A Lantern Alphabet


Man Swallowing Rat
Probably the most famous moving magic lantern slide. The usual version is a combined rackwork and slipper slide showing a man asleep in bed and snoring (the lower jaw is moved by the slipper), while a rat crawls up the bed and into his open mouth (the rat is on the rackwork section). There is also a version which is a double slipper.
Microscopic Lantern (or Lantern Microscope)
The Microscopic lantern was a type of lantern with a specialised optical system designed to project the small thin glass slides used for mounting specimens in a microscope. These were very popular in the later years of the nineteenth century both for the purposes of scientific investigation and also for showmen, who could show (for instance) a flea larger than an elephant.


Newton and Company
Newton & Co. were active as lantern and slide manufacturers from 1852 until after the Second World War, based at various addresses in London. They produced vast quantities of slides, mainly educational and religious subjects, and took over the businesses of various other makers. Newton developed some of the most important innovations in the technical history of the magic lantern, including the three and four wick burner. These were developed as complete units for easy replacement and to dissipate the heat inside the lighting unit rather than through the lantern.
Newton’s Rings
When two sheets of glass are placed together and light shone through them, sometimes a pattern of rings appears, sometimes in rainbow colours. These are known as Newton’s rings (named after the physicist Isaac Newton), and they are interference patterns from the light being projected. They can sometimes occur in slide projection (since a standard lantern slide has two sheets of glass), and are a slide defect which has no easy solution.


Objective Lens
The lens at the front of the magic lantern which focuses the slide image onto the screen.
Oil Lamp
The most usual form of illuminant for domestic lanterns of any period. The designs of oil lamp vary from simple single-wick lamps in children’s lanterns to sophisticated burners with three or four wicks which were designed to maximise the light for larger shows.
Optical Lantern
An alternative name for the magic lantern, more often used in scientific and educational circles.
The trade name used by Perken, Son and Rayment, a major London-based supplier of lanterns, slides and accessories in the late 19th century.


The Ernst Planck company was a manufacturer of tinplate toys based in Nuremberg, Germany, in the late 19th century, who were also the foremost manufacturer of toy lanterns. They often sold boxed sets comprising a lantern and slides, and these are still relatively common today.
Polarising Slides
Some slides were partly constructed from a form of mica that changes colour under polarised light. With the use of an Elbow Polariscope or other polarising device, it is possible to rotate the polarisation and make the subject of the slide, for example a flower, change colour.
This is the name given to the sort of magic lantern shows that were given in the last years of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. They were generally of a horrific nature, with skeletons projected on the walls and bodies appearing to rise from coffins. Their most famous practitioner was Etienne-Gaspard Robertson, whose shows in Paris captured the imagination in the years after the French Revolution.
The trade name used for lanterns, slides and accessories produced by the London firm of W. Butcher and Sons. The most famous Primus products were the Junior Lecturer series of slide sets aimed at children.