Book Animations

Just for fun, some GIF animations of images from books and manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.  All of the GIFs are created by Laura Aydelotte ( and free to share under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike License (see details at bottom of this page).  Just credit me with my twitter handle @LauraEAydelotte and mention the image comes from material at the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.  Click on the links below each GIF to view and share the tweets in which they originally appeared or see the digital images from the original book when available.

Aldus Press Dolphin


University of Pennsylvania Libraries Call Number: IC55 C2868c 569c
Click to see the original image on POP
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The dolphin wrapped around the anchor in this animation is from an image of the famous printer’s device of the Aldine Press.  Yes, that is the funny way people in Renaissance Italy liked to draw dolphins!  This famous early printing press was founded by Aldus Manutius (or Manuzio)(c.1450-1515) and produced books in Venice from 1495-1588.  The Aldine press was the first significant press to specialize in printed scholarly editions of texts, and produced the first examples of both Greek and Italic typefaces.  Aldine books, especially those produced in Aldus’ life-time, are also known for their high quality printing, layout, and materials, and many early Aldine books are today considered some of the most beautiful editions of early printing.

The image of the Aldine device used for this animation comes from a 1569 Italian catechism, printed during the lifetime of Aldus Manutius the younger (1547-1597), the grandson of the founder of the press.  The image of the dolphin wrapped around the anchor comes from an emblem sometimes associated with the words festina lente, which translates to “make haste slowly.”  The message of the image and the motto is that the Aldine press creates a perfect balance between speed, represented by the dolphin, and slow deliberation, represented by the anchor.  After over 400 years wrapped around that anchor, though, the Aldine dolphin looks pretty happy to have the chance to swim around.

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum


This one comes from  a hand colored image of the Americas from Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, printed in 1587, and this copy comes from the collection at the Boston Public Library.  The map shows both the western advances in understanding the shape of the world in increasingly accurate terms thanks to 16th century exploration and the whimsical ships, sea monsters, and other characters that often adorned these early maps.  Sea travel was indeed perilous 400 years ago, but hopefully not too many explorers encountered giant pouncing lions, playful fish, or the threat of falling of the equator.

Shakespeare and Elizabeth I


Folger Shakespeare Library STC 4497 copy 1 (left)
Folger Shakespeare Library 22273 Fo.1 No.1 (right)

This fanciful provenance animation imagines the portrait of Elizabeth I (1533-1603) from William Camden’s Annales signing the title page of Shakespeare’s (1564-1616) First Folio, the first edition of Shakespeare’s works.  Both Elizabeth and Shakespeare himself had died by the time the First Folio came out, but it is certainly fun to imagine the two great figures of the English Renaissance swapping books.  The signature shown in the gif is a copy of Elizabeth I’s actual signature, and the letters used to make the inscription “her book” are copied from a letter in her hand.

Medieval Manuscript Bible BorderAnimation-Animal-Border-MS-500University of Pennsylvania Libraries Call Number: Ms. Codex 724
View original image on Penn in Hand
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This animationi comes from the bottom border of a page from a folio sized (very large) 13th century bible in Penn’s collections.  As you can see if you click on the link above to view the original image, the page these playful creatures appear on is from the very start of Genesis, and on the left-hand border are images illustrating what occured on each of the 7 days of creation.  (If you know a little Latin, you may recognize the words “In principio creavit deus…” or “In the beginning God created…” the first words of the bible).  The fanciful beasts and birds drawn at the bottom thus loosely correspond with the birds and beasts being created in the text, but they also belong to the common practice among many medieval illuminators of decorating their pages with all kinds of interesting imagery that served a purely decorative purpose.  You can browse through other images of illuminations from this bible using the link to the original image on Penn in Hand, to see examples of more whimsical creatures on the borders of this bible, including

The materials used to produce an illumination like this were often very expensive, in particular the gold decoration (which I have re-purposed here for the fire-breathing monster) is made of real gold leaf, which not only shines brightly, but can add an illusion of movement and dimension to an illumination as the pages move and catch the light when seen in person.


University of Pennsylvania Libraries Call Number: Ms. Codex 724

View original image on Penn in Hand

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From the same manuscript as above, some delightful medieval felines.

Danse Macabre
University of Pennsylvania Libraries Call Number: Inc S-307
 The Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death comes out of the art and allegory of the medieval period.  Depictions of dancing skeletons and corpses such as the one shown here are meant to remind us of the universality of death, which comes to everyone alike, regardless of wealth, beauty, power, or social station.  The image of people being led into dances by an allegorical figure of death or of the dead themselves dancing crop up frequently in medieval and Renaissance imagery and were the inspiration for the famous scene at the end of Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal.
The Danse Macabre for this animation comes from the pages of a famous early printed book, commonly referred to as the Nuremberg Chronicles from the year 1493, which contains an array of imagery from views of major cities  to religious iconography to this Memento Mori (reminder of death): a deadly dance party appropriate for the celebration of Halloween and observation of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) occuring today and this weekend.

Rocket Cat


 University of Pennsylvania Libraries Call Number:  Ms. Codex 109
“Rocket Cat” as the incendiary feline depicted on this 16th century manuscript has become known, has received sufficient press that he may need no further explanation.  If you remain puzzled, however, you can learn about the (not at all feline friendly) historical context of this image in this blog post by my colleague Mitch Fraas.  Or you can just partake of the joys of watching Rocket Cat and Rocket Bird race around in blissful ignorance.

Irreverent feast guests through history Part I


Irreverent feast guests through history Part II


Irreverent feast guests through history Part III
Creative Commons License
This work by Laura Aydelotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.   You are both welcomed and encouraged to share and use these GIFs for any non-commercial purpose (that is, anything you don’t make money from).  I only ask that you attribute them to me using my twitter handle, @LauraEAydelotte and cite that they are created from images of materials from the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
When possible it would also be great to cite the call number of the book the animation came from and other links to the original image that I have included below each GIF so that people can more easily find out more about the original materials.

8 Responses to Book Animations

  1. Manny says:

    Matthew enjoyed them all. The skeletons were still his favorite with the dolphin a close second! Very nice.


  2. lubman says:

    Thank you, great animations!


  3. Caro says:

    This is awesome !! We need more 😀


  4. Cmartinez says:

    The Hotpoint ad looks like Thanksgiving at my house.


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  7. Sarah says:

    Love these – especially Aldine’s dolphin! Thank you


  8. Tania Sheko says:

    Love these so much, so playful. Thank you for sharing.


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