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Book review of J.D.B. Stillman "The Horse In Motion, As Shown By Instantaneous Photography," (London: Trubner and Co., 1882)
Magazine page, book review
Book review in Veterinary Journal and Annals of Comparative Pathology, vol. XVI, 1883, p.49-50.
The Horse In Motion, As Shown By Instantaneous Photography, With A Study On Animal Mechanics. By J. D. B. Stillman, A.M., M.D., Executed and Published under the auspices of Leland Stanford. (London: Trubner and Co. 1882).
There could not be a better companion work to the "Exterieur du Cheval" than the handsome quarto volume, published by Trubner, of Ludgate Hill. In the Notes and News columns of this Journal not long ago, there appeared a notice of an interesting lecture given by Mr. Muybridge at the Royal Institution, on "Animals in Motion," in which the representations of movement were shown by photography. The work just issued is in reality the substance of the lecture in extenso, and a most interesting and important addition it is to such works as that of Goubaux and Barrier, as well as those on animal mechanics, animal painting, and animal locomotion. The book is a veritable monument of skill, patience, and ingenuity in the photographer's art, as it chiefly consists of a large series of photographs of the horse, taken while moving at different paces from the walk to a sharp gallop, cantering and jumping. There are also photographs of other animals taken during progression, these, as well as those of the horse, being represented in every phase of one act of a certain movement. These representations are the production of instantaneous photography; twenty-four cameras having been employed, and placed in line at intervals of a foot from each other, and so cleverly managed that, no matter how rapid the pace, each was capable of producing a clear and exact photograph by exposure of the exceedingly sensitive plate for the one five-thousandth part of a second.
The result is rather startling and bewildering, as it pretty well upsets everything that has been taught and exhibited with regard to the way in which a horse moves its limbs during progression, and particularly as to the function of the fore and hind limbs. These undeniably correct pictures also prove that artists generally in fact always represent horses in utterly impossible attitudes. The manner in which certain movements are executed is made perfectly clear by these admirably arranged and printed pictures. The act of walking, for instance, about which the most diverse opinions have been entertained by horsemen and veterinary physiologists, is lucidly demonstrated in a manner which admits of no doubt.
In addition to the very extensive series of plates, there are many explanatory woodcuts, while Dr. Stillman gives an excellent description of the locomotory muscles, and valuable remarks on movement having reference to the discoveries developed by means of the camera.
This wonderful book for it is full of wonders, so far as the revelations it contains are concerned deserves a more extended notice than we can afford to give it; but we trust that veterinarians and horsemen, as well as artists and physiologists, will patronise it. It may be mentioned as an evidence of the labour its production necessitated, that it required an outlay of 50,000 dols. (£10,000), a sum which was generously contributed by Governor Stanford, who owns the Palo Alto Stud Farm, where Mr. Muybridge toiled so long and so successfully in experimenting and photographing.