History of Flipbooks

What Is The History of Flipbooks?

Flipbooks are now largely considered a toy or novelty for children, and were once a common “prize” in cereal and Cracker Jack boxes.

The are also know as flip books and flickbooks.

Since 1995 People have been using video capture to create live personalized flipbooks.

Before exploring the flipbook’s history, it may help to know how persistence of vision works. The human retina actually retains an image for a brief instant. When a series of images are rapidly presented to the retina, it smooths out the gaps, creating a streamlined, animated image.  This principle is what allows people to perceive the series of frames in a motion picture as a movie, rather than a set of still photographs.

Rather than “reading” left to right, a viewer simply stares at the same location of the pictures in the flip book as the pages turn. The book must also be flipped with enough speed for the illusion to work, so the standard way to “read” a flip book is to hold the book with one hand and flip through its pages with the thumb of the other hand. The German word for flip book—Daumenkino, literally “thumb cinema”—reflects this process.

The first flip book appeared in September, 1868, when it was patented by John Barnes Linnett under the name kineograph (“moving picture”). They were the first form of animation to employ a linear sequence of images rather than circular (as in the older phenakistoscope). The German film pioneer, Max Skladanowsky, first exhibited his serial photographic images in flip book form in 1894, as he and his brother Emil did not develop their own film projector until the following year. In 1894, Herman Casler invented a mechanized form of flip book called the Mutoscope, which mounted the pages on a central rotating cylinder rather than binding them in a book. The mutoscope remained a popular attraction through the mid-20th century, appearing as coin-operated machines in penny arcades and amusement parks. In 1897, the English filmmaker Henry William Short marketed his “Filoscope”, which was a flip book placed in a metal holder to facilitate flipping.

The idea rapidly caught on, and many companies started releasing flipbooks for children and adults alike. Although many modern flipbooks are given away for free, earlier flipbooks were considered miraculous by many people.

The theme of a flipbook may vary, depending on the intended audience; it may illustrate a short story or a brief event, or may even be used in an advertising campaign.

In some parts of the world, a flip book is better known as a flick book, especially in British English. Whatever they call it, many aspiring artists draw their own, and bored school children may ornament their notebooks with flipbooks as well.

However, in addition to their role in the birth of cinema, they have also been an effective promotional tool since their creation for such decidedly adult products as automobiles and cigarettes. They continue to be used in marketing today, as well as in art and published photographic collections. Vintage flip books are popular among collectors, and especially rare ones from the late 19th to early 20th century have been known to fetch thousands of dollars in sales and auctions.