Tag Archives: magic lanterns

Leeds’ Hidden Visionary: Louis Compton Miall and Magic Lanterns

louis-compton-miall.jpg

Professor Louis Compton Miall, Photo by E. E. Unwin

To most current students in Leeds, the name Louis Compton Miall would mean very little. A few might recognise the name from the LC Miall Building, home of the Faculty of Biological Sciences. Our team certainly had never heard of him before we were assigned to create an exhibition on magic lanterns and their relationship with the University of Leeds.

While carrying out research for the exhibition Lighting the Way: Leeds and the ‘Magic’ Lantern, we noticed that Miall’s name kept recurring. It soon became clear that Miall and his pioneering work with magic lanterns have long been overlooked. His innovations were not only crucial to the development of magic lanterns, but to teaching more generally. More on Miall later, first a quick history of the lanterns.

First developed in the 1600s by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, magic lanterns were an early form of projection equipment, which used a light source and a series of lenses to show images on a much larger scale than ever before. See this previous blog post for a more detailed discussion of the lanterns’ history and workings.

However, it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that magic lanterns started to be used widely in education – although in this context they were often called ‘optical lanterns’ instead as ‘magic’ was deemed not serious enough. In a darkened hall, a lecturer would deliver a talk accompanied by slides displayed by a specially-trained ‘lanternist’. This format was used for the rest of the nineteenth century, despite the obvious drawback of teaching in the dark and the difficulty of coordination between the lecturer and lantern-operator.

Lantern Teaching

Magic Lantern in Use During a Biology Lecture
History & Philosophy of Science in 20 Objects. Object 20: Magic Lanterns

Here, the intervention of Louis Compton Miall was pivotal. He was Professor of Biology at The Yorkshire College and its successor the University of Leeds from 1876 to 1907. In order to display his biological specimens more easily to his students, he developed a more stable and powerful lantern which could broadcast images that were visible even with the lights on. Miall could then combine the lantern with specialist equipment such as microscopes or liquid-containing ‘tank slides’, allowing the live demonstration of experiments to an entire lecture hall.

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A Nineteenth-Century Newton and Co. Combined Lantern and Microscope
A. Pringle, The Optical Lantern for Instruction and Amusement (1899)

Professor Miall also altered the set-up of the lantern so it could be operated by the lecturer unaided. He could now seamlessly teach and operate the lantern, without having to interrupt his lectures to communicate to an operator if there were any difficulties. In an article of May 1890 from the Review of Reviews entitled ‘How to Utilise the Magic Lantern; Some Valuable Hints for Teachers’, its author summarises the benefits of Miall’s method:

“The most novel and important points are that the slides are exhibited in a well-lighted room, and all the necessary manipulations are done by the lecturer or teacher without any difficulty.”

Today, in the age of the digital projector, most University staff structure their lectures and seminars around a PowerPoint presentation, which they use to illustrate their points and invite wider discussion. This teaching method, which is so taken for granted today, relies on the innovations of Professor Miall in allowing lecturers to control their own presentations and show them in a lit room.

Without Louis Compton Miall, the whole structure and teaching practices of higher education could thus have been radically different. It is time to recognise Miall’s achievements with magic lanterns at the University of Leeds, and shine a light on this largely unsung educational pioneer.

In the Lighting the Way exhibition, we track the evolution of magic lanterns at the University of Leeds, including highlighting the contributions of individuals such as Professor Miall and other educators to the development of the lanterns’ educational potential. Amongst the objects on display are a lantern produced by the famous Newton & Co. optics; various lenses and accessories used in lecture halls, such as an elbow polariscope; and a small sample of the Museum’s collection of around 5,000 lantern slides, including two mechanical astronomy slides.

Lighting the Way: Leeds and the ‘Magic’ Lantern has been curated by MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies and MA Arts Management and Heritage Studies students in collaboration with the Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. It will be displayed in the Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science Common Room on the 1st floor of the Michael Sadler Building from 13 December 2018.

More information can be found on the use of magic lanterns in education at Leeds here.

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Digitization and Cyanotypes

Our Artist in Residence, Lawrence Malloy, is currently working on a project to digitize some (maybe all, but there are thousands) of our magic lantern slide collection. Using some of these images Lawrence is creating beautiful artwork inspired by the collection such as this stunning cyanotype print.

