We’d GIF a lot to be this talented

Richard Naples of Smithsonian Libraries has gained a measure of Internet fame for the amusing, fascinating and fun animations he creates from old book illustrations and posts on the Smithsonian Libraries Tumblr.

In an interview with Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post, Naples explains that it began in April 2012 when he was looking through the institution’s digital library and came across a praxinoscope, a late 19th Century French animation invention. He thought: Why not take the same idea and apply it to GIFs? Naples started with a humble GIF of a monkey hopping over a fence. Then, he taught himself how to create more complex animations and made one of Thelca (genus) butterflies, as depicted in Biologia Centrali-Americana, a book published in the late 1800s. The image took off, so to speak.

Read more of Naples’ conversation with Izadi here and in the meantime enjoy some favories:

From Biologia Centrali-Americana

From Biologia Centrali-Americana


“Pratique de la guerre,” published in 1681.


From “Scrapbook of early aeronautica,” published in 1783.


A portrait of German astronomer Johannes Kepler, as published in 1859′s “The moon hoax; or, A discovery that the moon has a vast population of human beings.”


Illustration of Glaucomys volans, the Southern Flying Squirrel.


Despite being seldom seen due to their nocturnal habits, flying squirrels are indeed common. Caped flying squirrels, however, are pretty uncommon.


Milton J. Burns’s “A Breezy Afternoon” from “Black and white exhibition of the Salmagundi Sketch Club,” published in 1881.

From Maria Sibylla Merian’s “Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung,” published in 1730.

From Maria Sibylla Merian’s “Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung,” published in 1730.


From Galileo’s “Sidereus nuncius” (also called “Starry Messenger”), published in 1610.

“Scrapbook of early aeronautica,” published in 1783.

“Scrapbook of early aeronautica,” published in 1783.


From the 1900 collection of German children’s poetry, “Hans Lustig : ein heiteres Bilderbuch.”


That’s all, folks.

Posted: 20 August 2014
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