Small Streams

November 15, 2013, 5:07 am
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Yesterday I wrote about Gainsborough’s showbox, a kind of image projector. Similarly, magic lanterns project images on a screen or wall using a lens and a light source. Magic lanterns were around since the 17th century. Many credit Christian Huygens. As always, the point of origin is not distinct and the first of magic lanterns might have been used in the 15th century. The Wikipedia article on magic lanterns is well worth a read. Initial developers made the machines to project ghosts and demons — to scare people. I’m sure some magic lanternists were trying to take the high road and to document nature and the activities of, say, the common clam.

This article by Ann Bermingham describes the showbox and its kinship to the camera obscura, a device John Locke called a metaphor for the human mind (No wonder the British Patent system classified projectors under philosophical instruments).

Eventually the projection industry became standarized, with every sprocket spaced evenly and the narrative arc normalized to the point where the boy got the girl within 90 minutes. There was, though, a time of praxinoscopes, zoetropes, chromoscopes, ad infinitum and beyond.


h/t to the tiki chick