Collection Hecht Collection


Hermann and Ann Hecht were passionate Magic Lantern heritage collectors as well as researchers and presenters. 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. Since 2004 a representative part of the collection has been cared for by Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton.

Collection ID1583Reference codeSE 040920
TitleHecht Collection
Dates1820s - 1910s
ProductionThe slide sets were primarily produced and marketed by a range of commercial manufacturers and distributors.
MaterialsLantern Apparatus Glass Slides Lantern Ephemera Documentation Books Film Equipment
Access statusCopyright and access restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


The Hecht Collection contains of a variety of items. Besides around 6,000 slides there are pieces of apparatus, lantern manufacturers' and distributors' catalogues, a collection of lantern readings and a full copy of notes related to the Pre-cinema History manuscript.

In this collection, as is often the case in contemporary lantern slide collections, we find incomplete sets and a particular organisation of slides in so-called user or collector sets. Most slides can be traced to their inclusion in particular commercial sets, others are without known attribution. Lantern heritage is well-known for its re-organising and re-use of slides for particular presentation purposes so we can understand 'sets' to be a fluid entity.

Subjects include natural history, astronomy, chromatropes, dissolving views and various types of moving slides showing image transformations. A variety of non-fiction themes cover travel, art and history. The SASE Hecht collection also holds a diversity of stories such as children's fairy tales, biblical narratives and popular Victorian favourites, such as adaptations of Charles Dickens and temperance literature.

Lantern imagery is often copied from other media sources such as newspapers, magazines and specialist journals. Readings to accompany the lectures and stories, as slide sets, could be hired or bought. The readings were either specially written for the slide set, or an abbreviation of printed sources. The Hecht collection holds two boxes of readings. Lecturers and showmen often annotated available readings or adapted them to suit their presentation.

A distinct part of the Hecht collection is the Church Army slide collection. In the 1960s the Church Army changed their slide lecture materials from glass plates to 35mm slides and Hermann Hecht was able to rescue the glass slides before they would have ended up in a skip. Besides transfer slide sets, it includes a significant corpus of Life Model slide sets, photographs of models portraying a series of tableaux illustrating the slide set story. They were often hand coloured.

Amateurs could make their own lantern slides and the Hecht collection holds a few examples. Artists today still make their own slides. For an overview of this process see:

Ann and Hermann Hecht were keen members of the Magic Lantern Society, founded in 1977. For a brief introduction into the history of the lantern see:

LUCERNA is an open source web resource for the history of the Magic Lantern and a selection of slide sets from the Hecht collection are included in this detailed database at this link: