A Lantern Alphabet


Acres, Birt
A pioneer of moving pictures. He demonstrated projection of film strips at the Royal Photographic Society in January 1896.
Archer & Sons
A firm of lantern manufacturers. They were based in Liverpool and were active from 1848 to after 1901.
A form of illuminant in which the light is produced by an arc, or continuous spark, struck between two carbon electrodes. It replaced limelight as the illuminant for professional magic lantern shows and cinema projectors.


Back Projection
Back Projection is when the lantern is behind the screen. The screen is translucent. It was used widely in Phantasmagoria shows, because the fact that the audience was not able to see the projector, the magical effect of the show was enhanced.
Bamforth were the foremost manufacturer of Life Model slides. They were based in Holmfirth in Yorkshire, and went on to produce early movies and finally saucy postcards. The company went out of business in the 1990s.
Beard Eclipse
A type of slide carrier for standard glass slides. The new slide is pushed in front of the old slide, and the old slide is then pulled out.
A magic lantern constructed by Rudge which could project a series of photographs on a screen, thus giving the impression of movement to the subject photographed. It was demonstrated in 1892.
Biunial lanterns have two separate optical systems to allow the projection of Dissolve sets and Effect slides.
Boy’s Own Lantern
Some lanterns were produced and sold by the boy’s comic The Boy’s Own Paper. These are generally Russian Iron lanterns, and they are often painted green, with the title ‘The Boy’s Own Lantern’ on the sides.
Brewster, David
Sir David Brewster was a Victorian optical pioneer who invented the Kaleidoscope and was heavily involved in stereoscopic photography.
Butcher & Sons
A company based in London which produced series of slides and slide accessories under the trademark Primus.


Camera Lucida
A device used in drawing. A prism is used so that when the artist is looking at a scene, one eye is looking at the scene and the other is looking, through the prism, at the sheet of paper the artist is drawing on.This enables the artist to reproduce the scene accurately on the paper.
Camera Obscura
The forerunner of the photographic camera, an enclosed chamber or box where a lens or pinhole in one face of the box creates an inverted image on the opposite face.
Carpenter & Westley
A major firm of magic lantern and slide manufacturers, initially based in Birmingham, later based in London. They pioneered the mass production of slides with their ‘Copper-plate sliders’
A type of magic lantern slide invented by L.S. Beale in 1866. A series of pictures are projected, and there is a shutter mechanism which shows the pictures one by one. A good impression of movement is created.
Chromatrope slides are rackwork slides in which either one glass rotates and the other is fixed, or both glasses rotate in opposite directions. The two glasses have patterns painted on them which interact to produce a moving pattern on the screen.
The section of the optical system of the lantern which concentrates the light from the illuminant on to the slide. It usually consists of two plano-convex lenses with the convex sides facing each other.
On a Biunial or Triunial lantern there is usually a shutter which moves vertically just behind the slides to shut off the light from one slide while opening the light to another slide. This enables a range of effect slides to be projected where the effect changes vertically. The most common of these is the curtain slide, where a slide showing a theatre with a closed curtain is in one slide carrier, a slide showing a theatre with an open curtain is in the other, and moving the shutter in the lantern ‘raises’ or ‘lowers’ the curtain on the screen.
A type of slide where a pattern is drawn by a pointer on a glass which has been covered in soot from a candle. The gearing of the pointer means that on turning a handle a series of patterns are created on the slide, and projected. The patterns are similar to the children’s toy the Spirograph.


A manufacturer of Magic Lanterns and other optical devices. They were based in Manchester and were active between 1845 and 1885.
Dissolve Set
A set of two or more slides in which there are similar pictures on each slide but with a change of state. An example would be two slides of the same picture, one in daytime and one at night. Putting both slides in the two slide carriers of a Biunial lantern and fading from one to the other gives the effect of night falling.
Double Slipper
A form of slipper slide which has two moving glasses, so that two different aspects of the original picture can change.