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More or Lawrence’s work can be found here or follow him on twitter @lawrencemalloy

Hidden Histories: Junior Praestantia Lantern

Image - Junior Praestantia Lantern

Junior Praestantia Lantern
Photo by Esther Lie

A significant amount of work has been carried out recently on documenting and researching our magic lanterns and slide collections, and it therefore seemed appropriate to reflect this in the 2013 Hidden Histories display. While this Junior Praestantia Lantern might not be as visually interesting as some of the other lanterns in our collection, it demonstrates specific aspects of the history of these instruments and the heritage of the University.

Magic lanterns are considered a predecessor to the modern slide projector. They function by using a condenser lens to focus artificial light (e.g. candle light, limelight or later electric light) onto a glass slide, the light rays then passing through an objective lens system which projects an enlarged version of the slide’s image onto a screen or wall.

Image - Lens Arrangement in A Magic Lantern

Lens Arrangement in A Magic Lantern
Source: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/magiclantern/optics.html

The historical development of these instruments dates back to at least the 17th century, with the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens often being cited as a key figure in their invention. The peak of their production was during the second-half of the nineteenth century. They provided a popular form of entertainment in both public and domestic settings. Combining slide projection with live narration, music and other special effects, magic lanternists delivered highly successful entertainment spectacles, including phantasmagoria (gathering of ghosts) shows. Slides could have moving parts, and the use of two lanterns in conjunction with pairs of slides could produce ‘dissolving’ (transforming) effects.

It was this ability to produce projection effects that in the days before moving film would have appeared miraculous to audiences that gave magic lanterns this moniker. In scientific or educational settings however it was more common to refer to them as optical lanterns, or simply lanterns. After the moving picture was introduced in the late nineteenth century the popularity of magic lanterns began to decline, but in educational settings their use continued for longer; we think that the use of magic lanterns continued in the Biology department at the University of Leeds until as late as the 1960s. They provided a convenient way of displaying images to a large audience. Ready-made educational slides featuring a wide range of topics could be ordered from catalogues, or lecturers could have them specially produced using images of their own work.

This particular lantern previously belonged to the collection of the Museum of the History of Education which used to exist at the University of Leeds. Before this it was used in lessons at Thornton School in Bradford. It was sold by the Riley Brothers, also of Bradford, who sold lanterns, slides and readings from the 1880s until 1914. The Riley Brothers also gave Bradford its first ever cinema performance on 6th April 1896, at the People’s Palace theatre, on the site where the National Media Museum now stands.

Praestantia Lantern Advert, Ashburton Guardian, 2nd May 1894

Praestantia Lantern Advert, Ashburton Guardian, 2nd May 1894

‘Praestantia’ is a Latin term used to denote superiority and excellence. While this lantern has previously been dated to 1914, models of this sort were available earlier than this, as evidenced by this newspaper advert from 1894. The advert also shows that it was targeted towards schools and churches, rather than professional entertainers or lecturers in larger educational establishments like Universities, who would use larger lanterns with more complex features.

Educators in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were growing increasingly interested in the value of sensory perception in aiding the process of obtaining and retaining knowledge, and the use of visual aids was common. In school classrooms, a popular way of incorporating these was to give each pupil a lantern slide and ask them to prepare a talk about it, which they delivered while the image was projected. This activity therefore also helped develop oral communication and presentation skills. It was also thought the element of fun provided by this hybrid of entertainment and education would be conducive to learning. This “school-room” method contrasted with the “lecture-room” method, where the slides served as accompanied the instructor’s lecture. In churches, lanterns were used during services or Sunday school classes, to display biblical stories and hymn lyrics, and to warn people of the dangers of various ‘immoral’ activities. They were also popular with travelling missionaries, who could use illustrations on lantern slides as a way of overcoming language barriers.

One of the main reservations schools and small institutions had about using lanterns was the cost involved, and this is addressed in the advertisement above, which emphasises low-prices and the ability to hire equipment or pay in monthly instalments. Other concerns included the need to train teachers how to use this new technology. However, as mentioned in a previous blog post, we think that the particularly successful use of lanterns by professors at the University of Leeds and its predecessor the Yorkshire College may have inspired primary and secondary schools in the area to take up the use of this educational tool with an unusually high level of enthusiasm.

