Magic Lantern Castle Museum

1419 Austin Highway
San Antonio, TX 78209

210-805-0011

The Magic Lantern is the earliest form of slide projector. The first published image of the device appeared in Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, by Athanasius Kircher in the late 1600's. Images were painted on glass and projected on walls, cloth drapes, and, sometimes, on a wet cloth from behind the "screen".

Naturally, to see images appear, either from a lantern, that heretofore was a light source only, or onto a screen, was "magical" in those early days.

With the advent of photography in the mid-1800's, it became possible to produce black-and-white images on glass in greater numbers. Still, they had, for the most part, to be hand-tinted or painted until reliable color photographic processes became available much later. Some slides were made by applying decals or transfers to the glass.

Until movies came along, in the mid-to-late 1890's, the magic lantern was the sole projection device available.
Though glass slides would indicate a still image, many innovations in magic lantern design and construction, as well as slide design (moving layers of glass images), allowed dissolving images, movement, and special effects.

Thus, the magic lantern became "the Father of motion pictures, and the Grandfather of television."

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