892, the [Physiological] Station had been transformed into a combination of farm and aviary. A dog, a goat, a donkey, horses, chicken, sheep, and rabbits, along with ducks, pigeons, and seagulls, were housed, fed, and filmed. In 1894 even the gardener’s cat was made to perform. It was entrusted with the special mission of contradicting Newton’s law, stating that once an object is in motion only an external force can change the direction of that motion. Marey had the camera provide visible proof that the animal always lands on its feet. As he held the cat upside down by its paws and then dropped it onto a landing cushion below, the camera recorded how the animal was able to use the weight of its own body to twist around and land right side up on all fours [24]. This apparent exception to mechanical law provoked quite a fuss and was reported widely in England and America. Chickens, rabbits, and puppies were subjected to the same test. Only the rabbits seemed to come out on top” (ibid., pp. 169-170). The offprint [24] includes, with Marey’s investigations, a number of theoretical papers on the ‘principle of areas’, or law of conservation of angular momentum, which was believed to be central to an explanation of the falling cat phenomenon.

“All his life Marey has been attempting to knit physiology to physics … Now Marey turned his cameras on the invisible media through which the movers moved to make visible the motion of water and air. Marey’s experiments on the movement of air evolved out of an 1893 study of the movement of liquids [22]; that study in turn began with his 1888 investigation of aquatic locomotion [18]. In that year he had built a special aquarium to help him capture the sinuous horizontal progression of the eel. He had outfitted the usual glass sided tank with a black backdrop and a transparent bottom and put a mirror at a 45° angle underneath the tank which directed the rays of the Sun onto the swimming animal. He then constructed a large opaque box enclosing the whole aquarium in one end of it, and his oscillating mirror camera at the other. This arrangement eliminated all other light and rendered the water invisible; it turned the eel into a silhouette and made its movements dramatically clear.

“Marey adopted the same arrangement in 1893 to further clarify the mechanism of the locomotion of fish, this time making the images with his double-use camera on a glass plate. He ended by tracing the movement of the water itself. Through the camera Marey could see a very brilliant fine line marking the surface of the water, and he recorded the undulations of this line, noting the variations in its contour and changes in its velocity. He created the undulations he photographed by plunging a solid form or a small propeller into the tank just outside the camera’s view. He also created and recorded the movement under the water’s surface by tossing small silvered balls of wax and resin into the tank; their trajectories revealed the inner rhythm of the liquid’s rise and fall [22] …

“The physical phenomena that kept the models, gliders, and large-scale experimental airplanes in the air (or caused them to crash) were for the most part unknown, and Marey was convinced that if you could make the movements of the air visible he could understand such phenomena. In his presentation on the movement of fluids to the Académie des Sciences in 1893 [22], Marey commented that ‘chronophotography might be applied to the study of movements in air when one wanted to find the resistance offered by a body of a particular shape to a current of greater or less velocity. For this purpose a number of light and luminous objects would have to be set floating in the air’ … Marey began to work with an idea he had first read about in 1886 … The author [had] made the air visible by means of smoke fillets or phosphorous vapours’ … By 1890 Marey had succeeded in producing his own version of these smoke fillets; he had also found a way of introducing them into a glass box like the one he had constructed to photograph the movement of liquids. In other words, Marey constructed a wind tunnel, the grandfather of those still in use today to visualize how air flows around an airplane wing …

“In July 1901 Marey sent his latest results to [Samuel Pierpoint] Langley in Washington [26] … He increased the size of the box and the number of smoke fillets … Marey had also arrived at a way to measure the speed of each smoke fillet as it moved around the objects he had placed in the box: an electric vibrator made the fillets vibrate regularly ten times a second, and Marey placed a ruler in the glass box, against which the distance the fillets travelled each tenth of a second could be measured … He experimented with different wing shapes, showing the amount of drag produced by each one (visible in the photographs by the amount of turbulence the smoke formed behind the wing), and he introduced parallel shapes into his box to simulate the wings of the triplanes and biplanes that were so popular with researchers at that time. The method can be used, Marey wrote, ‘by all those concerned with aviation, propulsion in fluids, ventilation, everything, in fact, that has to do with the movement of air’” (ibid., pp. 215-220).

