Almost two hundred years before the GIF file format came along, a Belgian physicist by the name of Joseph Plateu invented what he called the Phenakistoscope. It’s considered to be the first true form of animation, using principals of optical illusion (as modern animation does) to create the illusion of motion. It worked with spinning discs, where a series of radiating images progressed from in some form or other, whether through the illusion of motion or metamorphosis or otherwise. The user would stand in front of a mirror, spin the disc, and look through the slits in the disc to a mirror.

A man by the name of Richard Balzer has been working for months now at digitizing these  Phenakistoscope images. And what better way to catalog them through the ubiquitous—and sometimes valuable—format of the GIF. Check out a grip of them below and more on his website


Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr


Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr


Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr



Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr



Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr



Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr



Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr


Image via The Richard Balzer Collection on Tumblr

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[via This is Colossal]