The History of Flip Books

Today I found a very resourceful flip book website – Flip Book Info provides a comprehensive database of Pascal Fouché’s flip book collection of more than 4,900 flip books.

Also, on Fouché’s flip book website, flip book fans and users can find a historical overview of flip books. This information includes:

  • The origin of flip books
  • The different names for flip books, flick books, and Abblätterbuch
  • Flip book formats, dimensions, etc.
  • Among other historical flip book information

Flip Book Info is a concise website that is a great resource.

The flip book sample videos are a real treat:


What is a Flip Book?

A Simple Definition of a Flip Book

In its simplest form, a flip book is a small book with a series of printed images which create the illusion of motion when the pages of the book are rapidly flipped. Generally, a flip book is held in one hand while the thumb of the other flips through the pages, and the viewer focuses their eyes on the middle of each page. The flip book relies on a basic optical principle known as persistence of vision to create an animated image. In addition to being amusing, flip books also laid the groundwork for motion pictures, and could be considered one of the earliest forms of animation.

Flip Books and the Human Retina

Before exploring the flip book’s history, it may help to know how persistence of vision works. The human retina actually retains an image for a brief instant. When a series of images are rapidly presented to the retina, it smooths out the gaps, creating a streamlined animated image. This principle is what allows people to perceive the series of frames in a motion picture as a movie, rather than a set of still photographs. You may have noticed that changes in frame rate and illumination may change the way the animation appears, creating a flicker which can be quite distracting.

Flip Book History

The first flip book was released in 1868 as a kineograph, literally a “moving picture.” The developer of the kineograph realized that images could be presented in a linear sequence, rather than being mounted on a circular drum or disc and rotated. The idea rapidly caught on, and many companies started releasing flip books for children and adults alike. Although many modern flip books are given away for free as promotion items, children’s gifts and other giveaways, earlier flip books were considered miraculous by many people.

Many flip books consist of a series of illustrations. Small differences between the illustrations make a brief animated picture when they are rapidly flipped. Others rely on a series of photographs, much like the frames in a movie. The theme of a flip book may vary, depending on the intended audience; it may illustrate a short story or a brief event, or may even be used in an advertising campaign.

Flip Book = Flick Book?

In some parts of the world, a flip book is better known as a “flick book”, especially in British English. Whatever they call it, many aspiring artists draw their own, and bored school children may ornament their notebooks with flip books as well.

Flip Books in the Digital Age

There are also computer programs which can be used to create a flip book, stringing together a series of images from a trip, for example. Also, you can create flip books from a short web camera video. Then chop the video into still frames and print in sequence. Very cool and innovative way to make a flip book.

Some of this information was provided by: