The texts described below are books of various kinds on the production, reception and appreciation of early and silent films. All are freely available for downloading from the sources indicated.

Bennett, Colin, The Handbook of Kinematography

London: Kinematograph Weekly, 1911
Source: The Internet Archive

This is one of the standard technical manuals of the period, and a boon to many a film historian ever since. Bennett was a cameraman, inventor (he devised a colour cinematograph process, Cinechrome, in 1914) and regular contributor on technical subjects to the Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly. This handbook, published by the Kinematograph Weekly in 1911, is a thorough and handsomely illustrated account of early motion picture technology and the practicalities of producing and exhibiting films. Some of Bennett’s understanding of film history is askew (particularly his patriotic championing of William Friese-Greene’s nebuous achievements), but for the motion picture technologies of the day his knowledge is prodigious, leavened with a lot of practical commonsense, and the illustrations alone (along with some contemporary advertisements) are a rich source of information. The book is available from the Internet Archive, in DjVu (16MB), PDF (44MB), b/w PDF (19MB) and TXT (689KB) formats.

Bevans, George Esdras, How Workingmen Spend Their Time

New York: Columbia University, 1913
Source: Internet Archive

This is a doctoral thesis from 1913. Its subject is use of the spare time by the working men of New York, with sociological analysis across professions, hours worked, wages earned, and kinds of leisure activity, including motion pictures. The data is presented in tabular form, with acompanying analytical text. It is a marvellous source of information on cinema-going, audience leisure tastes, and the relationship of earnings and work-time to leisure, with a wide range of evidence demonstrating the prime position of cinema in the public mind just before the First World War. It is available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (3.7MB), PDF (11MB), b/w PDF (4.3MB) and TXT (184KB) formats.

Blumer, Herbert, Movies and Conduct

New York: Macmillan, 1933
Source: Internet Archive

American sociologist Herbert Blumer’s book presents evidence and conclusions from twelve studies undertaken to examine the influence of motion pictures upon the young, conducted by the Committee on Educational Research of the Payne Fund, at the request of the National Committee for the Study of Social Values in Motion Pictures. There were many such studies, mostly from authorities of one kind or another baffled by the tastes of the coming generation. What makes this volume perhaps most interesting is the large number of verbatim testimonies from young cinemagoers (mostly late teens/early twenties) remembering their early film experiences, which are therefore fresh memories of the experience of silent cinema. Themes covered include childhood play, imitation, daydreaming, fear and terror, sorrow and pathos, love and passion, thrill and excitement, and emotional detachment. There is much evidence here for anyone keen to explore the social impact of cinema (particularly on the young) in the 1920s and the mysteries of spectatorship. Available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (4.9MB), PDF (22MB) and TXT (542KB) formats.

Bottomore, Stephen, Filming, faking and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902

Utrecht: University of Utrecht, 2007
Source: Igitur Archive

The author describes his dissertation as “the first detailed treatment of war and early cinema, describing the representation of conflicts in film from the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 through the Spanish-American War, Boer War, and others up to about 1902. I show that in attempting to cover these events, early filmmakers faced a difficult task, for warfare at the end of the nineteenth century was changing, relying more on defence and concealment and less on highly visible offensives; there was also increasing regulation and censorship of reporting. With the new tactics making battle less visible, and with increasing official controls, how could wars be represented on film? Surprisingly, in just half a decade, filmmakers found ways to cope, by developing new ‘genres’ of films such as acted fakes, and new exhibition strategies, and in these ways managed to present wars to the public of the time fairly effectively.”

Boughey, Davidson, The Film Industry

London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1921
Source: Internet Archive

This British publication is a relatively short but knowledgeable and helpful account of film production techonology and techniques, from a British perspective. It was much used by Rachael Low in her classic work, The History of the British Film 1918-1929. Boughey covers the history of film production (with an emphasis on British legislation), the manufacture and use of cinematograph film, the cinematograph camera, developing film, printing, tinting and toning, titling, the set-up of a motion-picture studio (particularly useful for the picture of British conditions, which were somewhat behind Hollywood), the production of films (again very informative on British practice), fiction films, travel, topical and scientific films, distribution, publicity, projection and exhibition. Boughey also provides useful figures on cinema attendance, the numbers employed by the cinema industry, and investment in film. It’s available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (3.5MB), PDF (11MB) and TXT (179KB) formats.

Burt, Cyril, The Young Delinquent

London: University of London Press, 1925
Source: Internet Archive

This renowned study of the phenomenon of youth crime was an early work of British psychologist, Sir Cyril Burt (1883-1971). Burt is best known for his work in educational psychology, and is controversial for his ideas on heredity and intelligence, and for possibly having falsified some of his research data. Burt deals with common accusations made of cinema, that it encouraged some among the young to commit crimes or to steal money to obtain entrance money, but he feels that the greater harm is caused by cinema’s ‘moral atmosphere’, its encouragement of a life of fantasy. Inevitably the book tells us more about the prevailing attitudes of the moral authorities rather than the youth themselves. Interestingly, Burt ultimately does not put the ‘blame’ on heredity, the theme of his later work, but on environment. It is available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (38MB), PDF (43MB) and TXT (1.5MB) formats.

Calder-Marshall, Arthur, The Innocent Eye: The Life of Robert J. Flaherty

London: W.H. Allen, 1963
Source: Internet Archive

This is a classic biography of the filmmaker credited with founding the art of documentary with his film Nanook of the North (1922). It documents Flaherty’s original filming in Hudson Bay in 1913 (work that he later rejected as lifeless) and the filming in the silent era of Nanook and Moana (set in Samoa), as well such later films as Man of Aran and Louisiana Story. It is available from the Internet Archive, in DjVu (36.7MB), PDF (40MB) and TXT (607KB) formats

Cameron, James R., The Instruction of Disabled Men in Motion Picture Projection

New York: The Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, 1919
Source: Internet Archive

Cameron was Instructor of Projection at the Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, in New York. The Institute sought to instruct soldiers disabled during the First World War in suitable professions, and motion picture projection was one of them. Cameron tells of the success of most of those undertaking the course, their earnings, and the elements of training that they received. The remainder of the booklet is then concerned with the practicalities of motion picture projection, with illustrations, terminology and lengthy question-and-answer sections, all presumably derived from the course itself, though little further mention is made of disability. The booklet therefore serves as a standard technical guide to projection at this period. It is available from the Internet Archive, in DjVu (4.3MB), PDF (14MB) and TXT (161KB) formats.

The Cinema: Its Present Position and Future Possibilities

London: Williams and Norgate, 1917
Source: Internet Archive

This is a report and summary of evidence taken by the Cinema Commission Inquiry, instituted by the National Council of Public Morals, in 1917. Essentially, it is a thorough investigation into the cinema in Britain and what its effects might be on the viewing public. As the introduction states, the National Council on Public Morals was “deeply concerned with the influence of the cinematograph, especially upon young people, with the possibilities of its development and with its adaptation to national educational purposes”. The report is an unmatched treasure trove not only of opinions, fears, hopes and prejudices regarding the cinema and its audience, but of evidence relating to the production and exhibition of films in Britain at this time. Those supplying evidence included Cecil Hepworth, J. Brooke Wilkinson, A.E. Newbould, Gavazzi King and F.R. Goodwin, all key figures from the film industry, teachers, policemen, magistrates, social workers, and school children, whose verbatim evidence is a particular treasure. There is also much useful statistical information on film distribution and cinema-going in Britain. It’s available for download from the Internet Archive in DjVu (28MB), PDF (69MB), black-and-white PDF (21MB), and TXT (1.3MB) formats.

La couleur retrouvée du Voyage dans la Lune / A Trip to the Moon Back in color

Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema / Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, 2011
Source: Technicolor Foundation

Much more than a mere promotional booklet, this 192-page bi-lingual (French/English) book was produced to commeorate the restoration of the colour version of Georges Méliès’ La voyage dans la lune (1902). It documents the print’s re-discovery and painstaking restoration, but it also tells the story of Méliès’ life and work in informative detail and with fabulous illustrations. Available in PDF format (4.7MB).

Creel, George, How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public Information that Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe

New York/London: Harper and Brothers, 1920
Source: Internet Archive

George Creel was a journalist and campaigner on social issues who was put in charge of the Committee on Public Information in 1917. The CPI was America’s official propaganda outfit during the First World War, tasked with ‘selling the war’ to Americans. As such was responsible for American official films such as Pershing’s Crusaders, America’s Answers, Under Four Flags, and the newsreel Official War Review. After the war, Creel published the controversial How We Advertised America, which called for the use of the methods in commercial advertising to be used for official promotion of America. It’s an important source for understanding the context in which propaganda films were produced during the First World War, the first time the medium had been used extensively by national governments as a tool of mass persuasion. The book is available as a free download in PDF (65MB), DjVu (21MB), b/w PDF (20MB) and TXT (906KB) formats.

Dench, Ernest A., Advertising by Motion Pictures

Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1916
Source: Internet Archive

A fascinating, if discursive guide to the potential of the motion picture for purposes of advertising. Dench covers the selling of railroads, food products, agricultural machinery, shoes, real estate, newspapers and dry goods through motion pictures. He covers different approaches for different kinds of audience (working classes, farmers), and different media, with particular attention given to the use of advertising slides. Some of it is aimless speculation, like the chapter on naming soda fountain concoctions after movies, but its enthusiasm is appealing and it paints a useful picture of they ways in which the cinema industry engaged with the American audience in the early years of cinema. It’s available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (5.2MB), PDF (23MB) and TXT (207KB) formats.

Dench, Ernest A., Motion Picture Education

Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1917
Source: Internet Archive

The 1910s saw much interest in the use of motion pictures as an educational medium, something which led a great outpouring of educational films in the 1920s and the growth of the Visual Education movement. In the 1910s, all was speculation and experiment, as indicated by this wide-ranging guide by enthusiastic motion picture journalist Ernest Dench. He considers the potential for film to teach history, arithmetic, natural history, domestic science, even handwriting. There is some grasp of the theoretical side, and warnings that film is no substitute for text. Dench reveals how the great passion for films among young audiences was taxing authorities, which sought to master a medium they did not fully understand. Available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (5.3MB), PDF (43MB) and TXT (351KB) formats.

De Windt, Harry, Through Savage Europe: Being the narrative of a journey (undertaken as special correspondent of the “Westminster Gazette”), throughout the Balkan States and European Russia

London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907
Source: Internet Archive

This is an account of a journey through the states of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Servia (as the book has it), Bulgaria, Rumania and Russia in 1907. This was the area that was soon to experience conflict through the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, then to be the powder keg that helped start off the First World War. Of interest here is that the author, journalist and adventurer Harry de Windt, took a motion picture cameraman with him, John Mackenzie of the Charles Urban Trading Company. Though relatively little is said of Mackenzie’s actual work (he left before de Windt went on to Russia), the interest is in his very presence, in the tie-up with a British newspaper (the Westminster Gazette), and in the Balkans as a topic of sufficient interest to audiences at home to justify the expense of organising such a venture. Through Savage Europe is available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (14MB), PDF (38MB), b/w PDF (17MB) and TXT (439KB) formats.

Dickson, W.K-L., The Biograph in Battle: Its Story in the South African War

London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1901
Source: Bibliothèque numérique du cinéma

This is both the first account in book form by a motion picture operator describing his work, and the first book about the filming of war. Its subject is the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, often described as the first media war, because film cameras were there to record it and transmit something of war’s reality to audiences far away. Dickson filmed for the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company between November 1899 and June 1900, covering the battles of Colenso and Spion Kop, and the triumphal captures of Ladysmith, Bloemfontein and Pretoria. The book is in the form of a diary, and documents in engrossing detail the trials and tribulations of documenting a war with camera equipment that weighed over a tonne. Available in PDF format (49MB) from Bibliothèque numérique du cinéma.

Esenwein, J. Berg and Arthur Leeds, Writing the Photoplay

Springfield, Mass.: The Home Correspondence School, 1919 (orig. 1913)
Source: Project Gutenberg

This is a standard ‘how to’ guide to writing a screenplay. It goes into great detail about the process of producing a screenplay, covering its component parts, how a script should look, the mechanical production of a film script, devising a scenario, delineating characters, the use and misuse of titles, and how to market a screenplay. There is an example of a completed screenplay, Everybody’s Girl (1918). There is also amusing advice on what not to try and include in your screenplay (expensive scenes like the sinking of ships, ‘trick animals’, special costumes), and advice on what not to include in your screenplay owing to the attentions of the censor. It’s all sensible stuff, with interesting insights throughout and plenty of incidental comments on the routine of film production that is useful to the researcher now. There are some good photographs on studio production, and most helpfully hyperlinks are provided not only for chapters and illustrations, but for the index at the back. Available from Project Gutenberg in HTML (747KB) and plain TXT (624KB).

Ellis, Don Carlos and Laura Thornborough, Motion Pictures in Education: A Practical Handbook for Users of Visual Aids

New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1923
Source: Internet Archive

The enthusiasm for the idea of motion pictures as an education medium which arose in the 1910s was followed by exploration of the theoretical issues, practical usage guides, and recommendations of particular titles or series. All of these combine in Ellis and Thornbourgh’s book, which is one of the standard guides of the period. It is designed as the essential handbook for the teacher needing to the how and why of using film in the classroom. In good common-sense fashion it covers the history of educational film, the objections raised against its use, the advantages of using the medium, the kinds of films available, the practicalities of exhibiting them, and examples of their successful use. This is a fascinating history which calls for much further investigation. Available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (7.2MB), PDF (34MB) and TXT (515KB) formats.

