JSTOR opens up

Promo video for JSTOR’s Early Journal Content

Anyone who has gone searching for scholarly articles on the web will be aware of JSTOR. Type in just about any journal name, or look up any research subject, and sure enough there will be a link to an article held by this giantic American digital library. And if you do not belong to an institution that subscribes to JSTOR, you then end up banging your head against the desk because you, as an ‘unaffiliated scholar’, are not permiited access. So near and yet so far.

Well, in the continuing spirit of web altriusm (see yesterday’s post on Project Gutenberg) JSTOR has announced that it is going to make all of its journal content published prior to 1923 in the United States (the date before which all works published in the USA are held to be in the public domain) and prior to 1870 elsewhere in the world (a reasonable assumption based on the calculation of 70 years after the death of the author for a creative work in European law) freely available to anyone, anywhere. This represents 500,000 articles from 220 journals, or around 6% of the entire JSTOR collection.

JSTOR has not converted all of these journals to free access yet, but gradually the Early Journal Content offering will expand, with records marked by a green icon with the message “You have access to this content” and a box that states ‘free’. To search across the freely-available content, JSTOR provides an advance search page already set up for you, here. I’ve added this to Resources in the Bioscope’s right-hand column of links.

You can browse a full listing of JSTOR’s 2,270 journals (so far) here or browse by discipline here. Of course, they didn’t have anything called ‘film studies’ prior to 1923, so it will require some lateral searching, but to give an indication of the possibilities, I typed in our regular test search term ‘kinetoscope’ on JSTOR’s simple search page. There are 436 hits, but if I then click on “only content I can access” I get 47 open access records. The first five, eaching containing a mention of the word ‘kinetoscope’ somewhere in the text, are:

  • Chas. S. Slichter, ‘The Mechanics of Slow Motions’, Science, New Series, Vol. 11, No. 275 (Apr. 6, 1900), pp. 535-536
  • George Parsons Lathrop,’Stage Scenery and the Vitascope’, The North American Review, Vol. 163, No. 478 (Sep., 1896), pp. 377-381
  • G.A. Miller, ‘A Popular Account of Some New Fields of Thought in Mathematics’, Science, New Series, Vol. 11, No. 275 (Apr. 6, 1900), pp. 528-535
  • Henry Alfred Todd, ‘A Card Catalogue of Scientific Literature’, Science, New Series, Vol. 1, No. 11 (Mar. 15, 1895), pp. 297-299
  • Theodore Purdy, Reginald Cleveland Coxe,’The Wildness of the Waves’, The Monthly Illustrator, Vol. 5, No. 16 (Aug., 1895), pp. 183-186

A similar search strategy for ‘cinematograph’ yields 152 results, for ‘kinematograph’ 63 results, and for ‘bioscope’ 12.

It should be pointed out that JSTOR does have some free content from contemporary journals. For instance, in searching under ‘cinematograph’ I found an essay by Hannah Landecker, ‘Microcinematography and the History of Science and Film’, Isis, Vol. 97, No. 1 (March 2006), pp. 121-132. If you adjust the ‘sort by’ option to ‘newest to oldest’ you will get these occasional free modern articles appear at the top of your list of hits. You can also narrow down results to articles containing images, though do note that your average scholarly journal in the pre-1923 era didn’t go in for illustrations all that much.

All in all, this is a huge boon for the independent researcher, whether they be looking for silent film themes or any other topic of passing interest. Go explore.

Kinema online

Advertisement for the Gaumont serial Les Vampires, from an edition of Kinema in 1916

Could it be that there is starting to be a bit of international competition in the digitising early film journals stakes? It would be wonderful if this were so, and maybe the appearance of the journals around the world that we are trying to document is in part encouraging other such initatives. Already we have excellent representation for Italy, France, the USA and Brazil, with isolated examples for countries such as Austria, Germany, Sweden and the UK. Now we can add Switzerland to their number.

The Institute of Cinema Studies at the University of Zurich has recently completed a project to digitise 324 issues of the Swiss film trade journal Kinema, dating 1913-1919 (with some gaps). The journal was Switzerland’s first film journal, founded in 1911 (the first two years have not been digitised as yet as many issues from this period are missing), written in German though with some articles in French. It covers the small amount of native film production that took place in Switzerland this time, but also covers films from many other countries which were exhibited in Swiss cinemas. So, for anyone with an interesting in early cinema this is an important new resource.

Using the Kinema website is easy. Click on the ‘Blättern’ link and you will be taken to the relevant section of the retro.seals.ch online project, of which this digitisation forms but a part. Instructions are in English. You can search across the entire digitised set, of else selected a volume or year, then narrow this down to issue level, which takes you to individual pages which you can browse through or see in enlarger form with a zoom viewer. Complete issues can be downloaded as PDFs (rather large – a typical issue comes to over 100MB, but they are word-capturable, so it is possible for non-German or French reader to copy and paste text into Google Translate to get at least an approximate sense of what is being said). It is possible to download individual pages as PDFS as well.

Advertisement for Burlingham Films, from Kinema in 1917

You can also search for a word within a single issue. Searching on various terms brought up 168 hits for ‘Chaplin’, 371 for ‘cinematograph’, 12 for ‘Vitagraph’, 30 for ‘burlingham’ (Frederick Burlingham was a mountaineering filmmaker who made a number of films in Switzerland), 7 for ‘bioscope’ and 3 for ‘Kinemacolor’ (the searches appear to be across the entire retro.seals.ch database – I haven’t worked out how to search within the one journal title, as opposed to browsing through it). The journal is heavy on the Gothic text for the earlier issues, but later isues have more illustrations, particularly among the many advertisements.

