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US $200.00
Approximately £117.83(including postage)
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US $44.00 (approx. £25.92) USPS Priority Mail International | See details
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Last updated on  12 May, 2014 16:27:18 BST  View all revisions

Item specifics

Seller notes: EXCELLENT VINTAGE 1930'S

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Magic Lantern

History | How it works | Types of lantern slides | What became of it 
Sources | More Lanterns | Back to Optical Toys


Since scientists began experimenting with the magic lantern in the 1600s, this device continued to play an important role in early entertainment.  

Magic lanterns are an early equivalent of today's slide projectors, with a few important differences.  First, magic lanterns used fire instead of electric bulbs to illuminate the slides.  A second difference was the shape of the slides.  Today's slides are often made of lightweight, thin plastic or glass, and come in single frames.  Magic lantern slides came in strips of large, bulky pieces of glass held together with metal or wood.  They often contained mechanical features that allowed limited movement of one or more slides within the projector, a feature no longer found on modern slide projectors.  Lastly, many magic lanterns could display images of greater complexity than today's slide projectors.  

How it works:

A magic lantern consists of seven functional sections: the lamp, reflector, condensing lens, lens tube, body, base, and smokestack.  The lamp is the sole source of illumination, which often came from burning oil or gas, a burning piece of calcium, or later, electricity.  The reflector reflects the light from the lamp toward the condensing lens, which focuses the light onto the slide being projected.  The lens tube serves to magnify the illuminated slide, so that projected images from 6 to 12 feet wide can be obtained.  The body is often made completely of metal, and houses all of the previous components except the lens tube.  The base lifts the magic lantern above the surface of a table.  This is important because the body will become intensely hot from the illuminating lamp, and the base helps to prevent table burns.  Finally, the smokestack serves to vent the smoke coming from the lamp, so that the smoke doesn't accumulate inside the lantern and put out the fire.

Hand-painted or photographic glass slides are inserted horizontally between the condensing lens and lens tube, through metal runners at top and bottom.  A skilled projectionist can move them quickly, and if the slides contain images of progressive motion, the projected image will appear to move.  Some slides can create complex, constantly moving displays, demonstrating that the magic lantern is not simply a still image projector.  

Types of lantern slides:

Lantern slides came in several sizes.  Peck and Snyder, a company with great influence in the magic lantern industry, sold slides measuring 4.5 by 7 inches. "English pattern" slides were 3.5 by 3.5 inches, "French pattern" slides were 3.25 by 4 inches, and the "standard European size" was 3.25 by 3.25 inches.  Specialized slides were over a foot long at times, containing gears, cranks, cogs, and even belts and pulleys.  Obviously, there was very little standardization of slide sizes, but apparently this had little impact on the magic lantern's popularity.  Although such a wide variety of magic lanterns and slides were made, the different types were so widespread that people could still find slides to fit their particular magic lanterns.  

What became of it:


Due to the high demand at the time, the magic lantern industry was almost the equivalent of today's computer industry.  Peck and Snyder sold at least 47 different varieties of magic lantern; the varieties mainly arose from slight changes in the seven lantern sections.  

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Item location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
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What do I do if my item(s) have not arrived in the approximate time indicated? • It is not unusual for shipments to be delayed several days for various reasons, especially Canadian and international orders.  However, if it has been more than 3 weeks since you paid for your order please contact us at for assistance. I did not opt for the shipping insurance and my item has been lost or damaged by the post office.  Is there anything Lhowardestates can do for me in this situation? • No.  We highly recommend you purchase shipping insurance as lhowardestates cannot be held responsible for orders damaged or lost during shipping.  What is the Lhowardestates return policy? • We offer a full merchandise refund on any items returned to us within 1 week of item shipped date.  Please return the item to the address listed above in its original packaging with a note that includes your name, the item number, and the reason why you are returning the item.
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