The Magic Lantern Society  

New Light on Old Media  

Welcome to Issue 11 of New Light on Old Media

For all aficionados of the hand painted lantern slide the images, like the one above, painted by W R HIll for the Royal Polytechnic and featuring scenes from Alice in Wonderland, represent the gold standard of this form of mid 19th artistry. You can now view all of Hill's very special surviving lantern slides on line, together with other examples of Alice images by some of his contemporaries, on the Science and Society site.

2015 is a significant year for Alice since it marks the 150th anniversary of the publishing of the first edition of Lewis Carroll's classic work, and there are a number of international events to watch out for during the year, including - currently - a spectacular theatre performance involving puppets, music and circus spectacle in the vaults at Waterloo Station in London, staged by
Les Enfants Terribles.  This runs until the end of August.

Our usual reminder that should you wish
become a fully paid-up member of the Magic Lantern Society and receive copies of our brand new quarterly publication you can find a link at the end of this e-letter.  

Mervyn Heard,

Papal Reflections



An odd little item passed under the radar last year which I thought worth reprising for its significant novelty value and since it seems to have reared its head again.   Back in June when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Pope he presented the pontiff with a magic mirror. This was an item which persecuted Christians in Japan used to broadcast their true faith to other followers. It works on a similar principle to the traditional magic mirror, although recreated in a more modern style. It reveals an image of Christ and the cross.  (As you can see that's unfortunately not apparent in this official picture). Anyway, there is more about the story on the Rome Reports site


Paper Peepshows


This charming new publication from Ralph Hyde features items from the Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection. It charts the history of the paper peepshow and has an extensive catalogue section. You can find out more if you pay a visit to the publisher's site:
The Antique Collectors Club. You can also take your own peep inside the book itself, and benefit from a special deal, at the Amazon site


Science in Wonderland


Melanie Keene's intriguing new book presents a new perspective on Victorian scientific discoveries and inventions and how such ideas  were presented to young audiences in the context of fairy tales and stories. An example is the way that the solar microscope could produce a soup of monsters from a raindrop.  It's published by Oxford University Press and if you visit this
OUP page link you can even access a pdf of the whole of chapter one.  


More About the
Magic Lantern Society


If you have an interest in research or performance involving the magic lantern or other forms of vintage visual media The Magic Lantern Society publishes a regular quarterly combined newsletter and journal.  Members also meet on a regular basis in the UK and iat other locations throughout Europe. Every four years we hold a major international convention in the UK.

For further information about the Society go to  

Our sister organisation The Magic Lantern Society of the US and Canada is here:


Victorian Selfies


These lantern slide images are from a recent exhibition staged by the Northumberland Archives at Ashington in the North of England under the title
Retronaut: The Photographic Time Machine.
Reported in the press as "Victorian selfies" that's not quite right of course. The subjects would need to have brandished a full page plate camera in front of their faces to achieve the true effect. But lets admit they do have that same essential spontanious spirit about them. Clearly they caught the imagination of internet selfie-followers too, going viral and clocking up over 47,000 hits worldwide.



A Million Pictures


There has been some significant news on the lantern research front. A team of researchers from the universities of Antwerp, Exeyer, Girona and Salamance, led by media historians Dr Sarah Dellmann and Prof. Frank Kessler, have received major three year funding to explore the history and use of magic lantern slides by educational, popular and academic associations. Slides from partner collections will be digitalised and the metadata made available for future research.
 More about the project here - full title -
"A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Slide Heritage as Artefacts in the Common European History of Learning"  
Catchy title, eh !


Séance and Seanceability

(this is where it gets personal)


Each year the Birkbeck University of London School of Arts has an Arts Week. This year it runs from 18-23rd May and the theme is the 18th century.  On Friday 22nd at 7.30pm the famous charlatan Professor Heard will be presenting a special theatrical lecture-entertainment with clever actors, exploring contemporary reactions to the phantasmagoria in turn-of-the-18th century London, with some rarely seen lantern images. Séance and Seanceability will commence at 7.30pm. At which point, in true style, the doors will be locked and bolted.  Tickets are FREE, but capacity is limited, so you will need to reserve a seat through Eventbrite.

Be afraid : be ever so slightly afraid!


New Light on Old Media Issue 11, May 2015
Copyright © 2015 The Magic Lantern Society, All rights reserved.

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