A Lantern Alphabet


Effect Slides
A general term for any kind of slide in which some kind of visual transformation takes place. Examples include Snow Effect Slides (image of falling snow superimposed on a scene), most types of Dissolve (changes from day to night or season to season), Rackwork and Lever slides which show movement of a part of the image, and some types of Slipper slide.
A form of optical entertainment invented by Philip Jacob de Loutherbourg in 1781. It seems similar to the later diorama shows, and has been described as a peepshow in which the audience sat inside the box.
A form of rackwork slide which typically has two sheets of metal with holes in rotating in opposite directions. The pattern of the holes is designed to give a similar effect to a Chromatrope slide.
A form of optical entertainment invented by Adam Walker in the 1780s. It used some form of back projection to give astronomical effects on screen, accompanied by Adam’s lecturing and music played on a Celestina, a type of glass organ.
Elbow Polariscope
Some slides require polarised light to show them to best effect, for example effect slides where thin sheets of crystal or mica were arranged in a pattern. By rotating the slide in a polarised light source, the colours of the crystal change. The Elbow Polariscope was the device used to produce polarised light. It uses a stack of reflecting glass plates to polarise the light, and as the light arrives and departs at 45 degrees to the stack, the device is shaped like a human elbow.
Electrical Tachyscope
This device created moving pictures by rotating a large disc with photographic images on it in front of a flashing light. It was invented in Germany by Ottomar Anschütz, and was in series production between 1892 and 1895.
The Episcope enables images of opaque objects (usually flat illustrations or photographs, but can be 3-D objects) to be projected onto a screen, using a strong light shone onto the object when placed inside the device. They were popular at one time for projecting postcards, and are sometimes sold as ‘Post Card Projectors’. Although we often think of Episcopes as coming after the magic lantern, technically they pre-date it because in essence they are exactly the same as a Camera Obscura, in that a brightly-lit opaque object forms an image on a screen via a lens. The Phantasmagoria projector could also project opaque objects.
Similar to an Episcope, but this device can project both opaque objects and transparent slides. They are typically rather later than most magic lanterns, often being used for educational purposes during the twentieth century.
Ether and oxygen combined has been used as an illuminant for Magic Lanterns. It proved however to be too unsafe, and was blamed for at least one major explosion in France.


A form of ‘flicker book’ giving a simple moving picture effect, patented by Henry W. Short in 1898.
Fountain Slide
A mechanical effect slide where a water fountain is shown on the slide, and rotation of a handle produces movement to make the water appear to flow from the fountain. More elaborate versions comprise a dissolve set where the fountain is on one slide, and the water effect on another slide which can be dissolved on to the fountain image.


The name given to the travelling lantern showpeople who toured Britain in the early years of the 19th century. Many were from Italy, and the word Galantee is believed to have come from their cry of ‘Galantee So!’ – galante is the Italian for gallant or fine and ‘So’ was their pronunciation of the English word ‘show’.
Graystone Bird
Graystone Bird produced high-quality lantern slides largely of landscapes. He was based in Bath and active during the last years of the 19th century.
The trade mark of George Washington Wilson. Wilson was a prolific commercial photographer based in Aberdeen, whose business produced some of the finest landscape lantern slides. These were sold throughout the later decades of the 19th century, and Wilson’s images also appeared in a variety of other photographic formats.


Tungsten Halogen is a form of illuminant which is used in modern slide projectors and in magic lanterns which have been converted to electricity. It is a low voltage, efficient light source which helps to reduce damage to slides.
William George Horner is credited with the invention of the Zoetrope in 1834.
W.C. Hughes was a major manufacturer of lanterns and slides, based at Kinglsand in north London. The company held the patent for the ‘Pamphengos’ improved oil light.