Fox, Charles Donald and Milton Silver (eds.), Who’s Who on the Screen

New York City: Ross Publishing, 1920
Source: Internet Archive

This is a biographical guide to American cinema in 1920. Over four hundred pages long, it has a page per person, each illustrated with a photograph (of superb quality throughout) with mini-biography, generally describing background, their best-known films, the studio with which they were then working, and some personal details (with notable emphasis on the sports that America’s stars supposedly favoured). Most of the directory is devoted to actors, but there is a concluding section with directors, producers and studio owners. An evocative portrait of Hollywood when the star system had become secure but the scandals of Fatty Arbuckle, Wallace Reid and William Desmond Taylor (all featured here) were just around the corner. Availablefrom the Internet Archive in PDF (24MB), b/w/ PDF (26MB), full text (370KB) and DjVu (19MB) formats.

Gehrts, Miss M[eg]., A Camera Actress in the Wilds of Togoland

Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1915
Source: Internet Archive

This is account of the production of The White Goddess of the Wangora (Die weiße Göttin der Wangora) and other dramas and documentaries of African life, made in Togo in 1913/14 by the German explorer and sometime big game hunter Major Hans Schomburgk. The films starred his future wife, Meg Gehrts, whose experiences are recorded in the book. It is fascinating in detail, patronising towards the ‘savages’ they work with, but also filled with sympathetic observations, particularly on the drudgery experienced by the Togo women. It also tells us much about the indignities and privations the filmmakers suffered. It is an observant text, with plenty of interest if you can steer around the period attitudes, and it is well illustrated. It is available in DjVu (17 MB), PDF (51MB), b/w/ PDF (20MB) and TXT (492KB) formats.

Grau, Robert, The Theatre of Science: A Volume of Progress and Achievement in the Motion Picture Art

New York: Broadway Publishing Company, 1914
Source: Internet Archive

Grau’s book, published in 1914 in a limited edition of 3,000, has become a standard reference source for the early cinema period. It provides an extraordinary amount of detail on the history and development of motion pictures in America to 1914 – their technological, economic, social and artistic changes, and the key events and personalities involved. Grau (a theatrical agent) was witness to much of the history he describes, and if his understanding of the development of the pictures tends towards the ideal of the theatre, he was a keen observer who provides hugely useful factual information on histories such as the rise of the nickelodeons and the emergence of a film trade press which scarcely exist elsewhere. He champions the names of pioneers of the industry who would otherwise be forgotten, the run-of-the-mill performers as well as the stars, and the book is rich in portrait photographs. It has much information on the leading and not so leading film companies of the period, and is at all points particularly interested in the business of making pictures. It is thrilled with how motion pictures were made, sold and exhibited, and for that enthusiasm alone it is strongly recommended. It’s available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (21MB), PDF (66MB), b/w/ PDF (23MB) and TXT (711KB) formats.

Hanssen, Eirik Frisvold, Early Discourses on Colour and Cinema

Stockholm University, 2006
Source: Stockholm University Publications

This doctoral thesis is an historical and theoretical examination of motion picture colour processes 1909-1935. It focusses in particular upon Kinemacolor, the colour system invented in 1906 by George Albert Smith and sold to the world by the ebullient Charles Urban. It was first exhibited in May 1908, given the name Kinemacolor in 1909, and for five or six years it was the sensation of film exhibitions worldwide, until it was brought down by a court case and then rival colour systems, such as Technicolor. Hanssen’s thesis contextualises Kinemacolor within a broader history and analysis of colour, while remaining very sound on the purely technological side of things. Its centrepiece is a detailed study of the 1912 Kinemacolor catalogue and its representation of the idea of colour. The thesis can be downloaded as a PDF (1.47MB); it has also been published as a book.

Hendricks, Gordon, The Edison Motion Picture Myth

Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961
Source: Internet Archive

Gordon Hendricks was a determinedly independent film historian who was driven to investigate the history of Edison’s development of the motion picture to overturn the “morass of well-embroidered legend” which existed at that time for the beginnings of American film, especially in the biographies of Thomas Edison. Hendricks wanted also to champion his own hero, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, Edison’s chief technician on the motion picture project. The book is a meticulous exploration of the history of the Edison experiments 1888-1894 which led to the Kinetoscope peepshow viewer, the Kineotgraph camera, and the world’s first successful motion picture films. Hendricks made an intensive trawl through the archives at the Edison National Historical Site, overturning myth after myth, and producing solid information which has been gratefully turned to by succeeding film historians, but it has to be said the book is not an easy read. It is available to download from the Internet Archive in DjVu (13MB), PDF (16MB) and TXT (589KB) formats.

Higashi, Sumiko, Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994
Source: University of California Press eScholarship Editions

This is an acclaimed study of the films of Cecil B. DeMille as they reflected American culture of the 1910s and 1920s. It is not a film history as such, but rather a social history, with a body of films as evidence. Higashi demonstrates how DeMille integrated cinema into what she calls ‘genteel culture’ by making the spectacle that it provided reflect middle-class ideology. DeMille took his subjects for films from texts – plays, novels, short stories – that were familiar to a middle-class audience, reflecting their world and its concerns. The DeMille we think of today was the producer of gargantuan Biblical epics, but the DeMille of the silent era was first a filmmaker artfully attuned to ‘genteel’ tastes, and then a trendsetter, whose 1920s films influenced advertising and consumer culture. The book is commendably well presented in chapterised form, with hyperlinked notes and index making it eminently searchable. There is also a filmography, and the welcome presence of all of the book’s illustrations.

Hodges, James, F., Opening and Operating a Motion Picture Theatre: How it is Done Successfully

New York: Scenario Publishing Company, 1912
Source: Internet Archive

This is a guide in the mould of those similar texts from the time which encouraged readers to believe that they could become actors or screenplay writers for the price of the dollar that the book would cost them. Hodges’ guide is nevertheless interesting for how it explains the business of setting up a cinema to one who it assumes knows little or nothing about motion pictures. It covers location, fittings, staffing, salaries, film bookings, projection equipment etc, and has costs for the operation of an average small cinema of the period. Available from the Internet Archive in PDF (896KB), full text (78KB) and DjVu (697KB) formats.

Hopwood, Henry V., Hopwood’s Living Pictures; their history, photo-production, and practical working, with classified lists of British patents and bibliography

London: Hatton Press, 1915 [original edition 1899]
Source: Internet Archive

Henry Hopwood (1866-1919) was Custodian in the Library of the Patent Office in Chancery Lane, London. His Living Pictures is a comprehensive history and handbook on the technology of the new science of motion pictures, published first in 1899 and then in a revised edition by his colleague R.B. Foster in 1915. It is a thorough, knowledgable account of the subject, based around patent applications, but expressed in an engaging and sometimes philosophical style which makes it a pleasure to read today. It still used as a standard reference source. The 1915 revision is available for downloading in DjVu (16MB), PDF (45MB) and TXT (570KB) formats.

Hugon, P.D. Hints to Newsfilm Cameraman

Jersey City: Pathé, 1915
Source: British Universities Film & Video Council

P.D. Hugon was managing editor of the American newsreel Pathé News. His text is a common-sense guide to filming the news, just as newsreels were emerging as a standard feature of every cinema programme. His notes cover what to film and how to film it. He discusses what makes pictorial news, which is a different concept to textual news (”The object of motion pictures is to show motion. Only things in which there is motion are worthy of the cameraman’s attention”). He identifies suitable subjects, and emphasises that pictures should always tell their own story. Hints to Newsfilm Cameramen can be found on the British Universities Newsreel Database website, with an introduction and afterword by historian Nicholas Hiley (the afterword discusses how much Hugon’s hints represent reality or an ideal).

Jones, Bernard C., The Cinematograph Book: a complete practical guide to the taking and projecting of cinematograph pictures

London: Cassell, 1915 (1916 reprint)
Source: Internet Archive

This is one of the classic guides to the practicalities of motion pictures in the silent era. It aimed at clarity with usefulness, and achieved it. The chapters cover the history of the ‘invention’ motion pictures, the operation of a camera and projection equipment, developing and printing films, cinema screens, what to do in case of fire, cleaning and preparing films, producing trick films, and making films for the home. It also has a special section on natural colour cinematograph pictures, focussing on Kinemacolor. Finally there is a guide to the relevant acts and regulations (as they related to the UK). It’s available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (5.6MB), PDF (18MB) and TXT (330KB) formats).

Kinematograph Year Book Program Diary and Directory 1914

London: Kinematograph & Lantern Weekly, 1914
Source: BFI National Library

The Kine Year Book was one of two British film trade annuals established before the First World War, the other being the Bioscope Annual and Trades Directory, first published in 1910. The Kine Year Book was established in 1914 and is an invaluable directory of the British film business, listing practically every producer, distributor, equipment manufacturer, cinema, representative body and much more, in the country. This volume covers the British film business for the year 1913 and includes a detailed account of the year’s activity in British film. Available in PDF format (30MB).

Knowlton, Daniel C. and J. Warren Tilton, Motion Pictures in History Teaching: A Study of the Chronicles of America Photoplays as a Aid in Seventh Grade Instruction

Yale University Press, 1929
Source: Internet Archive

The Chronicles of America was a 1923-24 series of educational film series produced by Yale University Press. The series included such earnest and traditionalist titles as Jamestown, Yorktown, Daniel Boone and The Declaration of Independence. These three-reeler dramas were relatively lavishly produced, helping to pay their way by getting theatrical screenings. But their target audience was in the classrooms of America, and this study of the series examines its pedagogical value. It looks at how the series contributed to ‘the learning of fundamentals’, and the degree to which they contributed to enrichment, retention and creation of interest’, through a meticulous system of testing groups. The painstaking methodology is as fascinating as the underlying assumptions of the films’ photo-historical validity. It is also handsomely illustrated with stills from the films. It’s available from the Internet Archive in PDF (48MB), DjVu (5.4MB) and TXT (326KB) formats.

Krows, Arthur Edwin, Motion Pictures – Not for Theaters

The Educational Screen, September 1938-June 1944
Source: Internet Archive

The Prelinger Archives is putting up a 1922-1962 run of the journal The Educational Screen on the Internet Achive. The particular importance of this is that between September 1938 (vol. 17) and June 1944 The Educational Screen published Arthur Edwin Krows’ vast history of the non-theatrical film, Motion Pictures – Not for Theaters. It was published one chapter at a time, issue by issue, though it was never completed. It would probably never have found a publisher as a book, being of such length, rambling in style, and specialised in theme, but it is a fabulous store of information on filmmakers, films and film businesses working to make films that instructed, advertised, propagandised or educated, which simply cannot be found anywhere else. Sometimes the history is dubious, or too bound up with anecdote, and relevant information on people is often scattered across the chapters (the word-searchable text files supplied on the Internet Archive is a huge help). Nevertheless it is a marvellous source when used with discretion, and invaluable for the study of the non-theatrical and educational film in the silent era. The individual volumes can be downloaded in DjVu, PDF and TXT formats.

Lang, Edith and George West, Musical Accompaniment of Moving Pictures

Boston: The Boston Music Company, 1920
Source: Internet Archive

This is a guide for pianists and organists in the silent era, with plenty of musical detail (‘Musical Characterisation’, ‘Transition and Modulation’, ‘Improvisation’) and practical advice (“The player will do well, first of all, to ‘size up’ his audience”), with repertoire suggestions. It is also wide-ranging in the kinds of films it advises on – not only feature films, but animation, slapstick comedies, newsreels, travelogues and even educational films. There is particular discussion, with music cue sheet, of the Maurice Tourneur five-reel film Rose of the World (1918). The book gives special attention to the theatrical organ. It’s available from the Internet Archive in PDF (27MB), DjVu (2.6MB) and TXT (139KB) formats.

Lashley, Karl S. and John B. Watson, A psychological study of motion pictures in relation to venereal disease campaigns

Washington: United States Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board, 1922
Source: Internet Archive

In 1919 the United States Interpartmental Social Hygiene Board awarded a grant of $6,000 to the Psychological Laboratory of John Hopkins University for the purpose of “investigating the informational and educative effect upon the public of certain motion-picture films used in various campaigns for the control, repression, and elimination of venereal diseases.” Psychologists Lashley and Watson headed the research and produced the report. It uses the example of the US Public Health Service film Fit to Win to examine the informational and emotional effectiveness of the film to a range of audiences. The study is described in useful detail, if the results themselves are inconclusive. Available in PDF (2.46MB), full text (209KB) and DjVu (1.49MB) formats.

Lescarboura, Austin C., Behind the Motion-Picture Screen

New York: Scientific America/Munn and Company, 1921
Source: Internet Archive

This a voluminous history and guide to the production of motion pictures. As the subtitle puts it, its covers ‘how the scenario writer, director, cameraman, scene painter and carpenter, laboratory man, art director, property man, electrician, projector operator and others contribute their share of work toward the realization of the wonderful photoplays of today; and how the motion picture is rapidly extending into many fields aside from that of entertainment’. With some rather fanciful chapter titles it cover the work of the director (‘The Artist Who Paints the Film Subjects’), producer (‘The Generals of Shadowland’), actors, cinematographers, screenplays, camera technology, special effects, newsfilming, scientific cinema, animation, colour, and and a prescient chapter on the coming of sound. It is also richly illustrated with photographs of the various stages of the production process. It’s available in DjVu (24MB), PDF (62MB), b/w PDF (39MB) and TXT (529KB) formats.

Lindsay, Vachel, The Art of the Moving Picture

New York: Macmillan, 1915 [1922 revision]
Source: Project Gutenberg

The American poet Vachel Lindsay (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).

Lynd, Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture

Orlando: Harcourt, Crace & Co., 1929
Source: Internet Archive

Middletown is a classic sociological study, published in 1929 (with a sequel, Middletown in Transition, published in 1937). ‘Middletown’ was the name the Lynds gave to an archetypal small American city, which could be looked upon as a model example by which to examine sociological trends. The city chosen was Muncie, Indiana, population 38,000 at the time of the study, which began in 1924 and looked at changes undergone in this small Midwestern city between 1890 and 1925. Middletown was instantly recognised as a classic study, and it has enjoyed enduring influence and popularity down to the present day. The Lynds studied Middletown under six main social activies: Getting a living, Making a home, Training the young, Using leisure in various forms of play, art, and so on, Engaging in religious practices, Engaging in community activities. In the area of leisure time, their main thesis was that time for leisure had increased, but that much of this new leisure time was spent on ‘passive’ recreations, such as the cinema. The evidence presented on the place of cinema in America in the mid-1920s, though it only fills a few pages, is rich in interest and meticulously-researched detail. It is available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (30MB), PDF (33MB) and TXT (1.3MB) formats.

McClung, Hugh C., Camera Knowledge for The Photoplaywright

Los Angeles: Palmer Photoplay Corporation, 1920
Source: Internet Archive

This pamphlet offers a simple guide to the technology and practice of cinematograph for the would-be writer of screenplays. McClung was a cinematographer himself, with Gaston Méliès, Willian Fox, Triangle, Douglas Fairbanks and Famous Players-Lasky. The chief intent of the booklet is to make writers “think in pictures,” and in between the general pleas for appreciation of the hard work that went behind the making of pictures, there are some interesting anecdotes which bring to life the practicalities of the business. Available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (604KB), PDF (2.2MB) and TXT (37KB) formats.

Malins, Lieut. Geoffrey H., How I Filmed the War: A record of the extraordinary experiences of the man who filmed the great Somme battles etc.

London: Herbert Jenkins, 1920
Source: Internet Archive

Geoffrey Malins was one of two British Official cameramen who filmed the Battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916 (the other was J.B. McDowell). The film that they shot was considered so outstanding that it was compiled into a feature length documentary (earlier Official war films had been much shorter), entitled The Battle of The Somme. It was first shown in London in October 1916 and was unquestionably a sensation. It is estimated that half the British population saw its unprecedented scenes of life for British troops on the Western front, with scenes of battle, troops going over the top, and the wounded. Malins’ book is vainglorious but rich in detail, a unique document of the making of what Nicholas Hiley has called the most socially significant British film of the twentieth century. It’s available from the Internet Archive in PDF (24MB), DjVu (6MB) or TXT (532KB) formats.

Marey, Etienne-Jules, Animal Mechanism

New York: D. Appleton, 1879
Source: Internet Archive

Etienne-Jules Marey’s La machine animale was first published in 1873, and in English as Animal Mechanism in 1874. This was the published expression of Marey’s ‘methode graphique’, where, by a variety of graphical devices devised for the measurement of animal motion, Marey was able to demonstrate diagrammatically the walking motion of humans and horses, and the the flight of birds and insects. By this publication, Marey opened up a world of study not previously imagined, and inspired Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Stanford to undertake their investigations, photographing the horse in motion. Marey did not use photography for Animal Mechanism, but, inspired in turn by Muybridge’s work, would go on to experiment extensively with sequence photographs, developing the science of chronophotography, and through it the mechanism for cinematography. The Internet Archive has both the 1879 American edition, in DjVu (9.9MB), PDF (20MB), b/w PDF (12MB) and TXT (582KB) formats, and the English third edition (not so well scanned), in DjVu only (33MB).

Matthews, Brander, The Kinetoscope of Time

New York: Scribner’s Magazine, December 1895
Source: Cornell University Library

James Brander Matthews was Professor of Literature at Columbia University, subsequently America’s first professor of drama. His short story ‘The Kinetoscope of Time’ takes the form of a Gothic horror story in which the narrator sees visions of events real and imaginary from the past through devices akin to the Edison Kinetoscope peepshow. It shows remarkable prescience in describing the nature of the cinematic experience and the Kinetoscope’s mysterious relationship with time. It is available in a collection, Tales of Fantasy and Fact, from the Internet Archive in PDF (17MB), b/w PDF (6.2MB), full text (219KB) and DjVu (5.2MB) formats. It is available as a single story from Cornell University Library, which reproduces the look of the individual pages from the Scribner’s Magazine original.

Mayne, Judith, Kino and the woman question: feminism and Soviet silent film

Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1989:
Source: Knowledge Bank

This is a study of Soviet silent films in terms of their understanding of the position of women within socialist culture. The argument is made that the representation of women in such films subverted their ostensibly straightforward ideological and cinematic goals. The films given particular analysis are Strike, Mother, Fragments of an Empire, Bed and Sofa and Man with a Movie Camera. It is available as a downloadable and word-searchable PDF (22.5MB).

Motion Pictures 1912-1939

Washington: Library of Congress, 1951
Source: Internet Archive

Rick Prelinger, of the Prelinger Archive, has made the Library of Congress Motion Picture Catalogs available for download from The Internet Archive. Five volumes have been put up, covering 1894 to 1969. This includes all 1,256 pages of the 1912-1939 volume, which is sensational news for anyone interested in the study of silent film. The Library of Congress Catalogs of Copyright Entries list all motion pictures registered for copyright in the USA (i.e. films not just made in the USA but shown in the USA). The entries give title, year, company, length, date of registration, and sometimes some credits. The printed volumes have long been the first port of call for anyone seriously engaged in identifying films from the silent period, but they have been restricted to a handful of research libraries. Suddenly they are available to all. The PDF is a huge size (157MB), but there is a 9MB text file of the word-searchable uncorrected OCR.

The 1894-1912 volume is also available, in DjVu (4.9MB), PDF (12MB), b/w PDF (5.8MB) and TXT (621KB) formats).

Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual 1921
New York: Motion Picture News, 1921
Source: Internet Archive

An extnsive (422 pages) and hugely useful directory of the Amerian motion picture business, with biographical information for actors, directors, producers, scenario writers, editors, executives and more. It is also handsomely illustrated with photographs of famous names and those who are famous no more. Available as PDF (81MB), DjVu, Kindle an full text forms.

Münsterberg, Hugo, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study

New York/London: D. Appleton & Co., 1916
Source: Project Gutenberg

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).

Musser, Charles, Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991
Source: California Digital Library

Charles Musser’s biography of Edwin S. Porter is very much more than a biography. He places the story of the Edison filmmaker, producer of The Great Train Robbery and Life of an American Fireman, within the context of film production and exhibition at the end of nineteenth century and into the twentieth, and within broader socio-cultural contexts. The result is a rich, multilayered account of the birth of American film with Porter as the key with which to unlock the history. This modern classic has been hugely influential on modern early film studies. It is also handsomely illustrated and very readable. It is freely available as chapterised web pages, complete with illustrations, notes and hyperlinked index, from the California Digitial Library’s e-Scholarship Editions.