This looks like a model digitisation. I am grateful to Dr. Wolfgang Fuhrmann of the University of Zurich for bringing the site to my attention. He invites anyone interested to get in touch with him at wolfgang.fuhrmann [at] fiwi.uzh.ch or else Adrian Gerber, who was the supervisior of this particular project, adrian.gerber [at] fiwi.uzh.ch. They are particularly keen to hear from collectors who may be able to contribute otherwise lost copies, so that they can make the digitised run complete. They note in particular the contribution to the project of the great German early film filmographer Herbert Birett, who has helped identify some elusive copies. These are the missing issues:

1911 / all Issues
1912 / all Issues
1913 / 1-9
1914 / 15 (Issue was probably not published)
1915 / 35, p. 6f.
1915 / 38
1916 / 2
1917 / 36, cover c?
1917 / 42, cover b, c, d
1917 / 51, cover b, S. 1
1918 / 21 (Issue was probably not published)

There is much to discover here, illuminating not only the exporting of films from other countries into Switzerland, but increasing awareness of the importance of a country whose early film history (production, distriubtion and exhibition) remains too litle known by most film scholars. Having Kinema online must change things. Go explore.

The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal

Pages from The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal for February 1905, including interview with A.C. Bromhead

Regular readers will be aware of the praise we have heaped upon the Media History Digital Library, the initiative of David Pierce to provide access to digitised film trade journals for free to all via the Internet Archive. You may know that we are listing all of the titles made available through this source and others in the Journals section of the Bioscope, arranged by country. We now want to draw your attention to just one such journal, because its (currently) unique nature raises a vital issue. Pierce has recently digitised a volume of The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal, covering November 1904 to October 1905. This is an exciting development because it is the first British film trade journal to be made available in digitised form on the Web. But why has British silent cinema studies fared so badly, when there are now extensive film journals from America, France, Italy and others now available online?

Founded as The Optical Magic Lantern Journal in 1889, the journal changed its name to The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal in 1904 in response to a changing industry, as many lantern operators and photographers moved across to the new medium. The publisher was E.T. Heron, the editor Theodore Brown. Published monthly, the journal included notices of new films, news, issues of the day, information on new patents, interviews (Charles Urban, James White, A.C. Bromhead), advice columns, correspondence, and information on magic lantern practice as well, providing a fascinating picture of an industry in transition.

The volume on the Internet Archive covers October 1904 to November 1905 though it’s not easy to calculate when individual pieces were published as the relevant months are not given (or not easily identifiale). It’s all word-searchable and compellingly browsable. To whet your appetite, below is the idiosyncratic index to the volume, included at the start of the digitised text:

Animatography, The Science of … 61, 79, 99, 133. 160, 237
Announcements with the Lantern … 277
Apparatus for Science Teaching … 64
Applications for Patents … 23
Architecture and Slide Making … 225
Assassination of the “Grand Duke” Cinematographed … 127
Carbon Frocess for Lantern Slides … 55
Caricaturist and the Cinematograph, The … 106
Catalogues and Books Received … 23, 93,119, 140, 168, 171, 203, 232, 282
Chats with Trade Leaders … 13, 37, 85
Cinematography in Colours … 36
Cinematograph Work, Hints on … 11, 29
Cloud Effects in Lantern Slides … 201
Colouring Lantern Slides with Aniline Dyes … 147
Contact and Reduction … 199
Correspondence … 52, 82, 104, 134, 148, 175, 21S, 258
Editor’s Pen, From the … 1, 25, 49, 73, 97, 121, 145, 169, 191, 213, 259
Extremes of Temperature … 60
Eyes and How to Use Them … 129, 149, 179
Fires from Moving Pictures … 251
Flickerless Projection from Motion Pictures … 195
Four Hundred Arc Lamps used for Cinematograph Work … 5
Fourth Photographic Exhibition … 100
Freedom … 159
Full or Empty Houses — A Lesson in Advertising … 262
Getting Good Lantern Slides from Weak Negatives … 223
Hint for Over-Exposed Slides, A … 123, 231
Home-made Lantern Plates … 208
How to Obviate the Acquirement of Cover Glasses at a Penny Each … 54
How to Colour Lantern Slides … 136
How to Deliver a Lantern Lecture … 67
How to Make Neat and Effective Title Slides … 235
Illuminants for Optical Lanterns … 3
Illustrated Interviews … 239, 271
“Impressionist” in Photography, The … 117
Inch of Negative, An … 27
Journal of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia, The … 242
Kinematograph for the Blind … 127
Lanternist, Notes for the Non-Photographic … 81
Lantern, Announcements with the … 277
Lantern, To Make Money with the… 101
Lantern Lectures on British Industries … 161
Lantern Lecture, How to Deliver … 67
Lantern Lecture, Three Requisites for a Successful … 156
Lantern Plates, Home-made … 2g8
Lantern Plates, On the Development of … 105
Lantern Slide Hint, A … 277
Lantern Slides at the Northern Photographic Exhibition, 1905, Leeds … 215
Lantern Slides, Carbon Process for … 55
Lantern Slides, Cloud Effects in … 201
Lantern Slides, How to Colour … 136
Lantern Slides, On Photographing with a View to the Production of … 33
Lantern Slides, Reducing and Intensifying … 190
Lantern Work, Notes on … 58
Light and Shade … 24
Living Lamp, A … 158
Marvels of Science … 211
Method for Putting Printed Matter on Finished Lantern Slides … 205
Microscope and its Use, The … 245
Moving Pictures, Fires from … 251
Moving Pictures, Flickerless Projection from … 195
Negative Making for Lantern Slides … 135
Negative, An Inch of … 27
New Films … 20, 30, 51, 83, 1 15, 141, 164, 189, 204, 222, 242, 269
New Form of Music Hall Matinee … 59
New Screen Elevator, A … 257
Non-inflammable Celluloid … 80
Note for Slide Makers … 28
Notes on Slide Making, Some … 7
Notes for the Non-Photographic Lanternist … 81
Notices … 12, 43. 71, 84, 114, 158, 190, 193, 215, 23S, 259
Notes … 232
Oil Lanterns in Use … 111
On the Development of Lantern Plates … 105
On Photographing with a View to the Production of Lantern Slides … 33
Only Coloured Film in England, The … 25
Optical Illusions … 41, 75, 10S, 137, 153, 184, 219, 253
Optical Lantern, Revival of … 183
Optical Lanterns, Illuminants for … 3
Our Suggestion Bureau … 21
Over-Exposed Slides, A Hint for … 123, 231
Patents … 4S, 96, 163, 1S7, 210, 217, 244, 274
Patents, Applications for … 23
Photography of Microscopic Objects, The … 9
Photography as a Method of Pictorial Expression … 65
Photographic Society of Philadelphia, The Journal of the … 242
Pictorial Treatment of Subjects, The … 65
Pictures and Politics in the West … 98
Planet Mars in the Kinematograph, The … 242
Praise, A Word of … 12, 16, 44, 60, 90, 140, 152, 194, 232, 235
Recent Encouraging Expressions … 140
Reducing and Intensifying Lantern Slides … 190
Review of Apparatus … 17, 45, 72, 94, 118, 178
Revival of the Optical Lantern, The … 183
Round and About … 236
Round the Trade … 2S0
Science of Animatography, The … 61, 79, 99, 133, 160, 237
Science Teaching, Apparatus for … 64
Screens and their Erection … 124
Slide Making, Notes on … 7
Slide Makers, Note for … 28
Slides of the Month … 2S2
Slides, How to Make Neat and Effective Title … 235
Stereoscopic Notes … 6, 32, 66, 78, 101, 128, 162, 176, 206, 229, 256, 276
Stereoscopic Photograph, A … 117
Stereoscopic Vision … 173
Sun and Magnetic Storms, The … 89
St. Louis Exhibition, Unique Pictures at the … 36
Temperance and the Lantern … 106
Temperance, Extremes of … 60
Three Requisites for a Successful Lantern Lecture … 156
Tit Bits … 22, 40, 69, 91, 102, 142, 107, 172
To Make Money with the Lantern … 101
Trade Organisation Needed Among Operators, Is … 224, 265
Unique Pictures at the St. Louis Exhibition … 36
We Have Others … 252
Weak Negatives, Getting Good Lantern Slides from … 223
What our Contemporaries Say … 73
What is Legitimate Trading — Some Curses and their Cure … 275
Winter Work … 53
Wonderful Bioscope, A … 111
Word of Praise, A … 12

