Magic lantern, late 19th century.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This small magic lantern has an oil lamp illuminant and was designed for use in the home. Magic lanterns were important forerunners of the cinema for home and public entertainment. Magic lantern shows began towards the end of the 17th century but only became more widespread in the 19th century with the improvement of lamp sources. The shows could range from simple didactic presentations to sophisticated shows using double or triple lanterns to produce moving and disolving images on the screen.