Currently displayed alongside this lantern are two c.1880 rack and pinion turning slides by Newton & Co, London. These coloured slides would have been used to teach pupils and public audiences about phenomena such as the rising and setting of the sun. Turning the handle rotates one sheet of painted glass over the other, moving one part of the slide’s image in relation to the rest and allowing such phenomena to be demonstrated ‘in action’.

Newton & Co rack and pinion slide, c.1880

Newton & Co rack and pinion slide, c.1880
Digitised by Liz Stainforth

Sources:

Anon. “How to Utilise the Magic Lantern; Some Valuable Hints for Teachers”, The Review of Reviews, May 1890, pg.404

Riley Brothers, “Advertisment: Improved Praestantia Lantern”, Ashburton Guardian, Volume XV, Issue 3268, 2nd May 1894, p.3

Greenacre, D., “Optical Systems in Magic Lanterns”, http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/magiclantern/optics.html

Newton & Co, “New School Lanterns for Class-Work”, in Newton & Co, Catalogue of Lantern Slides Part II., London, 1906, p.901

Lucerna: The Magic Lantern Web Resource, “Organisation: Riley Brothers, slide manufacturer and dealer”, http://www.slides.uni-trier.de/organisation/index.php?id=1000433

San Diego State University, “Peabody Magic Lantern Collection, Online Presentation”, 2010, http://library.sdsu.edu/exhibits/2009/07/lanterns/index.shtml

Special Collections, J.B. Priestly Library, “The Joseph Riley Archive: Collection Description”, University of Bradford, 2008

University of Leeds Museum of the History of Education Catalogue

Visual Studies Workshop – Exhibition Monograph, “Travels in the Limelight: Projections of the World Through the Magic Lantern, 1880-1930”, in The Magic Lantern Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 1, April, 1988, pp. 9-12 (http://library.sdsu.edu/pdf/scua/ML_Bulletin/MLBvol18no01.pdf)

Yorkshire Film Archive, “Film No. 3428, Bradford Town Hall Square. Context.”, http://www.yfaonline.com/sites/yorkshirefilmarchive.com/files/node_pdfs/node_7615_context.pdf

For a bibliography of further reading on the use of magic lanterns in education, see The Magic Lantern Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 1, April, 1988, p. 7. (http://library.sdsu.edu/pdf/scua/ML_Bulletin/MLBvol18no01.pdf)

Further reading on the Riley Brothers:

Copeland, D.M., “Joseph, William, Herbert, Arnold and Bernard Riley”, Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema, http://www.victorian-cinema.net/riley, 2013

Gordon, C., By Gaslight in Winter: A Victorian family history through the magic lantern, London: Elm Tree, 1980

Further blog entries on our lanterns and slides:

https://museumofhstm.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/leeds-a-leading-light-in-lanterns/

https://museumofhstm.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/national-media-museum-magic-lantern-research-trip/

https://museumofhstm.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/beneath-the-scratched-surface-of-a-glass-plate-we-see/

https://museumofhstm.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/magic-lantern-and-light-night-project/

Leeds a Leading Light in Lanterns?

The lanterns in the Museum’s collection date from the early 20th century, and were once used for teaching. It was thought that using visual aids would improve memory retention in students, and lanterns and slides provided a convenient way of producing images and displaying them to a large audience. In educational and scientific settings magic lanterns were more commonly referred to as ‘optical lanterns’.

More interesting still, a short article in the Review of Reviews (1890) reveals that Leeds may have been quite pioneering in its uptake of the magic lantern for use in lectures. The article, entitled ‘How to Utilise the Magic Lantern; Some Valuable Hints for to Teachers’, cites ‘The Optical Lantern as an Aid to Teaching’ by C.H. Bothamley, which gives details about the use of the lantern in classrooms at the Yorkshire College, now the University of Leeds. Bothamley refers to Professor Miall (then Professor of Biology), who promoted the use of the magic lantern for teaching students, and was able to demonstrate its successful use even in day-lit rooms. According to this article, “In the Yorkshire College almost every department has its lantern”, used to illustrate lectures on a range of “widely different subjects”. The educational slides in the Museum’s collection are representative of this variety, covering a wide range of topics, including the sciences, engineering, history, art, architecture, industries, geography and travel.