Though this is a highly welcome offering, it does highlight the sad fact that it is currently the only historical British film journal available online. Two theatre-based journals with plenty of information on silent films, The Era (up to 1900 only) and The Stage, are available online, though both require a subscription. A project from a few years ago by the University of East Anglia to tackle The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly (the journal which succeeded The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal in 1907) was a disappointing flop, with no digitised pages, only a very incomplete index for the 1890s, early 1915, 1943-mid-1954 and 1955-1971. And that’s it.

Cartoon from The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal (p. 261) by journal editor Theodore Brown at the time of a crisis in the industry when Pathé introduced film on the British market at a price of five pence per foot, at a time when the standard rate was six pence. Brown’s cartoon shows Robert Paul asking the question “What’s your proposition, Charlie?” to a cigar-smoking Charles Urban. Others depicted include Cecil Hepworth (far right) and A.C. Bromhead (centre), while Brown himself is the figure with a moustache in the background

There were three main film trade journals in Britain for the silent era: The Bioscope, The Cinema and The Kinematograph Weekly, while Picturegoer was the main fan jounal. There were many other journals of abiding interest- the British Library provides a listing of the British and Irish film journals that it holds, which is eye-opening in its great variety. Titles include The Film Censor, The Film Renter, The Irish Limelight, The Picture Palace News, and Rinking World and Picture Theatre News (roller skating rinks and cinemas were closely allied around 1909-10, as many rinks were converted into cinemas).

Other countries have done so much better. Either through private enterprise, or through the dedicated endeavours of film institutes or national libraries, a good selection of film journals for the silent era is now available from Italy (the leader, thanks to the remarkable efforts of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema), France (courtesy of the national library’s Gallica website), USA (private enterprise and the Internet Archive) and Brazil (courtesy of the Biblioteca Digital das Artes do Espetaculo), with one-offs from Austria, Sweden, Spain and others.

The reason the UK has done so badly so far is partly down to no money, and partly down to copyright laws which effectively put the 20th century out of bounds for the time being (the British Library, for example, has made the decision that it will only digitise from its newspaper and journal collections up to 1900, to be on the safe side). There are research council funds available for an academic able to put together a persuasive bid, but there has been no success there as yet bar the Kinematograph Weekly project which – it has to be said – did things so badly that it may have queered the pitch for any other project hoping to digitise film journals.

The UK is not the only country with such a poor record (Germany, anyone?), but the lack of enterprise shown so far is profoundly disappointing. So, as things stands, we have one year of one journal, and that made available through the Internet Archive. How are we going to do better that this?

Bioscope Newsreel no. 29

Part of DVD cover for Metropolis, from Ain’t it Cool News

We’re publishing a little infrequently at present, both the regular posts and the newsreel, but the main thing is that we’re still publishing. Here’s a round-up of some of the recent silent news and events coming up.

Morodor’s Metropolis
The silent film version that many love to hate, while for others it is the version that was a welcome introduction to silents, is to come out on Blu-Ray. Electro-disco composer Giorgio Moroder’s score for Metropolis came out in 1984, and was controversial both for presenting a cut-down version (80mins) and for throwing pop songs on top of it (Freddy Mercury sings “Love Kills”, Pat Benatar sings “Here’s my Heart” – yep, it’s the 1980s). It’s become something of a cult favourite and now Kino are bringing it out theatrically in October and on Blu-Ray late 2011 or early 2012. Read more.

One-minute wonders
The Toronto Urban Film Festival (known as TUFF) brings new one-minute silent films, entered in competition, to be seen by 1.3 million daily commuters on the ONESTOP TTC subway platform screens. This year the guest judge for the festival is Atom Egoyan. It runs 9-18 September, and there are examples of some of the truly ingenious and creative videos submitted on the festival site. Read more.

Silents in New Zealand
A silent film festival offering more traditional fare is New Zealnd’s annual Opitiki Silent Film Festival, which this year takes place 2-4 September. The emphasis is on comedy and rugby, and there haven’t been too many silent rugby film programmes, to my recollection. The festival features Lloyf, Langdon, Keaton, Pollard and more, plus a one-hour silent film compilation All Blacks which features “footage of the 1905 Originals NZ touring team plus the 1924/1925 Invincibles”. Read more.

Où est Max?
Once again the Cine-Tourist website beats all competition in the cine-blogosphere with an engrossing (if very long) post, handsomely illustrated, on Max Linder, the films he shot in the streets of Vincennes, and what the locality says about him. None of these films can ever be called accidental in their choice of geography, because everything that we see makes the film that plays before us. Read more.

More journals online
More and more silent film journals are appearing on the Internet Archive, courtesy of Bruce Long of the Taylorology site and David Pierce of the Media History Digital Library. Long has added nine issues of Picture-Play for 1922-23 and one of Screenland for 1923; Pierce has added extra volumes of Moving Picture World for 1913, all of 1914, most of 1915, and three months each of 1916 and 1918. Copious thanks to both. Another Pierce upload is going to be the subject of a special post. Read more (Pierce) and more (Long)

‘Til next time!

Film industry year books

MGM advertisement from the Motion Picture News Booking Guide 1929

We have previously reported enthusiastically and in detail on the digitisation of American film journals such as Photoplay and Film Daily undertaken by David Pierce for the Media History Digital Library, all of which can be located on the Internet Archive at www.archive.org/details/mediahistory.

And now there’s more, because Pierce is branching out into books. He has digitised a number of essential American and British studio directories and trade annuals from the 1920s to the 1950s. They are as follows (in chronological order):

I can’t begin to tell you what a fabulous collection these represent (you can find them all through the one link here). The film trade almanacs and annuals are among the best guides we have to the workings of the motion picture industry, because they were produced for the industry and with huge contributions from that industry, as performers, filmmakers, studios, technicians and services supplied vital information to these reference sources that everyone else in the industry would then consult. If you weren’t in Quigley’s Motion Picture Almanac, Wid’s Film Daily Yearbook or the Kine Year Book in Britain, then you were invisible. So everyone had to be listed (though competing yearbooks meant that some submitted details to one reference source and not another – so always double-check if you can). Such reference books have been the bread and butter of film history research for decades. They include lists of films produced over the previous year, studio details, biographies of actors, filmmakers and technicians, statistics, background information, gossip and anecdote, information on legal cases, and copious advertisements. Above all they are full of names, and in the word-searchable form in which they are given on the Internet Archive, they are even more useful to the researcher than arguably the printed volume would be (though it’s handiest to have both).

Quigley’s Motion Picture Almanac for 1929

There isn’t space to go through each of the volumes, though I heartily recommend the immensely informative Motion Picture Almanac for 1929, the Kine Year Books for their invaluable primary information on British film, and the fascinating overview of the American film industry in 1926 that is The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: The Motion Picture in Its Economic and Social Aspects (not strictly speaking a film year book). I also have great fondness for Clarence Winchester’s The World Film Encyclopedia, not because it is especially useful as a reference source (“close to useless”, says Mr Pierce), but because it was one of the first film books I ever bought and I found it so full of apparent riches. It’s also of value for being the sort of reference guide that a fan would have bought rather than a film industry type.

I may write posts on individual volumes in due course, but what I have done is create yet another section of the Bioscope Library, this time devoted to directories, to go alongside those for books, journals, and catalogues and databases. All of the directories above are listed (including those for the post-silent era, because they generally have information going back to the silent period), plus those directories previously reported on by the Bioscope.

Thank you once again to David Pierce for his digitisation efforts. He continues to add film trade journals to the Internet Archive, and we will continue to try and keep up somehow by listing them all.

Film Daily

Color advertising section from Film Daily 8 July 1923 for Fox Film Corporation productions for the 1923/24 season

Oh you lucky people.

You will recall that about a year ago film archivist and historian David pierce announced the Media History Digital Library, a bold and imaginative project to digitise an extensive number of American film trade journals and make them freely available via the Internet Archive. The initial release compirsed four years of Photoplay (1925-1930) and one volume each of Motion Picture Classic (1920) and Moving Picture World (April-June 1913), as reported by the Bioscope at the time.

Now a second release has been announced, covering The Film Daily 1922-1929. The press release (which I’ve paraphrased slightly) says it all, including plenty of links encouraging you to sample the collection.

Yet more American film history for the 1920s is now available online with the publication of 2,400 issues of The Film Daily, a leading motion picture trade magazine from the classic era of Hollywood. Published in New York, these issues of The Film Daily from 1922 to 1929 document one of the most prosperous periods of the Hollywood star system, culminating in the rapid changes brought on by the change to sound film production.

The Film Daily joins other magazines scanned by the Media History Digital Library, including seventy-two issues of Photoplay from 1925 to 1930, Motion Picture Classic (1920), and numerous issues of Moving Picture World (1913), Exhibitors Daily Review (1926 and 1928), and also from 1928, a small number of issues of Daily Screen World, Sound Waves and The Distributor, the MGM house publication from 1928. The Film Daily volumes and other magazines digitised by the Media History Digital Library can be searched, read online and downloaded through the Internet Archive at www.archive.org/details/mediahistory.

The 22,000 pages of this release from The Film Daily include numerous reviews of features and shorts, news reports from throughout the industry, occasional feature items, and hundreds of full-page advertisements. There are full-page ads for feature films and short subjects, color ads for special releases (such as the films of Marion Davies and Harold Lloyd), and special color sections announcing studios’ upcoming releases for the next year (including many films that were never produced). Published six days a week, The Film Daily did not always cover topics in depth, but it is an invaluable resource for following the day-to-day progress of the industry or films in production. Among the treasures from this period are special issues devoted to the 20th anniversary of Carl Laemmle in the film business (28 February 1926), the opening of the Roxy Theater in New York (13 March 1927), Sound Pictures (22 July 1928) and Fox Film Corp. and the opening of Movietone City (18 June 1929).

A highlight of the magazine is its strong emphasis on short subjects. While most of the other trade magazines treated shorts as space allowed, shorts received regular reviews in The Film Daily, including for many years, a quarterly review of short subject production and releases.