“Marey’s data and his methods were adopted by pioneers in many fields, sometimes with significant results. His studies of the flight of birds were important to the foundation of aviation in Europe and in America, especially to the Wright Brothers. His descriptions of human locomotion were used as the scientific foundation of a physical training program for the soldiers and athletes, and in France they were absorbed in the nationalistic desire to increase the endurance and fortitude of the average citizen. His graphic, chronophotographic, and cinematographic techniques were adopted and developed by European physiologists and psychologists to create a science of human labor that revolutionised the concept and execution of work. In the science of industrial management, his method of decomposition and his subject, human motion, were used in America to control the productivity and efficiency of the labor force. And finally, the cinema camera he invented was a key element in the foundation of the motion picture industry” (ibid., p. xix).

The Collection:

  1. Détermination des inclinaisons du plan de l’aile aux différents instants de sa révolution, vol. 74, 26 February 1872, pp. [1], 2-3. [1, blank] (journal pagination 589-592).
  1. Des allures du cheval, étudiées par la méthode graphique, vol. 75, 4 November 1872, pp. [1], 2-4 (journal pagination 1115-19).
  1. Emploi des photographies partielles pour étudier la locomotion de l’homme et des animaux, vol. 96, 25 June 1883, pp. [1], 2-5, [3, blank] (journal pagination 1827-31).
  1. De la mesure des forces dans les différents actes de la locomotion, vol. 97, 8 & 15 October 1883, pp. [1], 2-10, [2, blank] (journal pagination 782-786 & 820-825).
  1. Analyse cinématique de la marche, vol. 98, 19 May 1884, pp. [1], 2-8 (journal pagination 1218-25).
  1. Études sur la marche de l’homme au moyen de l’odographe, vol. 99, 3 November 1884, pp. [1], 2-5, [1, blank] (journal pagination 732-737).
  1. Locomotion de l’homme. – Images stéréoscopiques des trajectoires que décrit dans l’espace un point du tronc pendant la marche, la course et les autres allures, vol. 100, 2 June 1885, pp. [1], 2-5, [3, blank], (journal pagination 1359-63).
  1. [With Georges DEMENŸ]. Locomotion humaine, mécanisme du saut, vol. 101, 24 August 1885, pp. [1], 2-6, [2, blank] (journal pagination 489-494).
  1. [With Georges DEMENŸ]. Analyse cinématique de la course de l’homme. Parallèle de la marche et de la course, suivi du mécanisme de la transition entre ces deux allures, vol. 103, 20 September & 4 October, 1886, pp. [1], 2-14, [2, blank] (journal pagination 509-513 & 574-583).
  1. [With Calixte PAGÈS]. Analyse cinématique des allures du cheval, vol. 103, 27 September 1886, pp. [1], 2-10, [2, blank] (journal pagination 538-547 – with a different title in the journal).
  1. Nouvel odographie à papier sans fin, vol. 104, 6 June 1887, pp. [1], 2-3, [1, blank] (journal pagination 1582-84).
  1. Figures en relief représentant les attitudes successives d'un pigeon pendant le vol. Disposition de ces figures sur un zootrope, vol. 104, 13 June 1887 [&] La Photochronographie appliquée au problème dynamique du vol des oiseaux, vol. 105, 5 September 1887 [&] De la mesure des forces qui agissent dans le vol de l’oiseau, vol. 105, 26 September 1887 [&] Du travail mécanique dépensé par la goéland dans le vol horizontail, vol. 105, 10 October 1887, pp. [1], 2-21, [3, blank] (journal pagination 1669-71, 421-423, 504-508 & 594-600).
  1. [With Calixte PAGÈS]. Locomotion comparée: mouvement du membre pelvien chez l’homme, l’éléphant et le cheval, vol. 105, 18 July 1887, pp. [1], 2-8 (journal pagination 149-156).
  1. [With Georges DEMENŸ]. Étude expérimentale de la locomotion humaine, vol. 105. 3 October 1887, pp. [1], 2-9, [1, blank] (journal pagination 544-552).
  1. Représentation des attitudes de la locomotion humaine au moyen des figures en relief, vol. 106, 11 June 1888, pp. [1], 2-3, [1, blank] (journal pagination 1634-36).
  1. Valeurs relatives des deux composantes de la force déployée dans le coup d’aile de l’oiseau, déduites de la direction et de l'insertion des fibres du muscle grand pectoral, vol. 107, 1 October 1888 [&] De la claudication par douleur [&] Des mouvements de la natation de l’anguille, étudiés par la Photochronographie, vol. 107, 22 October 1888, pp. [1], 2-11, [1, blank] (journal pagination 549-551, 641-643 & 643-645).
  1. Modifications de la Photo-chronographie pour l’analyse des mouvements exécutes sur place par un animal, vol. 107, 15 October 1888 [&] Décomposition des phases d’un mouvement au moyen d’images photographiques successives, recueillies sur une bande de papier sensible qui se déroule, vol. 107, 29 October 1888, pp. [1], 2-5, [3, blank] (journal pagination 607-609 & 677-678).
  1. La locomotion aquatique étudiée par la Photographie, vol. 111, 28 July 1890, pp. [1], 2-4 (journal pagination 213-216).
  1. Appareil photochronographique applicable à l’analyse de toutes sortes de mouvements, vol. 111, 3 November 1890, pp. [1], 2-4 (journal pagination 626-629).
  1. Le vol des insectes etudie par la Photochronographie, vol. 113, 6 July 1891, pp. [1], 2-4 (journal pagination 15-18).
  1. Des mouvements de natation de la Raie, vol. 116, 16 January 1893, pp. [1], 2-5, [3, blank] (journal pagination 77-81).
  1. Le mouvement des liquides étudie par la Chronophotographie, vol. 116, 1 May 1893, pp. [1], 2-11, [1, blank] (journal pagination 913-924).
  1. Les mouvements articulaires étudiés par la Photographie, vol. 118, 7 May 1894, pp. [1], 2-7, [1, blank] (journal pagination 1019-25).
  1. Des mouvements que certains animaux exécutent pour retomber sur leurs pieds, lorsqu’ils son précipités d’un lieu élevé [&]Émile GUYOU. Note relative à la Communication de M. Marey [&] Maurice LÉVY. Observations sur le principe des aires [&] Marcel DEPREZ. Sur un appareil servant à mettre en evidence certaines conséquences du theorème des aires, vol. 119, 29 October 1894 [&] Paul APPELL. Sur le theorème des aires, vol. 119, 5 November 1894, pp. [1], 2-13, [3, blank] (journal pagination 714-721 & 770-771).
  1. Mesures à prendre pour l’uniformisation des méthodes et le contrôle des instruments employés en Physiologie, vol. 127, 29 August 1898, pp. [1], 2-7, [1, blank] (journal pagination 375-381).
  1. Changements de direction et de vitesse d’un courant d’air qui rencontre des corps de formes diverses, vol. 132, 3 June 1901, pp. [1], 2-6, [2, blank] (journal pagination 1291-96).

Braun, Picturing Time, 1992. Michaelis, ‘The photographic arts: cinematography,’ Ch. 30 in A History of TechnologyV (Singer et al., eds.), 1958. Tosi, Cinema before Cinema, 2005.

4to (280 x 228 mm). Various paginations, numerous diagrams, charts and white on black illustrations in text. Original plain wrappers (some detached and chipped, no. 26 lacking wrappers). Quarter-calf folding case.

Item #5494

Price: $25,000.00