The Magic Lantern Society  

New Light on Old Media  

Welcome to Issue 2 of New Light on Old Media
In mid-July the Magic Lantern Society of the US and Canada held their biennial convention in Boston, Mass. with a perfect mix of historical research and new developments in the visual fun business. A few are featured in this issue. 

Details of how to become more involved in the activities of our UK Magic Lantern Society , plus a link to the US Society, follow at the end of this e-letter. 

If you have information about interesting up and coming activities you can contact me here

Mervyn Heard,

The Arctic Theatre Royal

The Wonder Show is a theatre company based in Providence, RI using the magic lantern and other forms of ancient media, such as the moving panorama, as the basis for its performance work. Their current production The Arctic Theatre Royal, created by the company's founder Carolyn Gennari, centres on Captain William Parry's arctic expedition of 1819. Parry instituted theatrical entertainments, concerts and lantern shows to keep up morale during the long winter months. There was also a witty weekly newspaper, The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle. The show text is taken almost entirely from that publication. The slides used are historic lantern slides.The company even has their own miniature touring theatre building!
You can find out more about the company's work and download a very informative programme outlining the background to their current show.

Their next performance is at the Observatory in Brooklyn, New York on Friday August 1st for the Morbid Anatomy Museum - a fascinating institution you also might like to visit if you're of a curious disposition.


One of the most dazzling presentations at the US Convention focussed on the work of the founder of Eye Think Inc, Rufus B Seder - the Edison of the 21st century optical wonder business. His inventions span everything from the 'scanamation' picture book...

to his extraordinary  Lifetiles. These might be best described as movies for the wall: a series of 8" optical glass-tiled murals which change as you move past them. There are no moving parts. 'The motion lies in the eye of the beholder'. You can view a 12-minute compilation reel of installations, including his amazing creations for underground railway systems in the USA, on YouTube.

For more on his other optical devices
visit Rufus B Seder’s website.


The Teeny Weeny Modern Magic Lantern


The last few years have seen the introduction of various new pocket-sized projectors but probably nothing so small or indeed reminiscent of a hand-operated magic lantern as the Projecteo Instagram projector.

Even the image format is square!
I'm not sure I can think of any practical application for this device other than to amuse mice, but you can check out the science and shortcomings at the Projecteo website.



The Lucerna magic lantern web resource had its genesis a couple of years ago in research conducted by the University of Trier, the Magic Lantern Society, and Screen Archive South East, University of Brighton.
Working with partners from Indiana University and Utrecht University, Lucerna has now established itself as a freely available online public resource and houses numerous lantern slide images, slide readings and general information on the magic lantern's work. The site currently contains information on over 7,500 slide sets comprising some 187,800 individual slides, plus details of people, events and related organisations.
Lantern and slide images are being added regularly and it represents a wonderland not only for academic research, but to reveal the dark arts of lantern narrative and illustration.

Visit the Lucerna site

Sllde 14 of The Giants and How to Fight Them (York & Son)

 New Publications


This book by David J Jones offers much more on the history and mystique of the lantern than the seemingly esoteric title suggests. Read more and order a copy in either hardback or as an ebook direct from the publisher


Harry Furniss (1854-1925) was a political caricaturist and popular lantern lecturer who toured the UK, the USA and Australia with an illustrated entertainment comprising satirical anecdotes and parliamentary jokes. A typical programme featured over 100 slides. based on his own cartoons. This book explores Furniss's art and humour.
More details from the publisher, North American Victorian Studies Association.



Andrew Gill's virtual trip down the Thames without the inconvenience of wet socks and soggy sandwiches.
This delightful book features original lantern slide images shown in the 1880s as part of an illustrated lecture.
There’s a paperback and a Kindle edition both available from Amazon books


The Birthplace of the Movies

Some of you may be aware of the campaign launched by the University of Westminster in Regent Street, London a few years ago to restore the Regent Street Cinema, formerly the Royal Polytechnic, the acknowledged spiritual home of the magic lantern and the venue for the first Lumière cinematograph performances in London in 1896.  You can trace the development of this restoration project on the  Birthplace of Cinema project site and discover some remarkable pictures from the building's history

Within the last few weeks the site has seen the addition of a short film, narrated by actor Timothy West, featuring interviews with various current cinema luminaries who learnt their skills at the U of W. There is even the briefest glimpse of a raddled old lanternist whose name escapes me.


Incidental Music


There is now a downloadable version of an album originally released in 2009 by the Welsh band, Colorama. Magic Lantern Show features a track of the same name (Track 5), which you can listen to on-site. Don't worry if your Welsh is not too hot, luckily the track is instrumental. I thought it was pretty good. But then again I like Tom Waits.

More About the Magic Lantern Society

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

For further information about the Society visit our website:  

We also have a sister organisation The Magic Lantern Society of the US and Canada who may be found at this website:

New Light on Old Media Issue 2, July 2014
Copyright © 2014 The Magic Lantern Society, All rights reserved.

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