In 1829, a Belgian physicist devised a form of animation that is akin to our modern-day gifs: a spinning disk patterned with small repeating illustrations, attached to a handle that allowed it to spin and “animate” the imagery. Due to the rapid progression of technology, phenakistoscopes’ popularity lasted only a couple of years, yet they yielded wondrously beautiful moments in time and perhaps, a glimpse of the future. Check out these big ones, that somehow set a fine tone for a weekend…


Some are rather modernist…


…Some border on psychedelic…


This one has the curious effect of feeling the world turning…



Wonder what would happen in you watched this for a while…

Phenakistoscope - England - 1833 - Joseph Plateau


Phenakistoscopes Courtesy of the Richard Balzer Collection; view more here.

via AnOther



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4 replies on “200-Year-Old Mechanical Gifs are Like Mandalas

  1. Thanks, Sally! You have given me yet another wonderful artist to discover and enjoy. Wish I had heard of him before I retired, but I will share him with my grandchildren 🙂

  2. This is stunning work,thank you so much for posting it.

  3. I just found your site. I’m home.

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