Photograph by Egmont Contreras, ACMI

How do you cage a bird? With a thaumatrope, an optical toy that binds a disc to lengths of string. Illustrated on each side of the disc are distinct images that become one when you pull the string and the thaumatrope spins. The first known thaumatrope was invented by John Ayrton Paris in 1824, when he used it to demonstrate his theory of ‘persistence of vision’ to London’s Royal College of Physicians.

Related works

Last on display

Australian Centre for the Moving Image

1 September 2021


ACMI Identifier


Curatorial section

The Story of the Moving Image → Moving Pictures → 02. Play and Illusion

Appears in


There's always a lighthouse (Thaumatrope)

The thaumatrope was an early optical illusion device popular in the Victorian era and was important to the development of the moving image.


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