The missing link

King Edward VII meeting the aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright at Pau in France, Tyler’s Topical Slides series 11 (March 1909), from the LUCERNA database

A while ago we told you about the LUCERNA database, a directory of information on the magic lantern and home to digitised copies of lantern slides held in public and private collections. The site – a joint project by Universität Trier, Screen Archive South East, the Magic Lantern Society, UK; and Indiana University, but chiefly a labour of love by media historian Richard Crangle – demonstrates the range and depth of the magic lantern, not only in terms of subjects covered (fictional and non-fictional) but in the period of time it covers. The magic lantern continued well into the twentieth century (one of the leading British film trade papers was known as the Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly up to 1919) and arguably has never gone away, going through such incarnations as the slide carousel for family photos of a couple of generations ago through to the PowerPoint presentations of today.

New slides continue to be added to the site, and recently a set was added which is of huge interest to this enthusiast for historical news media, because it provides evidence of something I had felt certain had to have existed somewhere but had never seen, a sort of missing link between news photography and newsreels – the topical lantern slide.

Tyler’s Topical Slides, series 5, showing the visit of Basuto Chiefs to London in February 1909, where they were challenging the decision of the British government to include their land Lesotho within the Union of South Africa

The collection is Tyler’s Topical Slides, a set of lantern slides reporting on current events put out by Walter Tyler, a renowed lantern manufacturer whose business subsequently (after his death in 1909) diversified into motion picture equipment and film distribution as the Tyler Film Company. There are some 370 slides, arranged in 40 sets that date 1909-10. Each set is numbered, the highest number being series no. 87, from which it can be extraopolated that the slides were issued weekly. The number of slides ranges from 1 to 20 per set, but that is a reflection of what survives. Each slides has a photograph, supplied by the Topical Press Agency, a well-known photograph agency of the period (no connection with the Topical Film Company, which produced the Topical Budget newsreel). Each has a one-line caption describing the story. They would have been shown in sequence, long enough for an audience to take in the news item before the next slide would follow. They are exactly like newsreels – before there were newsreels.

The first newsreel in Britain, Pathé’s Animated Gazette, was first issued in June 1910. Newsreels had existed earlier in France, and of course films of news events were as old as film itself, but a newsreel as a collection of topical news stories gathered on a single reel was something new. What has been understood until now is that the inspiration for newsreels was photo-illustrated newspapers (such as The Daily Mirror and The Daily Sketch) which were interested in the visual impact of stories (other newspapers, such as The Times, did not carry photographs until some years later). What was not known, at least by me, was that there was another, direct precursor, the news or topical slide.

Tyler’s Topical Slides appear to have been issued from January 1909 – so a year and a half before the first newsreel was shown in Britain. They ran until at least September 1910, when the growing popularity of newsreels probably rendered them unviable commercially. We don’t know for certain, but it seems highly like that the slides were shown in cinemas, as well as variety theatres and town halls putting on mixed public entertainments (including films). In subject matter, style and adress, the topical slides are effectively identical to the first newsreels, which would open with a title and simple description of the action, followed by 30 seconds or so of film (withour further intertitles cut into the film), followed then by the next news story.

Tyler’s Topical Slides, series 11, showing Lieutenant Shackleton’s ship The Nimrod (Shackleton’s party arrived in New Zealand following their failed attempt to reach the South Pole on 23 March 1909 – this is therefore a photograph of the Nimrod before it sailed south)

The subject matter is the same as well – the popular news stories of the day, with an emphasis on personalities, especially royalty, sport, tradition and diverting incidents of the day, light-heartedly expressed with little overt political comment. In audience impact the slides would have worked in the same way as newsreels, because newsreels depended on the audience’s prior knowledge of the news story. They would have read about these topical subjects in their daily newspapers – now the weekly topical slides, or the weekly newsreel (newsreels started out weekly in the UK before becoming bi-weekly), showed them the pictures to supplement what they already knew, what had become common knowledge. The pictures completed the picture.

Winston Churchill (when President of the Board of Trade) as featured in Tyler’s Topical Slides, series 9 (February 1909)

How widely were such news or topical slides shown? Did any other company produce them apart from Tyler? It would be important to know, because either we are looking at a one-off freakish anticipation of the newsreel, or it is evidence of a significant news medium not hitherto written about in news media histories (to the best of my knowledge). The importance could lie not just in the ‘missing link’, but because it would be supporting evidence for the thesis that with the rise of the different news media at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries came a vital element of what makes up the news – consumer choice. The news does not exist in any one medium. It lies in the mind of each and everyone one of us who goes out looking for news, and finds it relayed through a variety of media, from which we pick and choose what we understand the news to be. It’s a part of what it is to be modern. Tyler’s Topical Slides show that the choice on offer in 1909-10 was that much greater than previously thought.

Tyler’s Topical Slides can be found on the LUCERNA database, simply by typing in “tyler” into the search box, then by ticking the box marked “show” next to the text that reads “88 sets with title containing ‘tyler’”. Being in series order they are in chronological order, and it would not take too much research to identify dates for many of the events depicted, and from that to extrapolate on what day of the week the series was released (assuming it was always the same day of the week) and what gap there was being an event occuring and Tyler being able to include this on the slides that it distributed.

How did such a business work when news subjects go so rapidly out of date? How extensive would the distribution have to have been to make it economical? How did distribution work, and how widespread was it? So many questions worth researching.

If anyone knows of any other examples of topical lantern slides which were released in series form, please do get in touch. There’s more to be found out – there has to be.

Looking back on 2011

News in 2011, clockwise from top left: The White Shadow, The Artist, A Trip to the Moon in colour, Brides of Sulu

And so we come to the end of another year, and for the Bioscope it is time to look back on another year reporting on the world of early and silent film. Over the twelve months we have written some 180 posts posts, or well nigh 100,000 words, documenting a year that has been as eventful a one for silent films as we can remember, chiefly due to the timeless 150-year-old Georges Méliès and to the popular discovery of the modern silent film thanks to The Artist. So let’s look back on 2011.

Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès in Hugo

Georges Méliès has been the man of the year. Things kicked off in May with the premiere at Cannes of the coloured version of Le voyage dans la lune / A Trip to the Moon (1902), marvellously, indeed miraculously restored by Lobster Films. The film has been given five star publicity treatment, with an excellent promotional book, a new score by French band Air which has upset some but pleased us when we saw it at Pordenone, a documentary The Extraordinary Voyage, and the use of clips from the film in Hugo, released in November. For, yes, the other big event in Méliès’ 150th year was Martin Scorsese’s 3D version of Brian Selznick’s children’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, in which Méliès is a leading character. Ben Kingsley bring the man convincingly to life, and the film thrillingly recreates the Méliès studio as it pleads for us all to understand our film history. The Bioscope thought the rest of the film was pretty dire, to be honest, though in this it seems to be in a minority. But just because a film pleads the cause of film doesn’t make it a good film …

And there was more from Georges, with his great-great-grandaughter Pauline Duclaud-Lacoste Méliès producing an official website, Matthew Solomon’s edited volume Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon (with DVD extra), a conference that took place in July, and a three-disc DVD set from Studio Canal.

For the Bioscope itself things have been eventful. In January we thought a bit about changing the site radically, then thought better of this. There was our move to New Bioscope Towers in May, the addition of a Bioscope Vimeo channel for videos we embed from that excellent site, and the recent introduction of our daily news service courtesy of Scoop It! We kicked off the year with a post on the centenary of the ever-topical Siege of Sidney Street, an important event in newsreel history, and ended it with another major news event now largely forgotten, the Delhi Durbar. Anarchists win out over imperialists is the verdict of history.

Asta Nielsen in Hamlet

We were blessed with a number of great DVD and Blu-Ray releases, with multi-DVD and boxed sets being very much in favour. Among those that caught the eye and emptied the wallet were Edition Filmmuseum’s Max Davidson Comedies, the same company’s collection of early film and magic lantern slide sets Screening the Poor and the National Film Preservation Foundation’s five disc set Treasures 5: The West, 1898-1938. Individual release of the year was Edition Filmmuseum’s Hamlet (Germany 1920), with Asta Nielsen and a fine new music score (Flicker Alley’s Norwegian surprise Laila just loses out because theatre organ scores cause us deep pain).

We recently produced a round-up of the best silent film publications of 2011, including such titles as Bryony Dixon’s 100 Silent Films, Andrew Shail’s Reading the Cinematograph: The Cinema in British Short Fiction 1896-1912 and John Bengston’s Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd. But we should note also Susan Orlean’s cultural history Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, which has made quite an impact in the USA, though we’ve not read it ourselves as yet.

There were all the usual festivals, with Bologna championing Conrad Veidt, Boris Barnet and Alice Guy, and Pordenone giving us Soviets, Soviet Georgians, polar explorers and Michael Curtiz. We produced our traditional detailed diaries for each of the eight days of the festival. But it was particularly pleasing to see new ventures turning up, including the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema in Scotland, which launched in February and is due back in 2012. Babylon Kino in Berlin continued to make programming waves with its complete Chaplin retropective in July. Sadly, the hardy annual Slapsticon was cancelled this year – we hope it returns in a healthy state next year.

