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date: 18 February 2020


A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell


An optical toy consisting of a flat disc illustrated with a series of sequential images. The disk has slots cut into it and is mounted on a spindle. When held up to a mirror and spun the viewer can look into the mirror through the slots and the reflected images will appear to be moving. Produced by Belgian Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau in 1833, the toy was also made available in Britain under the name Phantasmascope and Fantascope. A very similar toy, named the Stroboscope, was produced independently at around the same time by Simon Stampfer in Austria. Optical toys that created illusions through clever play with the principle of persistence of vision were popular during the Victorian era and are considered important precursors to the development of early cinema. See also praxinoscope; series photography; thaumatrope; zoetrope.