Highlights from the collection include:

Special short subject issues
17 February 192411 May 192414 September 192415 March 192521 June 192520 September 19256 December 192530 May 19265 December 192627 March 19275 June 19274 September 19274 December 19274 March 19283 June 192831 March 19291 September 1929

Directors annual supplement
11 June 192222 June 19245 June 1925

7 August 1927

Color advertising sections
Fox Film Corp. 1923/24 season (8 July 1923)
Selznick Distributing 1924/25 season (6 July 1924) – with drawings by illustrator Al Hirschfeld
Fox Film Corp. 1928/29 season (24 May 1928)
United Artists Talking Pictures (28 February 1929)
Fox Talking Features (18 June 1929)
Educational Pictures (20 June 1929)
Radio Pictures (15 July 1929)

This is the second release of material by the Media History Digital Library, an initiative led by David Pierce to digitise collections of classic media periodicals in the US public domain for full public access. The project is supported by owners of materials who have loaned original materials for scanning, and donors who have contribute funds to cover the cost of scanning. A brochure describing the project can be found at the Media History website www.mediahistoryproject.org.

The Film Daily has been scanned from volumes in the collection of Karl Thiede, funded by an anonymous donation in memory of Carolyn Hauer. Scanning has been coordinated by Eric Hoyt, a Ph.D. candidate in the Critical Studies Division of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. The Media History Digital Library thanks Rick Prelinger and Casey Riffel for their assistance with this group of materials. The initial release of materials was scanned from the collections of the Pacific Film Archive Library and Film Study Center.

Contact – David Pierce – prizma2 [at] gmail.com

Part of an advertisement for Paramount News, from the 7 August 1927 issue of The Film Daily

If I can add to that – all of the journals are word-searchable, and can be browsed, searched and analysed through the Internet Archive’s excellent Read Online display tool which enables easy flicking from page to page, or the display of every page in thumbnail view, and to have every occurence of a search term listed as a link taking you to where it occurs on the page.

All of the journals digitised by the Media History Digital Library are listed in the Bioscope Library’s listing of silent era film journals available online. I try to keep this comprehensive and up-to-date, so please do let me know of any new resources or omissions. Meanwhile, warm thanks to David Pierce for his great initative in organising the funding and then the digitisation of such a fabulously rich collection. Now it behoves all of us to go and prove the value of this work by downloading and using all that we can. Go explore.

Connected histories


Out there a lot of bright-minded people and noble institutions are thinking of ways to make things easier and better for the researcher. They have considered all the digital content that has been produced so far, being it digitised or born digital, and now they want to construct ways of bringing this stuff together in useful ways. Of course, for initial enquiries, Google is there to answer most needs. But for less random, more structured enquiries, particularly the kinds of enquiry that the serious researcher (of whatever kind) is going to make, then you need dedicated resources. These resources depend on good metadata – that is, that all of the digital records under consideration are described in a consistent, logical manner according to agreed rules, so that like can be found alongside like. Consistency breeds discovery.

All of which is preamble to the launch of Connected Histories, a resource which bringing together a number of important digital resources relating to the study of early modern and nineteeth century Britain, under a single federated search system. ‘Federated’ simply means that several subject-related databases have been brought together to form, in effect, one super-database, so you don’t have to search in several different places, but instead just the one. Bringing these databases together allows you to conduct sophisticated searches that couldn’t be achieved singly, and simply to discover more, and more quickly.

Connected Histories bringings together eleven digital resources, two of which have been previously reviewed by the Bioscope. Not all cover our period, but some complement it, and all are well worth exploring anyway:

British History Online
The digital library of primary and secondary sources for the history of Britain, from the Middle Ages to c.1900.

British Museum Images
The collection provides searchable access to almost 100,000 images, relating to early modern and 19th-century Britain.

British Newspapers, 1600-1900
The most comprehensive digital historic British newspaper archive in existence, with 3 million pages of historic newspapers, newsbooks and ephemera from national and regional papers.

Charles Booth Archive
The online archive provides access to guides, digitised images and maps from the Booth archive collections at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of London Library. (This is Booth’s famous survey into life and labour in London, dating from 1886 to 1903)

Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835
A database containing details of the careers of more than 130,000 clergymen of the Church of England between 1540 and 1835, from over 50 archives in England and Wales.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers
The Parliamentary Papers gives access to page images and searchable full text for over 200,000 House of Commons sessional papers and supplementary information from 1688 onwards.

John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera
The collection provides access to more than 67,000 scanned items from the Bodleian Library’s holdings documenting various aspects of everyday life in Britain from the 18th to the early 20th century.

John Strype’s Survey of London Online
This is a full-text electronic version of John Strype’s enormous two-volume survey of 1720, complete with its celebrated maps and plates, which depict the prominent buildings, street plans and ward boundaries of the late Stuart capital.

London Lives 1690-1800
London Lives provides a fully searchable edition of 240,000 manuscript pages from eight London archives and 15 datasets, giving access to 3.5 million names.

Origins.net offers online access to some of the richest ancestral information available. The collection searchable through Connected Histories focuses on the early modern history of London.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online, 1674-1913
The Old Bailey Online contains accounts of the trials conducted at London’s central criminal court between 1674 and 1913; and also the Ordinary’s Accounts – detailed narratives of the lives and deaths of convicts executed at Tyburn, published between 1676 and 1772.

Before you get too excited, please note that some of these are subscription services or available to UK higher education users only. Those that are free to all are British History Online (80% of it), British Museum Images, Charles Booth Archive (which I strongly recommend for detailed, socially-informed maps and data on life in late-19th century London), Clergy of the Church of England Database, John Strype’s Survey of London, London Lives, and Proceedings of the Old Bailey. British Newspapers, 1600-1900 and Proceedings of the Old Bailey are the two previously reported on by the Bioscope.

So, what can you find (those of you not paying subscriptions or having subscriptions paid for you by a university). Our traditional search term of ‘kinetoscope’ brings up just the one record, from an 1895 House of Commons parliamentary paper, with the frustrating information that you can’t proceed any further without a password. ‘Bioscope’ brings up eight hits, five free for all to view from the utterly compulsive Proceedings of the Old Bailey, such as the 1911 court case of “ROBERTS, George (19, bioscope operator), unlawfully uttering counterfeit coin; possessing counterfeit coin.” (Do note that the Old Bailey records stretch into the early part of the twentieth century). Searching on ‘cinematograph’ gives us thirty-two record, again with those from the Old Bailey records (eleven) being available to all. ‘Mutoscope’ yields thirty-six (lots of joint stock company reports under Parliamentary Papers).

