The Magic Lantern

What film was for the 20th Century, the magic lantern was for the 19th Century. As a medium for entertainment and instruction, it was developed and led by professionals and amateurs in the UK and around the world.

The archive’s collection is largely UK in origin and features lantern slide series, apparatus, lantern manufacturers’ catalogues and lantern readings. The slides, approximately 10,000 in number, form the largest part of the collection. All slide types are represented: hand-painted, photographic, lithographic and transfer; moving slides (levers, pullers, slippers, rackwork, dissolves, superimpositions); panoramic, standard and toy slides. The subject matter of the slide sets includes well-known ballads, children’s stories, temperance tales, travelogues, religious series and educational sets.

The Hecht Collection

An important feature of the SASE Magic Lantern Collection is the Hecht Collection. Over a period of some forty years Ann and Hermann Hecht, both teachers living in Surrey, collected lantern slides and apparatus. The core of the collection is a large quantity of Life Model slide sets and lithographic transfer story slides used by the Church Army. The Hechts’ drew upon their slides for their frequent presentations for students as well as research material for their book Pre-cinema History: Encyclopaedia and Annotated Bibliography of the Moving Image before 1896, published in 1993 and now considered a major work on the Lantern’s history.

Hecht collection; unknown maker; panoramic slide
Hecht collection; unknown maker; panoramic slide

Special features of the Hecht Collection are:

  • hand-painted glass lantern slides set in wooden frames, from the 1820s to the 1880s, with such subjects as natural history and astronomy as well as the kaleidoscope-like chromatropes, dissolving views and various types of moving slides
  • coloured transfer slides, mainly from the 1880s onwards with subjects varying from biblical stories, (e.g. The Life of Our Saviour and Pilgrim’s Progress), to children’s fairy tales and natural phenomena
  • slides related to the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the British Empire, travel and art history
  • Life Model slides, mostly produced between 1880 and 1900, with titles such as The Little Match Seller, Beware! or the Effects of Gambling, Jane Conquest and Dickens’ The Cricket on the Hearth and Marley’s Ghost
Hecht collection maker Ernest Plank; panoramic slide
Hecht collection; maker Ernest Plank; panoramic slide

Many of these slides have now been digitised and access can be granted on appointment. To access and research SASE’s Magic Lantern collection, please contact our Archivist: Ine van Dooren.

Hecht collection; maker Johann Falk; toy long slide with 4 scenes
Hecht collection; maker Johann Falk; toy long slide with 4 scenes

SASE’s slide collection is not yet part of our online database so cannot be searched here. However some 99 slide sets from our Hecht collection can be viewed on Lucerna – the international magic lantern resource.

For a brief history of the Lantern medium please seeThe Magic Lantern Society.