Muybridge's Animal Locomotion set to make $15,000

A rare author's edition folio of Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Locomotion is to cross the block at US auction house Waverly Rare Books on June 20.

First published in 1887 as an 11-volume set, Animal Locomotion, which is subtitled An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements, is expected to make $12,000-15,000.

Animal Locomotion auction
Muybridge's photographs captured details never seen by the human eye before

As only 37 sets were produced, the present example is considered a very rare find. Although one of the original 21 plates is missing, the book remains highly sought after due to the scarcity of any equivalent example on the marketplace.

Waverly Rare Books' expert Monika Schiavo comments: "Generally, a single lost plate can reduce a book's value considerably, but in cases where the book is highly valuable, as in the case with this one, the loss in value is nowhere near as great, as buyers would have few - if any - alternatives."

In March 2010, a comparable author's edition boasting all 21 original plates made $48,000 at Swann Galleries.

English eccentric Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is considered a photographic pioneer. His immediately recognisable work paved the way for the motion picture industry, while his stop-action sequences exposed detail never seen before by the human eye.

Before Muybridge's investigations into animal locomotion, it was believed that a galloping horse kept one foot on the ground at all times, and the vast majority of artists painted galloping horses thus.

Muybridge's detailed studies exposed the truth. There are moments when a horse in motion is fully airborne, its legs gathered beneath its body.

However, Muybridge's life was also laced with scandal. In 1874, Muybridge shot and killed his young wife's lover, Major Harry Larkyns. He was acquitted of murder on the grounds of "justifiable homicide".  

Composer Phillip Glass' opera The Photographer is based on this incident.  

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