You get an array of searching tools (keyword, place, person, date range), with filtering by source type, resources and access (so you can limit searches to freely-available content). There are also subject guides on topics such as ‘Family History’, and the ‘History of London’, and registered users can put together collections of documents (‘connections‘) under particular topics, and so your scribe has done his bit and created an “early cinema” connection that you can explore at your leisure. Don’t say that I’m not good to you, at least some of the time.

Connected Histories has been constructed by the University of Hertfordshire, the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and the University of Sheffield, with natural language processing, indexing and the development of the search engine were carried out by the Humanities Research Institute (University of Sheffield). This is the first phase; in September of this year they will be adding 65,000 19th-century books from the British Library (which I imagine will be free to all); 23,000 19th-century pamphlets from JSTOR (a subscription-only digital store); Documents Online from The National Archives; data from People in Place: Families, Households, and Housing in London, 1550-1720 from British History Online; and History of Parliament Online. They are on the lookout for additional resources, though whether they will be able to extend their reach beyond the nineteenth into the twentieth century is not stated (such are the challenges that British copyright law presents).

A video introduction to Connected Histories

So, though Connected Histories is of mostly going to be of most value to those in our field interested in the origins and earliest years of film, it is a significant indicator of the ways things are going. Institutions and individual databases are becoming things of the past. Concatenations of datasets and federated search systems are going to take over. It’s the globalization of knowledge.

Discovering newspapers

The digitised newspapers section of Australia’s digital library Trove

For some while I’ve been saying we needed an updated round-up post on the collections of digitised newspapers that now exist online. At last its time has come.

The number of historic newspapers titles now available online, either free or through a variety of pay-models, is now prodigious. Though there are some individual titles of particular importance for the study of silent film topics (and I’m referring to general newspapers rather than specialist film journals), this post covers general directories and portals.

British Newspapers
The British Library is engaged on a massive digitisation programme for British newspapers up to 1900. Two million pages have been digitised so far for 19th century newspapers, though the majority are available online to UK higher and further education users only (a checkbox enables searches across free content only). A further 40 million pages will be added in time, with a subscription model aimed at all users. Among the papers covered is The Era, an important source of information for film exhibition in the UK in the 1890s.

Chronicling America
This is a newspaper digitisation programme sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program. It covers newspapers published 1860-1922 for the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Papers available include The San Francisco Call, The New York Sun, The Washington Times, The Colored American, and The New York Evening Times. Currently there are some 2.7 million pages from 348 titles, all free to use.

Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Established in 1997, today it contains nearly 1.5 million digital documents. The library includes just under 800,000 periodical pages, including Le Figaro and L’Humanité. The content is all French, of course, and is a mixture of free and paid-for content.

Google News Archive
Google’s news search engine browses historic news resources, both free and subscription-based, so you are offered tantalising glimpses of news stories that can be yours if only you’ll pay. The helpful timeline feature shows you in which period your search term shows up the most. The Google News display is a listing all of the freely-available digitised newspapers on the service (mostly American), which allows you to browse the pages of individual titles by decades, year, month, week or day.

The Easton Free Press reports on Edison’s latest invention, 10 March 1894, from Google News Archive Search

ICON: International Coalition on Newspapers
Listing of past, present, and prospective digitisation projects of historic newspapers worldwide.

News Archives
This is a very useful directory of news sources online, provided by the University of North Carolina’s ibilio information database. It provides links and descriptions (including access information) for news archives (current and historical) from around the world, including U.S. News Archives on the Web, Asian News Archives on the Web, Canadian News Archives, and the particularly useful International News Archives on the Web, covering Central America & Caribbean, South America, United Kingdom and Ireland, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Australia & New Zealand.

NewspaperARCHIVE describes itself as the world’s largest online archive of historical newspapers. It has tens of millions of newspapers pages and says that it is adding a page a second to the site. Although the greater part of the archive is American newspapers, there are also papers for China, Ireland, South Africa, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan and especially the United Kingdom. It lets you know your search results for free, but access is for subscribers only. Annual membership starts at $5.99 per month (for a 12-month period).

Newspaper Archive Sources on the Web
The Library of Congress’s useful listing of online newspaper directories around the world.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
This is a private collection of digitised New York newspapers, which boasts over 15,000,000 pages, dating 1795-2007. The source of the newspapers is a microfilm set of the State of New York Newspaper Project of the 1970s/80s, and it’s unclear how a private individual is able to publish all this, but it exists, and all for free.

Papers Past
This excellent site contains over one million freely-available pages from sixty-one digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals covering the period 1839 to 1945. The search and presentation tools are a model of their kind.

Trove is a discovery tool for information on Australia and Australians. It is the digital library par excellence, praised highly when first reviewed by the Bioscope when it was in beta mode). The newspaper section of the site presents the results of the on-going Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program: an eventual 4.4 million pages covering a range of titles from every state and territory, from the earliest newspaper published in Australia in 1803 through to the mid 1950s. To date 1.87 million pages are available online, with exemplary discovery tools.

UK Press Online
Paid access service to two million British newspapers, chiefly boasting the Daily Mirror archive (1903 – current) and the Daily Express archive (1900 – current).

Wikipedia: List of online newspaper archives
This is probably the fullest single listing of newspaper titles available online, both free and pay. It covers Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Caribbean, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Zanzibar, and Worldwide.

And there are many more. Others you should try out include ANNO (Austrian Newspapers Online – all free), the California Digital Newspaper Collection (free – and excellent for silent film research), the Caribbean Newspaper Digital Library (free), Iceland’s Timarit.is (free), Irish Newspaper Archives (subscription), and NewspaperSG covering English-language newspapers published in Malaya and Singapore 1831-2006 (free).

There are many more national services and paid services, links to which you are going to find among the directories listed above. But if you have particular favourites do let me know (especially if they have proved useful in researching silent film topics).