The Artist (yet again)

2011 was the year when the modern silent film hit the headlines, the The Artist enchanting all-comers at Cannes and now being touted for the Academy Award best picture. We have lost count of the number of articles written recently about a revival of interest in silent films, and their superiority in so many respects to the films of today. Jaded eyes are looking back to a (supposedly) gentler age, it seems. We’ve not seen it yet, so judgement is reserved for the time being. Here, we’ve long championed the modern silent, though our March post on Mr Bean was one of the least-read that we’ve penned in some while.

Among the year’s conferences on silent film themes there was the First International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema held in February; the Construction of News in Early Cinema in Girona in March, which we attended and from which we first experimented with live blogging; the opportunistically themed The Second Birth of Cinema: A Centenary Conference held in Newcastle, UK in July; and Importing Asta Nielsen: Cinema-Going and the Making of the Star System in the Early 1910s, held in Frankfurt in September.

In the blogging world, sadly we said goodbye to Christopher Snowden’s The Silent Movie Blog in February – a reminder that we bloggers are mostly doing this for love, but time and its many demands do sometimes call us away to do other things. However, we said hello to John Bengston’s very welcome Silent Locations, on the real locations behind the great silent comedies. Interesting new websites inclued Roland-François Lack’s visually stunning and intellectually intriguing The Cine-Tourist, and the Turconi Project, a collection of digitised frames for early silents collected by the Swiss priest Joseph Joye.

The Bioscope always has a keen eye for new online research resources, and this was a year when portals that bring together several databases started to dominate the landscape. The single institution is no longer in a position to pronounce itself to be the repository of all knowledge; in the digital age we are seeing supra-institutional models emerging. Those we commented on included the Canadiana Discovery Portal, the UK research services Connected Histories and JISC Media Hub, UK film’s archives’ Search Your Film Archives, and the directory of world archives ArchiveGrid. We made a special feature of the European Film Gateway, from whose launch event we blogged live and (hopefully) in lively fashion.

Images of Tacita Dean’s artwork ‘Film’ at Tate Modern

We also speculated here and there on the future of film archives in this digital age, particularly when we attended the Screening the Future event in Hilversum in March, and then the UK Screen Heritage Strategy, whose various outputs were announced in September. We mused upon media and history when we attended the Iamhist conference in Copenhagen (it’s been a jet-setting year), philosophizing on the role of historians in making history in another bout of live blogging (something we hope to pursue further in 2012). 2011 was the year when everyone wrote their obituaries for celluloid. The Bioscope sat on the fence when considering the issue in November, on the occasion of Tacita Dean’s installation ‘Film’ at Tate Modern – but its face was looking out towards digital.

Significant web video sources launched this year included the idiosyncractic YouTube channel of Huntley Film Archives, the Swedish, the Thanhouser film company’s Vimeo channel, and George Eastman House’s online cinematheque; while we delighted in some of the ingenious one-second videos produced for a Montblanc watches competition in November.

It was a year when digitised film journals made a huge leap forward, from occasional sighting to major player in the online film research world, with the official launch of the Media History Digital Library. Its outputs led to Bioscope reports on film industry year books, seven years of Film Daily (1922-1929) and the MHDL itself. “This is the new research library” we said, and we think we’re right. Another important new online resource was the Swiss journal Kinema, for the period 1913-1919.

It has also been a year in which 3D encroached itself upon the silent film world. The aforementioned Hugo somewhat alarmingly gives us not only Méliès films in 3D, but those of the Lumière brothers, and film of First World War soldiers (colourised to boot). The clock-face sequence from Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last (also featured in Hugo) was converted to 3D and colourised, much to some people’s disgust; while news in November that Chaplin’s films were to be converted into 3D for a documentary alarmed and intrigued in equal measure.

The Soldier’s Courtship

Film discovery of the year? The one that grabbed all the headlines – though many of them were misleading ones – was The White Shadow (1923), three reels of which turned up in New Zealand. Normally an incomplete British silent directed by Graham Cutts wouldn’t set too many pulses running, but it was assistant director Alfred Hitchcock who attracted all the attention. Too many journalists and bloggers put the story ahead of the history, though one does understand why. But for us the year’s top discovery was Robert Paul’s The Soldier’s Courtship (1896), the first British fiction film made for projection, which was uncovered in Rome and unveiled in Pordenone. It may be just a minute long, but it is a perky delight, with a great history behind its production and restoration.

Another discovery was not of a lost film but rather a buried one. Philippine archivists found that an obscure mid-1930s American B-feature, Brides of Sulu, was in all probability made out of one, if not two, otherwise lost Philippines silents, Princess Tarhata and The Moro Pirate. No Philippine silent fiction film was known have survived before now, which makes this a particularly happy discovery, shown at Manila’s International Silent film Festival in August. The Bioscope post and its comments unravel the mystery.

Among the year’s film restorations, those that caught the eye were those that were most keenly promoted using online media. They included The First Born (UK 1928), Ernst Lubistch’s Das Weib des Pharao (Germany 1922) and the Pola Negri star vehicle Mania (Germany 1918).

Some interesting news items throughout the year included the discovery of unique (?) film of the Ballet Russes in the British Pathé archive in February; in April Google added a ‘1911’ button to YouTube to let users ‘age’ their videos by 100 years (a joke that backfired somewhat) then in the same month gave us a faux Chaplin film as its logo for the day; in May the much-hyped film discovery Zepped (a 1916 animation with some Chaplin outtakes) was put up for auction in hope of a six-figure sum, which to few people’s surprise it signally failed to achieve; and in July there was the discovery of a large collection of generic silent film scores in Birmingham Library.

Barbara Kent

And we said goodbye to some people. The main person we lost from the silent era itself was Barbara Kent, star of Flesh and the Devil and Lonesome, who made it to 103. Others whose parting we noted were the scholar Miriam Hansen; social critic and author of the novel Flicker Theodore Roszak; the founder of Project Gutenberg, Michael Hart; and the essayist and cinéaste Gilbert Adair.

Finally, there were those ruminative or informational Bioscope posts which we found it interesting to compile over the year. They include a survey of cricket and silent film; thoughts on colour and early cinema; a survey of digitised newspaper collections, an investigation into the little-known history of the cinema-novel, the simple but so inventive Phonotrope animations of Jim Le Fevre and others, thoughts on the not-so-new notion of 48 frames per second, the amateur productions of Dorothea Mitchell, the first aviation films, on silent films shown silently, and on videos of the brain activity of those who have been watching films.

As always, we continue to range widely in our themes and interests, seeing silent cinema not just for its own sake but as a means to look out upon the world in general. “A view of life or survey of life” is how the dictionary defines the word ‘bioscope’ in its original use. We aim to continue doing so in 2012.

The magic of the lantern

Slide 9 from The Miner’s Rescue (W. Rider & Co), Hecht Collection, Screen Archive South East, from the Lucerna database

Time may move in a straight line, but history does not. Despite the beliefs of the more traditional writers of history, particular themes seldom roll out as a succession of sequential events leading to a satisfactory conclusion. Film, or media history, for example, is not a case of one innovation neatly being followed by another, then another, leading to the media world with which we are familiar today. There are overlaps, reverses, diversions, false trails, parallel actions, missed opportunities, and all manner of divergent yet interconnected narratives. So, the historical argument that says there were optical toys, magic lanterns, chronophotographs and such like (bundled up in neat teleological fashion as ‘pre-cinema’), which were then followed by the cinema, the goal towards which so-called pre-cinema was inexorably aiming, is, quite simply, a-historical.

This we can see with the magic lantern, whose history has been opened up as never before by the publication of the Lucerna database, a new resource of some significance. Launched yesterday at the Screen Culture and the Social Question: Poverty on Screen 1880-1914 conference in London, Lucerna is an online database and information resource for the magic lantern. Magic lanterns are generally thought of as Victorian entertainments which prefigured the cinema. One of the things that Lucerna makes very clear is how the lantern did not die out once the cinema arrived, but that the two media co-existed for many years, with showmen employing both, production companies and distributors supplying both, and journals (such as The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly, which lasted under that name until 1917) serving both. To understand early cinema, we need to understand the magic lantern too.

Lucerna is dedicated to the history of the lantern, in all its forms, reflecting its many relationships with social, political, religious, entertainment and cinema history. As the site says:

For more than 350 years the magic lantern has represented and fed into every aspect of human life and every part of the world. It is still used today, both in its original form and through direct descendants like the modern data projector.

The centrepiece of Lucerna is a database of slide sets, individual slide images, readings and other texts related to slide sets, lantern hardware, people and organisations involved in lantern history, locations associated with lantern production, and events. There is at present information on 6,332 slide sets (i.e. a set of images relating a particular narrative), 26,475 individual slides, 3,687 people and 1,366 organisations connected with lantern history. Many of the records are illustrated with slides from public and private collections, and browsing through the Slides and Slide Sets options is a marvellous way of viewing the preoccupations, beliefs and diversions of Victorian and Edwardian society (the slides available so far are predominantly British, though the lantern was of course a worldwide phenomenon).

Complete life model slide set for Beware!; or, The Effects of Gambling (Bamforth, 1893)

Lucerna does not have a single search option. Instead you are offered nine search options: slide sets, slides, people, organisations, events, locations, hardware, texts and keywords. Each offers a range of search parameters; Slide Sets, for example, lets you refine your search by country, manufacturer (with drop down menu for every manufacturer listed – indeed every search field under every option has a drop-down menu, so you never have to select any name or term at random), type of slide subject, type of image, date, and series title. Results can be ordered by title, date or series order, and crucially you can search under slide sets for those where there are images available, which is what most users of the site are going to want to do. Unfortunately you don’t seem to be able to do this for individual (‘orphan’) slides. Each individual record (and there ae tens of thousands of them) very usefully comes with a unique Lucerna ID number.

The best thing to do is to jump in at any point and start browsing, because such is the depth of hyperlinking that you are led inexorably from page to page, following themes, places or people as you construct your personal journey through lantern history. It soon becomes clear that this is a bit beyond your average database. It’s not obsessive as such, but it’s certainly in thrall to the richness of its subject. Person entries include not just birth/death dates and occupation, but references to census records and other archive sources, associated slides or texts, locations associated with them, businesses associated with them, literature references – and all of this with hyperlinks to everything mentioned. So, I find at random the record for Charles Acres, a partner in a slide painting business, and see that he was born in Islington. There’s a hyperlink – and lo I find there are seventeen lantern people associated with Islington (14 born there, 3 died there), one business located there, and one entry which reports on a lantern show which tooks place there, organised by the Sunday School Union. Click on that, and a huge list of events appears, all of them hyperlinked and described. And so the adventure continues.

(One searching tip – don’t hit the ‘go’ option on any search page without having put in at least one search term. Failing to do so appears to set the database into endless searching mode)

Slides from a 1911 Bamforth set to accompany the song ‘Are there any little angels blind like me?’

Themes that will soon become apparent are family, religion, the sufferings of the poor, temperance, war, empire, humour, gambling, travel, crime, patriotism, morality, romance, the supernatural and travel. Many are sentimental, and lead you to think how much audiences of the time were swayed by such images. Most tell stories of one kind or another, or illustrate songs with visual narrative, and the parallels with early films, in subject and tone, is immediately noticeable. Some slide sets, such as Ora Pro Nobis or Ostler Joe (each based on poems), later became films, and one sees not separate media histories, but rather the way in which a society wanted to see stories told, and the means that then developed technologically to make this happen.

A triunial or triple lantern (W.C. Hughes, 1880s)

Lucerna has been developed by the Universität Trier in Germany; Screen Archive South East, University of Brighton, UK; the Magic Lantern Society, UK; and Indiana University in the USA. However it is predominantly the work of one man, both in its programming and in the population of data, Richard Crangle, to whom the lantern world in particular and anyone in general at all interested in sceen culture and the worlds that screens depict should be hugely grateful. Crangle has set out not simply to display lantern images (as many other sites do), but to present the lantern in its many contexts, rigorously described, as a research resource. The ambition of the site is to encourage lantern enthusiasts to share their collections and knowledge, which they can do openly or anonyously as they wish, by signing up to the site and contributing information or images. So Lucerna is meant to be a collective, Wikipedia-like endeavour, and one hopes very much that it is able to be developed along such co-operative means.

If Lucerna whets your appetite for more information on the magic lantern (which it is bound to do), then here are a few links to encourage you to explore further:

  • The Magic Lantern Society – much information, well-illustrated, on lantern history, lanterns and slides
  • The Projection Box – distributors of Magic Lantern Society publications, including the indispensible Encylopedia of the Magic Lantern
  • Screening the Poor 1888-1914 – a double-DVD of early films and magic lantern slide sets on the theme of poverty, available from Edition Filmmuseum (reviewed by the Bioscope here)
  • Laterna Magica – Magic Lantern vol. 1 – a bi-lingual (English/German) illustrated history of the lantern in the 17th and 18th centuries, by Deac Rossell
  • Visual Media – heavily illustrated site by Thomas Weyants on ‘pre-cinema’ visual media, including magic lanterns, phantasmagoria, optical toys etc.
  • Museo del Precinema – Italian museum with extensive lantern resources, home of the Minici Zotti collection
  • – large Dutch collection of lantern slides and equipment, handsomely illustrated

Lucerna is still in its early days, with the eventual aim of becoming the single definitive and comprehensive illustrated resource for the magic lantern. If enough of the lantern community join in and help Richard Crangle in his stupendous task, it may become so. But Lucerna is not just for the lantern specialist. The hope is to bring the lantern back into general consciousness, and to reintroduce it into those histories of screens, society, art, leisure, politics, religion and culture, where it most certainly belongs.

Go explore.

Publisher’s blurb

Small publishers producing works on film and film-related subjects are a rare breed, and it is good to be able to report the return of The Projection Box, the enterprising Hastings business run by Stephen Herbert and Mo Heard. After “a period of slumber”, as their site puts it, they have returned with a new title, The Dickens Daguerreotype Portraits, by Herbert himself, and a new publishing strategy. They are using Blurb, the online print-on-demand service which is attracting a lot of interest from self-publishers and those just looking for alternative publishing options.

The first three titles to be available in this way are The Dickens Daguerreotype Portraits, a history of the very few daguerreotype portraits of Charles Dickens, and the single known daguerreotype portrait of his wife Catherine, well-timed for the bicentenary celebrations next year; the previously published The Kinora: motion pictures for the home, 1896-1914, by Barry Anthony, in a new extended version which includes a reprint of the Bond’s Ltd. 1911 Catalogue of Living Pictures that your may show in your own home; and also previously published, a facsimile of 1890 account of a famous Victorian optical illusion, The True History of the Ghost by ‘Professor’ John Henry Pepper, with an introduction by Mervyn Heard.

Other titles from The Projection Box back catalogue will be made available in this way in due course. These can still be ordered direct from The Projection Box in the traditional away, along with their CD publications and The Magic Lantern Society (UK) titles. The full list is (with prices):

  • Eadweard Muybridge: the Kingston Museum Bequest, eds. Ann McCormack and Stephen Herbert
    GB Pounds: 30.00 p&p 4.50
    US dollars: 48.00, shipping US dollars 19.00
  • The Encyclopaedia of the Magic Lantern, eds: Richard Crangle, Stephen Herbert, David Robinson
    GB Pounds: 45.00 p&p 9.50
    US dollars: 70.00, shipping US dollars 40.00
  • For Ladies Only? Eve’s Film Review: Pathe Cinemagazine 1921-33, by Jenny Hammerton
    GB Pounds: 9.00 p&p 2.50
    US dollars: 14.00, shipping US dollars 10.00
  • From Frontiersman to Film-maker. The Biography of Film Pioneer Birt Acres, by Alan Birt Acres
    [details of CD-ROM to follow]
  • The Illustrated Bamforth Slide Catalogue – DVD-ROM
    GB Pounds: 25.00 p&p 1.50
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • The Incomparable Testot! Selections from a 19th Century Magician’s Paragraph Boo – Introduced by Edwin A. Dawes
    GB Pounds: 9.00 p&p 2.00
    US dollars: 14.00, shipping US dollars 6.00
  • Industry, Liberty and a Vision: Wordsworth Donisthorpe’s Kinesigraph, by Stephen Herbert
    GB Pounds: 25.00 p&p 1.50
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • The Lantern Image: Supplement No. 1, compiled by David Robinson
    GB Pounds: 4.00 p&p 2.50
    US dollars: 7.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • New Magic Lantern Journal – Volume 6
    GB Pounds: 25.00 p&p 1.50
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • New Magic Lantern Journal – Volume 7
    GB Pounds: 25.00 p&p 1.50
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • Phantasmagoria: the secret life of the magic lantern, by Mervyn Heard
    GB Pounds: 25.00 p&p 4.50
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • Realms of Light: Uses and Perceptions of the Magic Lantern from the 17th to the 21st Century, edited by Richard Crangle, Mervyn Heard and Ine van Dooren
    GB Pounds: 35.00 p&p 9.50
    US dollars: 62.00, shipping US dollars 28.00
  • Servants of Light, ed. Richard Franklin and Stephen Herbert
    GB Pounds: 20.00 p&p 3.50
    US dollars: 30.00, shipping US dollars 16.00
  • Theodore Brown’s Magic Pictures: the art and inventions of a multi-media pioneer, by Stephen Herbert
    GB Pounds: 25.00 p&p 1.50
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • The Titanic and Silent Cinema, by Stephen Bottomore
    GB Pounds: 11.00 p&p 3.00
    US dollars: 18.00, shipping US dollars 10.00
  • Victorian Film Catalogues, ed. Stephen Herbert
    GB Pounds: 5.00 p&p 2.00
    US dollars: 8.00, shipping US dollars 6.00
  • When the Movies Began: a chronology of the world’s first film shows, by Stephen Herbert
    GB Pounds: 3.00 p&p 1.00
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00
  • A Yank in Britain: The Lost Memoirs of Charles Urban, Film Pioneer, ed. by Luke McKernan
    GB Pounds: 25.00 p&p 1.50
    US dollars: 40.00, shipping US dollars 7.00

Further details of all titles are available on The Projection Box website. And welcome back.

Poverty on screen 1880-1914

Comment les pauvres mangent à Paris / How the Poor Dine in Paris (Pathé 1910), from the Screening the Poor DVD

Recently we reviewed the the double-DVD release from Edition Filmmuseum, Screening the Poor 1888-1914, which innovatively brings together early films and magic lantern sets on the theme of poverty. Now the DVD release and the Screen1900 Project at the University of Trier which encouraged it have led to a conference taking place 1-3 December at the German Historical Institute in London. The title of the conference is ‘Screen Culture and the Social Question: Poverty on Screen 1880-1914’, and the convenors are Professor Dr. Andreas Gestrich (GHIL) and Dr Ludwig Vogl-Bienek (University of Trier). Here are the descriptive blurb and preliminary programme:

This conference will bring together different international research approaches looking at how the optical lantern (‘art of projection’) and cinematography were used in the context of the Social Question around 1900. The media history relevance of the Social Question to the establishment of these new visual media has hardly so far been examined. Nor have these media been critically investigated as social history sources. The conference aims to make a fundamental contribution towards establishing an innovative field of research in the area where social history and media history overlap.

The rapid success of ‘cinematography’ at the beginning of the twentieth century owed much to what was known as the ‘art of projection’. The screen became firmly established as a part of international cultural life in the second half of the nineteenth century by the ‘art of projection’. The enormous creative potential of these new visual media in public performances was used not only for commercial purposes, but also for events in areas such as education, religion, and social policy.

The interdisciplinary comparison will discuss the state of research on the motifs, production, dissemination, and reception of the projection media in the field of poor relief and social policy. Different methodological concepts will be introduced for researching the performative potential of existing scripts and artefacts (glass slides, films, projectors). In addition, projects editing sources will be presented, and new processes for digitally reproducing and documenting historical sources and artefacts will be discussed.

Preliminary Conference Programme

Thursday, 1 December 2011:


Welcome and Introduction
Andreas Gestrich (German Historical Institute London) and Ludwig Vogl-Bienek (University of Trier)

14:30 – 17:00
Panel 1: Screen Culture and the Public Sphere – Historic Context and Social Impact 1880 – 1914
Chair: Ian Christie (London)
Martin Loiperdinger (Trier): The Social Impact of Screen Culture 1880 – 1914.
Stephen Bottomore (Bangkok): The Lantern and Early Film for Social and Political Uses.

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:00 Comment and Discussion Panel 1
Comment by Andreas Gestrich (London)

17:15 – 19:00
Road Show: Approaches to the Hidden History of Screen Culture
Frank Gray (Brighton): The Lucerna Network for the History of Projection.
Ine van Dooren (Brighton): Archiving and preserving lantern slides and related resources.
Richard Crangle (Exeter): Digitizing the History of Screen Culture: The Lucerna Database.

Friday, 2 December 2011:

09:30 – 12:30
Panel 2: Raising Public Awareness for the Living Conditions in Slums and Tenements
Chair: Clemens Zimmermann (Saarbrücken)
Ludwig Vogl-Bienek (Trier): Slum Life and Living Conditions of the Poor in Fictional and Documentary Lantern Slide Sets.
Joss Marsh (Bloomington) / David Francis (Bloomington): “Poetry of Poverty” – The Magic Lantern and the Ballads of George R. Sims.
Bonnie Yochelson (New York): Jacob Riis, His Photographs, and Poverty in New York, 1888-1914.

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 12:30
Comment and Discussion Panel 2
Comment by tbc

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch Break

14:00 – 17:00
Panel 3 – Education and Entertainment for the Poor – the Use of Lantern Shows and Early Films by Charity Organisations
Chair: Ine van Dooren (Brighton)
Karen Eifler (Trier): Free Meals and Lantern Shows: Charitable Events in Great Britain and Germany.
Judith Thissen (Utrecht): Educating Moyshe: Jewish Socialists, Gentile Entertainments, and the Future of the Jewish Immigrant Masses in America.
Caroline Henkes (Trier): Early Christmas Films in the Tradition of the Magic Lantern.

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:00 Comment and Discussion Panel 3
Comment by Frank Gray (Brighton)

19:00 tbc

Evening Programme at The Foundling Museum:
A festive and true-made Victorian Magic Lantern Show for the deserving poor of London”
by Mervyn Heard with Juliette Harcourt (recitation and song) and Stephen Horne (piano)

Saturday, 3 December 2011:

09:00 – 12:00
Panel 4 – Social Prevention with the Aid of the Screen and Exhibitions
Chair: Richard Crangle (Exeter)
Annemarie McAllister (Preston): The Promotion of Temperance by means of the Magic Lantern.
Marina Dahlquist (Göteborg): Health Entrepreneurs: American Screen Practices in the 1910s.
Michelle Lamuniere (Harvard University): From Jacob Riis’s Lantern Slide Presentations to Harvard University’s Social Museum.

10:30 – 11:00 Coffee Break

11:00 – 12:00 Comment and Discussion Panel 4
Comment by Scott Curtis (Evanston)
12:00 – 13:00
Closing Remarks and General Discussion
Chair: Andreas Gestrich
Closing Remarks by Ian Christie (London) and Clemens Zimmermann (Saarbrücken)

Spaces are limited (with all those speakers they can’t have much space left) and those interested to register should contact the organisers via this link.

The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal

Pages from The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal for February 1905, including interview with A.C. Bromhead

Regular readers will be aware of the praise we have heaped upon the Media History Digital Library, the initiative of David Pierce to provide access to digitised film trade journals for free to all via the Internet Archive. You may know that we are listing all of the titles made available through this source and others in the Journals section of the Bioscope, arranged by country. We now want to draw your attention to just one such journal, because its (currently) unique nature raises a vital issue. Pierce has recently digitised a volume of The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal, covering November 1904 to October 1905. This is an exciting development because it is the first British film trade journal to be made available in digitised form on the Web. But why has British silent cinema studies fared so badly, when there are now extensive film journals from America, France, Italy and others now available online?

Founded as The Optical Magic Lantern Journal in 1889, the journal changed its name to The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal in 1904 in response to a changing industry, as many lantern operators and photographers moved across to the new medium. The publisher was E.T. Heron, the editor Theodore Brown. Published monthly, the journal included notices of new films, news, issues of the day, information on new patents, interviews (Charles Urban, James White, A.C. Bromhead), advice columns, correspondence, and information on magic lantern practice as well, providing a fascinating picture of an industry in transition.

The volume on the Internet Archive covers October 1904 to November 1905 though it’s not easy to calculate when individual pieces were published as the relevant months are not given (or not easily identifiale). It’s all word-searchable and compellingly browsable. To whet your appetite, below is the idiosyncratic index to the volume, included at the start of the digitised text:

Animatography, The Science of … 61, 79, 99, 133. 160, 237
Announcements with the Lantern … 277
Apparatus for Science Teaching … 64
Applications for Patents … 23
Architecture and Slide Making … 225
Assassination of the “Grand Duke” Cinematographed … 127
Carbon Frocess for Lantern Slides … 55
Caricaturist and the Cinematograph, The … 106
Catalogues and Books Received … 23, 93,119, 140, 168, 171, 203, 232, 282
Chats with Trade Leaders … 13, 37, 85
Cinematography in Colours … 36
Cinematograph Work, Hints on … 11, 29
Cloud Effects in Lantern Slides … 201
Colouring Lantern Slides with Aniline Dyes … 147
Contact and Reduction … 199
Correspondence … 52, 82, 104, 134, 148, 175, 21S, 258
Editor’s Pen, From the … 1, 25, 49, 73, 97, 121, 145, 169, 191, 213, 259
Extremes of Temperature … 60
Eyes and How to Use Them … 129, 149, 179
Fires from Moving Pictures … 251
Flickerless Projection from Motion Pictures … 195
Four Hundred Arc Lamps used for Cinematograph Work … 5
Fourth Photographic Exhibition … 100
Freedom … 159
Full or Empty Houses — A Lesson in Advertising … 262
Getting Good Lantern Slides from Weak Negatives … 223
Hint for Over-Exposed Slides, A … 123, 231
Home-made Lantern Plates … 208
How to Obviate the Acquirement of Cover Glasses at a Penny Each … 54
How to Colour Lantern Slides … 136
How to Deliver a Lantern Lecture … 67
How to Make Neat and Effective Title Slides … 235
Illuminants for Optical Lanterns … 3
Illustrated Interviews … 239, 271
“Impressionist” in Photography, The … 117
Inch of Negative, An … 27
Journal of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia, The … 242
Kinematograph for the Blind … 127
Lanternist, Notes for the Non-Photographic … 81
Lantern, Announcements with the … 277
Lantern, To Make Money with the… 101
Lantern Lectures on British Industries … 161
Lantern Lecture, How to Deliver … 67
Lantern Lecture, Three Requisites for a Successful … 156
Lantern Plates, Home-made … 2g8
Lantern Plates, On the Development of … 105
Lantern Slide Hint, A … 277
Lantern Slides at the Northern Photographic Exhibition, 1905, Leeds … 215
Lantern Slides, Carbon Process for … 55
Lantern Slides, Cloud Effects in … 201
Lantern Slides, How to Colour … 136
Lantern Slides, On Photographing with a View to the Production of … 33
Lantern Slides, Reducing and Intensifying … 190
Lantern Work, Notes on … 58
Light and Shade … 24
Living Lamp, A … 158
Marvels of Science … 211
Method for Putting Printed Matter on Finished Lantern Slides … 205
Microscope and its Use, The … 245
Moving Pictures, Fires from … 251
Moving Pictures, Flickerless Projection from … 195
Negative Making for Lantern Slides … 135
Negative, An Inch of … 27
New Films … 20, 30, 51, 83, 1 15, 141, 164, 189, 204, 222, 242, 269
New Form of Music Hall Matinee … 59
New Screen Elevator, A … 257
Non-inflammable Celluloid … 80
Note for Slide Makers … 28
Notes on Slide Making, Some … 7
Notes for the Non-Photographic Lanternist … 81
Notices … 12, 43. 71, 84, 114, 158, 190, 193, 215, 23S, 259
Notes … 232
Oil Lanterns in Use … 111
On the Development of Lantern Plates … 105
On Photographing with a View to the Production of Lantern Slides … 33
Only Coloured Film in England, The … 25
Optical Illusions … 41, 75, 10S, 137, 153, 184, 219, 253
Optical Lantern, Revival of … 183
Optical Lanterns, Illuminants for … 3
Our Suggestion Bureau … 21
Over-Exposed Slides, A Hint for … 123, 231
Patents … 4S, 96, 163, 1S7, 210, 217, 244, 274
Patents, Applications for … 23
Photography of Microscopic Objects, The … 9
Photography as a Method of Pictorial Expression … 65
Photographic Society of Philadelphia, The Journal of the … 242
Pictorial Treatment of Subjects, The … 65
Pictures and Politics in the West … 98
Planet Mars in the Kinematograph, The … 242
Praise, A Word of … 12, 16, 44, 60, 90, 140, 152, 194, 232, 235
Recent Encouraging Expressions … 140
Reducing and Intensifying Lantern Slides … 190
Review of Apparatus … 17, 45, 72, 94, 118, 178
Revival of the Optical Lantern, The … 183
Round and About … 236
Round the Trade … 2S0
Science of Animatography, The … 61, 79, 99, 133, 160, 237
Science Teaching, Apparatus for … 64
Screens and their Erection … 124
Slide Making, Notes on … 7
Slide Makers, Note for … 28
Slides of the Month … 2S2
Slides, How to Make Neat and Effective Title … 235
Stereoscopic Notes … 6, 32, 66, 78, 101, 128, 162, 176, 206, 229, 256, 276
Stereoscopic Photograph, A … 117
Stereoscopic Vision … 173
Sun and Magnetic Storms, The … 89
St. Louis Exhibition, Unique Pictures at the … 36
Temperance and the Lantern … 106
Temperance, Extremes of … 60
Three Requisites for a Successful Lantern Lecture … 156
Tit Bits … 22, 40, 69, 91, 102, 142, 107, 172
To Make Money with the Lantern … 101
Trade Organisation Needed Among Operators, Is … 224, 265
Unique Pictures at the St. Louis Exhibition … 36
We Have Others … 252
Weak Negatives, Getting Good Lantern Slides from … 223
What our Contemporaries Say … 73
What is Legitimate Trading — Some Curses and their Cure … 275
Winter Work … 53
Wonderful Bioscope, A … 111
Word of Praise, A … 12

Though this is a highly welcome offering, it does highlight the sad fact that it is currently the only historical British film journal available online. Two theatre-based journals with plenty of information on silent films, The Era (up to 1900 only) and The Stage, are available online, though both require a subscription. A project from a few years ago by the University of East Anglia to tackle The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly (the journal which succeeded The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal in 1907) was a disappointing flop, with no digitised pages, only a very incomplete index for the 1890s, early 1915, 1943-mid-1954 and 1955-1971. And that’s it.

Cartoon from The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal (p. 261) by journal editor Theodore Brown at the time of a crisis in the industry when Pathé introduced film on the British market at a price of five pence per foot, at a time when the standard rate was six pence. Brown’s cartoon shows Robert Paul asking the question “What’s your proposition, Charlie?” to a cigar-smoking Charles Urban. Others depicted include Cecil Hepworth (far right) and A.C. Bromhead (centre), while Brown himself is the figure with a moustache in the background

There were three main film trade journals in Britain for the silent era: The Bioscope, The Cinema and The Kinematograph Weekly, while Picturegoer was the main fan jounal. There were many other journals of abiding interest- the British Library provides a listing of the British and Irish film journals that it holds, which is eye-opening in its great variety. Titles include The Film Censor, The Film Renter, The Irish Limelight, The Picture Palace News, and Rinking World and Picture Theatre News (roller skating rinks and cinemas were closely allied around 1909-10, as many rinks were converted into cinemas).

Other countries have done so much better. Either through private enterprise, or through the dedicated endeavours of film institutes or national libraries, a good selection of film journals for the silent era is now available from Italy (the leader, thanks to the remarkable efforts of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema), France (courtesy of the national library’s Gallica website), USA (private enterprise and the Internet Archive) and Brazil (courtesy of the Biblioteca Digital das Artes do Espetaculo), with one-offs from Austria, Sweden, Spain and others.

The reason the UK has done so badly so far is partly down to no money, and partly down to copyright laws which effectively put the 20th century out of bounds for the time being (the British Library, for example, has made the decision that it will only digitise from its newspaper and journal collections up to 1900, to be on the safe side). There are research council funds available for an academic able to put together a persuasive bid, but there has been no success there as yet bar the Kinematograph Weekly project which – it has to be said – did things so badly that it may have queered the pitch for any other project hoping to digitise film journals.

The UK is not the only country with such a poor record (Germany, anyone?), but the lack of enterprise shown so far is profoundly disappointing. So, as things stands, we have one year of one journal, and that made available through the Internet Archive. How are we going to do better that this?

Poor people

Screening the Poor 1888-1914

Two posts are coming up on two important DVD releases from that excellent label Edition Filmmuseum. Post number one is on an innovative two-DVD set of magic lantern slides and early films, Screening the Poor 1888-1914.

Cinema was the ‘poor man’s theatre’ (to use a common phrase of the time); it also spoke to and documented the lives of the poor. In doing so it built on a tradition of social concern filtered through visual entertainment that had its roots in the magic lantern. In church halls, schools and missions throughout the late Victorian period, audiences were presented with sentimental but often heart-rending tales of the hardship suffered by those at the lowest rung on the ladder. The showmen, lecturers and propagandists who put on such lantern shows swiftly adopted the cinematograph as an additional weapon in their armoury, with early projectors often capable of presenting both film and slides. This multimedia nature of early ‘cinema’ shows is well-known, but is seldom reflected in modern-day exhibition of early film, still less in DVD releases. And that is what makes Screening the Poor so unusual – it brings together the lantern and the cinematograph on DVD in a conscious echo of the programmes of the late 1890s/early 1900s. The blurb for the DVD explains this further:

Around 1900, the issues of poverty and poor relief were the source of heated controversy. This DVD illustrates in seven chapters how examinations of the ‘Social Question’ were presented in magic lantern slide sets and early films. On the screens of auditoriums, Sunday schools, music-halls, cinemas and churches, visitors could witness orphans freezing to death in the snow, drunkards plunging their families into misery and helpless old people begging for a scrap of bread. Audiences experienced poignant moving pictures in performances with music, singing and recitations. The
photographic and film industries delivered glass slide sets and films in very large runs on a variety of themes relating to poverty.

This DVD recalls the forgotten art of projection and presents it anew on the modern electronic screen: drawing on original images and using authentic projection equipment, Ensemble illuminago shows enchanting Victorian slide shows and films in a live musical performance at the Munich Film Museum. Digital slideshows reconstruct the interaction between slide sets und text recitals, and early silent films are accompanied with music as they were a century ago: piano and violin underscore the moods that find visual expression in the films.

Nowadays it is rather unusual to find both films and slide sets presented on one DVD. Around 1900 it was common knowledge that the “moving pictures” in a film had evolved from photographic slide sets. Showmen, touring lecturers, music-hall entrepreneurs and cinema operators often used both projection media alternately in their live shows.

It is also unusual to compile DVDs thematically, according to social themes, rather than in a form that reflects pure film history (such as the output of a studio, director or actor). So this is a curated DVD, and the words below are from the DVD booklet, written by Martin Loiperdinger and Ludwig Vogl-Bienek. Whether an item is a film or a set of magic lantern slides is identified at the start of each description. Often the same subject from the same literary source (particularly the poems of George R. Sims, a once highly popular and influential documenter of the lives of London’s poor) cross from lantern to cinematograph. So, if you have tears, prepare to shed them now …

Comment les pauvres mangent à Paris


Charitable organisations and dedicated journalists decried the misery of the slums in industrial cities. ‘Slumming’ was the term used to describe tourist outings or philanthropic day-trips to witness the poverty. Those who eschewed direct confrontation could visit magic lantern shows or the cinema: the photographic and film industries provided a constant supply of new material covering diverse issues of the ‘Social Question’.

  • Magic Lantern: The Magic Wand (GB 1889). Producer: York & Son, Text: George R. Sims. Reconstructed by Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Speaker: Mervyn Heard. – During an excursion through the slums of London, an author hears the story of an 8-year-old girl who discovers a magical way to cope with her mother’s death.
  • Film: Comment les pauvres mangent à Paris / How the Poor Dine in Paris (FR 1910). Producer: Pathé. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – The first film reportage about the ‘clochards’ of Paris: it is difficult to distinguish the extras acting in the film from the real homeless people.
  • Film: Le Violoniste della carità / The Two Violonists (IT 1910). Producer: Cines. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano & violin) – Two elegant young ladies embark on a slumming adventure: they swap their clothes with two poor sisters and perform as street musicians in their place.
  • Film: La Tournée des Grands Ducs / Seeing the Real Thing (FR 1910). Producer: Pathé, Director: Yves Mirande, Cast: Armand Numès, Gaston Sylvestre, La Polaire. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano ) – This film parodies the slumming trips made by members of Paris high society. An acting troupe satisfies the demand for entertainment by playing ‘real Apaches’.

Children in Misery
The huge number of poor children was a central issue of the ‘Social Question’. They were not to blame for their wretched situation – and their need of help was obvious. Nonetheless, they were often suspected of being petty criminals. Slide shows and film screenings, however, usually presented impoverished children to their audiences as needy creatures deserving of help and affection.

  • Magic Lantern: Ora pro nobis (GB 1897). Producer: Bamforth, Text: A. Horspool, Music by M. Piccolomini. Live Performance: illuminago – Karin Bienek, Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Piano: Judith Herrmann – Ignored by passing churchgoers, an orphan girl freezes to death at her mother’s grave – an appeal to the Christian duty to provide help and alms to the poor.
  • Film: Le Bagne des gosses / Children’s Reformatory (FR 1907). Producer: Pathé. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano & violin) – An orphan boy flees from a correctional institution in which children aged between eight and twelve are mistreated in the manner of prisoners in a penal colony.
  • Film: Bébé veut imiter St. Martin / Baby Pantomimes St. Martin (FR 1910). Producer: Pathé, Director: Louis Feuillade, Cast: Clément Mary. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – Cinema’s very first child star gives a freezing girl half of his overcoat and learns that half a coat is of little help against the cold.
  • Magic Lantern: Billy’s Rose (GB 1888). Producer: York & Son, Text: George R. Sims. Reconstructed by Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Speaker: Mervyn Heard – Death and salvation in the slums: a girl goes in search of a rose for her dying brother, but she freezes to death in the process and hands him the rose in heaven.

Child Labour
Impoverished children were made to work as street peddlers, shoe-shines, and messengers to help support their families. The labour unions, social reformers and charitable organisations were particularly critical of the perilous conditions faced by child labourers in factories.

  • Film: The Cry of the Children (US 1912). Producer: Thanhouser, Director: George O. Nichols, Cast: Marie Eline, Ethel Wright, James Cruze, Lila H. Chester, Text: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1843). Score by Andrew Crow (Wurlitzer organ) – A moving appeal against child exploitation featuring highly realistic staged film footage. The story of a young girl’s death in a textile factory became a manifesto of the American reform movement against child labour.
  • Magic Lantern: The Little Match Girl (US 1905). Producer: McAllister, Text: Hans C. Andersen (1845), Images: Joseph Boggs Beale (1905). Reconstructed by Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Speaker: Karin Bienek
  • Film: The Little Match Girl – Print title: Het Luciferverkoopstertje (GB 1914). Producer: Neptune Films, Director: Percy Nash. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano & violin) – The young street vendor in H.C. Andersen’s fairytale The Little Match Girl (1845) is one of the most famous and enduring icons of poverty. The story of her death and salvation has inspired countless book illustrations, magic lantern shows and film productions to the present day.

Rigadin a l’âme sensible

Charity and Social Care
Controversies concerning the justification, necessity and limits of aid surrounded the public discussion on the ‘Social Question’ from the beginning: able-bodied poor people of working age were generally suspected of being themselves to blame for their poverty due to negligence, idleness, or alcoholism, or even of deviously abusing
the benevolence shown to them. Slide sets and early films on the issue of poor relief addressed such prejudices – and also made fun of over-enthusiastic benefactors.

  • Film: Le Chemineau / Print title: De Zwerver (FR 1905). Producer: Pathé, Director: Albert Capellani, according to Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862). Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – A tramp who has stolen the holy silverware is acquitted. The pastor places charity before the law and claims that he had given the tramp the plundered goods. The missing scene at the end of this film can be seen on a postcard in the ROM section of this DVD.
  • Film: Rigadin a l’âme sensible / Whiffles Has a Sensitive Soul (FR 1910). Producer: Pathé / S.C.A.G.L.,Director: Georges Monca, Cast: Charles Prince, Gabrielle Chalon, Andrée Marly. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano, viola & violin) – In this comedy, our sympathy is not directed at the poor, but rather at the aristocratic benefactor who cannot bear to see suffering: he hands out all of his money – and even gives away most of the clothes on his back.
  • Magic Lantern: In the Workhouse (GB 1890). Producer: Bamforth, Text: George R. Sims. Reconstructed by Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Speaker: Mervyn Heard – During Christmas celebrations at the workhouse, an old man attacks the British poor relief system: his sick wife had died of starvation the previous Christmas because the care authorities had ruthlessly stuck by their regulations.
  • Film: Christmas Day in the Workhouse (GB 1914). Producer: G. B. Samuelson Productions, Director: George W. Pearson, Text: George R. Sims. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – In the film version of this ballad, the old man dies just as he finishes his lament.
  • Film: Ahlbeck. Der Kaiser bei den Berliner Arbeiterkindern in dem von ihm gestifteten Heim / Ahlbeck. Wilhelm II visits a Working-Class Children’s Home (DE 1914). Producer: Eiko-Woche. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – At the Baltic Sea spa town of Ahlbeck on the island of Usedom, Kaiser Wilhelm II becomes convinced that playing in the sand of the dunes is beneficial to the recuperation of children.

Enter not the Dram Shop

Drink and Temperance Movement
Alcoholism was often blamed as the cause of poverty. However, many social reformers emphasised that it was instead a consequence of poverty. In their war against the ‘demon alcohol’, the Temperance Movement relied on the persuasive power of projected images. Tales of drunken fathers who drove their families to ruin were part of the standard repertoire in early cinema and magic lantern shows.

  • Film: Manchester Band of Hope Procession (GB 1901). Producer: Mitchell and Kenyon. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – The Temperance Movement held street parades to rally support for their cause among the local populace.
  • Magic Lantern: Enter not the Dramshop (GB 1890). Unknown Producer. Text & Live Performance: illuminago – Karin Bienek, Ludwig Vogl-Bienek. – The pub threshold marks the crossroads between well-being and downfall: victims of alcohol are presented for purposes of pedagogical instruction. Medical diagrams illustrate the devastating effects of alcoholism on the human body.
  • Film: Les Victimes de l’alcoolisme / Victims of Drink (FR 1902). Producer: Pathé, Director: Ferdinand Zecca. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano & violin) – Based on Émile Zola’s novel L’Assommoir, this film depicts the gradual decline of a labourer who starts out as a decent family man and ends up an inmate of a madhouse wracked by delirium tremens.
  • Film: Une Vie gaspillée (Print title) / A Life Wasted (DK 1910). Producer: Continental Films. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano & violin). Original title not known. – A drunkard’s daughter likewise falls victim to alcoholism and freezes to death because her parents refuse to take her in.
  • Magic Lantern: Buy Your Own Cherries! (GB 1905). Producer: Bamforth, Text: John W. Kirton. Reconstructed by Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Speaker: Mervyn Heard – The landlady of a pub refuses a carpenter the cherries that are standing on the bar. He thus renounces alcohol, instead spending his money on his family, and starts his own business.
  • Film: Buy Your Own Cherries! (GB 1904). Producer: Robert W. Paul. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano, viola & violin) – The film version foreshortens the ending: instead of continuing to drink, the carpenter buys gifts for his wife and children.
  • Magic Lantern: Dustman‘s Darling (GB 1894). Producer: Bamforth, Text: Matthew B. Moorhouse. Reconstructed by Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Speaker: Mervyn Heard – At the door of a tavern, a widowed dustman tells the story of how his little daughter inspired him to give up drinking.
  • Film: A Drunkard’s Reformation (US 1909). Producer: American Biograph (US 1909), Director: David W. Griffith, Cast: Arthur V. Johnson, Linda Arvidson, Adele DeGarde, Robert E. Harron, Florence Lawrence, Mack Sennett. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – While visiting the theatre with his young daughter, a drunkard is cured of his alcoholism. By cross-cutting between the Temperance Movement play on the stage and the reactions of the father and his daughter in the auditorium, D.W. Griffith makes visible the psychological process of an internal catharsis.

Don’t go down the mine, Dad

Perils of Wage Labour
Poor people who were able to work received no support. The working classes were forced to take on poorly-paid and dangerous jobs in order to survive. Mining accidents spread fear and terror among mining communities. Sensational special effects on the screen, such as firedamp explosions, helped reinforce demands by the labour unions and charitable organisations for safer working conditions and improved support for surviving dependants.

  • Magic Lantern: A Bunch of Primroses (GB 1889). Hersteller / Producer: York & Son, Text: George R. Sims. Reconstructed by Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Speaker: Mervyn Heard – A bunch of primroses lies on the death bed of a young female worker and tells of how she blossomed in the country and met an early death doing factory work in an industrial city.
  • Film: Au Pays noir / Tragedy in a Coal Mine (FR 1905). Producer: Pathé, Director: Ferdinand Zecca. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano & viola) – Mining accidents used to be part of daily life for miners: Pathé, the leading film company of the time, condemned this scandalous situation by releasing this melodramatic social reportage which was shot partly on location at a mining site and partly on a recreated set in a film studio.
  • Film: Die Beerdigung der Opfer des Grubenunglücks auf der Zeche Radbod bei Hamm i. W., den 16. Nov. 1908 / Funeral of the Victims of the Radbod Mine Desaster near Hamm in Westfalia, Nov 16, 1908 (DE 1908). Producer: Welt-Kinematograph. Score by Günter A.Buchwald (piano) – The mourners pass by the camera, silently following the coffins of colleagues killed in the accident: they start to move – they are alive! They escaped with their lives once more …
  • Magic Lantern: Don’t Go Down in the Mine, Dad (GB 1910). Producer: Bamforth, Text: Robert Donnelly, Score by Will Geddes. Live Performance: illuminago – Karin Bienek, Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Score by Judith Herrmann (piano) – Dramatic slides illustrate a popular miners’ song: the sick son senses an impending accident and thus saves his father’s life.

Magic Lantern shows and early films about the ‘Social Question’ rarely tell of a successful escape from poverty, and the elimination of poverty is not an issue. The flood of emigrants was addressed by slide sets used by charitable organisations to prepare the migrants for an uncertain future. However, other means of escape from poverty were at hand: salvation in the afterlife or in the world of fantasy.

  • Film: The Two Roses (USA 1910). Print title: Les Deux roses, Producer: Thanhouser, Cast: Marie Eline, Frank Hall Crane, Anna Rosemond. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – Tony Prolo is a track worker, and his son is run over by a car driven by the company boss: the boy recovers and the worker’s family is given a nice new home as a gift.
  • Film: Deux petits Jésus / The Foundling (FR 1910). Producer: Pathé / S.C.A.G.L., Director: Georges Denola, Cast: Jeanne Delvair, Jeanne Grumbach, Georges Paulais. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano) – Abandoned by the father of her child, a young mother is confronted with ignorance when she goes begging: in desperation she seeks refuge in an abbey church, lays her baby in the nativity crib – and dies.
  • Magic Lantern: The Emigrant Ship (GB 1890). Unknown Producer. Live Performance: illuminago – Karin Bienek, Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Score by Judith Herrmann (piano) – This magic lantern show about the departure and sinking of an emigrant ship was extremely popular due to its motion and dissolve special effects. It is accompanied with emigrant songs, slides of the blessings of the New World and a dazzling light show – the Chromatrope …
  • Film: Geheimnisvolle Streichholzdose / A Match Box Mystery (DE 1910). Deutsche Bioscop, Director: Guido Seeber. Score by Günter A. Buchwald (piano, viola & violin) – A man without legs sells matches: in a surprising animation, the matches group together to form a variety of forms, until ultimately a small windmill made of matches burns down.

This is an excellent compilation, which illuminates the visual media of the late 19th/early 20th centuries and illuminates what concerned society and how it chose to express that concern. Like the best of the magic lantern and cinematograph shows, it imparts a strong impression upon the mind, teaching us of the sorrows of an age not so far away. I hope the DVD finds its way to new audiences.

Museu del Cinema

Giant film cans (floor to ceiling) at the entrance to the Museu del Cinema, Girona, Spain

I’m back from my sojourn at the Origins of News in Early Cinema seminar in Girona, some thoughts on which will follow in due course. While I was there, I visited the town’s Museu del Cinema. It’s an excellent place in every degree, and worth a short description here to encourage you to visit should you ever think of being that sunny corner of the world (which I can warmly recommend in any case).

For some, the history of the motion picture begins with Edison or the Lumière Cinématographe. For others, that’s more or less where it ends. The delight is in pursuing the history of the projected image and the recreation of motion by their various routes from antiquity through to the late nineteenth century, when these innovations finally coalesced into the phenomenon that is cinema. Thereafter what we have is a playing out of principles confirmed by 1896. The period before is usually, if not uncontentiously, described as pre-cinema, and pre-cinema is the primary subject of the Museu del Cinema.

Late eighteenth century Catalonian peepshow in the Museu del Cinema

The Museum’s core collection was amassed by amateur filmmaker and collector Tomàs Mallol, who was inspired by C.W. Ceram’s famous book The Archaeology of the Cinema to concentrate on objects that documented cinema’s antecedents. The collection of some 20,000 objects comprises 8,000 museum objects, apparatuses and pre-cinematographic and early cinema accessories, 10,000 images documents (photographs, posters, prints, drawings and paintings), 800 films of all types and a library of over 700 books and magazines. Much of it was apparently acquired from Paris flea markets in the 1960s, when such objects (now worth thousands) were unwanted discards. It was purchased by the Girona authorities in 1994.

The museum is arranged on four floors. You begin by sitting through a six-minute three-screen video projection on the history of the human desire to place moving images on a screen. You then take a lift to the top floor and work your way downwards. The collection is in ten sections:

1. Shadow Projections
2. Mirrors and anamorphosis
3. Magic lantern
4. Capturing images
5. The moving image
6. The race to cinematography
7. The cinema arrives
8. The tools of the cinema
9. Amateur cinema
10. Children’s cinema

What you will see are shadow theatres, camera obscuras, anamorphic projection devices, magic lanterns, lantern slides, peepshows, optical toys and devices, stereoscopes, optical boxes, Chromatropes, Thaumatropes, Zoetropes, photographic equipment, Daguerrotypes, Calotypes, flick card devices, a rare projecting Praxinoscope, Mutoscopes, a reproduction Kinetoscope, early motion picture cameras and projectors, toy lanterns and cinematographic devices, and then a quick rush through the remainder of motion picture history, including a side-step into television (a 1930s Baird televisor) and an interesting foray into cinematographic toys for children.

Display of magic lanterns

It’s a museum of the traditional sort, in that it predominantly consists of objects behind glass, though there are plenty of optical devices to peer through, working models of assorted ‘tropes and ‘scopes, and video projections of Edison, Lumière and Méliès films. What makes it special is how it documents the great human urge to see the essence of life recaptured. Since the mid-seventeenth century, when the magic lantern was devised (arguably), or as far back as pre-history if you want to think of the magical powers that were invested in pictures drawn on the walls of caves, we have thrilled to our world and ourselves reflected on a screen. The instruments devised to satisfy this need have been various, ingenious and often beautiful. In sum they show that cinema answered a powerful human need, and indeed that everything since 1896, be it cinema, television, the VCR or YouTube, is a continuation of that expression. Those later developments don’t need to be in the museum – it is the opening of the eye, not what the eye then saw, that matters.

The Museu del Cinema is one of just a handful of cinema museums in Europe. Others include the Museum of PreCinema in Padua, Italy; the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Turin; the Musée de la Cinémathèque of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, France; the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK; the Bill Douglas Centre at the University of Exter; and the private Cinema Museum in London. The Museu del Cinema itself has a useful tri-lingual website (Catalan, Spanish and English), with a tour of the museum through many illustrated objects, and background information including a listing of cinema and pre-cinema museums and collections throughout the world.

A set of photographs of exhibits in the Museu del Cinema can be seen on the Bioscope’s Flickr site.

Pordenone diary 2010 – day six

Pordenone at night

Thursday 7 October loomed, and your scribe was packing his bags. I had decided that five days in Pordenone at the Giornate del Cinema Muto was enough for me this year, and I was heading off to spend a couple of days in beautiful Trieste. But I could not do so without having set in place plans to ensure that the Bioscope could provide its habitual comprehensive coverage of the festival. You may remember that last year, when I didn’t attend the Giornate, the Bioscope reports were written by an anonymous reporter, subsequently dubbed The Mysterious X. Happily X was at the festival this year and just as keen to pick up the quill pen once again, while just as insistent on maintaining his anonymity. And, by a remarkale coincidence, the first film he reports on is a Benjamin Christensen masterpiece, the film the great director made after producing The Mysterious X … spooky, eh?

Bright and early – well, early – to the Verdi for a film I had anticipated since seeing it had been programmed; Hævnens Nat (Denmark 1916) (Blind Justice) an early feature directed by Benjamin Christensen; Pordenone in the past has given me a taste for Scandinavian silents; on the whole, the lighting and camera techniques seem to me, to have been way in advance of the rest of the world … and one sequence in particular in this thriller demonstrated that to me yet again.

