Letters to and from Muybridge, and relating to Muybridge
In progress, March 2010
Letters about Muybridge [to follow]
Letters to and from Muybridge
August 17, 1861
Possible missing page here.
(c/o Mrs Wyburn, 6 St Johns Villas, Adelaide Rd, St Johns Wood, London) writes to uncle, Henry Selfe in Australia, re: washing machine, plate printing, etc., and states he will shortly leave for the Continent ...'on business that may detain me for some months.' [Haas 10] See Patents page on this website.
August 26, 1861
Kingston Museum and Heritage Centre
Muybridge related Correspondence, Kingston Museum Collection
The correspondence files relating to Eadweard Muybridge date from 1928, shortly after the appointment of Harry Cross as Curator. There are, apparently, no surviving letters to or from his predecessor Benjamin Carter, who had known Muybridge. Early correspondence reveals that in 1929 - shortly after the Stanford-Muybridge Semi-Centennial Celebrations (of the 1878-79 sequence photography) at Stanford University - Cross had asked Professor Walter Miles of Stanford for a photograph of the Muybridge Commemorative tablet recently installed there, as he (Cross) had suggested a similar memorial in Kingston - a suggestion which would result in the impressive bronze plaque unveiled in 1931 to commemorate the centenary the previous year of Muybridge's birth. The same letter informs us that Pathe had filmed Muybridge's equipment for their "Evolution of the Film" series.
Correspondents at that time included (in short) Ernest Webster, one-time "mechanician who exhibited photographs on the screen with his [Muybridge's] zoopraxiscope," and the first letters from a 20-year exchange with the indefatigable Muybridge enthusiast Janet Pendegast Leigh - daughter of the lawyer who had defended Muybridge at his murder trial - who encloses a copy of an 1876 letter from Muybridge to her mother.
In 1933, pioneer cinema historian and collector Will Day presents the museum with a "zoetrope and a band of Muybridge's figures, to put in a glass case ... to tell the story of Muybridge's work better than anything, and needs only a turn of the handle to accomplish it," an indication of Day's understanding of the need for moving image displays in exhibits dealing with the story of motion pictures. The zoetrope (and a cardboard phenakistiscope disc, also from Day), were included in the Muybridge display for some time, but not it seems in operation. (An original Zoopraxiscope disc found its way into Day's collection, displayed at the Science Museum for many years, and went to the Cinematheque Francaise when the Day collecton was sold c.1959-60.)
Notes to and from the Town Clerk in 1936 detail the financial arrangements concerning Muybridge's monetary bequest. In 1939 a Mr. Hawkins, who had undertaken a minor machining job for Muybridge in the 1890s, writes: "I can remember Muybridge very well. I can see him now filling his corn cob pipe."
In 1943, foremost photographic historian Mr. Beaumont Newhall writes that he has been working on a history of photography "for some time now," and is particularly interested in Muybridge, and hopes to visit after the War. The book, The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present, was eventually published in 1948; the first account of the first 100 years of photographic history, which recognised its technical virtues as well as its value as an art form.
A 1947 letter to Bernard Alfieri, who was responsible for photographing the Muybridge equipment and commemorative plaque, writes that "the original lens [for the zoopraxiscope] was lost and a new one substituted many years ago." However, more recent research calls that statement into question.
There are letters from the 1950s and 60s that also help to illuminate the historiography of Muybridge - how the man and his work have been understood by generations past.
With thanks to the staff of Kingston Museum, and Local History Room, for their assistance with providing access to Muybridge material 1991-2010.