I’ll endeavour to keep this post up-to-date as a reference source. Meanwhile, you can always browse previous Bioscope posts on digitised newspapers, other periodicals and film journals under the Digitised Journals category.

Looking back on 2010

Lillian Gish knows just what it’s like in north Kent, from Way Down East

The snows of winter are piling up in fantastic drifts about the portals of Bioscope Towers. Icy blasts find their way through every crack and cranny. Outside, civilization grinds to a glacial halt, and the end of the year now beckons. In the relative warmth of the Bioscope scriptorium, I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to look back on what happened in the world of silent film over 2010. So here’s a recap of highlights from the past twelve months, as reported on the Bioscope (and in a few other places) – silent memories to warm us all.

There were three really big stories in 2010. For many of us, the most welcome news story of this or any other year was the honorary Oscar that went to Kevin Brownlow for a lifetime dedicated to the cause of silent films. The restored Metropolis had its premiere in a wintry Berlin in February. It has now been screened acround the world and issued on DVD and Blu-Ray. And there was the sensational discovery by Paul E. Gierucki of A Thief Catcher, a previously unknown appearance by Chaplin in a 1914 Keystone film, which was premiered at Slapsticon in June.

It was an important year for digitised documents in our field. David Pierce’s innovative Media History Digital Library project promises to digitise many key journals, having made a good start with some issues of Photoplay. The Bioscope marked this firstly by a post rounding up silent film journals online and then by creating a new section which documents all silent film journals now available in this way. A large number of film and equipment catalogues were made available on the Cinémathèque française’s Bibliothèque numérique du cinéma. Among the books which became newly-available for free online we had Kristin Thompson’s Exporting Entertainment, and the invaluable Kinematograph Year Book for 1914.

Among the year’s restorations, particularly notable were Bolivia’s only surviving silent drama, Wara Wara, in September, while in October the UK’s major silent restoration was The Great White Silence, documenting the doomed Scott Antarctic expedition.

We said goodbye to a number of silent film enthusiasts and performers. Particularly mourned in Britain was Dave Berry, the great historian of Welsh cinema and a friend to many. Those who also left us included Dorothy Janis (who starred in The Pagan opposite Ramon Novarro); film restorer and silent film technology expert Karl Malkames; the uncategorisable F. Gwynplaine Macintyre; and film archivist Sam Kula. One whose passing the Bioscope neglected to note was child star Baby Marie Osborne, who made her film debut aged three, saw her starring career end at the age of eight, then had a further ninety-one years to look back on it all.

Arctic conditions in Rochester uncannily replicated in Georges Méliès’ A la Conquête du Pôle (1912)

On the DVD and Blu-Ray front, Flicker Alley followed up its 2008 5-disc DVD set of Georges Méliès with a sixth disc, Georges Méliès Encore, which added 26 titles not on the main set (plus two by Segundo de Chomón in the Méliès style). It then gave us the 4-DVD set Chaplin at Keystone. Criterion excelled itself by issuing a three-film set of Von Sternberg films: Underworld (1927), The Last Command (1928) and The Docks of New York (1928). Other notable releases (aside from Metropolis, already mentioned) were Flicker Alley’s Chicago (1927) and An Italian Straw Hat (1927), Kino’s Talmadge sisters set (Constance and Norma), the Norwegian Film Institute’s Roald Amundsen’s South Pole Expedition (1910-1912) and Il Cinema Ritrovato’s Cento anni fa: Attrici comiche e suffragette 1910-1914 / Comic Actresses and Suffragettes 1910-1914, while the Bioscope’s pick of the growing number of Blu-Ray releases is F.W. Murnau’s City Girl (1930), released by Eureka. But possibly the disc release of the year was the BFI’s Secrets of Nature, revealing the hypnotic marvels of natural history filmmaking in the 1920s and 30s – a bold and eye-opening release.

New websites turned up in 2010 that have enriched our understanding of the field. The Danish Film Institute at long last published its Carl Th. Dreyer site, which turned out to be well worth the wait. Pianist and film historian Neil Brand published archival materials relating to silent film music on his site The Originals; the Pordenone silent film festival produced a database of films shown in past festivals; the daughters of Naldi gave us the fine Nita Naldi, Silent Vamp site; while Kevin Brownlow’s Photoplay Productions finally took the plunge and published its first ever website.

The crew for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Mountain Eagle, ready for anything the elements can throw at them

Among film discoveries, in March we learned of the discovery of Australia’s earliest surviving film, the Lumière film Patineur Grotesque (possibly October 1896); in June we heard about a major collection of American silents discovered in New Zealand; and digital copies of ten American silents held in the Russian film archive were donated to the Library of Congress in October. That same month the Pordenone silent film festival unveiled the tantalising surviving frgament of F.W. Murnau’s Marizza, Genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna (1921-22). There was also time for films not yet discovered, as the BFI issued its Most Wanted list of lost films, most of them silents, while it also launched an appeal to ‘save the Hitchcock 9” (i.e. his nine surviving silents).

The online silent video hit of the year was quite unexpected: Cecil Hepworth’s Alice in Wonderland (1903) went viral after the release of the Tim Burton film of Lewis Carroll’s story. It has had nearly a million views since February and generated a fascinating discussion on this site. Notable online video publications included UCLA’s Silent Animation site; three Mexican feature films: Tepeyac (1917), El tren fantasma (1927) and El puño de hierro (1927); and the eye-opening Colonial Films, with dramas made in Africa, contentious documentaries and precious news footage.

2010 was undoubtedly the year of Eadweard Muybridge. There was a major exhibition of the photographer’s work at Tate Britain and another at Kingston Museum (both still running), publications including a new biography by Marta Braun, while Kingston produced a website dedicated to him. He also featured in the British Library’s Points of View photography exhibition. There was also controversy about the authorship of some of Muybridge’s earliest photographs, and a somewhat disappointing BBC documentary. In 2010 there was no avoiding Eadweard Muybridge. Now will the proposed feature film of his life get made?

Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance trapped in the Medway ice, from South (1919)

It was an interesting year for novel musical accompaniment to silents: we had silent film with guitars at the New York Guitar Festival; and with accordions at Vienna’s Akkordeon festival. But musical event of the year had to be Neil Brand’s symphonic score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929), given its UK premiere in November.

Noteworthy festivals (beyond the hardy annuals of Pordenone, Bologna, Cinecon etc) included the huge programme of early ‘short’ films at the International Short Film Festival at Oberhausen in April/May; and an equally epic survey of Suffragette films in Berlin in September; while the British Silent Film Festival soldierly on bravely despite the unexpected intervention of an Icelandic volcano.

On the conference side of things, major events were the Domitor conference, Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks and Publics of Early Cinema, held in Toronto in June; the Sixth International Women and Film History Conference, held in Bologna also in June; and Charlie in the Heartland: An International Charlie Chaplin Conference, held in Zanesville, Ohio in October.

It wasn’t a great year for silent films on British TV (when is it ever?), but the eccentric Paul Merton’s Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema at least generated a lot of debate, while in the US sound pioneer Eugene Lauste was the subject of PBS’s History Detectives. Paul Merton was also involved in an unfortunate spat with the Slapstick festival in Bristol in January over who did or did not invite Merton to headline the festival.

The art of the silent film carried on into today with the feature film Louis (about Louis Armstrong’s childhood), and the silent documentary feature How I Filmed the War. Of the various online modern silent shorts featured over the year, the Bioscope’s favourite was Aardman Animation’s microscopic stop-frame animation film Dot.

Charlie Chaplin contemplates the sad collapse of Southeastern railways, after just a few flakes of snow, from The Gold Rush

What else happened? Oscar Micheaux made it onto a stamp. We marked the centenary of the British newsreel in June. In October Louise Brooks’ journals were opened by George Eastman House, after twenty-five years under lock and key. Lobster Films discovered that it is possible to view some Georges Méliès films in 3D.

And, finally, there have been a few favourite Bioscope posts (i.e. favourites of mine) that I’ll give you the opportunity to visit again: a survey of lost films; an exhaustively researched three-part post on Alfred Dreyfus and film; the history of the first Japanese dramatic film told through a postcard; and Derek Mahon’s poetic tribute to Robert Flaherty.

It’s been quite a year, but what I haven’t covered here is books, largely because the Bioscope has been a bit neglectful when it comes to noting new publications. So that can be the subject of another post, timed for when you’ll be looking for just the right thing on which to spend those Christmas book tokens. Just as soon as we can clear the snow from our front doors.

And one more snowy silent – Abel Gance’s Napoléon recreates the current scene outside Rochester castle, from http://annhardingstreasures.blogspot.com

Iceland digitised

Advertisement for The Prodigal Son (Glafaði sonurinn) in the icelandic newspaper Lögberg, 17 January 1924

Here’s a new and interesting challenge for the dedicated silent film researcher with a world view – Icelandic newspapers. Timarit.is is a digital library of the printed cultural heritage as preserved in newspapers and periodicals of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. It brings together the collections of the National Library of the Faroe Islands, the National and Public Library of Greenland and the National and University Library of Iceland. It’s an ongoing project, but there are already nearly three-and-a-half million digitised documents on the site.

So what is there on film? Well, this is where the challenge comes in, because Icelandic is not one of the easier texts to navigate, and because I really only know one thing about Iceland and silent film, which is that it was the location for one of the longest, and most tedious, British films ever made, The Prodigal Son (1923), directed by A.E. Coleby, produced by Stoll, starring Stewart Rome and based on a novel by Hall Caine. In its fullest version the film was 18,454 feet in length, running to some four-and-a-half hours of screen time. I am one of the few who has actually sat through what survives of this film – the BFI has a version at a trim 9,118 feet – which it still took two long afternoons to get through. Funereal in pace, grimly histrionic, leadenly directed and singularly inept in its failure to make any creative use of its Icelandic settings, it is near the top of my top ten worst ever screen experiences. But it was made in Iceland, so what can we find about it in the Icelandic press of the time?

And the answer is quite a lot. Typing in “prodigal son” (in quotes) into Timarit.is brings up sixty-nine results, which it helpfully subdivides into decades, so you can instantly see that there are twenty-four hits from 1920-29 (and it then further subdividies these by individual years). You also quickly see that the film’s title in Icelandic was Glataði sonurinn. There are pieces on its production in 1922, its release in 1924, and its reissue (to something around 6,000 feet) in 1929. There are no photographs, but there are advertisements, you are able to gain enough of an idea about its importance and impact.

Varied film offerings advertised in Morgunblaðið, 22 September 1928

The presentation is excellent, with guidelines available in English. The search results given you a link to the title of the individual newspaper page, a line of text in which the search term appears, the date and page reference. Clicking on the link gives you a calendar (enabling you to browse adjacent issues), and a PDF of the full newspaper page with your search term highlighted. Thereafter it does depend on how strong your Icelandic is, but searching on some popular film names gives an indication of exposure and popularity – 547 hits for Chaplin between 1910 and 1929, 200 for Pickford, 272 for Fairbanks, 41 for Max Linder, and so on. Such hits usually lead you to advertisements for cinema programmes, so you can readly pick up an idea of what was being shown and when. Or just type in kvikmynd (film). It is possible to view text only (there’s a Text button on the left-hand column), so you can copy and paste text into Google Translate or whatever and get a rough idea of what’s going on.

There was a small Icelandic film industry in the silent era. The first films (actualities) were made in 1906, the same year that the Reykjavik Cinema Theatre was established. The first locally-produced fiction film was Ævintýri Jóns og Gvendar (The Adventures of Jon and Gvendur) (1923), directed by Loftur Guðmundsson. A feature film, Saga Borgaraettarinnar (Sons of the Soil), was made in Iceland in 1920, but it was a Danish production by Nordisk films (Iceland did not become completely independent of Denmark until 1944). However, there doesn’t seem to have been a whole lot more that was produced for several years thereafter, so Icelandic cinema for our period chiefly means exhibition, for which there is plenty to discover here. All in all, Timarit.is is well worth investigating for the bold and adventurous among you. Go explore.