After a strange prologue where we see the director demonstrating an illuminated model of the house where the main action of the film is to take place, we’re into the action; Strongman John is on the run, for a crime he didn’t commit and with his very young son; hiding out in a barn, he decides to try and steal milk from the main house, but is discovered by the young daughter of the family; he explains the situation, and persuades her not to betray him … but the awakened father forces the story out of her, John is captured while vowing revenge, and jailed …

Hævnens Nat (1916), with director Benjamin Christensen playing Strongman John, from

Fifteen years later, John has suffered physically and psychologically inside the prison, but is now out; naively, even unknowingly, he falls in with a gang of burglars intent on robbing the same house … fifteen years on, the girl is married and now the mistress of the house with a young family … in his confused state, John starts to exact his revenge, not knowing that one of the children is his now-adopted son …

The setting of the film – an ornately reproduced and highly realistic mansion, as introduced proudly at the start – almost becomes a character within it; while light and airy during the day, it seems both claustrophobic and yet flimsily undefendable as night falls and menace lurks. The bravura sequence occurs at the point where the invader spies the young woman through the keyhole; we see it from his point of view, the young girl vignetted, deep focus, within the ornate Edwardian escutcheon, the layers of the lock’s mechanism visible; she senses the viewer’s presence and moves out of shot … seconds later the keyhole cover is slid across our view from her side of the door. We cut to a view of the room’s interior … the woman seemingly
paralysed with fear; the camera slowly tracks back, initially revealing the french windows we are looking through … and then the silhouetted shape of the hulking intruder, seeing the same thing … and those french windows look so fragile now …

It’s a powerful shot now; through the use of imaginative sets, superb lighting and a dramatic camera move, the audience is utterly involved in the menace at work … in the voyeuristic sense, and in the complete powerlessness of our situation as an audience, let alone the situation of the girl in the room … it would be impressive in a film made ten or
twenty years later; stunning in a film of 1916. I won’t reveal the ending; that would spoil things for you if you have yet to see the film; if not screening near you, it’s available on DVD from the Danish Film Institute with a Neil Brand piano score.

Shingun (1930), from

Straight on into the next film in the Shochiku strand of Japanese dramas, Shingun (Japan 1930) (Marching On) … in the programme billed as being the Japanese near-equivalent, and inspired by, Wings and The Big Parade … well, up to a point … it starts delightfully; a farmer’s boy, obsessed with his balsa-and-paper flying models and with dreams of real aircraft, develops a friendship with the daughter of the local squire, who introduces the lad to her pilot brother and his flying officer friends; through hard work, and despite the handicap of a lowly class status, he eventually succeeds in qualifying as a pilot and joining the air force. So far, so good, a peacetime Wings story, a cute cross-class nascent love story developing through fine performances by the two leads; Denmei Suzuki and Kinuyo Tanaka were becoming old friends to us by now … the pairing obviously a prized asset to the studio. But right at this point the film takes the most sinister turn, particularly with the hindsight of history. “Is War Likely??” asks a title (I may be paraphrasing, but not wildly) “Yes, Japan has suffered enough indignities” and so we march into the final third of the film …

Well, from here, The Big Parade or Wings, it ain’t. The film-makers might well have seen them, but failed to learn much from them in how to construct either feasible aerial or battlefield sequences. Unlike Wings, the aerial sequences are constructed from a combination of appalling model work – honestly, they look like they were shot using the boy’s balsa models from the start of the film – and laughably bad back projection, as the gunner from a doomed plane passes vital strategic information to another by wing walking and handing it to his opposite number … our farmboy hero. Inevitably, this second plane, piloted by the girl’s brother, is brought down into the battlefield – full of shellfire but little else – but look! A convenient Harley Davidson and sidecar for our hero to requisition, and to load his wounded friend into … after a few minutes bouncing around the field – if the pilot wasn’t seriously injured before, he would be now – they get caught in an explosion, and the bike wrecked … but look!! A convenient horse, grazing in a contented manner, but about to get a rude shock as two airmen clamber on board to complete their getaway … except more shrapnel comes their way, and the horse is abandoned … but look!!! A convenient artillery tractor, abandoned in full working order, it seems, and our heroes complete their escape to safety at around 1½ miles per hour … the strategic information is delivered to the relevant Colonel, the battle is heroically won, etc. Which would be fairly hilarious, except for the nagging thought that the massive amount of military hardware on and personnel on screen, supplied by the Japanese army, are rehearsals for the invasion of Manchuria that would happen within the year. If a silent film with such a nationalistic propaganda theme existed from, say, Germany in 1938, would it be shown with such alacrity? I wonder … anyway, it could have been a great film; it started with real charm, but it did seem as if the film was kidnapped by a propaganda ministry two-thirds of the way through.

The film screened after lunch, Bukhta Merti (USSR 1926) (Death Bay), was an Abram Room-directed film set in the Russian Navy at the time of the Russian Civil War, and described by Ian Christie in the catalogue as a “Propagandist adventure story” … well, I had just sat through one of those, so I gave it a rest, and decided a Spritz Aperol in the Italian sunshine, and a bit of a natter with like-minded people held more appeal. These things happen on the Thursdays, I find … shamingly, I enjoyed the chatting so much that I decided to forego the Jonathan Dennis lecture, given by former Channel Four supremo Jeremy Isaacs, and the man who green-lit Kevin Brownlow’s Hollywood series; for which the world remains grateful; on the basis that he had given a talk locally and recently, so I felt no desire to hear it again; a mistake, as this was a totally different event, and took the form (I was told subsequently) of an extended tribute to Kevin Brownlow, David Gill, and the making of Hollywood; that I would loved to have seen. A mistake on my part … these things, too, happen on Thursdays …

But no missing the night’s big event; the farewell performance of Laura Minici Zotti and her magic lantern show La Grande Arte della Luce e dell’Ombra (The Great Art of Light and Shadow), culled from the enormous collection she has established at her museum in Padua, the Museo del Precinema; the transportation of priceless fragile glass slides no longer being a good idea; Madame Zotti acts as lanternist herself (resplendent in a late-Victorian blue-black shot-silk evening dress, bustle and all) while a lecturer read from the stage; the Verdi had been heavily adapted to enable the lantern to display on the cinema screen, which looked fine from where I was sat, but I did wonder quite how much some people saw from their positions, what with the Verdi’s sightlines.

The show was terrific; the slides spectacular, particularly those examples where, by use of fades, daytime scenes transform to night as we watch; not to mention special slides designed to hold live insects, and live small fish, swimming across the screen … extraordinary. The stalwart of every magic lantern show I’ve ever seen seem to be the kaleidoscopic slides … here they were spellbinding; we really were getting the highlights of the collection. If there was one slight personal disappointment, it was that it was presented very much as a history lecture … which is fine as an approach, obviously; but I was hoping for a recreation of a big magic lantern show of the era, and that wasn’t quite what we saw. But what we saw was unforgettable too.

There was then a fair gap in the programme as the Verdi was turned back into its cinema format, ready for the late screening of more of the 1910’s French comedy shorts … so I took in some air, honestly meaning to take in the second half of the set which included some Max Linder … and possibly the 1hr 37m Shochiku drama Kinkanshoku (Japan 1934) (Eclipse) due to start at 11.20pm … but I failed you. I feel deeply ashamed …

No shame, please, Mysterious. I haven’t made it to a late screening at Pordenone for years now. Many thanks for an attentive and illuminating account. The report on Friday’s offerings will follow soon (hopefully with just as many eye-catching ellipses, semi-colons and classy use of words like ‘escutcheon’).

Pordenone diary 2010 – day one
Pordenone diary 2010 – day two
Pordenone diary 2010 – day three
Pordenone diary 2010 – day four
Pordenone diary 2010 – day five
Pordenone diary 2010 – day seven
Pordenone diary 2010 – day eight

The magic lantern and Victorian culture

Joseph Boggs Beale magic lantern slide illustrating ‘The Curfew Shall not Ring Tonight’, CC

Well it’s clearly the time of year when people are itching to get out of the darks and start organising things for 2010. Before long we’ll be having a catch-up post on the festivals being organised for next year, but the conferences and such like are also starting to get announced. And so, a call for papers has gone out for the 2010 Convention of the Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada, to take place in Bloomington, Indiana, 20-23 May 2010. Here it is:

The Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada invites scholars to submit papers or proposals for papers pertaining to the lantern to the conference organizers, Professor Joss Marsh and Mr. David Francis (Indiana University, Bloomington) and Mr. Dick Moore (President, AMLS). (Papers in research sessions will be held to 20 minutes in length.) Deadline 15th February 2010.

Presentations will be especially welcome that address the key theme of the Convention: The Magic Lantern and Victorian Culture.

Topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • advertising with the lantern/advertising the lantern
  • lantern-slide manufacturers and distributors
  • exhibition practices
  • individual and itinerant lanternists
  • multi-media lantern shows and lantern use
  • the lantern and nineteenth-century theatre, opera, and ballet
  • the lantern and Music Hall/Variety shows
  • local lantern shows
  • the missionary lantern
  • the Temperance lantern
  • the lantern and social change
  • urban and social lantern investigation
  • the psychology and theory of 19th century lantern spectatorship
  • the lantern and science
  • educational uses of the lantern
  • lantern-assisted virtual travel
  • the lantern and horror
  • literary reflections of the lantern
  • lantern performance of literature
  • the lantern and childhood
  • the lantern and cinema
  • lantern-inspired early films
  • lantern-slide use in movie theatres
  • animated slides and lantern representation of movement
  • the magic lantern and the long history of the ‘screen experience’
  • lantern song-slides
  • lantern humour
  • the lantern and Empire
  • lantern story-telling and lantern readings
  • the Victorian family lantern

Principal sessions of the Convention will take place at the Convention Centre, in downtown Bloomington, and on the campus of Indiana University. Presentations include a ‘Grand Optical Variety Show’ at the vintage Buskirk-Chumley (Indiana) Theater, Professor Mervyn Heard M.C., with Mr. Philip Carli at the piano.

Please address proposals to: jomarsh [at]; djfranci [at]; rmoore0438 [at]

Well, something there for everyone, and a reminder of how close the worlds of the lantern and the early cinema were. A general post on discovering the world of the magic lantern is promised, soon.