The Bioscope Library

I’ve started a new page to The Bioscope. On the top menu you will now see Library. I’m going to use this to gather together those documents available in their entirety online somewhere which will be highlighted first as posts, and then transferred to the Library. All are freely available from downloading from their respective sources.

A number of these documents will come from Project Gutenberg, which is the free electronic books resource which is one of the glories of the Internet. The silent film researcher might suppose that its out-of-copyright material does not extend beyond the nineteenth century, but there is in fact a substantial amount of material of interest, if you know where to look (using the Full Text option under Advanced Search is recommended). These two key books from our period are available, and have been added to the Library:

1) Vachel Lindsay, The Art of the Moving Picture (New York: Macmillan, 1915 [1922 revision]

The American poet Vachel Linday (1879-1931) wrote this celebrated study of the motion picture as an art form at a time when such a notion was generally considered ludicrous, though the grander works of D.W. Griffith were starting to change minds. It is an extraordinary work, categorising film by such grand phrases as Sculpture-in-Motion, Painting-in-Motion, Architecture-in-Motion and The Motion Picture of Fairy Splendour. It aims at the visionary, and recognises the importance of the medium in its time. It is often as foolish as it is insightful, and it has not worn well as a work of serious study, but its enthusiasm is unstoppable. It is also rich in information on films, performers and scenes that impressed themselves on Lindsay’s hyperactive imagination. It is available in ebook form as HTML (404KB) or plain text (180KB).

2) Hugo Münsterberg, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (New York/London: D. Appleton & Co., 1916)

Hugo Münsterberg (1863-1916) was Professor of Experimental Psychology at Harvard University. His short book The Photoplay: A Psychological Study is regarded as being the first serious work of film theory, a text which remains a key text for the study beyond its purely hisorical interest. Münsterberg was interested in the psychology and the aesthetics of motion pictures (chiefly fiction films), which he rooted in human thought processes and emotions. He argues for the legitimacy of film as one of the arts (a highly controversial position at the time) by arguing for the special ways in which it transforms the world through the act of transferring it onto the screen. It is stimulating read, and has a fascination simply for the details it gives of the cinema-going process and his responses to specific films. It is available in ebook form as HTML (289KB) or plain text (274KB).

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