Old School vs New School

These two contrasting books about William Friese-Greene came through my letterbox this week.

In the Blue Corner we have “Close-up of an Inventor” from 1948, written (under a pseudonym) by Muriel Forth, a journalist for women’s magazines . Conspicuous by its absence is any section at the back which explains what her sources were. This shows – many misnomers are recycled and amplified. That said, she had the enormous benefit of spending a lot of time with Ethel, Friese-Greene’s first child, who was already a young adolescent when he was creating his first film camera, so she remembers plenty of detail. Her future husband was also around in that time. Plus, Ms Forth had access to a wealth of documentation which has since been dispersed and/or lost.

So if a book can simultaneously be a treasure trove AND a minefield, this is it. I haven’t read it in many, many years and it’s good to be able to enjoy the stories it contains whilst not being misled about certain factual and technical details.

Aaaaaand…. in the Bluer corner we have a book published just a week ago that aims to engage over-8s in the study of science and technology by turning the invention of cinema into a smackdown. It’s short on detail – well, it’s short on words in general, which I guess is the idea – but it’s largely accurate and makes clear the difference between being a lone inventor with a good idea or an industrial one with serious money behind you. There are some annoying errors, but overall it does a good job and at least does list some sources at the back! I won’t tell you who wins as I don’t want to spoil it for you…

70 years separates these two works, but it’s encouraging to the likes of me to see that the story of Mr. Friese-Greene won’t just quietly go away.

Old School vs New School

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4 thoughts on “Old School vs New School

  1. Men who changed the World
    Stories of Invention and Discovery
    Egon Larsen
    Phoenix House Limited
    London 1952
    Hardcover 228 pages
    Egon Larsen (1904-1990) was a German science journalist and writer. Chapter three in this book covers the story of William Friese-Greene, The Man with the Magic Box.
    Pages 47-68. Includes three black and white photographs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not fan of WWE but this is probably the reason most people know the expression these days. Apart from entertainment wrestling, it can just be a contest between any kind of rivals or competitors.


  2. Ta Peter, now I know! One of the nicest comments anybody’s ever made about myself was supposed to be derogatory and not intended for my ears. Many years ago, a former neighbour remarked to a friend of hers, “He’s positively Victorian!” Well–that chuffed me! In regard to the book I must say I like the cover. The fact that it’s a yankee book is refreshing, in that it confers a sort of reflected glory. It could just as well have been “Edison vs. Le Prince”.


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