The early film archive of Josef-Alexis Joye, Swiss Jesuit Abbot
April 28, 2014 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Over a hundred years ago, a most impressive collection of early motion pictures was collected by the Swiss Jesuit abbot, Josef-Alexis Joye, who collected a trove of films as a way of educating children and adults. In total, he collected around 2,500 titles between 1902 or 1904 and 1915. The abbot's collection was not forgotten or lost after his death in 1919 -- it was stored and cataloged, though in danger of deteriorating by the 1940s. A few decades later, Italian film historian Davide Turconi, fearing that the films would be entirely through deterioration, decided to clip a few frames from each print and save something of the collection. Luckily, his fears were unfounded, and many the films were preserved in the 1970s by David Francis of the National Film and Television Archive of the British Film Institute, where approximately 1,200 of the nitrate prints still exist.

140 years ago, Josef-Alexis Joye (biography in German; Google auto-translation) started working as an educator, then was ordained as a priest in England in 1882. Joye (pronounced Jwa), took to educating children and adults magic lantern images that he made, before he started his collection of films. By 1915, he had amassed a few thousand films -- comedies, melodramas, classical adaptations, travelogues, actualities, trick films, histories, science films, fairy tales, industrials, coloured films: the whole rich panoply of early cinema production.

The preservation of Turconi's collection of frames is known as Project Turconi, and you can search or browse the database of clipped frames.
posted by filthy light thief (6 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Holy crap. Does anyone know if the BFI has digitized any of these films? I love early hand-color, and these stills are gorgeous.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:15 PM on April 28, 2014

Just in case anyone missed one small detail in their history of cinema technology, nitrate film is almost as flammable as gasoline.
posted by sammyo at 3:51 AM on April 29, 2014

I tried to make GIFs out of some of the segments on the Project Turconi website once - some are long enough to wring a hint of motion from, which feels more or less like time travel.
posted by bubukaba at 8:27 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd like to see those. Can you post those somewhere?
posted by filthy light thief at 12:42 PM on April 29, 2014

Wow, what a great story and a great collection of stills. (And films.)
posted by immlass at 4:32 PM on April 29, 2014

I wish the images were available in higher resolution - these are like little doll-sized movies! - but here you go: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

The last one is from In the Land of the Gold Mines (1908), which could yield more if I ever have the patience to figure out the proper frame order.
posted by bubukaba at 12:53 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older The People Who Saw Evolution   |   I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments