ApparatusThe magic lantern used a concave mirror behind a light source to direct the light through a small rectangular sheet of glass—a "lantern slide" that bore the image—and onward into a lens at the front of the apparatus. The lens adjusted to focus the plane of the slide at the distance of the projection screen, which could be simply a white wall, and it therefore formed an enlarged image of the slide on the screen.Pfragner, Julius. "An Optician Looks for Work". The Motion Picture: From Magic Lantern to Sound. Great Britain: Bailey Brothers and Swinfen Ltd. 9-21. Print. Some lanterns, including those of and Jan van Musschenbroek, used 3 lenses for the . Biunial lanterns, with two objectives, became common during the 19th century and enabled a smooth and easy change of pictures. s added more powerful light sources to optimize the projection of photographic slides.
SlidesOriginally the pictures were hand painted on glass slides. Initially, figures were rendered with black paint but soon transparent colors were also used. Sometimes the painting was done on oiled paper. Usually black paint was used as a background to block superfluous light, so the figures could be projected without distracting borders or frames. Many slides were finished with a layer of transparent lacquer, but in a later period cover glasses were also used to protect the painted layer. Most handmade slides were mounted in wood frames with a round or square opening for the picture. After 1820 the manufacturing of hand colored printed slides started, often making use of transfers. Many manufactured slides were produced on strips of glass with several pictures on them and rimmed with a strip of glued paper. The first photographic lantern slides, called ''hyalotypes'', were invented by the German-born brothers Ernst Wilhelm (William) and Friedrich (Frederick) Langenheim in 1848 in and patented in 1850.
Light sourcesApart from sunlight, the only light sources available at the time of invention in the 17th century were candles and oil lamps, which were very inefficient and produced very dim projected images. The invention of the in the 1790s helped to make the images brighter. The invention of in the 1820s made them even brighter. The invention of the intensely bright electric in the 1860s eliminated the need for combustible gases or hazardous chemicals, and eventually the incandescent electric lamp further improved safety and convenience, although not brightness.Waddington, Damer. "Introduction". Panoramas, Magic Lanterns and Cinemas. Channel Islands, NJ: Tocan Books. xiii-xv. Print.
PrecursorsSeveral types of projection systems existed before the invention of the magic lantern. Giovanni Fontana, and described or drew image projectors that had similarities to the magic lantern. In the 17th century, there was an immense interest in optics. The and were invented (in 1608 and the 1620s respectively) and apart from being useful to some scientists, such instruments were especially popular as entertaining curiosities to people who could afford them. The magic lantern would prove a perfect successor.
Camera obscuraThe magic lantern can be seen as a further development of . This is a natural phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen (for instance a wall) is projected through a small hole in that screen as an inverted image (left to right and upside down) on a surface opposite to the opening. It was known at least since the 5th century BC and experimented with in darkened rooms at least since circa 1000 AD. The use of a lens in the hole has been traced back to circa 1550. The portable camera obscura box with a lens was developed in the 17th century. Dutch inventor is thought to have sold one to Dutch poet, composer and diplomat in 1622, while the oldest known clear description of a box-type camera is in German Jesuit scientist 's 1657 book ''Magia universalis naturæ et artis''.
Steganographic mirrorThe 1645 first edition of German Jesuit scholar 's book '' '' included a description of his invention, the "Steganographic Mirror": a primitive projection system with a focusing lens and text or pictures painted on a concave mirror reflecting sunlight, mostly intended for long-distance communication. He saw limitations in the increase of size and diminished clarity over a long distance and expressed his hope that someone would find a method to improve on this. In 1654, Belgian Jesuit mathematician . Some reports say that Martini lectured throughout Europe with a magic lantern, which he might have imported from China, but there's no evidence that it used anything other than Kircher's technique. However, Tacquet was a correspondent and friend of and may thus have been a very early adapter of the magic lantern technique that Huygens developed around this period.
Christiaan HuygensProminent Dutch scientist , is nowadays widely accepted as the true inventor of the magic lantern. He knew 's 1645 edition of ''Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae'' which described a primitive projection system with a focusing lens and text or pictures painted on a concave mirror reflecting sunlight. Christiaan's father Constantijn had been acquainted with Cornelis Drebbel who used some unidentified optical techniques to transform himself and to summon wonderful appearances in magical performances. Constantijn Huygens wrote very enthusiastically about a camera obscura device that he got from Drebbel in 1622. The oldest known document concerning the magic lantern is a page on which Christiaan Huygens made ten small sketches of a skeleton taking off its skull, above which he wrote "for representations by means of convex glasses with the lamp" (translated from French). As this page was found between documents dated in 1659, it is believed to have been made in the same year. Huygens soon seemed to regret this invention, as he thought it was too frivolous. In a 1662 letter to his brother he claimed he thought of it as some old "bagatelle" and seemed convinced that it would harm the family's reputation if people found out the lantern came from him. Christiaan had reluctantly sent a lantern to their father, but when he realized that Constantijn intended to show the lantern to the court of King at the Louvre, Christiaan asked Lodewijk to sabotage the lantern. Christiaan initially referred to the magic lantern as "la lampe" and "la lanterne", but in the last years of his life he used the then common term "laterna magica" in some notes. In 1694, he drew the principle of a "laterna magica" with two lenses.
Walgensten, the DaneThomas Rasmussen Walgensten (c. 1627 – 1681), a mathematician from , studied at the in 1657–58. He possibly met Christiaan Huygens during this time (and/or on several other occasions) and may have learned about the magic lantern from him. Correspondence between them is known from 1667. At least from 1664 until 1670, Walgensten demonstrated the magic lantern in Paris (1664), Lyon (1665), Rome (1665-66), and Copenhagen (1670). He "sold such lanterns to different Italian princes in such an amount that they now are almost everyday items in Rome" according to Athanasius Kircher in 1671. In 1670, Walgensten projected an image of Death at the court of . This scared some courtiers, but the king dismissed their cowardice and requested to repeat the figure three times. The king died a few days later. After Walgensten died, his widow sold his lanterns to the Danish Royal collection, but they have not been preserved. Walgensten is credited with coining the term "Laterna Magica", assuming he communicated this name to Claude Dechales who, in 1674, published about the machine of the "erudite Dane" that he had seen in 1665 in Lyon.
Possible German origins: Wiesel and GriendelThere are many gaps and uncertainties in the magic lantern's recorded history. A separate early magic lantern tradition seems to have been developed in southern Germany and includes lanterns with horizontal cylindrical bodies, while Walgensten's lantern and probably Huygens' both had vertical bodies. This tradition dates at least to 1671, with the arrival of instrument maker Johann Franz Griendel in the city of , which Johann Zahn identified as one of the centers of magic lantern production in 1686. Griendel was indicated as the inventor of the magic lantern by Johann Christoph Kohlhans in a 1677 publication. It has been suggested that this tradition is older and that instrument maker Johann Wiesel (1583–1662) from may have been making magic lanterns earlier on and possibly inspired Griendel and even Huygens. Huygens is known to have studied samples of Wiesel's lens-making and instruments since 1653. Wiesel did make a ship's lantern around 1640 that has much in common with the magic lantern design that Griendel would later apply: a horizontal cylindrical body with a rosette chimney on top, a concave mirror behind a fixture for a candle or lamp inside and a biconvex lens at the front. There is no evidence that Wiesel actually ever made a magic lantern, but in 1674, his successor offered a variety of magic lanterns from the same workshop. This successor is thought to have only continued producing Wiesel's designs after his death in 1662, without adding anything new.
Early adoptersBefore 1671, only a small circle of people seemed to have knowledge of the magic lantern, and almost every known report of the device from this period had to do with people that were more or less directly connected to Christiaan Huygens. Despite the rejection expressed in his letters to his brother, Huygens must have familiarized several people with the lantern. In 1664 Parisian engineer Pierre Petit wrote to Huygens to ask for some specifications of the lantern, because he was trying to construct one after seeing the lantern of "the dane" (probably Walgensten). The lantern that Petit was constructing had a concave mirror behind the lamp. This directed more light through the lens, resulting in a brighter projection, and it would become a standard part of most of the lanterns that were made later. Petit may have copied it from Walgensten, but he expressed that he made a lamp stronger than any he had ever seen. Starting in 1661, Huygens corresponded with London optical instrument-maker Richard Reeve. Reeve was soon selling magic lanterns, demonstrated one in his shop on 17 May 1663 to Balthasar de Monconys, and sold one to in August 1666. One of Christiaan Huygens' contacts imagined how would use the magic lantern: "If he would know about the invention of the Lantern he would surely frighten the cardinals with specters." Kircher would eventually learn about the existence of the magic lantern via Thomas Walgensten and introduced it as "Lucerna Magica" in the widespread 1671 second edition of his book ''Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae''. Kircher claimed that Thomas Walgensten reworked his ideas from the previous edition of this book into a better lantern. Kircher described this improved lantern, but it was illustrated in a confusing manner: the pictures seem technically incorrect—with both the projected image and the transparencies (H) shown upright (while the text states that they should be inverted), the hollow mirror is too high in one picture and absent in the other, and the lens (I) is at the wrong side of the slide. However, experiments with a construction as illustrated in Kircher's book proved that it could work as a point light-source projection system. The projected image in one of the illustrations shows a person in purgatory or hellfire and the other depicts Death with a scythe and an hourglass. According to legend Kircher secretly used the lantern at night to project the image of Death on windows of apostates to scare them back into church. Kircher did suggest in his book that an audience would be more astonished by the sudden appearance of images if the lantern would be hidden in a separate room, so the audience would be ignorant of the cause of their appearance.
Educational use and other subjectsThe earliest reports and illustrations of lantern projections suggest that they were all intended to scare the audience. Pierre Petit called the apparatus "lanterne de peur" (lantern of fear) in his 1664 letter to Huygens. Surviving lantern plates and descriptions from the next decades prove that the new medium was not just used for horror shows, but that many kinds of subjects were projected. Griendel didn't mention scary pictures when he described the magic lantern to in December 1671: "An optical lantern which presents everything that one desires, figures, paintings, portraits, faces, hunts, even an entire comedy with all its lively colours." In 1675, Leibniz saw an important role for the magic lantern in his plan for a kind of world exhibition with projections of "attempts at flight, artistic meteors, optical effects, representations of the sky with the star and comets, and a model of the earth (...), fireworks, water fountains, and ships in rare forms; then mandrakes and other rare plants and exotic animals." In 1685–1686, Johannes Zahn was an early advocate for use of the device for educational purposes: detailed anatomical illustrations were difficult to draw on a chalkboard, but could easily be copied onto glass or mica. By the 1730s the use of magic lanterns started to become more widespread when travelling showmen, conjurers and storytellers added them to their repertoire. The travelling lanternists were often called Savoyards (they supposedly came from the In France in the 1770s François Dominique Séraphin used magic lanterns to perform his "Ombres Chinoises" (Chinese shadows), a form of . Magic lanterns had also become a staple of science lecturing and museum events since Scottish lecturer Henry Moyes’s tour of America in 1785–86, when he recommended that all college laboratories procure one. French writer and educator Stéphanie Félicité, comtesse de Genlis popularized the use of magic lanterns as an educational tool in the late 1700s when using projected images of plants to teach botany. Her educational methods were published in America in English translation during the early 1820s. A type of lantern was constructed by Moses Holden between 1814 and 1815 for illustrating his astronomical lectures.
Mass slide productionIn 1821, Philip Carpenter's London company, which became after his death, started manufacturing a sturdy but lightweight and transportable "Phantasmagoria lantern" with an Argand style lamp. It produced high quality projections and was suitable for classrooms. Carpenter also developed a "secret" copper plate printing/burning process to mass-produce glass lantern slides with printed outlines, which were then easily and quickly hand painted ready for sale. These "copper-plate sliders" contained three or four very detailed 4" circular images mounted in thin hardwood frames. The first known set ''The Elements of Zoology'' became available in 1823, with over 200 images in 56 frames of zoological figures, classified according to the system of the Swedish scientist . The same year many other slides appeared in the company's catalogue: "The Kings and Queens of England" (9 sliders taken from David Hume's History of England), "Astronomical Diagrams and Constellations" (9 sliders taken from Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel's textbooks), "Views and Buildings", Ancient and Modern Costume (62 sliders from various sources). Fifteen sliders of the category "Humorous" provided some entertainment, but the focus on education was obvious and very successful. Mass production of slides also made the magic lantern affordable to the masses, opening a market for smaller lanterns with smaller glass sliders, which instead of wooden frames usually had colorful strips of paper glued around their edges.
Waning popularityThe popularity of magic lanterns waned after the introduction of in the 1890s, but they remained a common medium until s became widespread during the 1950s.
Moving imagesThe magic lantern was not only a direct ancestor of the motion picture projector as a means for visual storytelling, but it could itself be used to project moving images. Some suggestion of movement could be achieved by alternating between pictures of different phases of a motion, but most magic lantern "animations" used two glass slides projected together - one with the stationary part of the picture and the other with the part that could be set in motion by hand or by a simple mechanism. Motion in animated slides was mostly limited to either two phases of a movement or transformation, or a more gradual singular movement (e.g. a train passing through a landscape). These limitations made subjects with repetitive movements popular, like the sails on a windmill turning around or children on a seesaw. Movements could be repeated over and over and could be performed at different speeds. A common technique that is comparable to the effect of a panning camera makes use of a long slide that is simply pulled slowly through the lantern and usually shows a landscape, sometimes with several phases of a story within the continuous backdrop. Movement of projected images was also possible by moving the magic lantern itself. This became a staple technique in shows in the late 18th century, often with the lantern sliding on rails or riding on small wheels and hidden from the view of the audience behind the projection screen.
HistoryIn 1645, Kircher had already suggested projecting live insects and shadow puppets from the surface of the mirror in his Steganographic system to perform dramatic scenes. Christiaan Huygens' 1659 sketches (see above) suggest he intended to the skeleton to have it take off its head and place it back on its neck. This can be seen as an indication that the very first magic lantern demonstrations may already have included projections of simple animations. In 1668, In 1698, German engraver and publisher Johann Christoph Weigel described several lantern slides with mechanisms that made glass parts move over one fixed glass slide, for instance by the means of a silk thread, or grooves in which the mobile part slides. By 1709 a German optician and glass grinder named Themme (or Temme) made moving lantern slides, including a carriage with rotating wheels, a cupid with a spinning wheel, a shooting gun, and falling bombs. Wheels were cut from the glass plate with a diamond and rotated by a thread that was spun around small brass wheels attached to the glass wheels. A paper slip mask would be quickly pulled away to reveal the red fiery discharge and the bullet from a shooting gun. Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach visited Themme's shop and liked the effects, but was disappointed about the very simple mechanisms. Nonetheless he bought seven moving slides, as well as twelve slides with four pictures each, which he thought were delicately painted. Several types of mechanical slides were described and illustrated in Dutch professor of mathematics, physics, philosophy, medicine, and astronomy 's second edition (1739) of ''Beginsels Der Natuurkunde'' (see illustration below). Pieter was the brother of Jan van Musschenbroek, the maker of an outstanding magic lantern with excellent lenses and a diaphragm (see illustration above). In 1770, Edmé-Gilles Guyot described a method of using two slides for the depiction of a storm at sea, with waves on one slide and ships and a few clouds on another. Lanternists could project the illusion of mild waves turning into a wild sea tossing the ships around by increasing the movement of the separate slides. Guyot also detailed how projection on smoke could be used to create the illusion of ghosts hovering in the air, which would become a technique commonly used in . An especially intricate multiple rackwork mechanism was developed to show the movements of the planets (sometimes accompanied by revolving satellites) revolving around the sun. In 1795, one M. Dicas offered an early magic lantern system, the Lucernal or Portable Eidouranian, that showed the orbiting planets. From around the 1820s mechanical astronomical slides became quite common.The Magic Lantern Society. ''Encyclopedia of the Magic Lantern''. p. 21-22
Various types of mechanical slidesVarious types of mechanisms were commonly used to add movement to the projected image: *slipping slides: a movable glass plate with one or more figures (or any part of a picture for which movement was desired) was slipped over a stationary one, directly by hand or with a small drawbar (see: Fig. 7 on the illustration by Petrus van Musschenbroek: a tightrope walker sliding across the rope). A common example showed a creature that could move the pupils in its eyes, as if looking in all directions. A long piece of glass could show a procession of figures, or a train with several wagons. Quite convincing illusions of moving waves on a sea or lake have also been achieved with this method. *slipping slides with masking: black paint on portions of the moving plate would mask parts of the underlying image - with a black background - on the stationary glass. This made it possible to hide and then reveal the previous position of a part, for instance a limb, to suggest repetitious movement. The suggested movement would be rather jerky and usually operated quickly. Masking in slides was also often used to create change rather than movement (see: Fig. 6 on the illustration by Petrus van Musschenbroek: a man, his wig and his hat): for instance a person's head could be replaced with that of an animal. More gradual and natural movement was also possible; for instance to make a nose grow very long by slowly moving a masking glass. *lever slides: the moving part was operated by a lever. These could show a more natural movement than slipping slides and were mostly used for repetitive movements, for instance a woodcutter raising and lowering his axe, or a girl on a swing. (see: Fig. 5 on the illustration by Petrus van Musschenbroek: a drinking man raising and lowering his glass + Fig. 8: a lady curtsying) *pulley slides: a pulley rotates the moving part and could for instance be used to turn the sails on a windmill (see: fig. 4 on illustration by Van Musschenbroek) *rack and pinion slides: turning the handle of a rackwork would rotate or lift the moving part and could for instance be used to turn the sails on a windmill or for having a hot air balloon take off and descend. A more complex astronomical rackwork slide showed the planets and their satellites orbiting around the sun. *fantoccini slides: jointed figures set in motion by levers, thin rods, or cams and worm wheels. A popular version had a somersaulting monkey with arms attached to mechanism that made it tumble with dangling feet. Named after the Italian word for animated puppets, like marionettes or Mechanical slides with abstract special effects include: *the : a slide that produces dazzling colorful geometrical patterns by rotating two painted glass discs in opposite directions, originally with a double pulley mechanism but later usually with a rackwork mechanism. It was possibly invented around 1844 by English glass painter and showman *a Newton colour wheel slide that, when spinning fast enough, blends seven colours into a white circle
Dissolving viewsThe effect of a gradual transition from one image to another, known as a dissolve in modern filmmaking, became the basis of a popular type of magic lantern show in England in the 19th century. Typical dissolving views showed landscapes dissolving from day to night or from summer to winter. This was achieved by aligning the projection of two matching images and slowly diminishing the first image while introducing the second image. The subject and the effect of magic lantern dissolving views is similar to the popular The effect was reportedly invented by phantasmagoria pioneer Another possible inventor is He is said to have invented the dissolving views in 1807, and to have improved and completed the technique in 1818. The oldest known use of the term "dissolving views" occurs on playbills for Childe's shows at the Childe further popularized the dissolving views at the Royal Polytechnic Institution in the early 1840s. Despite later reports about the early invention, and apart from De Philipsthal's 1812 performance, no reports of dissolving view shows before the 1820s are known. Some cases may involve confusion with the Diorama or similar media. In 1826, Scottish magician and ventriloquist M. Henry introduced what he described as "beautiful dissolvent scenes," "imperceptibly changing views," "dissolvent views," and "Magic Views"—created "by Machinery invented by M. Henry." In 1827, Henry Langdon Childe presented "Scenic Views, showing the various effects of light and shade," with a series of subjects that became classics for the dissolving views. In December 1827, De Philipsthal returned with a show that included "various splendid views (...) transforming themselves imperceptibly (as if it were by Magic) from one form into another." Biunial lanterns, with two projecting optical sets in one apparatus, were produced to more easily project dissolving views. Possibly the first horizontal biunial lantern, dubbed the "Biscenascope" was made by the optician Mr. Clarke and presented at the Royal Adelaide Gallery in London on 5 December 1840. The earliest known illustration of a vertical biunial lantern, probably provided by E.G. Wood, appeared in the Horne & Thornthwaite catalogue in 1857. Later on triple lanterns enabled additional effects, for instance the effect of snow falling while a green landscape dissolves into a snowy winter version. A mechanical device could be fitted on the magic lantern, which locked up a diaphragm on the first slide slowly whilst a diaphragm on a second slide opened simultaneously. Philip Carpenter's copper-plate printing process, introduced in 1823, may have made it much easier to create duplicate slides with printed outlines that could then be colored differently to create dissolving view slides. However, all early dissolving view slides seem to have been hand-painted.
ExperimentsThere have been many different experiments involving sorts of movement with the magic lantern. These include: * slide: a flattened coil with a magnetized needle moving from side to side when a battery is connected. *projection of moving frog legs, with the nerves and muscles of severed frog legs connected to electric wires. *hour-glass projection: the projection of a flattened hourglass showed the sand flowing upwards. Extreme magnification made the effect extra impressive, with the grains of sand forming a wave-like pattern. *cohesion figure projection of liquids: different oils and fats create many kinds of moving patterns when manipulated between clear glass plates or a narrow glass box. Several of these experiments were publicly demonstrated at the .
Choreutoscope and phenakistiscope-type systemsVersions of the magic lantern were used to project transparent variations of the phénakisticope. These were adapted with a mechanism that spins the disc and a shutter system. Duboscq produced some in the 1850s and Thomas Ross patented a version called "Wheel of life" in 1869 and 1870. The Choreutoscope was invented around 1866 by the engineer J. Beale and demonstrated at the Royal Polytechnic. It projected six pictures from a long slide and used a hand-cranked mechanism for intermittent movement of the slide and synchronized shutter action. The mechanism became a key to the development of the movie camera and projector. The Choreutoscope was used at the first professional public demonstration of the to explain its principles. An "Optical Instrument" was patented in the U.S. in 1869 by O.B. Brown, using a phenakistiscope-like disc with a technique very close to the later cinematograph; with Maltese Cross motion; a star-wheel and pin being used for intermittent motion, and a two-sector shutter.
Life in the lantern - Bio-PhantoscopeJohn Arthur Roebuck Rudge built a lantern for with a mechanism to project a sequence of seven photographic slides. Reports say it was made in 1872, but also 1875 and (most likely) 1882. The surviving slides show a man removing his head with his hands and raising the loose head. The photographed body belonged to Rudge and Friese-Greene posed for the head. The slides probably provided the very first trick photography sequence projection. Friese-Greene's demonstrated the machine in his shop, until the police ordered him to remove it when it attracted too large a crowd.
PhantasmagoriaPhantasmagoria was a form of horror theater that used one or more magic lanterns to project frightening images, especially of ghosts. Showmen used rear projection, mobile or portable projectors and a variety of effects to produce convincing necromantic experiences. It was very popular in Europe from the late 18th century to well into the 19th century. It is thought that optical devices like concave mirrors and the camera obscura have been used since antiquity to fool spectators into believing they saw real gods and spirits,Heard, Mervyn. ''PHANTASMAGORIA: The Secret History of the Magic Lantern''. The Projection Box, 2006 but it was the magician "physicist" Phylidor who created what must have been the first true phantasmagoria show. He probably used mobile magic lanterns with the recently invented to create his successful ''Schröpferischen, und Cagliostoischen Geister-Erscheinungen'' (Schröpfer-esque and Cagiostro-esque Ghost Apparitions) in Vienna from 1790 to 1792. Phylidor stated that his show of perfected apparitions revealed how charlatans like . ''Remember the Phantasmagoria!'' chapter from ''MediaArtHistories'', MIT Press/Leonardo Books, 2007, p. 144Johann Georg Schröpfer and had fooled their audiences. As "Paul Filidort" he presented his ''Phantasmagorie'' in Paris From December 1792 to July 1793, probably using the term for the first time. As "Paul de Philipsthal" he performed ''Phantasmagoria'' shows in Britain beginning in 1801 with great success. One of many showmen who were inspired by Phylidor, Etienne-Gaspard Robert became very famous with his own ''Fantasmagorie'' show in Paris from 1798 to 1803 (later performing throughout Europe and returning to Paris for a triumphant comeback in Paris in 1814). He patented a mobile "Fantascope" lantern in 1798.
Royal Polytechnic Institution showsWhen it opened in 1838, The Royal Polytechnic Institution in London became a very popular and influential venue with many kinds of magic lantern shows as an important part of its program. At the main theatre, with 500 seats, lanternists would make good use of a battery of six large lanterns running on tracked tables to project the finely detailed images of extra large slides on the 648 square feet screen. The magic lantern was used to illustrate lectures, concerts, pantomimes and other forms of theatre. Popular magic lantern presentations included Henry Langdon Childe's dissolving views, his chromatrope, phantasmagoria, and mechanical slides.
Utushi-eUtushi-e is a type of magic lantern show that became popular in Japan in the 19th century. The Dutch probably introduced the magic lantern in Japan before the 1760s. A new style for magic lantern shows was introduced by Kameya Toraku I, who first performed in 1803 in . Possibly the phantasmagoria shows (popular in the west at that moment) inspired the rear projection technique, moving images and ghost stories. Japanese showmen developed lightweight wooden projectors (furo) that were handheld so that several performers could make the projections of different colourful figures move around the screen at the same time. The Western techniques of mechanical slides were combined with traditional Japanese skills—especially from Karakuri puppets—to further animate the figures and for special effects.
TodaySome enthusiasts claim that the brilliant quality of color in lantern slides is unsurpassed by successive projection media. The magic lantern and lantern slides are still popular with collectors and can be found in many museums. However, of the original lanterns from the first 150 years after its invention only 28 are known to still exist (as of 2009). Museums usually prefer not to use their slides for projections, but often provide video representations of the slides. A collaborative research project of several European universities called ''A Million Pictures'' started in June 2015 and lasted until May 2018. It addresses the sustainable preservation of the massive, untapped heritage resource of the tens of thousands of lantern slides in the collections of libraries and museums across Europe. Genuine public lantern shows are relatively rare. Several regular performers claim they are the only one of their kind in their part of the world. These include Pierre Albanese and glass harmonica player live Magic Lantern/Phantasmagoria shows since 2008 in Europe and The American Magic-Lantern Theater. The Magic Lantern Society maintains a list of active lanternists, which contains more than 20 performers in the U.K. and circa eight performers in other parts of the world (Europe, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Dutch theatre group Lichtbende produces contemporary magical light spectacles and workshops with magic lanterns.
See also* List of lantern slide collections * *