The optical lantern was of particular value to subjects such as biology and engineering because lectures on these subjects were highly dependent on illustrations. Furthermore, in science lectures, small specimens could be easily viewed by a large audience if they were projected using a lantern. Microscope attachments meant that even micro-organisms and microscopic structures could be seen. For example, in the Department of Textile Industries at the Yorkshire College, lanterns were used to display micro-photographs of fibres. Some specially designed scientific lanterns featured an open space in front of the condenser, so that live scientific experiments could be conducted and projected. There was also a second optical system that projected light upwards before projecting it forwards. This allowed specimens in flat dishes to be projected. Special ‘tank slides’ were used for displays requiring liquids, such as crystallised solutions, or to show creatures like tadpoles swimming in water.

The aforementioned Review of Reviews article states that “The example of Leeds has been followed on a smaller scale, but with very gratifying results, in several High Schools in the district” (Review of Reviews, 1890, p404). However, it is unclear if these examples are indicative of the wider use of lanterns in teaching primary and secondary level education. While the use of the magic lantern in school was much written about in education journals of the late nineteenth century, Elizabeth Foster has cited an article in The Teachers’ Aid that highlights “the lack of progress which was made in realising in schools the full potential of photography and projection”. Reasons given for this lack of progress include the conservatism of the teaching profession, the unwillingness of publishers and photographic firms to engage with the school market and the reluctance of teachers to embark on the necessary learning associated with the technology.

Nevertheless, the museum’s collection does contain some slides and equipment that once belonged to local secondary schools. The Carpenter & Westley astronomical slides, which were the subject of the ‘Shedding Light’ post, were used at Bradford Grammar School to teach pupils about planets and the solar system, and the Newton & Co. rack and pinion slides may have been used for similar purposes. These have now been digitised (see below) and we hope to eventually make them available throught the University’s Digital Library repository.

This post is adapted from an excerpt of the now completed magic lantern and slides object history files by Kiara White and Liz Stainforth.

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National Media Museum: Magic Lantern Research Trip

Tri-unial magic lantern, Source: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk

It was an illuminating start to the New Year for us. Continuing the project to find out more about our magic lantern and slide collections, we recently paid a visit to the National Media Museum in Bradford. After booking an appointment at the Insight Collections & Research Centre there, we were able to look at magic lanterns from Museum’s extensive collection, which included both British and European examples, as well as biunial and even triunial lanterns. These large professional models (see picture) would have been used in professional theatre shows, as the ability to quickly switch between lenses enabled the lanternist to move between slides seamlessly or to produce fading and dissolving effects. We also saw some of the biggest slides ever produced, constructed for lanterns at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in London, which had some of the most famous lantern shows in England during the nineteenth century. Sadly, the lanterns for these slides were probably destroyed so they can no longer be projected.

Newton & Co Catalogue of Lantern Slides

Newton & Co Catalogue of Lantern Slides

However, while incredibly interesting, these objects are slightly tangential to our project. We went principally to find out if there were any catalogues, company information or research sources relating to our lanterns, particularly the Riley Brothers model, c. 1913 and a lantern by Newton & Co., c. 1905. The library at Insight holds various books on the history of magic lanterns, and so it is worth a visit for anyone wishing to do research in this area. And we did find further information relating to Newton & Co. lanterns, and the use of them in classroom teaching, which is interesting considering our lanterns’ background as part of the History of Education collection. As for the Riley Brothers, although they were a Bradford-based company, there was surprisingly little information relating to them at the museum, although we did learn that they were predominantly a distribution company. As such, Riley Brothers didn’t produce their own lanterns but would often add their logo to models manufactured by other companies. Perhaps this, in part, accounts for the lack of information available from catalogues and contemporary sources.

Most of the lanterns and slides held by the National Media Museum were donated by the Kodak Museum which was located in Harrow, London, between 1927 and 1985. While about 500 of the rarest or most fascinating slides – such as hand-painted mechanical slipping slides – are well-catalogued, this is not the case with the vast majority of the collection. They hold an estimated 10,000 slides which have not been catalogued by the Kodak Museum or the National Media Museum. Furthermore, it seems as though this is the case with most slide collections. Therefore, although the inventory we have been creating is basic, by the time we have completed it ours may be amongst the better documented collections in the country!

We were slightly disappointed to find no lantern slides on display in the main galleries. As we discussed with the Collections Manager Toni Booth, displaying lantern slides is of course dependent on having the right lighting, which is difficult to balance with conservation. But it has been done, and the possibilities for exhibiting slides from our collection is an avenue of research we would like to be pursued in the future.

By Liz Stainforth and Kiara White