Pearson, Roberta E. , Eloquent Gestures: The Transformation of Performance Style in the Griffith Biograph Films

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992
Source: eScholarship Editions

The book’s subject is the changes in the style of the actors’ performances in the films of D.W. Griffith, particularly between 1909 and 1912. It traces in meticulous detail the transformation from an acting style inherited from the stage meodramas of an earlier era, to a nuanced style that benefitted from ‘realist’ developments in literature and theatre. In doing so it illuminates understanding not just of Biograph films, but of any cultural artefact from any period which we may be tempted to interpret from our personal aesthetic experience but which needs to be seen, first and foremost, as the product of its own times. Available in HTML ebook form (with extensive hyperlinking and attention to the needs of scholars and readers).

Phelan, J.J., Motion Pictures as a Phase of Commercialized Amusement in Toledo, Ohio

Toledo: Little Book Press, 1919
Source: Internet Archive

This is another example of a social survey driven by moral concerns rather than social science itself. But what makes the study valuable is that Phelan backs it up with empirical data. Using Toledo as his subject, Phelan tells the number, type, size, location, ownership and function of the different cinemas in his town. We learn of their value, the rental fees charge, and the cost of machinery, fabric, employees, musicians, advertising, lighting and heating. He supplies figures on the composition of audiences, prices of admission, and the construction of cinema programmes. We learn what it cost to invest in the cinema business, the operating expenses and the revenue. The substantial appendices include a valuable bibliography; examples of relevant legislation; and a list of all Ohio cinemas with owners, managers, seating, location and number of employees. It’s available in PDF (3.3MB), full text (376KB), DjVu (4.4MB) and HTML (50KB) formats.

Philip, Alex J., Cinematograph Films: Their National Value and Preservation

London: Stanley Paul & Co., 1912
Source: Internet Archive

This booklet is a call for the preservation of films as historical records. It argues the necessity of making visual records of our time for the benefit of future generations, not just of major historic events but of the arts, crafts and customs of the nation which one day must pass. After giving a short history of the development of the cinema, Philip makes practical proposals for a National Cinematographic Library. He considers selection, preservation, film handling, classification, and cost. Philip was a librarian, and his arguments are generally that looking after films will be little different to looking after books. There is no mention of the fire hazard presented by nitrate film. He also proposes matching motion picture records to sound recordings, with particular reference to a Voice Museum established at the Paris Opéra in 1907.

Pirandello, Luigi, Shoot! (si gira)

London: Chatto & Windus, 1927 [orig. 1915]
Source: Project Gutenberg Australia

This is one of the first – if not the first – novels to tackle the subject of film (it was preceded by numerous short stories on the theme). Luigi Pirandello’s Si gira was published under that title in 1915 and in 1925 as Quaderni di Serafino Gubbio operatore (The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator). Serafino Gubbio is a cinematographer operator working the Kosmograph studio by day, and writing his absurdist journal by night, as he describes the world that appears before his camera. Pirandello doesn’t attack the cinematograph so much for its own sake as to use it as a means to broaden his target to include all that is dehumanizing. The book is freely available in HTML format from Project Gutenberg Australia in its 1926 English translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.

Rathbun, John C., Motion Picture Making and Exhibiting: A comprehensive volume treating the principles of motography; the making of motion pictures; the scenario; the motion picture theater; the projector; the conduct of film exhibiting; methods of coloring films; talking pictures, etc.

Chicago: Charles C. Thompson, 1914
Source: Internet Archive

This is yet another of those all-purpose guides to the new industry of motion pictures, a blend of potted history, social history, technical explanation and marvelment at the rise of this extraordinary business and the huge sums that it was starting to earn. As indicated by its subtitle, Rathbun’s book takes us through the principles, production processes and exhibition of motion pictures up to 1914. It is rather muddled in the guidelines it provides, as it is unsure at what level or precisely to whom it is directing its advice. However for us now it has plenty of handy information on how the industry was perceived and some useful data and social observations relating to the exhibition sector. Available in PDF (3.82MB), Full text (462KB), DjVu (4.09MB) and Kindle (beta) formats.

Richie, Donald, Japanese Cinema: Film Style and National Character

New York: Anchor Press, 1971
Source: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan

Richie’s classic study of Japanese cinema history provides a clear, cogent and thorough account of Japanese cinema in its silent era, which of course extended for longer than silents in the West, as Japanese films continued to be silent well into the 1930s. The book covers the arrival of the film in Japan in 1896; the first native entrepreneur showmen and producers; the rise of distinctive national cinema traits, notably the benshi narrators who elevated the presentation of film to a high art; and emerging artistry of filmmakers working in genres such as the samurai historical dramas. Richie excels at binding together the medium with the nation that produced it and in delineating trends in the art of the film. The parallels drawn between Japanese cinema and contemporary achievements in Western art cinema perhaps show their age, but overall the opening section of this book is a fine way for anyone to begin their discovery of silent Japanese film. Japanese Cinema is available as downloadable PDF or as individual page images.

Rogers, Gustavus A., The Law of the Motion Picture Industry

New York: 1916
Source: Internet Archive

This is the text of a lecture given by a New York lawyer to the College of the City of New York on 28 November 1916. The legal side of early film may not seem to have that much appeal, but it is a crucial subject to grasp. Laws existing and laws which had to be devised for the purpose not only governed but helped define the new medium. Gustavus A. Rogers proves to be a helpful guide, with a clear-sighted view of his subject and much case law that he is able to cite as milestones in the development of cinema as a social entity. There is a particularly helpful section on patent law and the formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company, which sought to restrict trade to those businesses which recognised Edison’s film patents. Out of this history Rogers draws some fascinating and helpful definitions of what motion pictures actually were (in law), what the technology was there to achieve, and how a motion picture production was to be defined. There is useful discussion of trade marks, copyright law, censorship (with comparisons of the state of things in America, Britain and France), Sunday legislation, and an overview of the laws regarding motion pictures in various European countries. It’s available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (1.6MB), PDF (5MB), b/w PDF (1.5MB) and TXT (122KB) formats.

Saunders, Thomas J., Hollywood in Berlin: American Cinema and Weimar Germany

Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1994
Source: California Digital Library

Thomas J. Saunders’ study looks at the American film in Germany during the Weimar period. German films of the 1920s have been much championed and studied, in part as alternatives to American films of the period, but the focus here is on the considerable impact American comedies, serials, society dramas and historical epics had in Germany, and the debates they occasioned on the influence of cinema and the perils of Americanisation. The books looks at cultural and economic relations between Germany and America in 1920s, through the prism of popular cinema. The book has been published online in chapterised, web form as one of University of California Press’s eScholarship Editions, a welcome initiative to make sample scholarly text freely available online to demonstrate its range of publications.

Seldes, Gilbert, The Seven Lively Arts

New York: Harper & Brothers, 1924
Source: American Studies at the University of Virginia

Gilbert Seldes was one the pioneering champions of the popular arts in the age of mass media. His made his name, and established his life-long theme, with The Seven Lively Arts. The seven are the movies, musical comedy, vaudeville, radio, comic strips, popular music and dance. He devotes much attention to slapstick film, particularly Chaplin before The Kid, contrasting the cinematic nature of Keystone comedies with the aspirations towards art through emulation of other art forms demonstrated by D.W. Griffith and others. Available as web text.

Stillman, J.D.B, The Horse in Motion: as shown by instantaneous photography

Boston: James R. Osgood, 1882
Source: Internet Archive

The true author of this work should not have been J.D.B. Stillman, but the rather better-known Eadweard Muybridge. The book, commissioned by Muybridge’s patron, the railroad baron Leland Stanford, was based on Muybridge’s now famous photographic studies of a horse galloping. But master and reluctant servant had fallen out, and the book was published under Stillman’s name, giving Muybridge negligible credit. The book contains detailed description of the studies into the motion of the horse (and other quadrupeds), with five of Muybridge’s photographs and ninety-one lithographs based on his photographs, plus line drawings. The book’s publication caused considerable embarrassment to Muybridge at the time, as his contribution to the scientific studies was now questioned by several authorities, but it is an important publication nonetheless in the history which took us from sequence photography (or chronophotography) to the successful creation of cinema. It’s available from the Internet Archive in DjVU (6MB), PDF (67MB) and TXT (279KB) formats.

Talbot, F.A.,Moving Pictures: How They are Made and Worked

Philaphelphia/London: J.B. Lippincott/William Heinemann, 1914 [orig. 1912]
Source: Internet Archive

Frederick A. Talbot was a British writer of popular works on science and engineering subjects, with a special interest in motion pictures. “A vast industry has been established”, he writes, “of which the great majority of picture-palace patrons have no idea, and he moment appears timely to describe the many branches of the art”. Talbot’s focus is on technology and industry, rather than art or entertainment, and his chief interest is in the motion picture as a medium of discovery. But unlike the many dry works which explain the mechanics for the benefit of the technician, Talbot’s book bubbles over with enthusiasm. Some of his judgements need to be challenged, but his keen eye and thorough research (including contact with many of the leading figures in the industry) have kept the book fresh and valuable to this day. It is easy to read, and a easy source for good quotations. Available in Flip Book (25MB), PDF (6.9. MB), full text (702KB) and DjVu (8MB) formats).

Talbot, F.A., Practical Cinematography and its Applications

London: W. Heinemann, 1913
Source: Internet Archive

Practical Cinematography and its Applications was written by F.A. Talbot, who wrote various popular science guides, including the much-cited Moving Pictures: How They Are Made and Worked (1912). This plain person’s guide to the practical aspects of cinematography covers operating the camea, film development, scientific applications of cinematography, military uses, education films and (rather oddly) how to write screenplays. Odd, because Talbot’s concern is oyherwise about the motion picture as a tool of discovery, not entertainment. There is also an intriguing call for national cinematograph laboratories. It’s available for free download in DjVu (9.6MB), PDF (29MB) and TXT (357KB) formats.

Thompson, Kristin, Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market, 1907-1934

London: British Film Institute, 1985

Exporting Entertainment is a key text. Its subject is mechanics of the early Hollywood film industry and how it gained world dominance from the First World War inwards. Thompson looks at such previously overlooked data as import and export records, industrial data and market reports – data which had scarcely been considered the stuff of film history before then, but which turned out to be essential in understanding the intracacies of production, distribution and exhibition on a worldwide scale. The detailed information underpins an understanding of why, as the book’s blurb puts it, “Hollywood has become practically synonymous with cinema”. Available in PDF format (87MB), not word-searchable.

Trutat, Eugène, La photographie animée

Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1899
Source: Internet Archive

This is a survey of moving image technologies up to 1899, with a particular emphasis on French machines. It covers Muybridge, Marey, Londe, Janssen, multiple-lens cameras, and the mechanics of the film devices of Edison, Demeny, de Bedts, Lumière and Joly, along with many minor names and technologies now mostly forgotten. There is practical advice on the production and presentation of films, finishing with a handy list of French patents. An invaluable text for the specialist and a fine resource for the iconography of late nineteenth-century motion pictures. Available in PDF (4.4MB), Full Text (286KB) and DjVu (3.7MB) formats, along with others.

West, Alfred J., A Synopsis of the Life-work of Alfred West

Portsmouth: Wessex Press, 1912
Source: Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Alfred West (1857-1937) was the man behind ‘Our Navy’ and ‘Our Army’, hugely popular multi-media shows comprising films, photographs, songs and dramas. West was active as a filmmaker from 1897-1912, based at Southsea, Hampshire, UK. His patriotic, militaristic and sentimental shows were popular across Britain and the Empire, and for many who came to see the shows they were their first experience of motion pictures. This text is a catalogue of his entire film output. It is available in PDF format (5.2MB), with a word-searchable transcription (178KB).

Young, Donald, Motion Pictures: A Study in Social Legislation

Philadelphia: Westbrook Publishing, 1922
Source: Internet Archive

Young’s subject is the influence of motion pictures upon the American people, particularly children. As a piece of supposedly scientific social investigation it is remarkably partisan. It takes as read reports conducted by various groups with an interest in the morals of society which found motion pictures to be generally pernicious in their effects, and comes down on the side of legalised state censorship (by 1922 eight American states had instituted film censorship laws). This is therefore not the social study that it claims to be, but rather an expression of fear. The value of the text is firstly the period attitudes that it demonstrates, with the evidence that it calls on to support this. Secondly, it provides a rich picture of the various forms of municipal and state regulation that existed, their operations and aspirations. Thirdly, there are the several appendices with useful background information. It is available in DjVu (3.1MB), PDF (9.4MB), b/w PDF (3.4MB) and TXT (232KB) formats.

19 responses

  1. Maybe others are having the same problem that I am experiencing. I want to download some of the texts listed in the Library (eg. the Malins) and would prefer to save as Djvu as the file sizes are smaller than PDF. The file will open in a firefox/Djvu window with navigation icons, etc, but there is no icon to save the document to disc (as the ‘help’ file claims there should be). I have tried downloading several programmes from Lizardtech but nothing helps. Any advice?

  2. On the page, click on the FTP option. The URLs of the various versions of the document appear. Right click on the DjVu option and choose Save As (Firefox doesn’t offer a Save As option, so use Internet Explorer), and it’ll download to your hard disk. You’ll then need to download a DjVu viewer, which you can get from LizardTech. And then you’ll be able to view it offline. Just tried it and it works.

  3. That does indeed work. Thank you very much. I just hadn’t thought to click on ‘FTP’. I also found that it can work with Firefox too if you have already downloaded the DJVU software. The secret is clicking on ftp first. This is what you do for Firefox: After clicking on FTP, a list of the various types of files for that particular book come up, and you click on the one you want – in this case the one with extension .djvu. Then the djvu window opens in Firefox, but (unlike if you hadn’t clicked ftp, but instead clicked one of the other document types in the Internet Archive window) now the djvu window has a ‘Save’ icon. So you click that. Then a query comes up asking if you want to save as ‘bundled’ or ‘indirect’ (I go for ‘bundled’ — hey, that’s the kind of chap I am). Then it asks where you want to save the document. Find the folder you want on your hard-drive, click ‘save’ and then just wait. Here in the wilds of Asia things are slow and a 5 MD download took about 7 minutes. Over there where most of you live I guess it would be nearer a minute. And our esteemed Mr Bioscopic in central London can probably download that much in the time is takes to say ‘Charles Urban Trading Company’. Thanks again, Mr B.

  4. A couple of small additions to the above. I’d slightly retract what I wrote in that the download does seem to work better with Explorer rather than Firefox, and it seems to ‘kick off’ any download manager that you have loaded, such as Free Download Manager, which makes the process faster. I’ve also found a viewer online, the so-called WinDjviewer, which is a remarkavbly small download, but which offers some significant advantages over the Lizardtech viewer. It offers more control over printing and copying and even lets you highlight text. It’s at:

  5. Dear Sir/Madam ,
    I was wonder if you could give me more information on Thomas James Gobbett as he was my grandfather. Also my father had the same name, his brothers were also involved in film making .
    Regards Dawn Morris .

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  7. May I humbly submit to this wonderful library that the Bioscope offers to the world the contents of the Will Day collection from La Cinémathèque Française ? The collection is described here :
    and it includes fully accessible (PDF format exclusively) digital copies of books on cinema and mostly pre-cinema, ranging from the 16th century (yes, you read that right) to a collection of articles on “Le Cinéma” by Clair, Moussinac, Sadoul, Renoir…published in 1938. Interesting ?

  8. Dear Sir,
    I am still looking for information on the Gobbett Name in early filmaking also for David Gobbett for both places in England & America during the early 1900 s .

  9. Dear Sir
    Was there any outcome to finding the Gobbett brothers?
    Thomas James 1882 to 1915 and R.F.
    As I am researching their Precision Film Company and would welcome any info or links.

  10. I have been contacted by a couple of Gobbett descendants, to whom I have responded away from the blog. However, here’s the basic information I have on them.

    The brothers Thomas and David Gobbett were involved in the film industry in Britain in the early years of the 20th century. The 1901 census gives David (then aged 16) and Thomas (19). The rest of the family is father David W. (46), mother Annie (44) and other children Alice (4), Ann (18 months), Ellen (7) and Lizzie (10). They lived in London. There may have been a third brother, as there is reference to an R.F. Gobbett who managed a small film company, Cunard Films, in 1914-15. Thomas and David ran the Precision Film Company, whose few surviving films are held by the BFI National Archive. They are:

    WHEN MAMMA’S OUT (1909)

    The company’s studio was located in Whipp’s Cross, Walthamstow, outer London. According to Rachael Low’s The History of the British Film 1906-1914 the studio “was in fact the first of the specially designed studios to be built with glass-covered stages on the first floor and workshops underneath”. T.J. Gobbett seems also have had some business association with Brighton. David Gobbett was a cameraman, and he is known to have worked with the famous naturalist and filmmaker Cherry Kearton on LASSOOING WILD ANIMALS IN AFRICA (1911), which is also held by the BFI. After this he moved to America and worked as cinematographer on a number of feature films before returning to Britain and working on feature films in the late 20s/early 30s. His credits can be found on the Internet Movie Database. T.J. is reported to have died on 29 November 1915.

  11. Thank you urbanora for your reply
    I have R.F. Gobbett his brother as a co-owner of Precision Film Company, but nothing about David.
    I have seen mention of a Billie Williams, Sr. (1895-1966)who began his career in films in 1910 as
    apprentice to Walter Gobbett? at his Precision studio. Does anybody have any further info?

    Could I also ask if there is any information on the following cinematographers (mentioned by Jim Wilde in his excellent article on the web)- At Broadwest Films: ALFONSO G.FRENGUELLI, BENEDICT JAMES (who I only have adapting film scripts)GUSTAV PAULI and JAMES WILSON, BSC. At British & Colonial: WALTER W. BLAKELY.and ISADORE ROSEMAN, BSC.
    I am researching the film studios in my area of Walthamstow, East London and would appreciate any info on these people and the film companies/studios.

  12. Ah, Jim Wilde. Time was when I was at the BFI I would get daily phone calls from Jim (generally around 10.15) asking for information on cinematographers. Never used the BFI Library, just phoned me. Every day, without fail. I can smile about it now.

    You’ll find information on Roseman and Williams at the BUFVC newsreel database, here: and here

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  14. More interest – “I was born on the third of June 1929 in Walthamstow, it’s just north of London. My mother was the fifth of eight children. Her father was a… a tailor and she was well educated, a very loving and caring person and she provided a very secure emotional background during my childhood; it was a very happy childhood. My father was the youngest of 13 children and his father was a blacksmith and groom, a cab driver and also a bare-knuckle fighter. And… my father, when he was 15 in 1910, went to work in a film studio in Walthamstow, owned by some brothers: Gobbett; I think it was Walter and either James or Thomas Gobbett, and he started as a… an apprentice to these two brothers who were cinematographers, and the studio in those days had glass walls and they used a… a day light, which was softened by silk curtains and supplemented by arc lights of various kinds. And so he served an apprenticeship with these brothers where you — as a young cameraman — you… you had to learn how to do everything, which was perforating the film stock, loading the camera, exposing a film on the set, shooting the scene, developing the picture on site and then running the projector in the evenings perhaps at the local cinema, so that one learnt a great deal of different jobs in this apprenticeship. Then in the First World War he went into the navy as a… initially as an electrical wireman and he was on a ship called The Repulse; he was never in battle but in 1919 he filmed the surrender of the German fleet at Scapa Flow, which was a great historic occasion, and I remember watching a programme on television, it was one of those monitor programmes some years ago. It was called Scapa Flow, it was the history of the naval base, and there were all these enormous German ships coming in — in formation — to surrender to the British and I got a tremendous thrill to think that my father had shot that material, because there weren’t very many cine… cinematographers about in those days. And, of course, the German surrendered at Scapa Flow and then, whilst at anchor, they all scuttled, but, of course, that wasn’t filmed because nobody knew it was going to happen.”

  15. All of this Gobbett business is getting a bit silly, particularly when added as comments to what is the Library page of this blog. I think will be removing them shortly, sorry.

  16. Many apologies if the remarks are not appropriate here, but there seemed to be interest in them and their studio etc.