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Collecting on the Grand Tour

Brian Goodison-Blanks (Joint Head of the Collectables and Toys Department) delves into the highly-paid Victorian world of the Magic Lantern Projectorist. Their 'magical slides' brought animation and scenes far removed from the day-to-day experiences of those people who first viewed them.

A hand-painted lantern slide of London by Night made by Carpenter & Westley, circa
        1860s.

A hand-painted lantern slide of London by Night made by Carpenter & Westley, circa 1860s.

If you were to guess at which genre of entertainer the highest paid performer in the theatre was in the 19th century, the answer might be a surprising one.

Even at the height of variety and vaudeville in the Victorian period it was not the comedians or singers that people flocked to see; instead the highest paid and most popular performer was the Magic Lantern projectionist.

Looking at lantern slides, it is easy to understand the fascination with Magic Lanterns. A skilled projectionist could take a set of two slides and magically transform a scene from day to night. Similarly, with the use of simple slipping or lever slides, they could produce the first forms of animation. Even more complex mechanical slides can produce staggering effects that are equally as captivating now as they were more than 100 years ago.

A comical lever action lantern slide of a butcher, circa 1870s, by Carpenter &
        Westley (1 od 2). A comical lever action lantern slide of a butcher, circa 1870s, by Carpenter &
        Westley (2 of 2).

A comical lever action lantern slide of a butcher, circa 1870s, by Carpenter & Westley.

Collectors of lantern slides are eager to obtain finely produced examples by such makers as Carpenter & Westley. With the recent discovery of Sir Franklin's lost ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, polar exploration related items have increased in value. An example of these highly prized magic lantern slides is a set of six exploration slides by EG Wood that depict the mysterious undiscovered Polar Regions, which very few people would have seen in the 19th century.

A group of three polar exploration lantern slide retailed by EG Wood of London (1 of 3). A group of three polar exploration lantern slide retailed by EG Wood of London (2 of 3). A group of three polar exploration lantern slide retailed by EG Wood of London (3 of 3).

A group of three polar exploration lantern slide retailed by EG Wood of London.

Many lantern slides were produced with wonderful colours and images and it is known that several Royal Academy Artists were employed by manufacturers to paint scenes in oil on glass for slides, though most frustratingly they did not sign their work!

Collectors from Magic Lantern Societies worldwide are always eager to obtain some truly magical examples with the rarest subject and highest quality slides selling for several thousand pounds at auction.

A hand-painted Carpenter & Westley lantern slide of Mount Vesuvius, circa 1860s.

A hand-painted Carpenter & Westley lantern slide of Mount Vesuvius, circa 1860s.

Tags

  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Collectables and Toys
  • Magic Lanterns
  • Carpenter & Westley
  • EG Wood, London

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About the Author

Brian Goodison-BlanksBrian Goodison-Blanks
Collectables and Toys
Maritime
Sporting

Brian Goodison-Blanks is the Head of the Maritime and Sporting Department at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

Originally from London, Brian Goodison-Blanks was educated in the South East and Hampshire obtaining an Honours degree in Archaeology, American Studies and Japanese culture from King Alfred’s College, Winchester.

Following a short spell working for Canterbury and Colchester Archaeological Trusts as well as The Ambel Project in Aragon, Northern Spain, he joined a well-respected local auction house in 1995 as a trainee general valuer, rising to Auction Room Manager.

In 2004 Brian joined Hampton & Littlewood with special responsibility for re-introducing the specialist Maritime Sale to the South West after a 15 Year absence. Brian’s interest in country sports has also led him to introduce the annual Sporting sale.