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Animal Locomotion

MUYBRIDGE, EADWEARD. Animal Locomotion: An Electro- Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements.

Philadelphia: Photogravure Co., 1887

Folio (470 x 600 mm). Title printed in red and black. 100 collotypes, loose as issued. Preserved in two buckram portfolios. The second volume with some minor damp-staining to upper left corner of plates. Very minor handling wear and chipping to edges, library stamps. Provenance: Brooklyn Public Library. A very nice copy of a scarce book.

First edition of Animal Locomotion. This is a fine subscription copy of Muybridge’s masterpiece, a landmark in the history of both art and technology.

Eadweard Muybridge was a leading photographer in California when the wealthy horse enthusiast Leland Stanford approached him in 1872 to settle the question of whether a horse lifts all of its feet off the ground while trotting. Stanford financed Muybridge’s ingenious experiments in sequential photography using trip wires, advanced mechanical shutters, and unprecedented short exposure times. Muybridge confirmed Stanford’s belief that all four feet leave the ground, but his work achieved much more. He became a sensation in Europe when he showed the photographs in rapid succession, creating the effect of a motion picture. In the 1880s at the University of Pennsylvania, he continued his photographic studies making tens of thousands of photographs of animals and humans in motion. Because his work in sequential photography laid the groundwork for motion pictures, Muybridge is regarded as the father of the motion picture.

Muybridge’s monumental achievement is documented in his Animal Locomotion. A complete set of collotypes comprised 781 plates in 11 volumes, but the prohibitive $500 price resulted in the production of only 37 sets, almost all of which were sold to institutions. The present example is one of the sets of 100 plates sold by subscription. The original prospectus states that “each copy [is] to contain One Hundred Plates, as described in the prospectus” at a cost of $100, the plates to be selected by the subscriber after examining one of the complete sets deposited “in one of the Art Institutions or Libraries of Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Washington, and other large cities of the United States.” Thus the subscribers’ sets of Animal Locomotion differ in composition, depending on the interests and tastes of the buyers. Many of these subscription sets have been broken up, and few remain intact in private hands.

“We have become so accustomed to see [the galloping horse] in art that it imperceptibly dominated our understanding, and we think the representation to be unimpeachable, until we throw off all our preconceived impressions on one side, and seek the truth by independent observation from Nature herself.” -Muybridge